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NLRB Rules That Northwestern Football Players Cannot Form a Union

Mon, 2015-08-17 15:32


Meeting with Tim Waters (United Steelworkers), Ramogi Huma (founder of the National College Players Association) and Kain Colter (former Northwestern's quarterback) last year about Northwestern Football Players push for the right to unionize.

Today the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)'s has denied Northwestern University's football players' application to form a union. Here is my stance on this misguided decision.


I am disappointed by the decision of the NLRB to overturn an earlier ruling allowing Northwestern football players to unionize.

The latest NLRB decision is based on the claim that allowing one school's athletes to unionize would upset competition with other schools -- it did not come to a decision as to whether college athletes are employees.

As I have said in the past, these athletes dedicate 40-plus hours a week to their sport, helping to raise millions of dollars for the University each year. They deserve to stand on an even playing field with the University in negotiating for better health coverage while they are playing for their school and after their careers end, for guaranteed 4-year scholarships, and for a say in practice time and intensity. This decision denies them that opportunity.

Last year, I had a chance to meet Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback who mobilized this effort. His candor, humility, and commitment to this effort -- even though he can no longer directly benefit from the formation of a union -- was inspiring.

Northwestern University is one of the best universities in the nation, and its players benefit from tremendous opportunities inside and outside the classroom and in life after football. That being said, the demands these players have made are reasonable and modest, and they have been denied an opportunity to form a union. As Tim Waters of the United Steelworkers said last year, "just because [Northwestern is] a good employer doesn't mean they're not an employer."

To a large extent, I believe the NCAA was to blame for the problems Northwestern players were trying to address. But the NCAA's stranglehold on college athletes and their schools is beginning to loosen.

Last August, the NCAA granted partial autonomy to the Big 10 Conference, of which Northwestern is a member, and four other major athletic conferences. Those conferences then elected to give their schools the option of offering scholarships that meet the full cost of attendance, ensuring that student-athletes are not left with thousands in debt each year on top of their full-time jobs in sports. The Big 10 has also followed Northwestern's lead in guaranteeing 4-year scholarships to its recruits (NU has done so since 2011). And the Pac-12 Conference guaranteed 4 years of medical coverage to student-athletes injured while competing for their schools. I urge all eligible schools to take those same steps.

The Northwestern unionization effort has played a major role in moving college athletics in the right direction. That being said, I am sorry that the NLRB has decided against college athletes seeking a seat at the table, and I look forward to further efforts that would allow players the right to bargain collectively.

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The Business of Etiquette

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:49
Last year, I wrote in US News & World Report that executives should add one or more foreign languages to their skill set to increase their competitive advantage in the workplace. I cited language expert and CEO of BRIC Language Systems, Ryan McMunn as saying, "In fact, those entering the workforce in 2014 with second language fluency can expect an additional 10 to 15 percent pay increase." Without fluency in Mandarin, McMunn would not have had the opportunity to develop relationships with Chinese executives and conduct business successfully. The language barrier would have been insurmountable.

Etiquette is equally important in the cultivation of business relationships, and those with international colleagues and clients are finding that they must globalize their manners to fit today's corporate environment.

I interviewed Beaumont Etiquette Founder, Myka Meier for advice on conduct in the workplace and beyond. Meier studied at several traditional etiquette schools in the United Kingdom, trained in part in London under a former member of The Royal Household of Her Majesty the Queen, and graduated from the prestigious Institut Villa Pierrefeu finishing school in Montreux, Switzerland. Her company has been featured across international media including Good Morning America, ABC World News, NY Observer and the London Evening Standard.

What is business etiquette?

It's more than just the practice of good manners and following respectful protocol when doing business with others -- it's the difference between a good businessman or businesswoman and a great one. Business etiquette is a customary code among professionals. I've met people in business who refuse to work with someone because they are rude or disrespectful. We recently worked with a CEO who said he was so turned off by a high level exec's dining manners over a lunch interview that he couldn't possibly hire the candidate in fear that they would be an embarrassment in front of clients.

Having good business etiquette can only elevate your career. Starting from making the best first impression when you walk into the room (good eye contact, a strong handshake and confident posture), business etiquette spans across many important topics.

Why is business etiquette important?

You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you don't practice proper business etiquette, the chances of maximizing success can be are slim. A Harvard study reported in Forbes revealed one's success is based 85% on social skills and 15% on technical skills.

Due to our current employment rate and downsized companies, working this 85% is never more important than when networking. Whether it's official business or social, making conversations can make or break how we build a network of people to call on as we make our journey up the professional ladder.

As the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Likewise, what comes out of your mouth can never taken back. Remember - working a room is work. It's exhausting, and it can be overwhelming


If you wonder why you haven't climbed the proverbial ladder fast enough, then maybe it's time to look at some of the many changes you can make through business etiquette.

Can business etiquette make or break a deal?

Absolutely. For instance, many business meetings can happen over a meal, and having bad table manners can be a horrible distraction. The four hours you spend learning dining etiquette can change the way you do business forever. Another common mistake is being lazy about your professional appearance. "Being" the brand may be more important than you may think to a company, from grooming and dressing to professional polishing. We love the quote "dress for the position you want, not the one you are in." To be the head of a successful firm, you're not coming in every day unshaven and wearing a wrinkled shirt. It's all about getting the small details right and making your company proud to put you out in front of clients.


Image provided by Myka Meier

Has the digital age ruined etiquette?

No, but etiquette is constantly evolving because of technology. In today's tech era, communication has increased through through emails, texts and social media. If you're writing a business email or text, you should remain formal and not use shortened version of words. Shortening words can often come off as sounding unsophisticated, uneducated or lazy in business. With work emails, always sign off with "Best regards" and never use emojis (often seen as unprofessional) when speaking online with clients. With social media make sure your opinion does not offend anyone and that you keep your personal issues just that... private. Whether it's "public" or not, once it's on the internet, it's never private!

Why do people think it's acceptable to be late???

People know it's not okay to be late but they often prioritize their own schedules over others. Good etiquette means being thoughtful and considerate towards everyone else. If you're late, give as much advance notice as possible. Alerting three minutes before the time you are supposed to arrive to say you are 15 minutes late is not good etiquette, and instead you should give a minimum of two minutes notice for every minute you're late. Therefore, if you're running five minutes late for a 1pm meeting (even a conference call), you should apologize for any inconvenience no later than 12:50pm.

Is etiquette dynamic?

Thankfully, yes. As society changes, so do the rules, and successful people adjust accordingly to reflect these changes.

Is etiquette global?

It has to be. From politics to business, if you want a successful working relationship with someone in another country, you must show respect for the culture you're working with. If you're an American and trying to do business in China, without training, the chances you may offend the other party are high. With a bit of preparation and training before working with another culture, you can confidentially do business globally.

What are the current worst offenses in business etiquette?

  • Being late

  • Texting/emailing on your phone when someone is talking to you or while in meetings

  • Interrupting someone when he or she is speaking


What are the top three business etiquette habits to practice?

  • Appropriate professional attire and grooming -- your appearance is an extension of the brand.

  • Have great table manners and dining etiquette -- it says more about you than you think.

  • Be positive and smile -- it sounds so basic, but people prefer to do business (and work with) positive people.


When in doubt...

Don't do it.

If you have to ask yourself if something is appropriate or not, the answer is usually no. Once you know the main rules of good business protocol, etiquette is a lot of common sense.

Always remember to...

Send hand-written thank you letters when possible (it's much more effective).

Make sure your stationery is representative of you. If emailing a thank you, it should go out immediately.

Thank you.

(A) In case you find yourself in the company of British royalty, Meier has worked with members of the British Royal family. ABC World News Tonight featured her lesson on Mastering Royal Etiquette & Style and Good Morning America consulted her on Royal Etiquette 101: Proper Tea Tasting Technique, Dining.


Myka Meier
Image provided by Myka Meier

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The 5.4 Percent Unemployment Rate Means Nothing for Millennials

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:16
The national unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4 percent, the lowest rate since 2008, but this percentage means nothing for millennials (born 1980-2000).

