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3 Bold Predictions For NBA Free Agency

Wed, 2016-06-29 13:38

The NBA free agency whirlwind has begun with the annual barrage of rumors, and even more rumors on the way. Free agency doesn't officially start until July 1, though, which means we still have time to speculate on even the unlikeliest of scenarios. Because, as history has taught us, we can't rule out anything.


Here is a look at three bold predictions for the NBA's "second season."


Barnes Stays Put

After the incessant chatter about Harrison Barnes and a multitude of potential suitors, the 24-year-old swingman will have his max deal matched by Golden State. Although Barnes endured a woeful postseason -- shooting under 39 percent -- that culminated in a shooting slump throughout the finals, he is still a key asset to the Warriors' long-term plans. An unselfish, versatile defensive ace, Barnes allows coach Steve Kerr to play small ball (aka Death Lineup) by employing him at the four, alongside Swiss army knife Draymond Green at the five.



In other #NBAFinals news, a class move by Dan Gilbert and the #Cavs: Officially announced that Harrison Barnes will be receiving a ring.

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) June 20, 2016


The market for Barnes, a restricted free agent, as a max player has opened up because of the salary cap expansion in 2017, and much of the Warriors' desire to keep him hinges on what Kevin Durant chooses to do. If the Warriors can somehow lure him away from Oklahoma City, then this conversation is moot.


Durant Inks Long-Term Deal In Oklahoma

The Kevin Durant sweepstakes may be over before they ever really begin. We can talk about the Lakers or the Knicks, but why would Durant leave a championship-caliber roster for a bad team? We can talk about the Warriors or Spurs, but neither has ever seemed all that feasible. Or we can talk about how Durant is a loyal dude who once announced his contract extension with the Thunder via Twitter


Simply put, Durant is not going anywhere. He is a top-three player -- please disregard the absurd voting results that suggest otherwise -- entering his prime alongside another elite player, Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, was one game away from the finals and has since improved its roster. By dealing Serge Ibaka to acquire the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis and former Orlando guard Victor Oladipo -- one of the premier, young two-way wings in the league -- the Thunder has given KD even more reason to stay put. 





The 27-year-old can ink a one-and-one deal to re-enter free agency with Westbrook next summer. Or, he can submit to a max contract extension and remain on a roster built for now and the future. That seems to be the play.


Nobody Really Wants Howard 

"This will be my last chance for a really big contract," Dwight Howard recently told Jackie MacMullan. OK then.


Howard preposterously opted not to exercise his $23.2 million player option to remain in Houston next season. Perhaps it's a combination of his vitriol for James Harden and disillusionment about the player he no longer is. Sorry, but I told you so. Either way, Howard will surely be in for a rude awakening when the offers -- or lack thereof -- start strolling in. (This is not the Lakers courtship 2.0.)


To be sure, there remains a market for his services -- think $12 million per year -- as a rim protector and pick-and-roll option. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is 30 years old and still a valuable commodity considering the dearth of quality bigs available. It's just that he won't command anywhere near the dollars he thinks he will. Moreover, the interest level is scant for a perceived locker-room cancer coming off his lowest-scoring average (13.7) since his rookie season and for a center who hasn't played the full 82-game slate since the 2009-10 campaign.


Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out my SiriusXM Radio show Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. ET on Bleacher Report channel 83.

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Orlando, We Are With You

Wed, 2016-06-29 13:09
I was in Orlando, Florida yesterday. I was there giving a morning keynote to the American Library Association convention. Because I knew I was going to be in Orlando, I reached out to the HRC who have been wonderful advocates and leaders in the immediate aftermath to see if I could be of service to the city. I wanted to thank the first responders for all for their hard, hard work, their bravery, their sacrifice.

Jennifer Foster, a longtime HRC supporter and proud member of the LGBT community in Orlando, arranged it all, and I had the privilege of meeting with Mayor Buddy Dyer, Chief of Police, John Mina, Chief of Staff, Frank Billingsley, city CFO Chris McCullion, City Council members, including openly gay Commissioner Patty Sheehan who has served as a a fierce advocate for her community, and various divisions of law enforcement -- SWAT, police, the fire department, first responders and dispatch. I was also able to go to the Orlando United Assistance Center which was set up immediately after the shooting as a place of comfort, advocacy, and resources for victims and their families. There I met with family members who still have loved ones in hospital, many in ICU, people who lost their loves and the many volunteers who are donating their time to give gentle care and get victims answers and services.


The city of Orlando will be remembered and known as a city of love, inclusion, and community.

I told them that I was speaking for all of you who are reading this. That they are loved and supported around the world. That we know of their service, sacrifice and bravery, and that the city will slowly recover, and that it will recover. That the city of Orlando will be remembered and known as a city of love, inclusion, and community. That this hateful act will NOT define them or their city but the loving response to this hatred WILL.

In fact, Orlando has had an "Ambassador of Love" for over 10 years now. They have been a leading city in diversity and tolerance so it is more shocking that this attack occurred here.

No one involved ever imagined they would be in this situation -- from the victims, their families, the volunteers and all law enforcement. The whole city feels this. The way that Orlando has come together, uniting as one, supporting each other and taking care of the fallen and their families confirms everything I have always hoped about humanity, strength and the tenacity of the human spirit.


The way that Orlando has come together confirms everything I have always hoped about humanity, strength, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

They have set up the OneOrlando Fund, info@oneorlando.org Please send a donation made out to OneOrlando Fund and mailed to OneOrlando, PO Box 4990, Orlando, FL 32802-4990 or text ORLANDO to 501501 to donate $10 to help the victims and families.

Please show your support and join me and the world when we say, we are with you, we care and most importantly, love conquers hate! #OrlandoUnited

The HRC has made this video. Please watch it and share it.

