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These Adorable Beagles Got A Second Chance, But Their Story Is Part Of A Much Bigger Problem

Sat, 2014-11-22 13:28
Few things prompt you to grab a hankie quite like seeing adorable animals taste freedom for the first time.

On Wednesday, a CBS affiliate in Chicago shared the story of four beagles getting a new lease on life after being released from unnamed research labs into the care of the Beagle Freedom Project, an animal advocacy group.

The four beagles -- Casper, Jack, Bandit and Sparky -- were freed in April and were fostered and ultimately adopted by families in the Chicago area. And while Shannon Keith, president and founder of the Beagle Freedom Project, said the animals are happily adjusting to their new homes, the conditions they left behind are still a reality for thousands of animals that have yet to be released.

Beagle Freedom Project workers hold the "Chicago Four" released earlier this year.

"Animal testing is still as big as it ever was," Keith told The Huffington Post. "There are hundreds of thousands of animals in the U.S. being tested. Every animal you can think of is being used -- rats to rabbits, to dogs and cats, horses, goats, pigs."

Beagles are the most common dog breed used for animal testing because they're "docile, friendly and forgiving," Keith said.

"They will not bite a researcher when they’re being injected or having a tube being put down their throat," she explained. "They're also the perfect size -- not too big and not too small."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was unable to immediately provide the total number of animals currently being used in lab testing, although CBS, citing 2012 USDA figures, reported that an estimated 70,000 beagles are used in U.S. research labs.

In the Chicago area alone, the pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories (whose medical research is now handled by AbbVie) had 1,286 dogs as of 2012, according to CBS. In 2013 the University of Illinois had 751 dogs, while the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology had 129 and 114, respectively. As of this year, the Deerfield, Illinois-based health care company Baxter had 16 dogs, according to CBS.

Calls to AbbVie and Baxter seeking comment about the number of animals they currently use in testing, and the conditions of their laboratories, were not immediately returned. No one at the various schools' laboratories was immediately available to comment.

Casper enjoys a birthday celebration the Fosters threw for him after his rescue.

Jaime Foster of Naperville, Illinois was among the people to adopt one of the "Chicago Four" this spring. She told The Huffington Post that all she knows of Casper's former life is that he came from a pharmaceutical company in the area and that he was used in medical testing.

"He's pretty amazing," Foster said of Casper, now 5 years old. "When we picked him up [from the shelter after his release], the other beagles were so skittish and frightened. But his tail was wagging and he was ready -- like he was just ready for the world.”

Still, Foster said, a lifetime spent in a testing lab had left its mark. Casper's teeth were in bad shape, and TV, music and loud noises "really freaked him out."

"He still has nightmares, and you can only imagine what's going through his little head," Foster said.

Keith said that the Beagle Freedom Project often takes in former lab animals that are in Casper's condition -- or worse.

"Even when we get them as puppies, their teeth are falling out and we have to do extractions because the food quality is so poor,” she said. The dogs rescued by Keith's group have commonly been fed “laboratory chow,” a kind of food engineered to make them produce as little waste as possible.

“Coats are usually very dull and falling out," said Keith. "They often have ear infections, and pads of the paws are usually inflamed from standing on wire cages all the time."

Many times, Keith said the dogs don't get to see one another and are given "zero enrichment" in the lab.

"When we get them, they don’t even know how to eat out of a bowl," she said. "They’ve never seen a treat or a toy."

But most heartbreaking, she said, is the silence.

"Eighty percent of the beagles we get have had their vocal cords cut," Keith said. "The [laboratory] techs don’t want to be disturbed by the crying, howling and barking.”

After they're rescued, it's not uncommon for the dogs to pace in circles or even have seizures.

Sparky is one of the "Chicago Four" beagles freed in Illinois earlier this year by the Beagle Freedom Project.

Though the USDA has some guidelines for the treatment of lab animals under the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, Keith said that many of the statutes, like daily breaks for the animals, are difficult to enforce.

Most labs receive dogs from facilities that breed them specifically for laboratory use, though Keith said some labs have also started to breed their own animals to save money. The beagles that Keith's group cares for begin undergoing lab testing as early as five weeks old. They're released weeks, months or years later, once they're considered "spent" by lab testing, unless they are euthanized first. (According to the U.S. Humane Society, "the majority" of lab animals in America are euthanized rather than released, although the actual figures are unclear.)

Sue Leary, president of the American Anti-Vivisection Society, a 131-year-old group that aims to end medical and cosmetic testing on animals, said that while testing cosmetics on animals in the U.S. happens less often than it used to, pharmaceutical testing is still common.

"Pharmaceutical companies have two reasons to test. They want to see if [the drugs] are effective. And the FDA wants to know if there are going to be toxic side effects," Leary told The Huffington Post. "A lot of what pharmaceutical companies are testing for is for the benefit of the regulatory agencies -- toxic effect to the liver is a big one -- but the regulatory agencies are still interested in seeing data from the animal tests."

Yet despite the testing demands, Leary said that many pharmaceutical companies are actively looking to embrace non-animal alternatives, such as computer modeling and testing of human cells and tissues.

“Computer modeling is crazy-fabulous," Leary said. "Once you have these test results, you can use them to model other situations. A lot of what we’re funding is computer modeling.”

“As far as the dominance of alternative methods, I absolutely believe it’s not 'if,' it’s 'when,'” Leary continued. "But if I’m that poor little soul sitting in a cage, it’s not happening fast enough.”

See more photos of the "Chicago Four" below.

Obama Quietly Broadens Mission In Afghanistan

Fri, 2014-11-21 23:01

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, U.S. officials said late Friday.

The president's decisions also allow the military to conduct air support for Afghan operations when needed. Obama issued the guidelines in recent weeks, as the American combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home, and the military prepares for narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.

Obama's moves expand on what had been previously planned for next year. One U.S. official said the military could only go after the Taliban if it posed a threat to American forces or provided direct support to al-Qaida, while the latter could be targeted more indiscriminately.

"To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al-Qaida, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe," the official said.

The Taliban's presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida, adding significance to Obama's authorization. The president's decision came in response to requests from military commanders who wanted troops to be allowed to continue to battle the Taliban, the U.S. officials said.

The New York Times first reported the new guidelines. Officials confirmed details to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama's decisions by name.

The decision to expand the military's authority does not impact the overall number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan. Earlier this year. Obama ordered the American force presence to be cut to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut in half by the end of 2015.

The president wants all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan a year later, as his presidency draws to a close.

Some of the Obama administration's planning for the post-2014 mission was slowed by a political stalemate in Afghanistan earlier this year. It took months for the winner of the country's presidential election to be certified, delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement that was necessary in order to keep U.S. forces in the country after December.

In Kabul, officials with the Afghan Defense Ministry declined to comment Saturday, while officials with the presidency could not be reached.

However, Afghan military analyst Jawed Kohistani said the move likely would be welcomed as President Ashraf Ghani's new administration upon taking office immediately signed a deal with the U.S. to allow a residual force of 12,000 foreign troops in the country.