By this point, we've all realized that we've been lied to: working hard and getting a solid education does not necessarily lead to career success, or even a decent-paying job.

It does, however, lead to debt and a ruthless job hunt.

Such was the case for my client, Tess.

Tess spent years on her education before entering the workforce. When she hired me, she was working part-time at a flower shop and living with her mother so that she could make ends meet, despite being decorated with degrees from Northwestern and Berkeley. And she's not alone.

Why? Because the decreasing unemployment rate still means nothing for millennials.

The data is actually pretty scary: 44% of college grads in their 20s are stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs, the highest rate in decades, and the number of young people making less than $25,000 has also spiked to the highest level since the 1990s.

There are various factors contributing to the absence of jobs for millennials.

First of all, employers are more hesitant to hire new graduates, as Baby Boomers delay retirement and hold onto their jobs due to financial insecurity. This creates stagnancy in the workplace.

Moreover, advances in technology are making many jobs obsolete because they can easily and cheaply be automated. In fact, renowned futurist Faith Popcorn argues that the "robot revolution" is coming, projecting that roughly one out of three U.S. workers will be replaced by robots by 2025.

This has all led to a major shift in the way of life for millennials.

We're adapting to the changing job market. We're not buying cars at the rates that previous generations have, instead opting to use public transportation or car-sharing services. Buying our first home is no longer a part of the "American Dream," as most of us aren't even buying homes at all. We've even been dubbed "The Cheapest Generation," but perhaps a more accurate title would be "The Generation Getting Shafted."

The job market simply has not allowed us to enter the workforce and achieve financial security the way that prior generations have been able to. Yet somehow, now we're being blamed for it, with claims that our reluctance to make these big-ticket purchases is devastating for the economy.

But it's not all bad news.

Despite the unprecedented challenges facing our generation -- unique challenges that no other generation has been confronted with -- there are actions you can take to increase your chances of landing a job that will help advance your career and put a decent paycheck in your pocket.

Here are a few best practices:

1. Cold network. An incredible 80 percent of available jobs don't get posted, and thus the ones that are posted have a tremendous amount of competition. Figure out ways to gain access to that 80 percent. Research companies in your field, and send cold emails to their HR departments or managers. Ask for informational interviews. Reach out to colleagues on LinkedIn.

2. Know where you're headed. The world makes way for people who know what they want. When networking, steer clear of saying, "I'm open to anything," and start picking two (not one, not three) areas that you're focused on for your job hunt so you can clearly articulate what your career goals are.

3. Practice your elevator pitch. Not knowing how to talk about yourself can be job hunting poison. The commonplace "tell me about yourself" prompt isn't going anywhere, so expect to be asked, and do yourself the service of preparing an intentional response. Come up with a few brief lines about your professional strengths and accomplishments, and practice pitching it to a friend.

4. Find a way to gain experience outside of the traditional job. Experience is so much more than the years you spend fetching coffee for someone. Find a volunteer opportunity in your field. Start a blog or a meet-up. This will help you not only stay current in your field, but could also lead to something bigger, like starting your own company, or linking up with a company that's hiring.

The obstacles facing millennials are tough, but surmountable.

When Tess came to me for career counseling, she was frustrated, even desperate, but we worked together to figure out how she could turn things around. With some cold networking, clarity and a powerful elevator pitch, she gained control of her career and her future. With a few adjustments and a little hustle, any one of us can go from selling flowers to pursuing a dream career.

Just ask Tess -- she starts at Google on Monday.

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Does the Republican Party Want Me?

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:14
Dear Republican Party,

We need to talk. I love you, but I don't like your friends.

From the moment I started dating paying attention to politics, I knew you were the one for me.

You stood for many of the things I believe in: personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, strong foreign policy and being pro business. You had leaders like Ronald Reagan who wanted to eliminate waste, but were still willing to help the truly needy. I was hooked immediately.

But as our time together progressed, I started to get a little disappointed. Sometimes I felt ignored. You seemed more interested in your extreme right-wing friends than you were in me.

Despite my disappointment, I still remained true to you. I defended you even when I didn't agree with you on same-sex marriage. I defended you when I didn't agree with you on abortion rights. I even tried to defend you when some of your extreme constituents turned a blind eye to racism. This needs to stop.

No relationship is perfect, but you really have to give me more of what I need. I'm just not satisfied.

And I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. It seems that many college students like myself are disappointed with Republican policies. Less than one-fourth of young voters (defined as ages 18-29) are registered Republicans. This is especially alarming when you realize that almost 40% of college students identify themselves as Democrats. You need to try harder to win our support. Don't forget that young voters make up one-fifth of the electorate.

I really want our relationship to work. I'm not sure you do. If not, I guess we'll have to break up. The ball is in your court. Let's see if you're really the one for me.

Signed,
Disappointed

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101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

Mon, 2015-08-17 12:21

Photo Credit: Eric Shin / Ravi Bangaroo

This year, we let the people decide what America's best food trucks are.

Food trucks are more than just kitchens on wheels. Even if the buzz around the food truck renaissance started off frenzied and then cooled a bit, the resilience of these mobile eateries is a testament to the fact that creative, quite literally chef-driven food need not be limited to wallet-busting restaurants with month-long waiting lists. Here is our fourth annual list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America.

Click Here to see 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

In the past, we decided this ranking by combining factors like Twitter followings, Yelp reviews, and Yelp stars into a weighted algorithm, rounded out by an originality score that took into account menu innovation, overall concept, and geography. This year, we made it simple: We let you decide, via a public survey. To compile our list of food trucks for voters, we expanded on our lists from 2012, 2013, and 2014, asked readers for suggestions, took a look at the winners of the Vendy Awards, and tried to find rookie trucks. This year's ranking is a result of 2,662 responses and a total of 5,634 votes (respondents were allowed to vote for multiple trucks). Thank you to everybody who took the survey -- you made our list more reflective of the general population's tastes. After all, if there's any type of establishment that is most explicitly for the people, by the people, it's a food truck.

There has been talk recently that food trucks are a moribund trend. We beg to differ. While trucks have been waning in popularity in New York -- where most food trends wane in popularity after spurts of growth -- this is hardly the case for the rest of the country. Perhaps it is not a surprise that the cities with the most food trucks on this year's list are Los Angeles and Philadelphia (expectedly) and Boston (not so expectedly). Boston owes its success partly to city laws: "Rather than limiting the number of food truck licenses," reports Galen Moore for BostInno, "Boston limits the number of locations on city streets and other public property." This means more food trucks covering a wider range of the city. However, while some food truck-loving cities benefit from local regulations, others don't. Raleigh and Providence, for example, are excellent food towns that have been unlucky when it comes to zoning laws.

Click Here to See The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015 Slideshow

Last year, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco led the way with the most amount of food trucks on our list, with 16, 9, and 12, respectively. Chicago (6), Twin Cities (5), and Miami (5) had a good amount of highly rated food trucks as well. This year, Los Angeles (11), New York (7), San Francisco (6), and Austin (4) continue to boast having a good amount of food trucks on our list, but Chicago (3) and Twin Cities (0), not so much. There are a few cities that came up strong this year that weren't on last year's list too much, most notably Boston (12), Philadelphia (8), and Cleveland (5). As for Washington, D.C. (4) and New Orleans (4), they continue to have robust food truck scenes.

Korean fusion, lobster rolls, and tacos seem to lead the way in terms of popular food truck cuisines; vegan food, barbecue, and grilled cheese make up a lot of the most beloved meals on this year's list. A shout-out to the trucks that are serving some more off-the-beaten-path foods: Boston's Sheherazad, which specializes in Iraqi cuisine; Phoenix's Emerson Fry Bread, which enhances a staple of much-forgotten Southwest Native American cuisine; and New York's Snowday, which serves maple syrup-infused grilled cheese sandwiches that are prepared by ex-convicts. That being said, almost every food truck on this list serves something totally out of the box; click through our slideshow to learn what these items are.


Photo Credit: People's Food Truck

Did we miss your favorite truck? There's always next year. Tweet @thedailymeal or leave a comment below to let us know about trucks that should be on our radar. But before you get too upset, keep in mind that our list only features food trucks, not carts. In other words, if it can't get a parking ticket, it can't be on the list. Some cities (especially much-beloved Portland, Oregon) pained us: many of their food "trucks" didn't make the cut because they weren't, well, trucks. Dessert or coffee trucks were also not considered.