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Once Allies, Rauner and Rahm Now Enemies on Chicago Public Schools

Wed, 2016-06-29 11:13


"Instead of doing the hard work of fixing Illinois' broken education funding formula, Bruce Rauner has wasted 18 months of his term holding the entire state hostage in the name of workers' compensation and right to work. After all that time, Bruce Rauner is doubling down on the failed formula that rewards wealthy children who grow up in elite communities and penalizes poor children in Chicago and across the state, and he is standing behind Illinois' ignominious distinction of being 48th in the nation for education funding. That is the real tragedy."

Statement from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, June 28, 2016

The video above and the quote below it make perfect bookends in the Bruce Rauner-Rahm Emanuel relationship trajectory.

For those following events in Springfield today but unaware of Chicago city politics four years ago, it might be disorienting to learn that Rauner in 2012 was a close adviser to Emanuel, who at the time was attempting to reshape Chicago Public Schools. In the video clip above from the Sept. 18, 2012, edition of "Chicago Tonight," Rauner voices the criticism of teachers' unions that would become a prominent theme in the gubernatorial campaign he announced the following spring.

Rauner's "Chicago Tonight" appearance and strong words came at a turbulent time for Emanuel. On the day the program aired, the Chicago Teachers Union was a week into its first strike in 25 years as members protested changes -- including a longer school day -- sought by Emanuel. Appearing alongside Chicago Teachers Union Vice-President Jesse Sharkey, Rauner (identified onscreen as an Emanuel adviser) was in effect the face of the administration on the strike.

In a story published Sept. 19, 2012, the Chicago Tribune described Rauner's influence in the Emanuel administration:

Rauner, a potential Republican candidate for governor, speaks frequently with Emanuel and was placed by the mayor on the board of World Business Chicago, the city's economic development arm. Rauner has met more than a dozen times with Chicago Public Schools officials during the initial nine-month period that new CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard's team was organizing policy.

Four years later, the story is vastly different. As the state's historic budget crisis moves toward its second year, approval of a state budget for K-12 education has become the single most critical and divisive issue between Rauner and the majority Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

Many school districts statewide, including Chicago Public Schools, have said they won't open on time for the fall semester if they don't receive their state funding in July as scheduled. Public anger from such a debacle would be swift and intense.

Senate Democrats are backing a plan to put $750 million more into K-12 eduction, $286 million of which would go to Chicago Public Schools.

To Rauner and many Republicans, this represents a "bailout" of CPS. Republicans have introduced their own school budget, which increases K-12 funding by $240 million and guarantees no district will see a funding decrease. (Rauner's original budget proposal called for a reduction in state funding to CPS of $73 million.)

In a statement Tuesday morning, Rauner accused Emanuel, a Democrat, of siding with Madigan and Cullerton to block reforms and enable CPS to continue operating as a "broken system:"

I have said it before, and I say it again today: we must not bail out a broken system that refuses to change the way it does business. Forcing Illinois to raise its income tax to bail out CPS is fundamentally unfair to our school children, parents, homeowners, and small business owners across the state.

The real tragedy is that we have proposed legislation which would let Chicago fix every one of CPS' problems, allowing city leaders to protect their students and taxpayers while eliminating the need for any bailout - but Speaker Madigan has refused to call the bills for a vote.

  • Granting local control of collective bargaining would allow CPS to remove teachers' pensions pickup from contract negotiations, saving taxpayers from the single biggest threat to CPS' financial health. The Mayor requested the state do this last year.


  • Applying President Cullerton's pension reform proposal to CPS teachers' pensions would save Chicago taxpayers billions in the long run and give them the resources to hire more teachers.


  • Allowing CPS to declare bankruptcy if the Mayor or city council deemed it necessary to reorganize school contracts and debts could protect teachers' jobs and prevent the need for massive tax hikes on homeowners in Chicago. And even if the Mayor chose never to exercise the option, it would fundamentally alter the balance in teacher union contract negotiations, making tax hikes no longer the only inevitable option.


If Mayor Emanuel would join with his friend, President Cullerton, and lead in the effort for reforms along with Republican legislators, then together we could protect students, teachers, and taxpayers in the city and the state, creating a better future for everyone.

The Emanuel quote at the top of this article was in response to Rauner's statement.

Hard to believe that less than four years ago, these two were brothers-in-arms in the highest profile labor dispute in American education.

Recommended: Illinois editorial boards unite in demanding enough of the budget standoff

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Mayfly Season Is Here, And It's The Stuff Of Nightmares

Mon, 2016-06-27 12:05



An Illinois bridge resembled a scene from a horror movie this weekend when swarms of inch-long mayflies greased the road and blanketed cars in a creepy reminder of the insects' mating season.


The unnerving scene along the Illinois River was showcased in two photos shared by the Havana Police Department Monday morning.


One photo shows a police cruiser caked with the winged hitchhikers’ bodies, leaving one to wonder just how the officers were able to get inside. The other photo shows a road glistening from the mayflies' smashed yellow bodies.


“At one point they had piled 6 inches high and when ran over, became very slick,” the department stated in its Facebook post, which issued a warning to drivers.


Northeast of Illinois, residents in Michigan have already been busy combing through their own mayfly invasions over Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. Local weather radars have picked up mayfly swarms that resemble storm patterns.



Those are not showers! It's #mayflies lighting up the Detroit-Metro Terminal Doppler this evening. Tweet us pics! pic.twitter.com/fIwTSQ3dI3

— NWS Detroit (@NWSDetroit) June 25, 2016


The infestation is an annual event in the region. Last July in Sabula, Iowa, the state's Department of Transportation had to shut down a bridge over the Mississippi River until a snowplow could clear the piles of insects off the roads. Their invasion was described as knee-deep.


In southeast Pennsylvania last June, a bridge had to be closed for two straight nights after multiple motorcyclists skidded across the bodies of the insects and crashed, The Associated Press reported at the time.



But the mayflies’ presence isn't entirely a bad thing. In fact, the real horror would be if they ever stopped appearing, biologists say.


That's because the insects spend most of their lives at the bottom of rivers and lakes and need clean water to survive. When they appear in large numbers, therefore, it indicates not only a healthy population but a healthy environment, said Kent Johnson, a member of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council who supervises environmental quality for the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area.