"We have heard from many military officers who are involved in direct fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents that still there is a need for more cooperation, there is need for an ongoing U.S. combat mission and there is need for U.S. air support for the Afghan security forces to help them in their fight against the insurgents," Kohistani said.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

6 Reasons Boomers Fail At Online Dating

Fri, 2014-11-21 22:06
What's with boomers and online dating? The generation that toppled a president, ended a war and preached free love seems to be floundering when it comes to finding romance online. The one refrain we keep hearing from boomers is this: They don't want to fly solo into aging and yet the main avenue that other generations are taking -- finding their mates online -- seems to be filled with potholes for them. We turned to dating coach and author Ken Solin, who recently published "The Boomer Guide To Finding True Love Online," for some ideas about what we are doing wrong. Here's what he said:

1. We don't stick to people our own age.
Those who are serious about finding life mates, don't date people the age of their kids, says Solin. Why? Because partners from different generations have different tastes, values and don't share cultural reference points. In short, you really have nothing in common and are likely just caught up in the idea that someone so much younger is willing to sleep with you. If you want a lasting relationship, find someone your own age, Solin says.

Solin's words were born out by a recent Emory University study that showed the larger the age gap, the greater the chance of a marriage ending in divorce. A five-year age gap statistically means you are 18 percent more likely to divorce (versus just 3 percent with a one-year age difference). That rate rises to 39 percent for a 10-year age difference and 95 percent for a 20-year age gap, reported MoneyWatch.

Said Solin: "The biggest mistake newly single boomer men make getting back into dating is chasing younger women. Reasons abound, but here are two popular myths: Young women are easier to date because they’re not jaded and boomer women are bitter and angry. Neither is true. Besides, do you really want to have to explain that Paul McCartney wasn’t always a solo act and that the Jefferson Airplane never flew anywhere?"

Here's another reality: Young women generally want to have children, which for most boomer men means a second family, started at an age when they may not live long enough to watch them grow up.

2. We aren't emotionally honest about what we want.
Some boomers -- mostly men -- are just looking for casual sex, says Solin. That's fine, he said, but these people need to be upfront about it. In fact, we all should be upfront about whatever it is we want. Don't waste your time or someone else's by pretending to be in it for the long haul when you aren't. And don't deny that what you want is marriage or a long-term commitment. The point is: In the end, everyone's goals need to match up or someone gets hurt.

While we're talking honesty, says Solin, don't lie about your age either. "Being dishonest about anything is a red flag," he said. The truth will come out eventually. Trust is defined by integrity. He notes that if you believe you are too old to date successfully online without lying about your age, you probably are. But, he notes, it's your unwillingness to be honest that's the problem, not your age.

3. Put your libido on hold.
Boomers, and men in particular, just out of long-term relationships are sometimes eager to become sexually active again, says Solin. But the last thing a newly single boomer needs is to become embroiled in another disaster, and sexually fueled rocket rides practically guarantee failure. "We’ve all been hurt by crashed-and-burned sexual rockets, and getting older doesn’t make healing easier," he says. Besides, the best sex imaginable is in a relationship in which partners are also best friends, which, while contrary to what boomer guys whose heads are still in the 60s believe, is absolutely true.

4. Post a good current photo.
Don't post a photo that doesn't look like you. You will eventually be meeting these people in person, so what's the point? "A major gaffe that drives boomer daters crazy is a boomer who uses old photos in their online profile," says Solin. "It’s a smoke-and-mirrors approach to online dating that no one appreciates, and worse, old photos guarantee your first in-person date will fall apart quickly," he adds. We’re in an era where everyone is wary about being treated dishonestly. Using an old photo is lying, while honesty is refreshing.

And another thing: Please smile. Too many women hide behind big floppy hats and dark sunglasses in their photos and too many have gloomy looks instead of smiles. And men? Guilty of the same mistakes. Most online dating prospects want to see a full-length shot, so post it. It's fine to include photos of your children, pets, and grandkids. Just no baseball caps or frowns.

5. Don't keep celebrating Groundhog Day.
In other words: Stop dating the same person with different names. Solin says that this one took him a long time to overcome too. "I dated the same short, blonde, curvy, ski-jump-nosed woman with different names for a decade before waking up to the fact that I was intentionally eliminating the majority of prospects. I met my partner as soon as I became open to other types. And I wasn’t her physical type either, but when we met we both felt the earth move a bit. Typecasting only works in the movies, because if it actually worked for you, you’d already be in a long-term relationship with someone who’s your type," he says.

6. Stop trying to be anyone but yourself.
The notion that the only way to attract dates is to present yourself as someone other than who or what you really are is badly flawed, and reflects low self-esteem. It won’t take long before the man or woman you’re dating to figure out the truth. Besides, if you don’t feel good about yourself, no one you date is going to feel good about you either. "The old bromide, there’s someone for everyone, is more true than not, so be yourself, because the trick to successful dating is finding someone as much like you as possible. [The idea that] opposites attract is nonsense," believes Solin.

Have you had luck with online dating? Let us know in comments.

Students: University Of Chicago's Racist Halloween Costume Controversy Is Part Of A Larger Problem

Fri, 2014-11-21 17:30
Students at the University of Chicago say a recent controversy surrounding a racially insensitive Halloween costume is only a small part of the school's larger "culture of intolerance."

The controversy began when third-year Vincente Perez confronted a student dressed in a costume that stereotypes Mexicans and later spoke out over a photo he saw on social media featuring more students in similar getups. After he and other students of color presented their concerns in a letter to university officials and started a petition calling for greater cultural diversity and sensitivity on campus, Perez was named in a threatening Facebook update posted by a supposedly hacked account.

Federal authorities are reportedly investigating the Facebook post, but students say the school is not doing enough to address the broader concern that its campus is unsafe for students of color.

“I don’t feel comfortable being on this campus and I’m not comfortable with the response from the administration,” Perez told The Huffington Post. “There have been no clear ideas on actions that will happen.”

In response to the inflammatory Facebook posting, University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer and Provost Eric Isaacs issued a statement Wednesday, saying the Facebook post was “unacceptable and violates our core values.” The university is partnering with “federal law enforcement agencies and third-party website providers” to determine the source of the message and plans to pursue criminal prosecution and -- if the poster turns out to be a student or faculty member -- disciplinary action.

In a separate statement, issued later on Thursday, two more University of Chicago officials -- John Boyer, dean of the college, and Karen Warren Coleman, vice president for campus life and student services -- described the students’ concerns outlined in their initial letter and their petition as “serious and important” and acknowledged that the Facebook incident was “part of a larger pattern” the university is working to address.

“We know that members of the University community have experienced bias, insensitivity, and outright threats and discrimination,” the statement continued. “These situations are especially painful and frightening when they attack one’s identity. These events require our serious attention, both immediately and over time.”

Perez told HuffPost on Thursday that he is unimpressed with the administrators' statements. Other students who spoke to HuffPost agreed, saying the school could do more.

Fourth-year Jaime Sanchez, who created the petition, also criticized administrators for focusing primarily on the alleged Facebook hacking incident and not the other concerns that students of color have communicated.

“It shouldn’t be the case where we have to talk about these cases of extreme racism and bigotry … for the university to step up,” Sanchez told HuffPost.

A number of other racial incidents have taken place on the University of Chicago campus and drawn criticism in recent years, including the creation of a “Politically Incorrect UChicago Confessions” Facebook page and a Confederate flag being hung on campus. Critics of the university previously pointed out that no one ended up being punished for the past incidents, according to campus newspaper The Chicago Maroon.

A growing coalition of student and faculty groups are speaking out on the recent incident. A group of 41 faculty members signed a letter expressing solidarity with students critical of the university’s campus climate, saying that they “find the lack of a serious response [to racial incidents on campus] by the administration to be problematic.”