Without further ado, here are the 101 best food trucks that you ought to travel from coast to coast for. Trust us; it's worth it.

#101 Swizzler Gourmet Hot Dogs, Washington, D.C.


Photo Credit: Swizzlerfoods.com

This truck is brand new on the scene.

In 2012, three juniors at North Carolina's Wake Forest University invented a new fast food concept -- quality hot dogs spiral-cut lengthwise so they could better hold and integrate their toppings, which fall nicely into the grooves -- as part of a class project. The idea was good enough to survive graduation, and in 2014 the trio launched this mobile doggery. The franks are grass-fed beef. The offerings range from the J(ersey) Dawg (sauerkraut, diced onions, and spicy brown deli mustard) to the Acropolis (homemade tzatziki, feta, Kalamata olives, red onion, and cherry tomatoes), with flavors of Italy and the South along the way. We're almost certain that the only reason this gem isn't higher on the list is because they are brand new on the scene.

Click Here to See The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015 Slideshow

#100 Foodie Call, New Orleans


Photo Credit: Foodie Call / Facebook

The sandwiches at Foodie Call make for great late night munchies.

This cleverly named food truck serves burgers, sandwiches, fries, and a mouthwatering crawfish pie made with popcorn rice, local crawdaddies, sweet corn, and mushrooms in a crispy empanada shell. It's all in the details: Their original burger is latticed with Cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, and their ham and brie sandwich is elevated by a complex fig mustard. They can call us anytime. Foodie Call made our list of 101 Best Food Trucks in 2012, but dropped off in the following years. Since we opened our votes up to the public this year, we're guessing fans of the truck have been devoted to their food all along.

#99 Dim Ssäm à Gogo by Sakaya Kitchen, Miami


Photo Credit: Sakaya Kitchen / Facebook

Chef and owner Richard Hales has been fighting the good food truck fight for a while now in Miami since launching his food truck in 2010. Having dealt with more permit and event issues than he's likely interested to recall, it's no surprise that he makes his affordable 30-item menu available at brick-and-mortar locations as well as his truck. But you can still get your "popcorn" shrimp ssäm with spicy sticky rice and banchan on wheels -- provided the cops aren't harassing Hales. Also try the kurobuta pork belly "bao" sweet chili bun. Every once in a while, you'll find them at the beautiful Wynwood Art Walk.

Click Here to see The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

#98 Snowday, Brooklyn


Photo Credit: Snowday / Facebook

Snowday serves self-described "gourmet lumberjack" fare, meaning they take maple syrup and utilize it in some delicious, sweet-meets-savory ways. Exhibit A: their signature grilled cheese sandwiches, which you can order plain or with smoked ham, pea shoot pistou, or strawberry chutney. All the food is sourced from farms in New York. Even better, it serves an excellent cause. The truck employs formerly incarcerated youth, aiding these marginalized individuals through the difficult transition back into society.

#97 Solber Pupusas, New York City


Photo Credit: Solber Pupusas / Facebook

Pupusas, a traditional food from El Salvador, consist of grilled corn masa patties that are hand-shaped and stuffed with cheese, meat (chicharrones, chicken, fish, even pepperoni), and/or vegetables (pumpkin flowers, beans, spinach, zucchini). Winning the Vendys in 2011 was almost like the food world's version of an Oscar for lifetime achievement -- Solber Pupusas has been serving these treats at the Red Hook ballfields for upwards of a decade. Is the 45-minute wait worth it? Customers will almost always say absolutely.

Click Here to see The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

#96 Rigatoni's Mobile Crab Cakes, Prospect Park, Pa.


Photo Credit: Rigatoni's Mobile Crab Cakes / Facebook

"The best crab cakes are not in Maryland," boasts the writing on the Rigatoni's Mobile Crab Cakes truck, "They're here." In Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, that is. Don't believe us? Check out the lines outside the truck on their Facebook page. After all, who could resist their delightful take on the specialties of Baltimore and Philadelphia in the form of their crab pretzel, a soft pretzel topped with crab dip and Cheddar cheese? Their crab-stuffed onion ring ain't too shabby either.

#95 Arepa Zone, Washington, D.C.


Photo Credit: Arepa Zone

Voted Best New Food Truck and Food Truck of the Year at the 2014 Curbside Cookoff Food Truck Awards, Arepa Zone also snagged Breakthrough Dish for their sifrina arepa -- a grilled corn patty stuffed with chicken salad, avocado, and shredded Cheddar -- at the same competition. With a menu that boasts authentic Venezuelan cachapas (corn cakes similar to arepas), tequeños (fried cheese-filled breadsticks), and, you guessed it, arepas, we can see why Arepa Zone is finally getting a coveted spot in Union Market. See what all the fuss is about and try a ham and queso de mano cheese cachapa, or tequeños, which come in sets of five, with a side of their house-made AZ sauce.

Click Here to see The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

Additional reporting by Dan Myers, Arthur Bovino, and Colman Andrews

Click Here to see the Original Story on The Daily Meal

Nikkitha Bakshani,The Daily Meal

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Northwestern Football Players Won't Be Getting Their Union For Now

Mon, 2015-08-17 12:09

The National Labor Relations Board announced Monday that it would not wade into the case of Northwestern football players who were seeking to unionize, meaning college football will remain union-free, at least for the time being.


In a statement, the five-member board in Washington said it did not feel it had jurisdiction in the case. Asserting such powers, the agency said, would not "promote stability in labor relations," as the board is tasked with doing.


The Northwestern players do have the option of taking their case to federal court, but they would face long odds in trying to have the board's decision overturned.


"For now, it seems the idea that these young men will be able to organize themselves into a union is not on the horizon," said Robert McCormick, a former labor attorney at Michigan State University. "For the time being, it does seem to be the end of the line."


In setting the case aside, the board declined to take on its thorniest question -- whether or not scholarship athletes are controlled enough by their schools to be considered employees and not just student-athletes.


One of the main reasons the board declined to assert jurisdiction is the makeup of NCAA football. Many of the colleges with scholarship athletes are state schools and not private like Northwestern. That means players at those schools would be subject to state collective bargaining laws. But recognizing Northwestern players as employees, the board said, could rock all of college football.


"Asserting jurisdiction over the single team in this case would likely have ramifications for those other member teams," the agency said.


Even if the players won't be unionizing under federal law anytime soon, that doesn't mean the organizing campaign is scuttled, said Fred Feinstein, a former general counsel for the NLRB. Players at state schools could still try to be recognized as union members under state law, he noted.


"If they make inroads in one state, it's conceivable others would follow," he said.


Feinstein also noted that they could bargain collectively outside the framework of labor law to have their grievances addressed, much like fast food workers have been doing.


"They can still organize, and they can still try to figure out the kinds of influence and leverage they might have to address some of the concerns that led them to file this petition in the first place," he said.


The Northwestern players filed their precedent-setting union election petition in January 2014. Two months later, Peter S. Ohr, the board's regional director in Chicago, ruled that the players qualified as employees who could organize, allowing them to cast ballots in a union vote. Those ballots were impounded pending an appeal by the school, but the results of that election would now be moot.


The College Athletes Players Association, which backed the union drive, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback who led the organizing push, tweeted that he was "disappointed by the NLRB ruling."


In a statement, Northwestern officials said they were "pleased" by the board's decision not to assert jurisdiction.


"Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be students, first and foremost," the school said. "We applaud our players for bringing national attention to these important issues, but we believe strongly that unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes."


NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy called the decision "appropriate" in a statement.


"This ruling allows us to continue to make progress for the college athlete without risking the instability to college sports that the NLRB recognized might occur under the labor petition," Remy said.

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With No State Budget, Illinois Spending Is Running Amok, Unchecked

Mon, 2015-08-17 11:13
House Speaker Michael Madigan last week made a statement that, when examined against recent events in Springfield, says a lot about the state budget standoff between him and Bruce Rauner.