"They're indicators of excellent water quality," Johnson told CBS News during last year's invasion. "As scientists, we can only spot check it once in a while and make some assumptions based on that."


Fortunately, if you're in a mayfly-heavy area and you can't wait to be rid of them, you're in luck: The bugs typically live for only 24 to 72 hours after emerging from the water. But then there's the cleanup.

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Inside The Chicago Program That Is Slashing Youth Crime Rates

Mon, 2016-06-27 10:36

The Chicago-based program Becoming A Man is the type that allows rival gang members to sit together, just days after one group killed a member of the other, and calmly talk about their issues, according to John Wolf, senior manager of the University of Chicago's Crime Lab. 


"The kids weren’t saying whether or not they specifically knew who did it. But you had these two groups of people -- where they knew someone from their group of friends had just killed someone from the other group of friends -- and they were able to sit down in this group and have a conversation back and forth about what had just transpired," Wolf said. "They were talking through ways of finding peace and ways of making sure it didn’t escalate further."


For the past few years, Wolf and his colleagues have been studying the impact of the Becoming A Man program, which targets at-risk male students in Chicago public schools. The program, run by the non-profit organization Youth Guidance, allows students to participate in weekly group sessions that teach them how to be more conscious of their decision-making processes. A recent two-year evaluation of the program showed that between 2013 and 2015, there was a 50 percent decline in violent crime arrests for the 2,000 participants as compared to a control group. The results of this evaluation are being shared Monday at the National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence in Baltimore.


By teaching these adolescent males how to slow down their decision-making processes and avoid knee-jerk reactions, the program aims to improve students' abilities to make appropriate judgments in high-stakes situations.


Wolf spent many days observing the participants in the program. He watched as the boys became more willing to open up about their personal lives to other students in the group and speak about their emotional vulnerabilities. 


Students in the program often face difficult life circumstances. Many of them live in poverty or in dangerous neighborhoods, surrounded by violence. Just getting to and from school can be a harrowing experience. 


Counselors push participants to describe "what are you actually nervous about, what are you actually scared about, what are the things that you're dealing with in your everyday existence, walking home, walking to and from school," Wolf said. "You're not allowed to say that you're fearful or worried about things, but in the BAM circle they're able to uncover those feelings."


"I think a big part of it is, they learn that the kid sitting across from them in the circle has those same fears, has those same anxieties and that it's OK," he went on. "It’s a human condition to show those things and it’s a common experience."


The program does not tell students how to behave, or instruct them as to the "right" thing to do, instead leaving it to the students to decide that. The program emphasizes only that the students carefully consider their decisions instead of rushing to act.



You're not allowed to say that you're fearful or worried about things, but in the BAM circle they're able to uncover those feelings.



"BAM providers recognize that these youth live in distressed neighborhoods where being aggressive or even fighting may -- unfortunately -- sometimes be necessary to avoid developing a reputation as someone who is an easy victim," says a 2015 working paper from University of Chicago researchers in the National Bureau of Economic Research.


"It is not hard to see how someone navigating that sort of neighborhood environment could develop a tendency to reflexively push back against being challenged," the paper continues. "That response can lead to trouble if it is over-generalized and sometimes applied in settings where it is not helpful -- such as school."


BAM says its approach is cost-effective: Every dollar invested in the program is projected to return up to $30 in societal gains as a result of crime reduction. Also, because the program increases graduation rates of participants by 19 percent, it will likely produce additional long-term economic gains.


A previous evaluation of the program from researchers in 2009-2010 yielded similarly promising results. 


"At a time when Chicago and other cities across the country are seeing increases in violence, this evidence is particularly encouraging,” said Jonathan Guryan, co-director of the University of Chicago Education Lab, in a press release. “Programs like BAM are showing us that it is not too late to help teens in Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods avoid violence and find success in school.”


  ______


Rebecca Klein covers the challenges faced in school discipline, school segregation and the achievement gap in K-12 education. In particular, she is drilling down into the programs and innovations that are trying to solve these problems. Tips? Email Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.com.


______ 


Related Stories:


The Education System Is Rigged Against Low-Income Students Even In Kindergarten


The South Isn't The Reason Schools Are Still Segregated, New York Is


Latino School Segregation: The Big Education Problem That No One Is Talking About


A Group Of Bronx Teens Are Trying To Transform New York City's Segregated Schools

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An Open Letter To A Gentrifying Property Developer

Mon, 2016-06-27 09:20
Dear property developer,

I am writing to let you know that I am much more than a race, and that I am outraged at the "investor" that you cater to.

You came and knocked on my family's home and asked if we would be interested in putting our home up for sale. Um? Did you see a "for sale" sign outside of our home? No. So then why would you think that we would be interested in your offer? But still, you insisted. You came a second time -- this time with a written offer and lengthy explanation of how excited you and your "investor" are at the opportunity to bring development to the "up-and-coming" Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago.

I am much more than a race.

Have you read the news lately? By now, you must know about the gentrification -- and the positive and negative side of the spectrum -- and thus, pushing my neighbors and extended family to leave a familiar neighborhood that they have called home for many years. And although my family is not ready to leave Pilsen or sell our house, we know that gentrification can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. We know that is happening from coast to coast, and we are already reading about its impact in the news. I would like to touch upon the negative effects, seeing as you had very little knowledge of the negative effects that developers bring to neighborhoods.

Yes, the people in the neighborhood might start to feel "safe" due to the rise of gentrification. Just take a look at this article that talks about the benefits of gentrification. According to a study from NYU's Furman Center and a study from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank both

confirmed earlier research that gentrification is seldom associated with displacement, and that it is frequently associated with higher incomes and better economic results for the longtime residents of gentrifying neighborhoods.