On Thursday, the school's Organization of Black Students also issued a statement of solidarity with “all victims of intolerance, marginalization, and targeted personal attacks” at the campus.

“While some may be inclined to perceive this most recent event as an isolated incident, this is instead the latest iteration of a historical trend of antagonism, symptomatic of a broader culture of intolerance,” the statement continued.

On Wednesday, Perez, Sanchez and other students of color held a demonstration inside the campus' busy Harper Reading Room. Sanchez said participants chanted “We are here, we are here” before reading from students' comments posted on the petition.

"Was your studying interrupted? Good. Our study environment is already disrupted." #WeAreHere #liabilityofthemind

— SJP U of Chicago (@SJPUChicago) November 19, 2014

Students are continuing the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #liabilityofthemind. A binder containing printouts of 1,500 of these hashtagged tweets was reportedly delivered to university administrators on Friday.

Apparently it's not enough to say "your institution isn't serving us and our specific needs and we are suffering" #liabilityofthemind

— Patty Fernandez (@PattyFerpi) November 21, 2014

This week I was told my claims that minority @UChicago students felt unsafe here were unsubstantiated. #liabilityofthemind

— Nissa Wan Ying (@HappyNiss) November 19, 2014

when an administrator tells you to "consider the image of the school" after your on-campus sexual assault. #liabilityofthemind #uchicago

— Nina Katemauswa (@lilyoftheflames) November 19, 2014

Sanchez told The Huffington Post he is hopeful their activism will result in substantive change at the university.

“I think we’re kind of making headway and showing administrators we’re not joking around, that this is a real problem that is not just present in these cases of extreme bigotry, but also present everyday in and out of the classroom,” he said.

Perez is feeling less confident.

“It’s disheartening that it took a very violent threat for people to care about what’s been happening to me and other students of color on this campus for years,” he said. “It shouldn’t take that for people to listen to our lived experiences. Until the university stops being reactionary in their response, these things will continue to happen.”

A University of Chicago spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Here Are Those Immigration Riots Tom Coburn Warned Us About

Fri, 2014-11-21 15:10
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), like many other Republicans in Congress, did not want President Barack Obama to announce deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants. But while most GOP critics merely expressed concerns about border security and presidential overreach, Coburn made a darker prediction: There would be rioting in the streets.

"The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation," Coburn told USA Today. "You're going to see -- hopefully not -- but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."

Despite this warning, Obama went ahead, announcing in a prime-time address Thursday that he would use his executive authority to help more than 4 million undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows and live in the United States legally.

Witness the carnage that followed, just as Coburn predicted:

Beverly Hills




Fort Worth


New York

San Francisco

Washington, D.C.

What do your streets look like now that Obama has made his immigration announcement? Tweet your photos with the hashtag #CoburnRiots and we'll check them out.

There was at least one small howl of protest, according to the Argus Leader, although it came before Obama spoke. When Darin McDonnel of South Dakota heard about the planned executive action, he went outside -- in the 19-degree Sioux Falls weather -- and held up a sign reading, "Obama is mocking our Constitution."

"I'm out here because I love this country," McDonnel said, "and I think our Forefathers were brilliant."

Johanna Barr, Kim Bellware, Jennifer Bendery, Janie Campbell, Matt Ferner, Ryan Grenoble, Kate Abbey-Lambertz, Grace Maalouf and Nico Pitney contributed reporting.

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Dem Governors Struggle To Overcome Opposition As Obama Embraces Executive Powers

Fri, 2014-11-21 15:08
WASHINGTON -- The six Democratic governors who face GOP-controlled state legislatures may be slightly jealous of President Barack Obama's ability to do things like go out on his own and protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

This past election's Republican wave resulted in a historic number of state legislative chambers dominated by the GOP. That sweep may be problematic for Democratic governors in Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, who will be much more limited than Obama in the executive remedies they can take in the next two years of their terms.

In comparison, Republican governors in just four states -- Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey -- will be forced to work with legislatures controlled by Democrats in 2015.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who was elected in 2013, campaigned on a promise to expand Medicaid for Virginia's residents. After failing to reach an agreement with the legislature over the program earlier this year, he announced a much more modest plan that would circumvent the legislature, while acknowledging his political options were limited.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock similarly wants to expand Medicaid and proposed a plan this week that would extend coverage to 70,000 people in the state. Though the Democrat was able to advance some of his proposals in the last legislative session because of a coalition of Democrats and self-described "responsible Republicans," the coming session's Republican leadership skews more conservative, and some GOP state lawmakers have already expressed hostility toward his new proposal.

Incoming Republican state Senate President Debby Barrett, however, told HuffPost on Friday that she is open to his Medicaid proposal, though she hasn't had a chance to read it yet.

"If it's a Montana solution, I'm willing to look at it," she said.

In West Virginia, where Republicans will control both state legislative chambers for the first time since the Great Depression, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and GOP legislative leaders have spoken about their willingness to cooperate on economic issues, as the more conservative Democrats and Republicans in the legislature have done in the past.

"In effect, other than Republicans now controlling the committees, you've been seeing an effective conservative majority for the past couple of years," Neil Berch, an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University, told HuffPost. "There's going to be a push from the Republicans in the legislature on cutting taxes and spending but I don't anticipate huge changes other than pressure on the budget."

"The governor and the legislature used more of the state's so-called 'rainy day fund' to balance the budget in the last session than I think Republicans wanted, so [Tomblin] is not going to be able to go that route again," Berch added.

Though Maggie Hassan's re-election in New Hampshire was a rare bright spot in an otherwise terrible election for Democratic gubernatorial candidates, she now must work with a Republican-controlled legislature, after the GOP captured the majority in the state legislature. Hassan may have a foe in the House's incoming speaker, Bill O'Brien, a tea party favorite with a history of making controversial statements about the Affordable Care Act and college-age voters.

One of the nation's more acrimonious legislative-executive relationships is in Missouri, where Gov Jay Nixon issued a record number of vetoes of Republican-backed legislation in the last session. The GOP kept its supermajorities in both legislative chambers, where it has already displayed its muscle in recent years by overriding his vetoes on legislation involving gun rights and abortion restrictions.

"The implication is that the Republican-controlled legislature can basically pass whatever policies it wants to pass, dare Nixon to issue a veto, and vote to override if he does," said Jon Rogowski, an assistant professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis.

And in Pennsylvania, the expectation is that incoming Gov. Tom Wolf, who routed Gov. Tom Corbett (R) earlier this month, will face similar challenges dealing with Republicans in the legislature. Wolf campaigned on promises to increase education funding, tax natural gas and make the wealthy pay higher taxes, but all of those aims could prove infeasible given the makeup of the legislature and the politics of the new Senate majority leader, who is considerably more conservative than his predecessor.

However, Wolf's fellow Democrats are optimistic that Republican legislators will be charmed by the new governor, who is expected to be more conciliatory than Corbett.

"Ironically, the Republican legislature is going to be looking forward to something they haven't had for four years -- a chief executive who is willing to sit down with them and listen," Jim Burn, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, told HuffPost. "There's obviously going to have to be give and take, what that give and take consists of remains to be seen."

"We're encouraged by the olive branches on both sides. Everybody's going into this with cautious optimism," he added.