In an interview with WICS Newschannel 20 Statehouse reporter Jordan Abudayyeh, Madigan contended that the election result in 2014 was more a matter of Pat Quinn losing than Rauner winning.

In other words, voters may have elected Rauner, but it was only by default. In Madigan's view, Rauner has a very limited mandate from voters and it's the majority Democrats' duty to enforce the limits.

That's how we ended up where we are: With Rauner refusing to negotiate on the state budget until Democrats help enact some of his reforms and Madigan refusing to support those measures in the form Rauner wants them.

The problem is, the vast majority of state government spending is happening even though there is no budget in place to authorize it. Through court orders and continuing appropriations, the state continues to pay state employees, make pension payments, finance many social service agencies and issue various other payments as if it were operating on last year's budget.

Which leads the bigger problem: We've got a lot less money coming in this budget year -- the first complete year under new, lower income tax rates that started Jan. 1 -- than we did in budget year 2015.

Watch Reboot Illinois' Matt Dietrich and Madeleine Doubek discuss these problems:




Perhaps there is one person who could break the budget deadlock so the state could start spending rationally again, says Capitol Fax's Rich Miller: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Miller says Emanuel has the power to work with Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who then could force Rauner's hand until he backs off some of his budget demands. Check out the whole explanation at Reboot Illinois.


NEXT ARTICLE: General Assembly prepares for vote on bill at center of Rauner, AFSCME feud

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What It Feels Like to Be Part of the First U.S. Generation Worse Off Than Their Parents

Mon, 2015-08-17 11:12


BY STEPHANIE KASHETA

Every day I am somehow reminded that I am a part of the first American generation to have it worse than my parents. I wake up at 5 every morning, my shoulders ache from making sushi for six hours (the newest minimum wage job I've acquired.) I check my email, using whatever random signal is floating around my neighborhood. Reluctantly, I accept my fall semester grad student loan amount in excess of $10,000. I drink my black coffee and grab my chef's jacket. I'm usually rushing, and as I button up while walking through the produce section to the seafood area, I feel myself becoming anonymous. Usually, somewhere near the mid-point of my day, I notice my rolls starting to get sloppy. I daydream a lot.

I wonder what my life would be like studying abroad in Finland, Norway or Germany, where tuition is free. I calculate how long it will take me to pay off my near $50,000 in debt when I graduate but stop myself. The light at the end of the tunnel is a degree and maybe an adjunct professorship, which would mean taking up a second or third job to make ends meet. I debate myself: Stephanie, it would mean doing what you love? Yes, but why should I have to be punished for doing what I love, having dedicated the same amount of time, if not more, to my studies and my art as anyone working in a more lucrative field?

I think about Charlotte Bronte, siphoning countless writing hours into household tasks and ponder the role of today's modern woman in the contemporary world. I attempt to calculate the amount of hours I've wasted doing subsistence work, completely unrelated to my writing, but I backtrack and try to tell myself that you learn something from everything, be it a co-worker's inflection, a customer's routine, the capacity some people have to smile, always. On Saturdays, I work as a glass-blower at the Sandwich Glass Museum, and it's the only time during the week that I feel of use, actively engaging my creativity, making something, regardless of the result.

Thoughts of a future family are kicked deep down, because unless my husband and I win the lottery, we won't be having kids until thirty, if that. I wonder whether or not I'll have the stamina to have children at thirty, as every year that passes correlates to a new kind of slowness, new aches, a new generalized fatigue a deadening of sorts. I think about wanting to be the type of parent that can tell her children firsthand accounts of the world, then tweak my goals to something less grandiose, like saving up for a plane ticket back to Vegas so that I can see my grandpa, mother, brother and uncle. I suppose that somewhere near a third of my day is spent suppressing either my wanderlust, my biological clock or my creative impulse. I tell myself that I am not alone, as birthrates among women in my age group declined more than 15% from 2007-2012, essentially meaning that we are reproducing at the slowest pace of any generation in US history. But, this collective hurt doesn't make me feel any better. It also doesn't help to know that suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst us.

I am one of many children who has been reared in collapse. Typically, we average around $35,051 in student debt upon graduation. We are skeptical of the world, and rightly so. Healthcare has become a business, $700 billion was spent to bail out the very people who chose greed over a thriving posterity and the education bubble looms ever on the darkening horizon. 34% of us still live at home with our parents. I try not to let any of the past-due bills and debt affect me, as there's a tragicomedy to it all. We live in a completely ridiculous society, where even produce (something that should be a given) is tainted with the stain of corporatization and a trip to the grocery store, more often than not, winds up in a state of disillusionment that eventually gives way to tacit compliance. I think of what my roommate said of past restaurant co-workers from other countries, who'd ask where our apple trees or farms were and be met with laughter. How preposterous is the idea of an agrarian America now? It's as if we've wiped the land completely free of our foundations.

On rare occasions, I go to a bar with my friends, feeling like the Vampire Lestat, hoping no one will comment on my unkempt nails or thrift store clothes as I re-emerge into a polite society, that I feel an ever-widening disconnect from. I listen to conversations, and realize I have forgotten about the world of concerts, road trips and housewarming parties. I return home, regretting having spent money on a well drink and curl up next to my sleeping husband, baffled by our having survived 2014. In December of 2013 my husband retired from the Air Force after five years of service, we moved across country to Cape Cod (which has a strictly seasonal economy and where the cost of living is roughly 3x higher) in the dead of winter, our car was nearly repossessed twice, we had to take in roommates in order to be able to afford rent, we worked somewhere near ten jobs between us and we, representing ourselves, gained shared legal custody of my step-daughter.

I can't sleep, as usual, and lay upside down at the end of the bed, letting the blood rush to my head to reaffirm that I am, in fact, alive, and that my life has so much dormant potential that I've forgotten about, in the rote motions of living to pay bills alone. I kiss my dog, who nudges me back into a normal position. I stare at him on the floor and think I'd be fine living in a shack as long as my family was with me. There are people who have it far worse off than I, and I can't allow myself to continue complaining.

I am one of ~80 million millennials. What's your story?

ABOUT THE WRITER


Stephanie Kasheta is a graduate of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is currently finishing up her MFA in Fiction at Emerson College in Boston. She is a Las Vegas native who recently relocated to Cape Cod with her husband, a veteran of the US Air Force. Stephanie is also step-mother to a seven-year old future writer named Olivia. When not reading or daydreaming of travel abroad, she can be found blowing glass at the Sandwich Glass Museum or working on her short story collection. Follow her on Twitter
 

Feature image Fin Kasheta Esq. 

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Odd 'Scarface' Creature Roamed Earth 255 Million Years Ago

Mon, 2015-08-17 09:51

 


 Say hello to "Scarface." The newly discovered species of pre-mammal roamed the Earth about 255 million years ago -- and was way more intimidating than Al Pacino.


The species, whose name, Ichibengops munyamadziensis, roughly translates to "Scarface of the Munyamadzi River," was recently identified on the basis of two partial skulls that were unearthed in Zambia in 2009.


Why Scarface?


"The groove on the face of Ichibengops is one of its most distinctive features, so it makes sense to have the name refer to that," Dr. Kenneth Angielczyk, associate curator of paleomammalogy at the Field Museum in Chicago and co-author of a paper describing the new species, told The Huffington Post in an email.


(Story continues below image.)



Ichibengops was about the size of a dachshund and had furrows above its teeth that might have been used to deliver venom. Yikes. 


Ichibengops belonged to an extinct group of reptiles called therocephalians, or "beast-heads." Since these animals were closely related to the ancestors of modern-day mammals, the possibility that Ichibengops might have been venomous spotlights the rare capability of mammals and their extinct relatives to produce venom.


The duck-billed platypus and certain shrew species are the only living mammals known to have the capability.


"There is only one other therocephalian that seems to show indications of being venomous," which would be the extinct therocephalian EuchambersiaDr. Christian Sidor, professor of biology at the University of Washington in Seattle and co-author of the paper, said in a written statement. "However, it’s very difficult to assess function in fossils, so we can never be 100 percent certain." 


The paper was published online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on July 20, 2015. 