But at the same time, it's causing racism, raising a divide between the classes and causing new neighbors to point at their neighbors as a "person of interest." Just take a look at what is happening in the Mission District in San Francisco. A new neighbor who felt unsafe because of his neighbor of color, happens to call the police, and moments later that young man ends up shot to death in the park. Oh, you call it the place where the hipster beard came alive? Or the place where beautiful luxury buildings are being built? I call it the place where a community is being displaced, because they can no longer afford to live in this area or/and are not being treated as people of the community. Something a little too familiar that is happening in the Logan Square community in Chicago.

[Gentrification is] causing racism, raising a divide between the classes.

Initially, you never met me, but the second time that you visited my parents home, I decided to give you call, because I wanted to know why you kept bothering my parents so much. We had a lengthy conversation, about your "investor" being excited for a new project in the Pilsen neighborhood, and you told me that your "investor" had purchased the abandoned building next to my home, to make it into prime renting space for -- wait for it -- "white" people. Not only did you have the audacity to tell me that the new space would be intended for white people -- actually no, I thank you for cutting to the chase. You also continued letting me know that my home would be the perfect additional space that the project needed. I had to take a moment and laugh, because I just couldn't believe that you were flat out telling me that you wanted my family and me to think about the possibility of leaving our home. All because you think that my parents home, my home can be bought, and with it, our whole family having to move out. Thanks for letting me know that you can put a price to your "exciting project" by simply buying out the Latino family next door.

My family and I have no intention of letting go of the place that we call home.

The conversation went on for another 10 minutes, all while you were picking up your dry cleaning. You later gave me an analysis of the Mexican population that lived in Pilsen. I'm sure you did your homework, which is why you brought up that the family's in this particular community lived in smaller spaces and not all the family members had a room to themselves. I really didn't need you to lecture me on that, but I listened anyway. Our conversation ended with a nice tone, but deep inside I wanted to say that you were insensitive, but decided to stay quiet.

I'm happy that your project will not turn into a reality, because after all, my family and I have no intention of letting go of the place that we call home. For the first time in my life, if only for a minute, you made me feel like my family and I did not belong in our home. But I've grown from this experience to know that you and your kind will never make me feel this way again.

White people are not the only people that deserve housing.

I hope that the next time you visit, email, or call a Latino family, you have a better speech prepared. "White" people are not the only people that deserve housing, and Latinos are not at the very least deserving of your unsolicited dry speech.

Though your "investor" backed out of his "exciting" opportunity, I do have to say that another property developer bought out your space. I just hope that I never have to go to speak to someone like you again and not give the satisfaction of staying quiet.

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Free State of Jones

Sun, 2016-06-26 14:32
Unremarked upon in Ken Burns terrific documentary about the Civil War, a group of Confederate soldiers, after surrendering at Vicksburg, were paroled, over the objections of William Tecumseh Sherman, by U.S. Grant. Grant's opinion was that they were so sick and disheartened by their experiences that they'd just go home.

A group of them from Mississippi did, and led by one Newton Knight, eventually rebelled against the Confederacy. Allying themselves with other disaffected Southerners, and runaway slaves; they declared 'The Free State of Jones.' Victoria Bynum, after stumbling across their decendants, still living in Jones Country, Mississippi, wrote a fascinating book about it all, that I'd highly recommend: 'The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War.'

One would have imagined that it would be hard to make such compelling American history into an uninteresting and tedious movie, despite its robust endorsement of the Second Amendment. But, indeed, that's exactly what the director and scriptwriters have done. Other than Matthew McConaughey, and one other actor's actual Southern accents, they populate the movie with Northerners using 'fingers on a blackboard' quality drawls to pretend as if they're not from Burbank, Boise, or Brooklyn. They subvert the compelling story of Newton Knight to bludgeon the audience with today's racial narratives and Hollywood's favorite recent movie genre: slave porn. Layering onto a curious true story about race, honor, courage and individualism all the familiar racially charged images of Django, Twelve Years and Hateful 8.

And, pushing the story of Newton Knight, his followers, and family into the Reconstruction Era, the KKK, lynchings, castrations, voter suppression, literacy tests, and violence against voter registration volunteers.

Few movies could endure in the face of such heavy handedness. Free State, which should have been a highly interesting, eye opening, glimpse at an historically accurate racial history that proved that actual history isn't always black and white, is tedious, uncomfortable, distasteful, and trite. Oh, and long, very long: its two hours and nineteen minutes seem longer than a double root canal.

McConaughey is, as always, great. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as Rachel, the slave who marries and has children with Matthew's Confederate soldier character, could have been the most compelling and interesting woman of color in any recent movie. Alas, she isn't asked for much by the script, lots of long admiring looks at Matthew, but does as well as she can with so little to work with.

The rest of the cast play stock Southern/Civil War caricatures going through the motions: mostly, like Rachel, venerating Matthew's Newton Knight, nodding and smiling like those carefully selected supporters posed behind political candidates these days, nodding and smiling earnestly during all his (many) speeches. Or, bizarrely, as if it is 2016, not 1863, hugging it out when things get too tough.

It's quite fun thought to see, though admittedly a bit long in the tooth for their roles, very pleased Civil War reenactors in the background of many scenes getting a payday.

Even with America twice electing its first African American President, or because America's first African American President turned out to be one with an eager desire to pour gasoline on most things racial, it is jarring that movie after movie these days revels in violent, imagined images of master/slave brutality, rape, and inhumanity. Free State of Jones doubles down on all of this, but inserts Newton Knight as a somewhat saintly white savior channeling Kipling, to give meaning to black folks' lives. In a perverse way, these movies are eerily similar to the stock anti-Semitic Nazi movies of the thirties, designed, with purpose, to incite ethnic division, hatred, and violence.

It's really too bad. Newton Knight was a real person. He fought in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier. He led a rebellion against the Confederacy during the War. He married a slave from his grandfather's plantation while still married to his white wife. He lived with both of them after the war, in the same house. He had numerous children with both wives. They all lived together in the same farmhouse in Jones County, Mississippi from 1864 well into the 20th Century.