Rahm Emanuel Challengers Push To Make It Onto The Ballot In Chicago

Fri, 2014-11-21 14:54

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Standing outside a drugstore in the bitter Chicago wind, Jonathan Todd shared tips with a fellow volunteer on how to collect signatures to get their candidate on the mayoral ballot.

"Hold your pen tight in your hand - that keeps the ink from freezing," said Todd, working for mayoral hopeful Amara Enyia.

Todd was one of an army of campaign workers around the city this week scrambling for signatures before a Monday deadline to get a ballot spot to challenge incumbent Rahm Emanuel in February's election.

The third-largest U.S. city has the toughest ballot requirements in the country, said Richard Winger, an expert on ballot access legal issues. Contenders for mayor must file 12,500 voter signatures with the elections board, compared with 3,750 in New York and no more than 2,000 in Los Angeles.

"I'm not aware of any cities large or small that require more than 5,000 signatures," said Winger, who noted that most cities depend on filing fees instead. He called the Chicago process "very unfair," especially when it is cold.

Serious Chicago candidates typically gather two or three times the required number to survive expected challenges to the signatures' validity.

Emanuel has already filed 43,000 signatures. His best-known opponents, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Alderman Bob Fioretti, say they will have more signatures than they need by Monday's deadline.

"If the mayor decides to challenge our petitions, we have a plan in place," said Fioretti spokesman Michael Kolenc.

The election is non-partisan, and the winner must get 50 percent of the vote plus one to avoid a runoff.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who had been favored over Emanuel in polls, decided in October not to run due to a serious illness.

Lewis endorsed Garcia. A survey commissioned by the CTU this month found that in a three-way race, Garcia and Fioretti could force a runoff - voters favored Emanuel by 33 percent, Garcia by 18 percent and Fioretti by 13 percent.

Chicago political experts say that while petition challenges are typical, it is not clear at this point who will challenge whom.

Emanuel survived a residency challenge before his 2011 election. That fight won Emanuel positive press, so he may decide to skip challenges altogether, said Dick Simpson, political science professor at University of Illinois-Chicago.

"He risks looking like a bully," Simpson said. (Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

I would be so Thankful if only Chicago had an Elected School Board

Fri, 2014-11-21 14:42
While we all prepare to give thanks for family, friends, and loved ones, I want to pause and give thanks to the people in this city who are relentlessly trying to give us all the opportunity to have an Elected School Board.

Because Mayor Rahm Emanuel keeps Chicago the only school district in the entire state of Illinois that does not have an elected school board.

We have a school board that is handpicked by the mayor and therefor does whatever the mayor tells them to do, because if they go against him then guess what? They are no longer on the school board.

We have an appointed school board that meets during the work day so parents, teachers, students, and the community cannot easily attend the meetings. But in spite of this every month people attend and speak out about how CPS can be and needs to be improved. Yet every month the CPS board pretends to listen to the pleas of the people they should be representing, watches while parents make their pleas and says nothing while people are physically removed from the microphone. The appointed board then goes into a closed door session and does whatever they want to do err I mean whatever they were told to do.

We have an appointed school board that agreed to close the most schools in the history of the United States and claimed that closing schools was good for children.

We have an appointed school board that has according to a Chicago Tribune editorial has allowed "CPS to get ripped off by the banks for the last ten years". This money that the School Board and our Mayor allowed the banks to take from our schools was enough money to keep ALL of the 50 schools that were closed open. This money could reduce class sizes and allow for more counselors, librarians, art teachers, nurses and the list goes on and on to be hired.

A truly Democratic society means we are able to vote and be represented by people whom we voted for. In Chicago our mayor will not let Democracy into education. As a social studies teacher we are required to teach our students about the major types of governments in the world. When I teach about Democracy and then compare it to a dictatorship it is evident that our school system is run like the latter.

Various groups and people have been attempting to get a referendum on the ballot to allow the citizens of Chicago to vote to determine if they would like an elected school board or not. Yet every election one of Rahm's puppets I mean Alderman specifically Alderman Joe Moore has managed to bump the Elected School Board question off the ballot.

Why is this?

What is our mayor so afraid of?

Rahm must be afraid of Democracy.

The time is now to give the people of Chicago the say in how our schools are run.
Because there is one thing we all can agree on and that is Chicago Public Schools are a mess.

If you want to help make an Elected School Board a reality check out and get involved with CODE Chicago and the work the Chicago Teachers Union is doing to bring educational Democracy to Chicago.

Hipster Pilgrims Move Into Their New Neighborhood In The Story Of 'Gentrifigiving'

Fri, 2014-11-21 14:21
A group of people move into unfamiliar territory, take over with no understanding of the existing culture and drive the native locals away. Hmm, where have we heard this before?

Color TV Comedy puts a new spin on the Thanksgiving holiday by telling it from the perspective of clueless hipster pilgrims. They creatively bridge the subjects of modern gentrification and the original pilgrim voyage to America, which have more than a few similarities. It also lampoons the ignorance exhibited when people are introduced to unfamiliar cultures, which has existed since, well, people have.

So pay your favorite barista a visit, hit up that new brunch place before it becomes that old brunch place, and then watch the story of the first "Gentrifigiving."

Illinois Pension Overhaul Ruled Unconstitutional, State Will Appeal

Fri, 2014-11-21 14:12

By Karen Pierog

CHICAGO, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A judge ruled on Friday that an Illinois law aimed at easing the state's huge unfunded pension liability is unconstitutional, handing a victory to labor unions and state retirees who challenged the law and an initial defeat to the state's efforts to fix its sagging finances.

The judge's sweeping ruling will send the case to the Illinois Supreme Court for a final determination on the law's constitutionality. The Illinois Attorney General's Office, which is defending the law, said it will ask the high court for an expedited appeal.

Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz, who ruled a day after hearing oral arguments on the state's pension reform law, found that the law both diminishes and impairs retirement benefits for public sector workers in violation of a state constitution provision. The judge rejected the state's argument that public workers and retirees have a contract for pensions that can be modified to protect the public welfare in the case of an emergency, and that Illinois' dire financial situation constitutes an emergency.

"In summary, the state of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits," Belz's ruling stated. "Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the state of Illinois cannot break this promise."

Illinois has the worst-funded state retirement system, and its huge unfunded pension liability has helped pound its credit ratings to the lowest level among states. The unfunded liability for Illinois' five state retirement systems hit $104.6 billion at the end of fiscal 2014.

Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner, who will inherit the pension problem when he takes office in January, said in a statement he will work with the Democratic-controlled legislature "to craft and implement effective, bipartisan pension reform."

Belz's ruling leaned heavily on a July Illinois Supreme Court decision in an unrelated case that concluded healthcare for retired state workers was a pension benefit protected by the constitution. In that case, the court ruled the wording of Illinois' constitution makes it "plain" and "unambiguous" that the pension protections cannot be reduced, Belz noted.

Ted Hampton, an analyst at Moody's Investors Services, said the ruling is a negative development, but the state's A3 rating already assumed the reforms would not be implemented.

Belz's ruling, if upheld by the state supreme court, could have broader implications. It calls into question the viability of a state law enacted in June to tame Chicago's huge pension burden, and is a sign that other Illinois municipalities will not soon receive pension relief.

When Moody's cut Chicago's rating to Baa1 from A3 in March due to the city's "massive and growing" unfunded pension liabilities, the rating agency said Chicago could be hit with another downgrade if Illinois' reforms are ruled to be unconstitutional and if the city fails to match revenue to required pension contributions.