Scarface wasn't the only monstrous species in prehistory. Check out the "Talk Nerdy To Me" episode below for five prehistoric beasts that may surprise you.



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'Agrihoods' Offer Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms, Not Golf Courses

Mon, 2015-08-17 09:18

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The phrase “planned community” conjures up a lot of images -- maybe a swimming pool, obsessively manicured lawns, white picket fences -- but a farm is probably not one of them. 


Pushing back against that stereotypical image of suburban living is a growing number of so-called “agrihoods” springing up nationwide. These developments center around a real, functional farm as their crown jewel. According to CivilEats, there are currently about 200 of them nationwide. 


The latest, called The Cannery, officially opened this past Saturday on a site that was previously home to a tomato cannery facility located about a mile outside downtown Davis, California. The 100-acre project of the New Home Company development company is considered to be the first agrihood to take root on formerly industrial land. All of its 547 energy-efficient homes will be solar-powered and electric car-ready, KCRA, NBC’s Sacramento affiliate, reports.


The Cannery is unique for other reasons, too. The community’s 7.4-acre farm will be managed by the Center for Land-Based Learning, a nonprofit group that plans to run agricultural education programs for students and aspiring farmers from the site in addition to a commercial operation focusing on organic vegetables once they’ve raised money for farm equipment and improved the soil, CivilEats reports.



There is a cost to all of this, of course. Homes in The Cannery range from the mid-$400,000s to just over $1 million, according to the Sacramento Bee. The median sales price for listings in the market is $524,000, toward the lower end of that range.


While the term “agrihood” may be relatively new, the concept is not. As Modern Farmer pointed out in a 2014 story, the broader concept has roots dating back to the mid-1800s. The nation’s first planned community, in Riverside, Illinois, had a decidedly pastoral feel falling somewhere in the middle of city and country life. 


And many established agrihoods have been around for some time, such as the Agritropia community in Gilbert, Arizona, the Serenbe development outside Atlanta and Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois, all of which were established over a decade ago and appear to be flourishing.


While some have criticized the developments as an attempt at greenwashing in order to find buyers for locations that would otherwise be less popular, the trend is not showing signs of slowing down. 


The foodie generation has come of age,” Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute told Bloomberg this year. “The mainstream development community has come to think of these as a pretty good way to build a low-cost amenity that people seem to like and that also adds authenticity.” 


Newer agrihood developments include the Sendero village of Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, California, and the Kukui’ula community in Kauai, Hawaii. 


"I yearn, and I think a lot of people yearn, for the Earth to be connected with the source of our food,” a Sendero resident told the Los Angeles Times last year. "To get your hands dirty with growth ... I think it's good for the soul."


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How School Made Me a Bad Teacher

Mon, 2015-08-17 08:49


For years I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a cliff, and it seemed that I had two choices, I could jump and fly or I could jump and fall. Not jumping wasn't an option.

In 2012, I wrote this:

Impact of Creative Thought and Development in the Secondary Public School System Research demonstrates that as students enter and progress through the public school system, their ability to problem solve and think creatively declines. I argue that a student presented with a creative teacher, people who are actively creative themselves, a comfortable environment, one where the student feels ownership and welcome, and a creative lesson, one that asks questions, encourages experimentation, and is not focused on perfection, or a grade, will begin to reignite their creative thought ability. Students in the secondary public school system that find themselves emerged in a creative environment will begin to develop the ability to experiment, push boundaries, and think creatively.

I wrote the above paragraph while I was in the midst of writing my master's thesis in creativity education. Looking back, it was the beginning of the end.

Einstein says, "Whatever you reinforce you shall get more of."

It's the end of the second week of August, the time of year when I would avoid the mailbox at all costs, knowing that a stuffed brown envelope would soon arrive, breaking the news that summer vacation was almost over.

I'm not hiding from the mailman this year; in fact, yesterday, we stopped and chatted, as my Shiba Inu inspected and thankfully approved of the man that sends letters flying through our front door everyday.

No brown envelope filled with schedules and student rosters will land on my porch this summer. I will not start the month of September standing in front of a group of teenagers, reading them a paper, telling them not to talk to strangers on the Internet, or collecting and alphabetizing 25 different-colored pieces of paper signed by their parent or guardian that will eventually be filed who knows where. I will not look across the hall, and see the same faces of my coworkers that I've seen for eight years. I will no longer collect a steady paycheck, and I will pay for my own health insurance. My pension will not continue to grow.

And it will all be okay.

At least that's what I tell myself in the moments that I'm overcome with doubt and the realization that I really did leave my teaching job.

In the months since I walked away from teaching I've had countless people ask why I left, and, deep down, the real reason that I walked away was because I was losing myself to the system.

In an effort to push back and to keep from totally falling apart, I'd retreated. I resigned from running Art CO-OP, an after school program designed to reach students that felt disconnected. With my resignation, the program ceased to exist. Next, I walked away from being Co-Student Council advisor and Freshman class advisor. I stopped doing anything and everything extra. And with this I started to feel like a bad teacher -- something that I wasn't proud of -- but it was necessary for my health, as my body was falling apart under the stress.

Three years ago, I stood in front of my husband sobbing, telling him that I wanted to quit. He looked back and, almost as though to challenge me, said then go ahead. It's one thing to say that you want to quit your job, but it's another thing to follow through with it, especially knowing that in all likelihood, once I handed in that resignation letter, I was kissing teaching in the public school system ever again goodbye.

While you may have read some of the articles that talk about the shortage of teachers, there isn't a shortage of art teachers, perhaps because so many of the positions were cut in response to the recession and the drastic uptick in standardized testing. A high school art teaching job can be hard to come by. I knew that as I walked away, there would be a long line of people waiting to fill my place.

Three years ago I was angry and bitter. Three years ago, I would have quit out of spite.

I'm not angry anymore.

I quit because I was losing my voice, and with my voice my vision, and I wanted to leave before both were completely lost and before I became a bad teacher.

While there is a great amount of research and writing that shows how schools kill creativity in students, it fails to mention how schools do the same to teachers.

Schools teach students to fear failure at all cost, and do the same for teachers.

As a big-picture thinker, I have an obsession with asking why -- one of the worst questions that you can ask within the school system, because no one actually knows the answer. The usual response is to blame it on the state or federal government, because heaven forbid anyone take responsibility.

My personality type is an INFP; INFPs are creative, sensitive souls who take their lives very seriously. They seek harmony and authenticity in their relationships with others. They value creativity, spirituality, and honoring the individual self above all else. They are very tuned into inequity and unfairness against people, and get great satisfaction from conquering such injustices.

I have a firm belief that schools need to teach love, compassion and connection before anything else.

Disconnection leads to violence.

Instead of fostering connection, schools are marginalizing students through standardized testing. Schools are telling students that if they aren't good at the tested subjects, then they aren't good enough.

Students that score poorly on standardized tests are pulled out of "electives" and forced into remedial classes. They're pulled from study hall and sent to " study island," which is nothing like an island.

I heard student after student tell me that they were dumb and stupid. I watched students make the choice to not try at all instead of take the risk of trying and failing. It was safer to fail due to a lack of effort.

While most teachers feel much like I do, they carry with them the fear of losing their job, and so they remain quiet. They do the best that they can do within the circumstances.

Do we want to settle for people doing the best that they can do within their given circumstances, or do we want teachers that are free to really do the best that they can do?

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U.S. Army Skydiver Dies From Injuries Suffered In Midair Collision At Chicago Air Show

Mon, 2015-08-17 02:39

 


CHICAGO (AP) — A U.S. Army skydiver who had served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan died Sunday from injuries suffered in a midair collision with another jumper during a stunt at the Chicago Air & Water Show, authorities said.


Sgt. 1st Class Corey Hood of Cincinnati, Ohio, who had recently turned 32, was pronounced dead Sunday afternoon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said Mario Johnson, a Cook County medical examiner's investigator.


Hood had logged more than 200 free fall jumps and 75 military static line jumps during his career, according to his Army biography.


The Army Golden Knights and Navy Leap Frogs parachute teams were performing what is known as a "bomb burst" Saturday when the collision occurred, Golden Knights spokeswoman Donna Dixon said. During the stunt, parachutists fall with red smoke trailing from packs and then separate, creating a colorful visual in the sky.