Those children intermarried within the family and had their own, racially mixed children. Some of them are still there, in Jones County to this day. Living with the echoes of the Free State of Jones as they go about their lives.

Exactly as William Faulkner, a Mississippian, wrote: "The past is never dead, it's not even past."

There's a great article available from The Smithsonian Magazine about Newt and the Free State. It's well worth reading whether you see the movie or not.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-free-state-jones-180958111/#YrsZRUwXBh4EPkLX.01

As I walked out of the theater, knowing the real history from reading the book, I thought: how can you make a boring movie about that man, Newton Knight? How can you make such an incredibly interesting story about race a racial polemic? How can Rachel become, in the movie, a rather minor character? How can Free State of Jones become slave porn? Somehow it is. Somehow they did, and it's a shame.

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Chicago City Hall Often Fights To Keep Files Secret In Police Abuse Suits

Fri, 2016-06-24 09:26

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration routinely fights turning over information in federal civil rights lawsuits against Chicago police officers, often leaving a judge to step in and order the city to disclose potential evidence, a Tribune investigation has found.


Although typically not the type of issue that draws attention outside legal circles, the city's handling of these lawsuits speaks to the police accountability issues that have intensified in recent months and have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Whether by bureaucratic negligence or stonewalling by city agencies, the law department places the interests of the Police Department and its officers above the public good, according to plaintiffs' lawyers and even some former city attorneys.

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Embattled GOP Senator Throws Trump Under The Bus In New Ad

Thu, 2016-06-23 13:04

Just over two weeks ago, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) made news when he became the first of his Republican legislative colleagues to rescind a previously extended endorsement of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. Now, as Politico's Kevin Robillard reports, he's set to become another famous first in the Trump era: 



Mark Kirk is the first GOP incumbent to air an ad attacking Trump: https://t.co/tMqgZZUEdI The real Q: Will he be the last?

— Kevin Robillard (@PoliticoKevin) June 23, 2016


The Chicago Tribune confirms that this 30-second spot will be part of a large ad buy -- to the tune of "about $230,000 in broadcast time for the weeklong buy and another $35,520 in cable TV time in Chicago."


The ad, titled "Even More," aims to present Kirk as an independent-minded, bipartisan legislator. Among other things, it points to his pro-choice bona fides and his support for a Senate hearing on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.


But most notably, it takes great care to mention his opposition to Trump. Over a parade of floating headlines, the ad's narrator intones, "And Mark Kirk bucked his party to say that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander-in-chief."


There's another politician who is conspicuously not named in the ad -- Kirk's opponent in his re-election bid, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). In 2010, Kirk squeaked out a win over then-Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias to reach the Senate. Duckworth is a bona fide political superstar -- albeit one who is currently dogged by a civil lawsuit alleging various ethics violations.