Arizona and New York have pension protections in their constitutions that are similar to Illinois' and have also had court rulings that prevented pension cuts, according to Stuart Buck, an analyst who has tracked pension funding litigation at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The reform law was enacted in December 2013 to help save Illinois' sinking finances. It reduces and suspends cost-of-living increases for pensions, raises retirement ages and limits salaries on which pensions are based. Employees contribute 1 percent less of their salaries toward pensions, while contributions from the state, which has skipped or skimped on its pension payments over the years, are enforceable through the Illinois Supreme Court.

Although the law was slated to take effect on June 1, Belz put it on hold in May, until five lawsuits consolidated in his courtroom are resolved, first by him and ultimately by the state's high court. (Editing by David Greising and Matthew Lewis)

Some of Chicago's Top Chefs Share Their Favorite Gifts to Give

Fri, 2014-11-21 14:09
Stuck on what to give this Holiday Season? Twenty-one of Chicago's top chefs share their best gift ideas!

1. "My favorite book to get any and all cooks for Christmas is the Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, an absolutely essential book for anyone's library." - Tim Graham, Executive Chef, Travelle

2. " I like to give my friends and family Fermented Hot Sauce. A lot of people love hot sauce, and fermenting the peppers beforehand adds complexity. I usually combine some sweeter peppers (like Poblano Peppers) along with hot to balance out the heat and add a deeper flavor." - Paul Virant, Executive Chef Vie, Perennial Virant, Vistro.

3. "My new favorite gift to give people is a Nespresso Machine. I got hooked on this in Spain and now I want everyone to have this espresso machine. It's small, simple to use, easy to clean and tastes great." -- Heather Terhune, Executive Chef, Sable Kitchen and Bar.

4. "To my culinary friends and cooks I'm giving Portland-based Finex's 8-inch Cast Iron Skillets. They are one of the only cast iron skillets still made in the US, and a work of art. I'll also be giving a spice blend we made in tandem with Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boîte that we carry at Publican Quality Meats." -- Paul Kahan, Executive Chef and Partner, One Off Hospitality Group (avec, Big Star, Blackbird, Dove's Luncheonette, Nico Osteria, The Publican, Publican Quality Meats)

5. "This year I am giving the gift of travel. I am taking my family to Thailand with a quick trip tagged on to Hong Kong. Travel is how I learn and I am able to come back to the restaurant feeling inspired. Whenever a young chef asks me for advice on becoming a chef I always say: TRAVEL. It's what opens your mind to all the possibilities: in food, culture and in yourself." -- Rick Bayless, Chef/Owner, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/XOCO

6. "They just released the full version of 'The Basement Tapes' (all of Bob Dylan's basement recordings with the Band) finally, so I'm excited for that." -- Jared Van Camp, Executive Chef of Element Collective, Nellcôte, RM Champagne Salon, Old Town Social, Leghorn, OWEN + ALCHEMY

7. "I give Old Krupnik to my staff and the one crazy Polish guy that introduced me to this fine drink, Bob Broskey, the Chef de Cuisine at L20. He gave me Olde Krupnik for Christmas one year and it's been our obsession ever since." - Christopher Gawronski, Executive chef, Acanto

8. "I am giving the delicious Alfajores "Alfies" from Lucila's. They are decadent Argentinian Dulce de Lelce Pastries that I first had years ago in Buenos Aires. So perfect!

I am having our Beverage Director, Steve Carrow make his famous Limoncello and having it bottled in vintage bottles for gifts.

Finally, I am giving everyone on my vast list a copy of the Green City Market Cookbook from our farmer's market here in Chicago." -- Carrie Nahabedian, Chef and Co-owner, NAHA and Brindille

9. "I am giving my staff "Douk Douk" knives, designed for the French army and very rarely used. I picked them up on my recent travels around Europe and absolutely love them. I am also a big fan of Mizuno knives and Black Truffles, which I also plan to give out as gifts." - Doug Psaltis, Executive Chef/Partner, RPM Steak

10."This year for Christmas I will be giving out peelers for my kitchen staff who always seem to be stealing mine. For non-industry friends I will be making a charitable donation in their name to a local soup kitchen." - Executive Chef Jared Wentworth, Longman&Eagle, Dusek's, Promontory

11. "I like to give items that I have canned through the year...My mom gets Raspberry Jam, Pickled Ramps for my aunt (she likes Gibson cocktails), Pickled Peppers for my uncle, B & B Pickles for my wife, my dad gets Peach Jam, and my sister gets Cherry Jam. I also bake these killer Chocolate Chip Cookies. To me, giving has to come from things I've made and loved...just like my significant others. Enjoy each other and the presents you give -- it makes the holidays special each year!" -- Sean Sanders Chef/owner, Browntrout

12. It is hard to beat the gift of lots of good, old-fashioned love. "This Christmas is about our four new children brought into our lives. They are our gift. We shall celebrate with them with traditional Southern Cuban Puerto Rican and Venezuelan Food and experience Christmas as it should be: teaching our children the importance of tradition and blended family." -- Art Smith, Executive Chef, Table 52

13. "With my family, gifts vary from year to year, but with my brother Pat, specifically, we always exchange cookbooks that we've suggested to each other. This year, there's so many good ones to choose from, but I'll probably get Pat the Sean Brock cookbook. Every year, I also bake bread and make homemade jam for my neighbors, and I wrap it up and put it on their doorsteps at some point during the holiday season." - Chef Mike Sheerin, Michael Sheerin Consulting

14. "Swiss Quality Vegetable Peeler, a set of three is $10. Always sharp and they can peel almost anything. Available in many bright colors, which you can use for different tasks. And Joyce Chen Kitchen Shears, $20. It is the unlimited scissor. Again, always sharp. Available in many colors." -- Joho, Executive Chef/Proprietor, Everest

15. "I LOVE Christmas! I'm the guy who listens to Christmas music all day-at home, in my car, in my kitchen-and family is very important to me. So this year I am giving my staff time off to spend with their families. Also, you can never go wrong with lots of candy as a stocking stuffer." - Richie Farina, Executive Chef, Moto

16. "I have to agree with Executive Chef of Moto, Richie Farina, here. I LOVE the holidays. This Christmas, I am taking my wife and daughters to the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin. They love it there and family chill time is our real gift." - Homano Cantu, Owner, Moto, Chef/Owner Berrista, Author and Inventor, President of the Board, The Trotter Project

17. "Since I'm in the restaurant business and have so many hipster friends, I'll probably be giving
The Gen-Xers, Millennials & Hipster Guide: 6 Basic Things to Know About Sharing a Kitchen with Housemates more than anything else this Christmas." - Paul Fehribach, Chef/Owner, Big Jones

18. "My team and I are donating toys and items for children of the women at the Haymarket Center. I am also giving a donation to the Jesse White Turkey Drive." -- Phil Stefani, Owner, Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants

19. "I think bottles of Amaro Montenegro would be the gift I would give to my non-industry friends and the Flour and Water cookbook to my industry friends. The Amaro is fantastic and very approachable and the cookbook is one of the better pasta centered cookbooks that works for both the home and professional chef. Happy Holidays!" - Matt Troost, Executive Chef, Charlatan and Three Aces.

20. "I am excited to give a 3D Printer Pen -- one of the most awesome things I've seen in a long time. Some of my favorite food gifts are Colatura-Italian Fish Sauce and Neonata-Italian Anchovy Condiment, both are so delicious!" - Chef Chris Pandel, Executive Chef of B. Hospitality Co.