Dixon said Hood collided with a member of the Navy's precision skydiving team.


Hood was knocked unconscious, "which resulted in an uncontrolled offsite landing," Dixon said in a statement.


Spectator Heather Mendenhall told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday that she was watching the show from a rooftop and saw Hood strike the roof of a high-rise building next door with his feet and then fall — his parachute trailing behind him.


"His legs caught the tip of the roof, and then he fell over. It was horrible," she told the newspaper.


The other parachutist, who has not been identified, landed on North Avenue Beach near the main viewing area for the show, Fire Department spokesman Juan Hernandez said Saturday. He was treated for a broken leg.


The accident is under investigation, the Army said. The team did not perform again on Sunday.


"The Knights are a very close knit team and the military skydiving community is equally close; we will support Corey's family and each other during this difficult time," Col. Matthew Weinrich, commander of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, said in a statement.


Hood served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and had earned numerous awards, including two Bronze Stars. He is survived by his wife, Lyndsay.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Hood "an American hero," saying in a statement late Sunday, "He defended our freedom, he amazed so many as a member of the Golden Knights, and he will be missed."


Specialists such as the Army and Navy jumpers can reach speeds of up to 180 mph during freefall by pulling their arms to their sides. They typically open their parachutes at around 5,000 feet, joining their canopies together in formation and setting off smoke grenades to send red smoke trailing behind them.


The annual two-day air show draws millions of people to Chicago's Lake Michigan shoreline. Headliners included the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

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Obama's Presidential Library Could Cost $1 Billion: Report

Sun, 2015-08-16 17:53

As he considers his legacy, President Obama is privately mapping out a postpresidential infrastructure that could cost as much as $1 billion.

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5 Shocking Facts About the Illinois Heroin Epidemic

Sat, 2015-08-15 17:58
With the increasing prevalence of the heroin epidemic sweeping the country, taking lives and tearing apart families and communities, Illinois is evidently one of the states where this crisis is hitting hardest.

Nationwide, the number of individuals who have reported using heroin in the past year nearly doubled between 2007 and 2013, spiking to 681,000 from 314,000. Heroin overdoses claimed 8,200 lives in 2013--a fourfold increase from 2002. And in 2012, those who entered state-funded treatment citing heroin as the primary substance of abuse rose to 16.4 percent, which is the highest level since data collection began in 1992, according to a new report by the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University.

The report, "Diminishing Capacity: The Heroin Crisis and Illinois Treatment in National Perspective," lays bare the problem plaguing not only Chicago and the suburbs, but also rural areas where the drug is gaining a stronger foothold.

While heroin continues to encroach and erode the lives of thousands of Illinoisans, the dramatic decline in state-funded treatment capacity is one of the most disconcerting takeaways from the report, especially given that treatment admissions for heroin abuse is 56 percent greater than the nation as a whole.


Here are 5 of 10 alarming facts about the heroin epidemic in Illinois from the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy's report:

 

10. In fiscal year 2016, state funding for addiction treatment could decrease by as much as 61 percent.

9. Illinois' General Revenue funding for addiction treatment decreased by roughly 30 percent, from $111 million in 2007 to $79 million in 2012.



8. Illinois had the lowest rate of state-funded treatment when compared to other Midwestern states.



7. Illinois ranked first in the U.S. for decline in treatment capacity between 2007 and 2012, with the number of treatment episodes falling by 52 percent.

  • In 2007, Illinois ranked 28th in state-funded treatment capacity before dropping to No. 44, or third worst in 2012, behind Tennessee and Texas, respectively.

  • Illinois' state-funded treatment rate in 2012 was 265 per 100,000, which was 50 percent lower than the national rate.







6. The Chicago metro area ranked No. 1 in emergency department mentions for heroin with 23,627, which is almost double that of New York City.

  • Highest number of mentions among blacks (13,178) and second among whites (7,024). The only other area in the nation with more emergency department mentions among white men and women was Boston with 10,045.

  • Chicago ranked highest in the total number of mentions for both males and females and second-highest per capita behind Boston.





To see five more alarming facts about the Illinois heroin epidemic, including how much impact heroin has on publicly funded treatments, check out Reboot Illinois.

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Why the Boys of Summer Are So Important to Me

Fri, 2015-08-14 14:53
Dear Chicago White Sox,

I want to tell you a tale about a renewed love story.

I grew up in mid-Michigan, with both sets of grandparents and spans of aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby. I remember a lot of family gatherings on a lot of different holidays and now-forgotten occasions. One set of memories that will forever stay with me, though, is going to my Dad's parents' on Sunday afternoons and hearing the Tigers' game on the radio. My grandpa was a die-hard Tigers fan, and I don't think he ever missed a radio-cast game during his adult years.

(Yes, the Detroit Tigers. Stay with me here...)

I don't think my grandpa had any idea how to connect with me. He had one daughter out of four kids himself, and I was one of just four granddaughters, and #7 out of 10 grandkids. But the summer I discovered baseball as a 9-year-old, I would sit with him at the dining room table, listening to WJR with Ernie Harwell providing the play-by-play, visualizing the whole diamond in my head, and the chasm between us got a little smaller. It didn't matter so much to me as to which team won, but how exciting the game was (It's a good thing, too, since that era of the club was in a slow decline and wins were far and few between). Ernie Harwell, though, boy he could make ANYTHING sound exciting! Nonetheless, they were OUR Tigers and OUR team. Even through all his swearing during the game (and grandma shouting from the kitchen to "watch your language, Elmer, the kids are here"), grandpa showed me what team loyalty was, and how to be a real fan.

But after several years, high school was on the horizon and baseball faded from my view. My grandpa died when I was 16, and after that, listening to baseball on the radio just wasn't fun anymore.

Fifteen years later, I re-discovered how much I enjoyed the game when I lived out east and was invited to a Mets game. Holy cow! What a blast! I could finally SEE what was actually happening on that diamond -- for all the years of listening to baseball, I'd never been to a live game. I managed to get to a few more games, and certainly had fun at each one; but I have to say, no team captured my heart like the Tigers had.

A few more years passed, and I gave birth to my son, Z. A whirling dervish to be sure, he lived to be in perpetual motion. He loved to watch anything full of motion. Anything with a ball was a good game.

When we moved to Chicagoland 13 years ago when Z was 3, I decided it was time: I wanted to take him to his first major league ballgame.

I'll be honest, I first looked up the Cubs because, at the time, they were doing really well, even making a drive for the playoffs. But not knowing if my 3-year-old would want to leave after the bottom of the 1st or fall asleep during the 7th inning stretch, I didn't want to pay the exorbitant prices I saw listed for Cubs tickets. So, I checked out the White Sox website and ended up buying relatively cheap tickets for a Saturday afternoon game.

With fingers crossed that he could sit still long enough to actually watch the game, and the tote bag stocked with anything I could think of to make it a pleasant day out, we entered Comiskey Park*

And Z was TOTALLY entranced!

This is the kid who would normally be running from Point A to Point Z, zigzagging all around, pointing and asking questions -- who was now wide-eyed, mouth hanging open in a perfect little "O", and walking through the halls in awe, his little hand staying put in mine, not saying a word; just looking up and around at all there was to take in.

We stopped at a vendor and bought him a jersey: Frank Thomas'. Z liked the number "35". I helped him put it on, and then we walked hand in hand out into the gorgeous Chicago sun-filled stadium.

He thought he had died and gone to DisneyWorld.

NOW the talking began: he wanted to know what everything was, the scoreboard was of special interest and he remained skeptical when I told him there would be fireworks if the Sox hit a home run. But oh my, nothing compared to when "the guys" came out onto the field. You'd have thought he was an old pro to hear him cheer for the team. And when Frank Thomas came out, Z almost exploded, screaming as if he'd won the lottery: "That's MY guy! I have 35!" The next couple of hours tested my memory for how the game worked as I struggled to give him an age-appropriate explanation, and he listened carefully and watched intently to everything going on down on the field.