There aren't likely to be many Republican incumbents -- especially vulnerable incumbents -- who openly disparage their party's nominee in this fashion. However, the particulars of Kirk's race -- deep blue state, popular Democratic opponent, incumbent who won by a thin margin in a wave election -- probably make slagging Trump in public an essential part of the calculus.



~~~~~


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.






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Illinois Bond Deal a Good Deal Only in the Most Optimistic Interpretation

Thu, 2016-06-23 11:49
For many years, whenever I typed the words "Illinois credit downgrade" in an editorial or column, I could practically feel my readers' eyes glaze over. As important as a government's credit rating is, stories describing the state's descent from Aa3 to Baa2 and the nuances of the bond market hardly could compete with political headlines that saw, among many other fascinating things, a governor being hauled out of bed by the FBI and booked for trying to sell the president-elect's U.S. Senate seat.

Credit rating downgrades are abstract, their effects spread over many years and they're hard to comprehend. There was nothing abstract about Rod Blagojevich looking stunned in his running suit in a mug shot. Or in a more modern example, about Bruce Rauner calling Democrats corrupt and Democrats claiming Rauner is trying to destroy the middle class.

Lately though, with news of Illinois' crumbling credit arriving bundled with well publicized bad news about our budget-free state's overall financial collapse, I've sensed that more and more people are starting to understand why this not only is important news that they should know, but also the kind of aggravating bad news that they need to know.

A report last week from the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois put a $12 million price tag on the credit rating downgrades Illinois incurred two weeks ago from Moody's Investors Services and S&P Global Ratings.

That's the amount in extra interest Illinois taxpayers will pay on $550 million in construction-related borrowing last week because of the state's newly demoted credit score.

If Illinois had the same credit rating it had 10 years ago, taxpayers would have saved $70 million.



"The $70 and $12 million financial condition penalty estimates only relate to the June 2016 Bonds. Assuming that future debt sales will be at typical levels of about $1 billion each year, this financial condition penalty will be much larger," wrote the study's author, Martin J. Luby of DePaul University.

That's a much different message than what we heard last week from the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner, which lauded the 3.75 percent interest rate on last week's transaction as the lowest in state history.

"It's clear from today's bond sale that investors realize Illinois now has a governor that is trying to turn the state around and right its financial ship," said Rauner Press Secretary Catherine Kelly.

Not so fast, says Luby.

"Due to a decline in overall market interest rates and favorable conditions in the municipal market at the time of the bond sale, the state realized a historically low overall borrowing cost on the June 2016 bond sale from an absolute interest rate level perspective," Luby writes. "However, on a relative basis, the state could have realized significantly higher prices (i.e., paid lower borrowing costs) for its June 2016 Bonds if its credit had not deteriorated over the last 10 years or even over the last six months."

In other words, 3.75 percent is a comparatively lousy interest rate that would have been much lower for any of the 49 other states that are running their governments with functioning budgets to guide spending and taxes.

Here's how the bond industry publication Bond Buyer reported it:

But the deal captured a record low true interest cost of 3.7425% because the widening spreads were more than outweighed by lower overall yields in the market that has seen record lows across scales, disguising the true cost of the state's fiscal deterioration.

If that paragraph has your eyes glazing over, just remember the last part: "disguising the true cost of the state's fiscal deterioration."

I'll add one more quote from Bond Buyer:

"The bonds were sold based on rabid demand for yield with minimal regard for credit quality. Kudos to the state for perfect market timing. It's a great time to be an issuer," said one investor.

Translation: Demand for these bonds is far ahead of supply so investors don't care much about the seller's credit rating. You got lucky, Illinois.

We can't expect it to happen again, says Luby. Illinois right now is looking at $4 billion in infrastructure maintenance -- roads, bridges and the like -- that will be financed with bonds.

"At this $4 billion annual bond level," he writes, "the financial condition penalty estimate will be in the hundreds of millions based on 2006 relative pricing levels and tens of millions of dollars based on the state's relative bond prices only six months ago."

There's something wrong when we're looking at "tens of millions of dollars" in extra, unnecessary interest as a best-case scenario. #doyourjobs #ilbudgetnow

Recommended: Get a load of this phone call I got about Gov. Bruce Rauner the other night

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In Defense Of The Seemingly Terrible Derrick Rose Trade

Thu, 2016-06-23 09:18

The New York Knicks screwed themselves, again.


The season just ended days ago, the NBA Draft is tomorrow, and free agency isn't for another few weeks. And yet, the Knicks have already found a way to execute a trade for 2011 NBA MVP and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.


The Knicks aren't trading for the 2011 MVP though. They're trading for a version of Rose whose once-elite athleticism has seemingly deserted him following two major knee surgeries. For the Rose whose jump shot looks shot. For the Rose who grades out as a mediocre point guard when considering more advanced metrics -- the same Rose whose crown as franchise star of the Bulls was usurped. Not the same old Rose, but the same old Rose.



The Knicks new big 3. pic.twitter.com/Slmyzw5y2U

— LegionNBA (@MySportsLegion) June 22, 2016


It's understandable that Knicks fans are bummed and angry about the trade. Over the past decade, the Knicks' front office has shown little restraint when it comes to trying to obtain name-brand players whose on-court capabilities leave something to be desired. 


But unlike previous Knicks trades and signings that have lead to either disappointment or disaster, the Rose trade is relatively low-risk. It's not like when the Toronto Raptors fleeced them by taking Andrea Bargnani in a first-round pick. Or when the Knicks almost traded actual players for Steve Nash in 2012. Or when they signed Amar'e Stoudemire. No, the Rose trade is not like any of those, despite the optics of it all.


Let's break this down into two parts:



Derrick Rose has the Garden crowd oohhing and ahhhing.

— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) March 25, 2016


 To MSG's delight, Rose lit up the Knicks for 30 points in March.


 


1. Trading For Derrick Rose Is Better Than Signing Rajon Rondo 

It's not a pretty comparison, but consider this: Critically, the Knicks gave up no draft picks to the Bulls -- which used to be typical in bad Knicks trades of the past. In all, the team sent center Robin Lopez, guard Jerian Grant and guard Jose Calderon to Chicago in exchange for Rose, guard Justin Holiday and a second-round pick. 


Grant's Knicks departure is unfortunate -- he showed promise early on as a rookie -- and Lopez was also a decent starting rim protector and rebounder. Lopez's contract in particular was team-friendly, a useful trade chip that perhaps could have drawn more value than it did here. 





 Hurry up and shoot it Calderon!


But swapping Rose for Calderon as the starting point guard gives the team its best point guard since Raymond Felton's brief career rebirth through 2013 and 2014. And, as more NBA offenses continue to develop ways to open the floor more, the best of contemporary NBA basketball teams should ideally revolve around a quick playmaking point guard. The Knicks haven't had one of those since (maybe) Jeremy Lin. Regardless of the faster triangle-ish offense that new head coach Jeff Hornacek and president Phil Jackson compromise on, having Rose run it over the terrible and expensive Calderon works out as a legitimate favor to fans. 


If Rose, still only 27, continues his streaky shooting and poor passing, failing to improve on his 66-game 2015-2016 season, that's fine -- he'll be gone next summer at a forgettable cost. Also, the departure of Lopez and Calderon clears about $21 million from the team's cap sheet this summer, leaving them room to work with this summer's free agent class.