21. "Bacon Club from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Mi. You can do a twelve-month, six-month, quarterly or a three-month bacon delivery. Either way, it's artisanal bacon at it's best, mail ordered to your door." - Gale Gand, Pastry Diva/Partner, Spritzburger

And one more for kicks...

22. "A great artist, Leah Poller, brought sweets from Shatila's Bakery in Michigan to one of my eclectic Dinner Parties-the ones I throw at home in addition to the ones on stage. These Middle Eastern sweets are the perfect gift and so, so good, just dripping with honey! I also always give to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls." - Elysabeth Alfano, Executive Producer, The Dinner Party

Would You Guess There Are Fewer Amish Today? You'd Be So Wrong

Fri, 2014-11-21 12:43
There’s no denying that the Amish are fascinating to the rest of us ("the English," in Amish terms).

They’re the topic of reality television shows and documentaries, a particularly memorable Nancy Drew novel and the Academy Award-winning 1985 film "Witness." Vanilla Ice "went Amish." We buy their furniture and jam, and may occasionally spot their buggies when driving on country roads through America’s heartland.

Many may not realize, however, that though the Amish make up only a tiny percentage of Americans (less than 0.001 percent), the Amish population has grown enormously since the early 1960s, with much of the increase occurring in the last two decades.

The Amish in America trace their roots to the Anabaptists, who appeared in Switzerland during the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. Anabaptists, or "rebaptizers," were noted for their second baptism of adults who had been baptized as infants in other Christian traditions. They believed that only adults could make the decision to follow Jesus Christ and therefore did not practice infant baptism themselves. They also believed that the church should not be associated or interfered with by any state.

In 1693, Jakob Ammann, a Swiss convert to Anabaptism, sought to revitalize the movement after it had been driven underground by civil and religious authorities threatened by its rapid spread. Ammann preached that Christians should adhere to strict guidelines, including not cutting their beards or wearing fashionable clothes.

He also advocated shunning excommunicated members (still a practice in some Amish communities). This led to a split between his followers and other Anabaptists living in France and Switzerland at the time. Ammann’s followers became known as the Amish, and they emigrated to the Americas in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Modern-day Mennonites are similarly descended from the 16th century European Anabaptists, but do not believe in separating themselves from the rest of society, as the Amish do.

Amish communities are today found in 30 U.S. states, as well as in Ontario, Canada. The first North American settlement began in about 1738 in Pennsylvania, and their count has steadily grown until it boomed in recent decades.

Source: Joseph Donnermeyer

The Amish are a Christian denomination who value simplicity, local church authority, pacifism and separation from the world. Because of their strong sense of community and belief in helping one another in times of difficulty, they do not participate in government programs like Social Security (Congress exempted the Amish from Social Security payments in 1965, though they do pay income, property and school taxes) and typically don’t have insurance (they were also granted an exception to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate).

Amish children attend school, many at one-room private schools, typically through the eighth grade. Though for most children in the U.S., school is compulsory until age 16 or older, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 1972 decision Wisconsin v. Yoder that Amish children could end formal education at age 14. After that, most participate in vocational training.

The Amish take seriously the Bible's command not to be “conformed to the world.” For this reason, they do not connect to public utility grids. Contrary to popular belief, however, they do use modern technology -- some of the time and very selectively. For example, “Amish hackers” have found ways to operate modern conveniences through traditional means, like kitchen blenders that work on air pressure or farming tools powered by hydraulics.

According to Joseph Donnermeyer, an Ohio State University professor who has studied the Amish for the past 25 years, the group could surpass 500 settlements in 2015 (there are currently 484). The term “settlement” refers to a loosely defined geographic area where the population is mostly Amish. Donnermeyer, with the help of an Amish librarian who lives in Ontario, tracks settlements -- the definition he uses is a community where there are at least three Amish families, they are able to hold a church service, and cars are not permitted. Car use typically provides a clear-cut technology boundary between the Amish and other groups called Plain Anabaptists, he said.

He noted that about two-thirds of current settlements have appeared since 1990. “Up until then,” Donnermeyer said, “[the Amish] were able to absorb families into existing communities.”

Many newer settlements are small, with only one or two church "districts" -- essentially, congregations. Donnermeyer said that these districts are the “exact opposite of a megachurch.” They typically include just a few dozen families, who hold worship services in members’ homes.

According to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, there are about 290,100 Amish living in North America. This includes adults and children, although only adults who have been baptized are considered full members of the church. (Amish are typically baptized between the ages of 18 and 21, since the church emphasizes that joining is a voluntary decision.) In most Amish communities, children make up over half the population.

It’s difficult to get an accurate estimate of the Amish population in specific communities because there is no central church registry. But as more families move to a settlement, more church districts usually spring up. Newer settlements with many districts indicate rapid growth, Donnermeyer said, and older communities tend to be larger.

Source: Joseph Donnermeyer

According to Donnermeyer, much of the current population growth is due to the Amish's large families. There aren’t many converts to the Amish way of life (those seeking to join must be willing to learn the dialect and be baptized), and not too many leave the fold (though we seem to be particularly fascinated by those who do -- see "Breaking Amish," "Amish: Out of Order" and various other shows on the topic).

The oldest currently active Amish settlement in the U.S. is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was founded sometime around 1760 and now has 187 church districts. So far in 2014, eight new communities have sprung up, though Donnermeyer predicts there will be more before the end of the year.

“With the Amish population changing so fast,” Donnermeyer said, “every time I think I’m up to date, someone sends me a note asking me if I’ve heard of a new [settlement].”

Illinois business leaders say they support Obama's immigration actions

Fri, 2014-11-21 11:42
(Editor's note: Following is a statement issued by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition on President Obama's immigration executive order. For more information about the coalition and its members, visit its website.

Chicago, Illinois - The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) released the following statement today. IBIC is co-chaired by Exelon Chairman Emeritus John Rowe, Crate and Barrel Co-Founder Carole Segal, former Corn Products International CEO Sam Scott, former Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Whitley, Resurrection Project CEO Raul Raymundo, American Council of Engineering Companies of IL Executive Director Dave Bender and National Partnership for New Americans Executive Director Joshua Hoyt.

"The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) represents a growing and diverse set of businesses and business associations across the state. IBIC provides a voice for Illinois businesses in support of common sense immigration reform that supports Illinois' economic recovery, provides Illinois companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and promotes the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and citizens."

See the rest of the statement at Reboot Illinois, including how the IBIC thinks Congress should be involved in such immigration action.

Speaking of Congress, a member of the House of Representatives from Illinois was in the spotlight recently. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a double-amputee Iraq War veteran, asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if she could vote in the Democratic caucus by proxy during the fall's legislative session because she was in the late stages of her pregnancy and could not vote (Duckworth welcomed a baby daughter Nov. 18). Pelosi denied the request. Comedian journalist Jon Stewart mocked Pelosi on the "Daily Show" for standing the way of the voting rights of a working mother trying to participate in the Democratic process, when Pelosi usually stands up for such people. See Stewart's entire segment at Reboot Illinois and find out how exactly the word "tur-Duckworth" fits into all of this.

Illinois' State Government Must Monitor Its Own Size

Fri, 2014-11-21 11:14
Government is self-limiting -- only government can make itself smaller. Illinois is the state with the highest number of taxing bodies, so Nancy Mathieson of Truth in Accounting believes that Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner should take it upon himself to enact those self-limiting governmental powers.