Not only did he want to stay for all 9 innings, but wanted to know when HE got to go down to the field and play with "the guys on his team"!

We've been proud fans ever since. Thank you, Chicago White Sox, for 13 years and counting of great baseball and great family time. Z has grown up with the same admiration for the game -- and I hope, good memories -- that I have. In this world today, it's a beautiful thing to know that some things never change.

Except now it is the Chicago White Sox who have my heart.

So dearest Sox, I remain,

Still in love with the game



*Yes, I know the name has been changed. But no, I won't call it anything but Comiskey. That's how I heard it growing up listening to Ernie, and that's how I know the Home of the White Sox.

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Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Social Security in Park Ridge, IL

Fri, 2015-08-14 14:04
Eighty years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law. I celebrated this special anniversary with seniors and advocates in Park Ridge, IL.



Social security has been a national treasure for 80 years, bringing financial stability, independence and dignity to millions of Americans. We certainly have a lot to celebrate today because Social Security has an outstanding record of achievement.

With one monthly contribution, working men and women purchase retirement, disability and life insurance for themselves and their families.

Social Security is there for us. It has never missed a payment -- every benefit check has been deposited in full and on time.

Since 1989, it has spent less than 1% of expenditures for administrative costs -- last year, it was seven-tenths of a percent. That is because of the structure of Social Security -- no means-testing, no assets tests - if you've contributed, you're in. It's also because of the commitment and skill of those who work for Social Security -- in their field offices and at headquarters. Its earned benefits keep 22 million Americans out of poverty -- including 1.2 million children and 11.6 million older women. In Illinois, nearly 800,000 people would fall below the poverty line without their earned benefits. More than 9 million veterans rely on Social Security, 11 million disabled workers and their families, and 8.5 million children. In 1 out of every 4 households, someone receives Social Security today.

Those are numbers -- and they are impressive. But we all know that there are people behind those numbers. And I am most grateful to Social Security for bringing financial security and peace of mind to my own family, my friends and neighbors, and my constituents.

People like Larry, a Navy veteran, who relies on his Social Security Disability Insurance as his sole source of income. He called my office last month to say how important Social Security is to him, especially since he doesn't have a family to help support him.

Like Carolynn who wrote to remind me that, "Social Security is the largest and many times the only source of income for many older Americans." She said that she and many of her fellow seniors live near or below the poverty line and rely on their benefits.

I could go on and I know that many Illinoisans and people across the country have their own stories on the importance of Social Security. Every person I hear from asks me not just to protect their benefits but to keep Social Security strong for their children and their grandchildren and future generations.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law 80 years ago today, he said, "We have tried to frame a law which will give some measures of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age."

Social Security has certainly done that - and that's why we are celebrating today. But President Roosevelt also said that day that the law he signed "represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete."

I believe we have a responsibility not just to protect Social Security's structure - but to build on it. That is why I introduced H. Res. 363 calling on Congress to support policies to protect and expand benefits while ensuring that Social Security has the resources to pay benefits for many, many years.

I am the co-chair of the House Democratic Caucus Seniors Task Force, a member of Congress, and a grandmother who wants to make sure Social Security is there for many years to come. I'm so happy to celebrate Social Security's first 80 years and will keep working with my colleagues and advocates across the country to protect and improve Social Security for future generations.

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Dear Chicago White Sox

Fri, 2015-08-14 13:48
Dear Chicago White Sox,

I want to tell you a tale about a renewed love story.

I grew up in mid-Michigan, with both sets of grandparents and spans of aunts, uncles and cousins nearby. I remember a lot of family gatherings on a lot of different holidays and now-forgotten occasions. One set of memories that will forever stay with me, though, is going to my Dad's parents' on Sunday afternoons and hearing the Tigers' game on the radio. My grandpa was a die-hard Tigers fan, and I don't think he ever missed a radio-cast game during his adult years.

(Yes, the Detroit Tigers. Stay with me here...)

I don't think my grandpa had any idea how to connect with me. He had one daughter out of four kids himself, and I was one of just four granddaughters, and No. 7 out of 10 grandkids. But the summer I discovered baseball as a 9-year-old, I would sit with him at the dining room table, listening to WJR with Ernie Harwell providing the play-by-play, visualizing the whole diamond in my head, and the chasm between us got a little smaller. It didn't matter so much to me as to which team won, but how exciting the game was (It's a good thing, too, since that era of the club was in a slow decline and wins were far and few between). Ernie Harwell, though, boy he could make ANYTHING sound exciting! Nonetheless, they were OUR Tigers and OUR team. Even through all his swearing during the game (and grandma shouting from the kitchen to 'watch your language the kids are here'), grandpa showed me what team loyalty was, and how to be a real fan.

But after several years, high school was on the horizon and baseball faded from my view. My grandpa died when I was 16, and after that, listening to baseball on the radio just wasn't fun anymore.

15 years later, I re-discovered how much I enjoyed the game when I lived out east and was invited to a Mets game. Holy cow! What a blast! I could finally SEE what was actually happening on that diamond -- for all the years of listening to baseball, I'd never been to a live game. I managed to get to a few more games, and certainly had fun at each one; but I have to say, no team captured my heart like the Tigers had.

A few more years passed, and I gave birth to my son, Z. A whirling dervish to be sure, he lived to be in perpetual motion. He loved to watch anything full of motion. Anything with a ball was a good game.

When we moved to Chicagoland 13 years ago when Z was 3, I decided it was time: I wanted to take him to his first major league ballgame.

I'll be honest, I first looked up the Cubs because, at the time, they were doing really well, even making a drive for the playoffs. But not knowing if my 3-year-old would want to leave after the bottom of the 1st or fall asleep during the 7th inning stretch, I didn't want to pay the exorbitant prices I saw listed for Cubs tickets. So, I checked out the White Sox website and ended up buying relatively cheap tickets for a Saturday afternoon game.

With fingers crossed that he could sit still long enough to actually watch the game, and the tote bag stocked with anything I could think of to make it a pleasant day out, we entered Comiskey Park*

And Z was TOTALLY entranced!

This is the kid who would normally be running from Point A to Point Z, zigzagging all around, pointing and asking questions -- who was now wide-eyed, mouth hanging open in a perfect little "O", and walking through the halls in awe, his little hand staying put in mine, not saying a word; just looking up and around at all there was to take in.

We stopped at a vendor and bought him a jersey: Frank Thomas'. Z liked the number "35". I helped him put it on, and then we walked hand in hand out into the gorgeous Chicago sun-filled stadium.

He thought he had died and gone to DisneyWorld.

NOW the talking began: he wanted to know what everything was, the scoreboard was of special interest and he remained skeptical when I told him there would be fireworks if the Sox hit a home run. But oh my, nothing compared to when "the guys" came out onto the field. You'd have thought he was an old pro to hear him cheer for the team. And when Frank Thomas came out, Z almost exploded, screaming as if he'd won the lottery: "That's MY guy! I have 35!" The next couple of hours tested my memory for how the game worked as I struggled to give him an age-appropriate explanation, and he listened carefully and watched intently to everything going on down on the field.

Not only did he want to stay for all nine innings, but wanted to know when HE got to go down to the field and play with "the guys on his team"!

We've been proud fans ever since. Thank you, Chicago White Sox, for 13 years and counting of great baseball and great family time. Z has grown up with the same admiration for the game -- and I hope, good memories -- that I have. In this world today, it's a beautiful thing to know that some things never change.

Except now it is the Chicago White Sox who have my heart.

So dearest Sox, I remain,

Still in love with the game

*Yes, I know the name has been changed. But no, I won't call it anything but Comiskey. That's how I heard it growing up listening to Ernie, and that's how I know the Home of the White Sox.

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What is legislative redistricting? Well, let me tell you...

Fri, 2015-08-14 11:51
"Legislative redistricting reform" is not a concept that lends itself well to media campaigns, whether social or traditional.

The term itself, all 10 syllables of it, sounds daunting and off-putting. Even the nickname of the practice it aims to end, gerrymandering, is baffling to most ears.

If you believe that legislative redistricting reform is the greatest and most needed political reform in Illinois government today, as I do, you also have to face the reality that communicating your belief to the voting public is a monumental challenge.