The Knicks have a Big 3. pic.twitter.com/RZmbzJhKai

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 22, 2016


2. The Trade May Look Very Pretty In Summer 2017

Saying the Knicks' move is clever may be nonsense right now, but it certainly sets them up for an aggressive and flexible rebuild. The real end result of the Rose trade is that it leaves the Knicks with only three players -- Anthony, Porzingis and Kyle O'Quinn -- signed to guaranteed contracts beyond the 2016-2017 season.


According to NBA writer Tommy Beer, the team will have $60 million in cap space next summer to go after a player pool full of stars. Hornacek, Jackson or both of them may have a rare opportunity to cherry-pick free agents to fit how they want to play -- something a Knicks coach hasn't had the chance to do since perhaps Mike D'Antoni.


Of course, turning over the roster year after year is damaging, and coveted stars have outright declined the Knicks' recent free agent overtures, but an institutionalized team culture, clear playing style, and core superstars will alleviate that. If Hornacek can install a functioning offense and instill defensive discipline -- coupled with the star power of Anthony and Porzingis -- the team could suddenly become an attractive free agent destination for the backcourt superstar the Knicks need. They may have one in Rose. 





Coincidentally, Rose dunked for the first time all season in a March road game against the Knicks.


Derrick Rose isn't the answer for the Knicks. His name represented a franchise savior in 2011, but his current abilities, unfortunately, don't. At worst, he's an exciting stop-gap at point guard. At best, he's a top 20 player. The New York Knicks aren't immune to such extremes.


This upcoming season, however, a year of moderate success and watchable basketball would be an achievement. On the court, Rose still has the chance to deliver that much to Knicks fans, even if it's a surprise to some. 


Unless, of course, Dwight Howard comes to to town.

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Here's Another Way Uber, Lyft Are Beating Taxis

Tue, 2016-06-21 14:33

The taxi industry is tired of competing with ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. According to a new report, the taxi industry's tires are more than a little tired, too.


The report, conducted by ConsumerAffairs partner WeGoLook, found 16 percent of taxis pick up passengers with at least one balding, unsafe tire. In comparison, 14.7 percent of Lyfts and 12 percent of Ubers have the same problem.



Nationally, about 10 percent of vehicles on the road have at least one bald tire.


The study is based on a survey of tread depth on 300 different cars used by Lyft, Uber, and taxis, and was conducted across Chicago, Dallas and Miami, for a total sample size of 1,200 tires.


A tire's tread depth affects its ability to grip the road, especially in less-than-perfect driving conditions where snow or water is on the road surface. A 2012 NHTSA study traced back nine percent of crashes to tire problems.


Tire treads that measure less than 3/32 of an inch deep are considered "bald" and unsafe.


Of the taxis measured for ConsumerAffairs, the average tire tread depth was 6.66/32 of an inch, compared to 7/32 of an inch for both Ubers and Lyfts. Personal cars came out on top with an average of 7.58/32 of an inch of tread.



Of those surveyed, drivers in Chicago were found to have the safest tires, followed by Dallas. Miami tires ranked last.



Note: The Huffington Post's Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington is a member of Uber's board of directors, and has recused herself from any involvement in the site's coverage of the company.

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www.eths1966.com

Tue, 2016-06-21 10:06
The title of this piece is the website for the 50th high school reunion for the class of 1966 at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois. It is to be held September 9-10 in the stunning rooftop Monaco Ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel (9599 Skokie Blvd.) in Skokie, Illinois. All the necessary information to attend can be found on the website.

As scribed in an earlier (11-08-15) post on this "noted" class (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-j-zaremski/noted-evanston-high-class_b_8504638.html), there are many such events across the land each and every year. And no doubt the motivation for these reunions, certainly the one at the half-century mark, is to renew acquaintances left in the rearview mirror five decades ago, and, of course, to rekindle acquaintances, events, coursework, teachers, gripes, complaints, sporting events and school teams, fine arts presentations and plays, and the like. For Evanston High's class of 1966, the yearning to revisit these experiences will be no different. After all, none of us that were members of this class knew what our future would hold, so in a way we are---putting a twist on familiar movie titles---going back not to a future, but with most of a future already completed.

Presently, there are nearly 140 of a class that neared 1,000 ready to come from all parts of the country. Classmates now hail from as far away as France, Canada and Mexico. But with less than 90 days before the big weekend, this blog is a shout-out for many more to pen in that weekend on your calendars. Don't wait until the last moment to decide to come. So, too, and unfortunately, our class has lost over 100 members in the last 50 years. They will be remembered at the reunion too.

As this author wrote previously, members of this class upon graduation had no idea what the future was to hold. Sure, we had our academic stars and our jocks, so we sort of knew who would carry on their high school legacies into the college years and, if lucky and fortunate enough, perhaps beyond. Also previously written about were individuals that indeed reflected well on why our class was a noted one, even those that fell under the radar while at ETHS. There were, of course, others that made the press in not such good ways in the succeeding half century since graduation. But the good and proud since 1966 far outweighed what happened to some of our classmates due to life's experiences or of their own doing. The former included becoming breadwinners, raising a family on available resources, becoming grandparents, undertaking charitable endeavors to assist the less fortunate, partnering up with others, withstanding life's difficulties that reached into all corners, and leading and showing by example to others on how to become productive members of society and confront challenges.

And we did all this knowing that the fabric of our country was being stretched and reshaped in the years we attended ETHS, e.g., experiencing the "mopheads" from across the pond, protesting the Vietnam War, reading, listening and participating in racial, social and economic turmoil, and seeing the enactment of momentous legislation like the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act.

So why not take a brief moment to see about "coming home"---albeit for only a weekend---and a home that had yet to be encumbered by a future we now know today. Check out: www.eths1966.com.

PS, Class representatives have recently been invited to participate in Evanston's upcoming 4th of July day parade. Any class member interested in walking, bicycling or riding in it, just come on out!

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Plenty of Anger, but Little Chance to Vent at Polls in November

Mon, 2016-06-20 11:43
With Illinois state finances in a shambles and our leaders -- who were elected to make hard decisions -- intent on postponing any hard decisions until after they're safely elected again in November, there's a lot of pent-up Illinois voter anger out there.

The problem is, most voters won't have a chance to take out their frustration on the people most responsible for the Illinois budget crisis.

Gov. Bruce Rauner isn't on the ballot this year and, unless you live in House Speaker Michael Madigan's district, you don't get to vote in his race.

And even those who would like simply to vote out all incumbents in Springfield are, mostly, out of luck. Of 158 legislative positions up for election this year, only 62 are competitive. Good luck finding an incumbent with a challenger to vote for.

Incumbents in Illinois are especially secure in part because they serve in districts that often have been created to ensure their re-election. When political parties draw district maps, they do so with an eye toward ensconcing their members in districts with the most friendly voters possible.

Thus, prospective opponents from the opposing party stand little chance and incumbents go unchallenged.