She has a few ideas about he can make that his number-one priority.

Mathieson writes:

Illinois Sen. Daniel Biss knows a lot about how to try to consolidate local government. It took several years and a special law he sponsored to merge Evanston Township into the City of Evanston, even though the two units of government shared the same boundaries. The estimated annual savings of this consolidation is $250,000.

See how Mathieson thinks this success story can be translated through the rest of the state at Reboot Illinois.

Illinoisans know by now to keep a skeptical eye trained on all those locals and state governments to watch out for waste and corruption. But can we trust the federal government to keep everything above the board? Dannie Mahoney, also of Truth in Accounting, thinks it's time the national government 'fess up and tell us what's going on with our national debt. Truth in Accounting has found that the number may be much more concerning than originally believed. See what Mahoney thinks should be done about this lack of transparency at Reboot Illinois.

Peace in Ferguson, MO

Fri, 2014-11-21 10:13

The good people of Ferguson, MO deserve peace and respect from the community at large. As we await the decision to either indict Police Officer Darren Wilson or to let him walk away sky free, the people should remain in a peaceful state of mind. Gun sales are up in Ferguson and there appears to be a growing sentiment that potential violence is in the air depending on the outcome of the Michael Brown case. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon activated the National Guard to assist the Ferguson Police Department as a cautionary measure in anticipation of any violence that may occur. With all of the extra police and gun sales soaring high, one would be led to believe that we are bracing for the worst instead of allowing the justice system to make the right decision based on the facts.

Whether Officer Darren Wilson is indicted or not, the protesters should set the example by organizing peaceful demonstrations in the city of Ferguson and across the United States. Some people do not like to talk about the peace process when someone has suffered an injustice by the hands of the law. However, we should always take note that violence only begets more violence. Taking the peaceful approach will assure a victory for Michael Brown's Family in one way or another. There is no sense in tearing up the city and lashing out with threats of violence because nobody wins in the end. Hundreds of people will go to jail and perhaps another innocent person will be shot or killed. This is not the way to challenge the system in the wake of the Michael Brown decision.

The great people of Ferguson have already shown the world how far they will go in regards to making sure that Michael Brown's death was not just another young African American male killed by the police. Residents of Ferguson young, old, African American, Caucasian, celebrities, and everybody interested in justice for Michael Brown, have stepped up to show their support by organizing peaceful protest after protest for over sixty days costing the State of Missouri millions of dollars in police overtime and more. It's also amazing how the entire world is watching the developments in Ferguson, MO. No matter what happens, the world will know that the people are tired of Police Brutality and the use of Excessive Force. Due to the overwhelming demand for justice, the Brown Family now have millions of people praying and speaking up for their son. Hopefully, everything will work out for the better but you cannot bring a person back to life once their life has been taken away due to excessive force or a natural death. With all of the people protesting and rallying around the world, let's not forget that the peace process will always triumph in the end. It's better to work things out with cooler heads than to destroy the very fabric of our society which is the minds of our youth. "There's 'No Excuse' For Police to Use Excessive Force in Ferguson." - President Barack Obama

It's 'Turkey Dump Weekend' And The SRSLY Girls Are About To Take A Dump On Your Heart

Fri, 2014-11-21 10:06
The idea of your girlfriend being away at college, hanging around guys whose no-shave Novembers will actually yield results, can't be a comforting thought for most high school boyfriends.

Alexandra Fiber and Danielle Gibson of the comedy duo SRSLY have had their first taste of college life in a new music video "Turkey Dump Weekend," and it doesn't end well for their baby-faced high school sweethearts. (Though, getting dumped has never sounded so catchy!)

Check out the video and then go watch some of SRSLY's other funny stuff.

12 More Mind-Blowing Documentaries You Can Stream On Netflix

Fri, 2014-11-21 07:01
In light of World Television Day and the upcoming holiday weekend, it seemed like a good time to review another set of Netflix documentaries. If you've already powered through the first three collections, here are 12 more:

"How to Survive a Plague"
"How to Survive a Plague" captures the turmoil witnessed in Larry Kramer's semi-autobiographical "The Normal Heart" with depictions of actual events at the onset of HIV/AIDS activism. Telling the story of organizations AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Treatment Action Group (TAG), the film depicts the challenges to change perceptions that AIDS is a death sentence. Director David France tackles an infuriating obstacle to highlight the compelling power of grass-roots movements.

"The Waiting Room"
An intimate look at the health-care crisis, "The Waiting Room" functions as a much-needed indictment of the system, but also manages to cast an uplifting and even empowering look at the employees who care for the sick in the bleakest of circumstances. Director Peter Nicks is granted an impressive level access into a day of life in the ER. Acting as his own cinematographer, he is able to scrutinize the struggle of bureaucracy for a look at the hopeful optimism of compassion.

The personal connection that directors Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman have to the story at the center of "Cropsey" makes the 2009 documentary haunting in a way that fictionalized scary movies could never compete with. Growing up in Staten Island, the two spent childhood terrified of an urban legend known only as Cropsey (from the local slang for "maniac"). When the story was tied to the very real cases of missing children, the nightmarish figure was lost in an intersection of myth and genuine danger that only grows more horrifying as they are parsed.

"Smash His Camera"
Andy Warhol once said, "My favorite photograph is one that's in focus and of a famous person doing something unfamous. That's why my favorite photographer is Ron Galella." "Steal His Camera" is the story not just of that man, but the paparazzi movement he started with his urge to reveal humanity within even the most glamorous celebrities. Featuring colleagues, critics and Galella himself, Leon Gast's documentary makes for a compelling look at the clash of the right to privacy and freedom of the press.

"How to Die in Oregon"
As humanely as "How to Die in Oregon" handles its subjects, the documentary remains quite difficult to watch. In 1994, the titular state became the first to legalize physician-assisted suicide. The film depicts the stories of those who have opted to take advantage of the "Death With Dignity" act. "How to Die in Oregon" brings together journalists, lawyers and physicians in an attempt to investigate the practical and philosophical implications of making this choice, the reality of which can only truly be comprehended by the families of the patients and, of course, the patients themselves.

"Bound by Flesh"
When conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were born, their mother thought they were a curse from God for sexual activity out of wedlock. Disgusted with the children, she sold her daughters to Mary Hilton, who abused and exploited them from infancy (displaying the girls in the back room of a pub for a fee, when they were just one month old). At once heartbreaking and fascinating, "Bound by Flesh" walks through the Hilton sisters' story, in conjunction with a twisted history of the side-show culture that flourished as early American entertainment.

"Crazy Love"
Dan Klores doesn't do anything especially innovative with his 2007 documentary. The talking heads format he employs was one of the biggest criticisms upon release. Although, anything else might have distracted from the already overwhelming subjects of "Crazy Love." Before and (somehow) after he threw acid in her face, Burt Pugach and Linda Riss participated in what is easily one of the most absurd love stories of the 20th century. If their relationship wasn't documented across various newspapers and court documents, it would seem too over-the-top for even a daytime soap.

Indeed, Andrey Zvyagintsev's portrait of a fishing boat is not something meant to be taken lightly, but rather felt with the clashing drama of the same high seas in which Melville's Pequod sought Moby Dick. Certain ham-fisted elements of "Leviathan" detract from the film -- the Bible verse in a gothic font which proceeds the title sequence, for example -- but, past the swirls of experimental filmmaking, an experience unfolds that is meant to rock audiences with the visceral intensity of the ancient (and incomprehensibly dangerous) profession of deep sea fishing.