There's no "Just Do It"-style slogan that can convey the urgency of getting politicians out of the process in which state House and Senate district boundaries are drawn. (Though if I had a say in branding the campaign, I'd propose "The Big One."™)

Luckily, we live in an age when video and graphics let us explain dense and complicated ideas in ways that are easy to follow and, often, quite entertaining. That's why I'm glad the folks at CHANGE Illinois designed the animated graphic above. If you want to know what redistricting is and why reforming the process is so important, please invest two minutes of your time and click through it.



And just as the idea of using an independent commission to redraw legislative districts every 10 years in Illinois is meant to stop the misuse of power, so too is another move by the the state legislature to allow police in the state to wear body cameras and increase accountability between the officers and departments and the communities they serve. Check out the whole story at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: General Assembly prepares for vote on bill at center of Rauner, AFSCME feud

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How an Entrepreneur Quit Her Job And Built a $20M Company

Fri, 2015-08-14 11:27
Like magic.

Sometimes, you see entrepreneurs who make it look easy. They don't have to fight through years of absolute failure.

They start something...and it just works.

For outsiders, it seems hard to believe. Must be magic.

As cofounder and CEO of TayganPoint Consulting Group, a firm with $20 million in annual revenue, Joy Taylor is an excellent example. Case in point? She hit upon her first success at 29.




But how did she do it?

I jumped on a 50-minute Skype call with her to find out, so I could now share her wisdom with you.

Here's the thing: as a domain expert from Day 1, she didn't start from scratch.

Start with expertise

Before Taylor went independent, she worked as a consultant for IBM, GE and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Made contacts. Learned the ropes. Fell in love with it.

Think TayganPoint is the first time she brought solid expertise to the table? No. First time was a very different kind of business.

At 26, she started a ferry service. How did that happen?

"I was working for a marketing firm, and these two gentlemen came in and said they'd like our firm to help them write a business plan. And it just happened to be a ferry service, which happens to be what my father and my grandfather did."

"I had done this work since I was an infant, going to work with my dad and my grandmother at 4 a.m. in the morning. And when these two men had come in to ask about something I had spent my entire childhood doing -- yeah, I was equipped to answer those questions. And then you put together my education, which meant I was also equipped to write a business plan for them."

She went straight into the very thing she grew up with. With a mountain of relevant childhood experiences, she had an enormous advantage.

"I'm sitting there at 26, with a team of other people, and they're asking these people some questions. And I start asking really knowledgeable questions about the boats, the staff, the crew, and the supplies that you're going to need...The two owners saw that I really had a gift in this space. And after the business plan was over they offered me 15% of the company for free, if I would come and run the business."

Three years later, the company thrived and got sold. Check my math: Taylor was 29. Sometimes, a young domain expert runs rings around older ones.

So I ask you: what's your expertise? Did you spend your childhood doing something you can now turn into a business? Might just give you the break you need.

Watch out though: the greatest expert in the world can't do anything without the necessary people-work.

Cultivate a strong network

Taylor understands the incredible power of a network -- she even gives you two principles to put right at the heart of your business.

"I have two principles that I live by, from a business perspective. One of them is, building your network, nurturing your network. You have to work it. Just because you have it in your Outlook, just because you have your Facebook friends or your LinkedIn friends or something, that's not truly a network."

So what is a network? Hint: not a passive list of contacts.

"A network is, if I send out an email, and I need something, how many people respond? That is a network."

Ouch. How many entrepreneurs think they have a strong network just because they shook hands with 50 VIPs? Too many.

And I'll raise you one: how many have a decent network but can't use it, due to fear? Plenty. They might want to wise up and learn Taylor's second networking principle:

"Ask for assistance. You need to exercise your ask muscle a lot. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help, for assistance. People might say no, but you'd be surprised, more often they want to say yes."

When the podcast Entrepreneur On Fire interviewed Ryan Westwood -- a serial entrepreneur and Forbes contributor, with an Inc 500 company under his belt -- they asked a striking question. What would he do if he had to start a new business from scratch, with nothing but some cash and a laptop in hand?

Can you guess what advice he gave? To find an idea and go build it? No. He said he'd leave the laptop, go out and build relationships.

Listen -- it's not about the technology. Follow all the 'wires' (physical or digital) for long enough and what do you see? They all lead back to humans. People. Not other machines. The tech exists just to help you connect.

And what helps you build genuine connections more than anything?

Values, integrity and ethics. Things bad entrepreneurs dismiss as soft and trivial.

Place ethics above all

Taylor tells a story of how she treated one of her clients not just as a customer, but as a human being.

"My client worked in a very large company, as a very senior executive, not married, no children, no family. We were not particularly close, but she was my client and I had served with her for the last couple months. She came in that morning, and there was something physically wrong with her and she was scared. And she knew I had a lot to do that day."

"I walked into her office and I said to her: 'There's nothing on my calendar today that cannot be changed. I will take you to the hospital, and I will sit with you until you are ready to come home.' And that's all...and I did. I cancelled everything on the calendar that day. Because there was nothing more important than making sure she was okay."

Can you picture it? Clear your whole calendar, on a phenomenal business, just because a client feels ill? Tough call.

Unsuccessful entrepreneurs value short-term results and profits above human relationships. Taylor did not -- she saw her client as a fellow human being.

And how did this work out for her? Did she take a hit on her business? Far from it.

"To this day, she is still my client."

Three pillars of wisdom stand out in Taylor's story: use your expertise, build a strong network and maintain high ethical standards.

Too simple? Maybe. But then, are you going to argue with $20 million?

Hi, I'm Harry -- a fellow entrepreneur. Keen to help you discover and understand your ideal customer. Let's connect.

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I Don't Want to See Another All-Male Muslim Panel, Ever Again

Fri, 2015-08-14 11:22
Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, was a feminist. That is not a matter of opinion, but rather fact based upon all the information we have available on the Prophet, including both religious and academic text. He valued women, their words and their work. Sometime over the last 1,400 years we seem to have forgotten his message, allowing our communities to become subject to misogyny and patriarchy.

1,400 years ago at a time and in a culture where female infants were being buried alive, wives were severely mistreated, and women in general subjected to the status of a slave, Islam's holy prophet took it upon himself to liberate them, promote their rights, and in doing so raised the status of women to equal that of men. He listened to women, their complaints, and spoke to the men of his communities about how important the women in Islam and in general truly are.

It was due to the Prophet's message that female infanticide was outlawed and that women in early Muslim history became public speakers, intellectuals, teachers, and leaders. Yet these days, despite being surrounded by so many amazing Muslim women, I rarely see them on panels, lectures, and even in mosques.

Muslim women are behind many of the movements in the Muslim community that work to further better the status of Muslims in America. They are educated, intelligent, fierce, and are continuously giving all of themselves to their communities. Still, many of us do not know their names. We have forgotten them.

After an event poster featuring 16 men and no women was posted, Muslim women and their male allies took to Twitter to express their frustration with the lack of recognition in their communities. The Twitter discussion #NextTimeRememberHer called upon all organizations to commit to becoming more inclusive in their work.

But it's not just about panels and speakers. It's a deeper issue that we, as part of the Muslim community, have to become better at discussing. Why do we have such a difficult time listening to women, supporting women, and promoting women? Why is that the women, who are doing most of the work, are never recognized, paid, or even credited for their work?

If Islam gives rights to women and if the Prophet supported women, why are the men of our communities refusing to do the same?

The answer, of course, is fairly simple. We're not supporting women because we do not view them as important as men.

We, as a community, are refusing to acknowledge the equality of women that was dictated to us by the Quran and promoted by the Prophet. The Prophet Muhammed once said, "The world and all things in it are valuable, but the most valuable thing in the world is a righteous woman."

Isn't it about time we took heed of his words?

Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura is Bosniak Muslim of Turkish and Bosniak ancestry. She is currently working as a counselor and holds interests in Islamic and transnational feminism, racial justice, and Bosniak history. One day she hopes to write a book but until then she's mainly concentrating on writing tweets.

This article was originally published on Coming of Faith. Check out more her recent articles here.

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