"Room 237"
"Room 237" marks the intersection between conspiracy theorists and extreme movie fandom that has found a home in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining." Narrated by scholars and obsessive cinephiles, it gives life to a series of sometimes outlandish, sometimes plausible and always compelling theories that shine light not so much on hidden meanings planted by Kubrick, but our extensive capacity for imagination.

"Good Ol' Freda"
"Good Ol' Freda" covers a lot of tired lore that any serious Beatles fan would be well acquainted with. The beauty, however, comes from the subject herself: Freda Kelly, with her insight and genuine loyalty, worked with the band for 11 years (despite the fact that they were only together for 10). Never once did she attempt to convert her proximity to greatness into personal gain. Hers is a story of the faithfulness of fandom, which just so happens to run parallel to the men that forever changed the music industry.

"The Vanishing of the Bees"
The dwindling honey bee population seems like it would be a problem for apiarists and maybe insect lovers. Though, paired with major economic, political and economic consequences associated with the dropping numbers, "The Vanishing of the Bees" warrants widespread concern. The film lays bare the daunting realities of Colony Collapse Disorder. While the format leaves a bit to be desired -- slow-mo bees are hardly praise-worthy filmmaking -- the information contained in Maryam Henein and George Langworthy's documentary is powerful enough to sustain it.

"The Art of the Steal"
"The Art of the Steal" tracks the fight for control of the Barnes Foundation's post-impressionist collection. Director Don Argott employs a blunt lack of objectivity, framing his story with an unnerving shamelessness, though perhaps it's refreshing in comparison to more subversive tactics that pervade the genre. Particularly intriguing, the impact of government control at the core of the narrative defies polarization.

6 Tax Tips Midlifers May Not Know About

Fri, 2014-11-21 06:20
The tax code is filled with lots of little gems for baby boomers, says Brian Ashcraft, director of Liberty Tax Service, headquartered in Virginia Beach. Here are a few of our favorites with a special H/T to Ashcraft:

1. New Year's Day babies can celebrate extra.
The IRS –- in many cases -– says you turn 65 on the day before your 65th birthday, and that can be a nice perk if you were born on New Year’s Day, says Ashcraft. Here’s why: You qualify for an additional $1,200 to your standard deduction if you’re 65 or older. For the 2014 tax year, you’re 65 even if your actual birthday falls on Jan. 1, 2015.

2. Caregivers do get a break, at least on their taxes.
If you're a caregiver for your parents, an adult child or a grandchild, you may qualify for a tax benefit related to their support when you itemize your deductions. To qualify, you must provide more than half of their financial support, and their annual income must be below $3,950. When you’re calculating their income, Ashcraft says, make sure you include unemployment compensation, pensions, interest, dividends and withdrawals from retirement plans. But if you are taking care of an aging parent, Social Security and disability payments typically are excluded from income consideration.

3. Your dependent's medical expenses are also deductions.
If you meet the criteria for the dependent exemption, you can deduct your dependent’s medical expenses if the expenses are more than 10 percent of your adjusted gross income if you’re under age 65, and more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income if you’re 65 or older. Again, you must itemize your deductions. Expenses can include ambulance services, bandages, dentures and out-of-pocket prescription drug costs. It can also include TV or telephone adapters, hearing aids and wigs, even weight-loss programs, if they are related to a medical condition or treatment.

4. Do you ever feel like an unpaid taxi service?
If you drive your dependent to see the doctor, that mileage can be deducted at the rate of 23.5-cents per mile. If you must stay overnight while a dependent has a medical procedure, you can deduct $50 per night for each person for lodging. It’s important that you keep detailed records of your expenses and log your miles to and from doctors’ appointments. For more information, see IRS Publication 502.

5. Charity can be more than just writing a check.
Charity extends further than donating money or old clothes and furniture, according to the IRS. Many retirees also donate their time. You may not deduct the value of the services you give to a qualified organization, but you may be able to deduct some of what you pay out in the course of giving those services, Ashcraft says. For example, if you must wear a uniform that identifies you as a hospital volunteer, you can deduct the cost and upkeep of the uniform.

6. Your car use may be deductible.
Unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of gas and oil, directly related to the use of your car in providing services to a dependent may be deducted. If you do not want to deduct actual expenses, you can take a standard mileage rate of 14 cents per mile. You may also deduct parking fees and tolls, even if you use the standard mileage deduction. As with your medical expenses, you must keep detailed records of your dates of service, mileage, and more. For more information, see IRS Publication 526.

Ashcraft says that the tax code "can be your best friend at tax time or it can be an enemy." He suggests working with a certified tax preparer who knows the code and can help reduce your tax liability.

18 Wildly Wonderful Recipes You Can Make With Frozen Waffles

Fri, 2014-11-21 06:00
Oh, you thought frozen waffles were reserved for rushed mornings, for tossing in the toaster and maybe drizzling with a bit of store-bought syrup, did you? Ha! Not so.

While homemade waffles emanate that "made with love" vibe, sometimes you don't have to act in such grandiose ways to craft a culinary marvel.

The frozen waffle, you see, is a crucial freezer staple. It's like a cheap, blank canvas begging for your artistry. It lends itself to wildly wonderful and wacky concoctions that can happen quickly. Surely, it's much less of a hassle to defrost a frozen waffle and make magic than it is to get out the waffle iron, the mixer, the flour and mix it all from scratch.

Since you won't have to exert any energy whipping up a waffle, you can put that excess brain power to use: You'll think, hmm, perhaps I'll make a bacon casserole from this box of frozen waffles. Or, gee, I really have the urge to spear these little waffles onto kebab sticks. The world is your oyster frozen waffle ... now get to it:

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How Do Illinoisans Feel About Stricter Gun Violation Penalties?

Thu, 2014-11-20 16:00
Most politicians have made their stances on gun control laws widely known. Republican Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has said he supports the rights of Illinoisans to own guns while some Democrats have expressed support for stricter gun control laws as a way to stymie violence in the state. What about Illinoisans as a whole, though? What do average people in the state think about gun laws?

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University polled registered voters throughout the state to gauge their feelings and found that most "show strong support for two key provisions of a gun crime bill which is pending in the legislature."

The provisions are: increasing mandatory minimum prison sentences from two years to three years for felony gun convictions and requiring convicted felons to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Nearly 69 percent and 65 percent supported the provisions, respectively.

From The Paul Simon Institute:

Some background: House Bill 5672 seeks to enhance penalties for certain violations of laws concerning unlawful use or possession of weapons. It is sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Michael Zalewski of Riverside and calls for increased prison sentences for certain gun crimes from two years to three years.

The bill also requires at least 85 percent of certain gun-related-crime prison sentences to be served, a provision called "Truth in Sentencing" by bill supporters. Current law requires 50 percent of these sentences to be served.

Many local and statewide officials support these proposals as a way to curb violent crime in the state, particularly Chicago.

Check out these charts to see how Illinoisans' support for these measures were divided, and click on the charts to see interactive information at Reboot Illinois.

The poll was conducted Sept. 23 to Oct. 15 and contains the responses from 1,006 registered Illinois voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Check out Reboot Illinois to see how the Paul Simon Institute found Illinoisans feel about police officers and how well they do their jobs.

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