But there was good news this week for those who want to take the politics out of the redrawing of legislative district maps every 10 years. The Illinois State Board of Elections on Monday voted unanimously that Independent Map Amendment had surpassed the requirement of 290,000 valid voter signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would let voters remove politicians from the map-drawing process.

If the amendment survives a lawsuit and makes it onto the ballot, voters will at least have one solid way to vent their frustration with those in power.

Those are our topics on this week's "Only in Illinois."



Recommended: How easy is it to navigate the Illinois justice system?

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A Billionaire Governor Says Protests Don't Matter. He's Wrong.

Mon, 2016-06-20 07:54
"If protesting solved problems, Illinois wouldn't have any problems."

That's what Governor Bruce Rauner, a billionaire Republican politician and former private equity executive, had to say when 10,000 concerned citizens journeyed to the Illinois capital on May 18 to oppose his destructive policies.



The governor had already sped out of town by the time thousands of marchers set off through the streets of downtown Springfield. Clearly he wanted to convey that he had no interest in hearing their concerns, much less heeding them.

But, of course, Rauner couldn't really escape. As soon as he arrived at his destination, reporters began grilling him about the overflow crowd that jammed the street (and every other available space) in front of the Capitol.

That's when he professed his contempt for the value of protests--demonstrating a shocking ignorance of the history of our nation.

Weren't the American colonists who challenged British rule engaged in one of our country's pioneering protests when they marched down to Boston Harbor for that incendiary Tea Party? Of course that action alone did not drive out the Brits. But it did inspire countless colonists to enlist in the battle for freedom and liberty--a battle that, in case our governor hasn't noticed, was indeed eventually won.

That's the thing about protests. Seldom does one march, one rally or one sit-in bring about systemic change. But the accrual of such actions educates, inspires and conveys a sense of urgency. Each protest builds on the one before. And it is this growing intensity that demands attention and achieves action. Protests are potent messages delivered in human form that can shake the complacency of the powerful and lift the spirits of the disempowered.

The simple truth is that protests have been an essential element of every successful movement for social and political change.

We need only reflect on the civil rights movement and the vast transformation it has effected in our own lifetimes. Would change on that scale--the dismantling of an entire system of legally sanctioned segregation and discrimination--have been possible without the moral authority and passionate conviction expressed in the innumerable actions of protest, from lunch-counter sit-ins in the smallest of towns to massive marches in our nation's capital?



Or we can think back on how workers in our country gained the right to join together in unions to improve their lives. Standing against an entire corporate class bent on denying their right to have a voice on the job, millions of workers all across the country walked picket lines, went out on strike, and even occupied their factories until the day finally came that the corporate elite could resist no more.

Today we too often forget the workplace struggles and tumult that shook the entire country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but there is no denying that those multitudes of protests were essential to forging the rights workers have today.



Now we are in a battle to defend those rights here in Illinois. That is why the thousands of union members, human service advocates, and other concerned citizens thronged the State Capitol. We came to protest Rauner's budget blockade that is forcing program cuts and layoffs at social service agencies and state universities, his efforts to annihilate basic collective bargaining rights, and his refusal to negotiate with his own employees in state government.

We came to stand in solidarity with workers injured on the job whose benefits Rauner wants to cut, with construction workers whose right to a "prevailing wage" he wants to take away, with home health aides whose overtime hours he wants to eliminate, and with students whose college assistance grants he has blocked.

We came building on dozens of smaller protests that have been held at the Capitol in recent months--by university students, the homeless, child care providers, disability advocates, domestic violence survivors, clergy, and scores of others harmed by the governor's insistence that laws to diminish workers' rights must be passed before he will allow passage of a state budget.

We used our vacation time or took a day off with no pay. We got up at dawn to make the bus or packed our cars full of co-workers or rode in on our motorcycles. We scrambled to find child care or brought our children along for a great lesson in civic engagement. We came with canes and walkers, even in wheelchairs. And many of us who couldn't make it followed it all on Facebook or Twitter, and joined in the cheering from afar.



Will that one day of protest--even such a mighty day--turn Rauner around? Not very likely. But this much is certain: We sent a message of unity and determination that will build a stronger fighting force for the battles to come.

So yes, Governor Rauner, protests do solve problems. That's what history has shown time and again. That's why we'll keep standing up together in our worksites, in our communities and at the State Capitol until we have gained the fair treatment that all working people deserve.

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I On Beauty Chapter 18 - For Tresses Feeling Their Age

Fri, 2016-06-17 11:21


PHOTO COURTESY OF IRENE MICHAELS

One of the most frightening experiences to me was when my hair was starting to fall out, I was absolutely beside myself. Although it's common to lose up to 100 strands of hair in a day, hair loss can also occur because of the following reasons stress, after giving birth, some diseases or medical treatments, hereditary and, most commonly, because due to the aging process. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, "about 80 million men and women in the United States have this type of hair loss. Luckily, most causes of hair loss can be stopped or treated. It was especially alarming to me since I was a hair model for many years and I was not prepared for this particular part of the aging process.  However, whether you are a model, a housewife or a corporate executive; it is never a good feeling. I tried all sorts of products to prevent hair loss, ate all sorts of nutrients related to rebuilding hair follicles, and slept with awful smelling creams that were not to appealing to me or the opposite sex.

With all this in mind, and knowing that at some point we will all go through this, I've put together a list of ways to prevent hair loss with some tips on what to do if you are already going through this.

Visit your doctor, dermatologist or your hairdresser - At the first sign of hair loss, especially if it's sudden instead of gradual, you should consult with your doctor, dermatologist and certainly your hairdresser to determine any underlying factors. These professionals will be able to determine the cause and provide necessary treatment accordingly. I use John Zuluaga, a virtual genius hair stylist, at MC Lash Studio & Beauty Bar in Chicago. John noticed I had patches of hair loss, that I did not even recognize and that is when we started to use the Keratasse line, which has helped tremendously.

Topical treatments - Following any advice provided by your healthcare or haircare professional, you can also try topical treatments that can be made at home. Some examples include: boiling potatoes with rosemary and using the liquid as a rinse; mixing egg yolk and honey to use as a hair mask; brewing two bags of green tea in one cup of water and applying (once cool) to hair leaving it in for one hour; adding aloe vera gel to your shampoo; mixing one tablespoon lemon juice with two teaspoons of coconut or olive oil and leaving mixture on scalp for one hour; rinsing hair with a combination of apple cider vinegar and warm water after washing.

Massage - A daily hand massage on your scalp will help stimulate circulation while stimulating hair follicles, keeping them active. Start near your forehead, with your thumbs at your temples, and slowly begin to make firm pressure with your fingers as you move along the middle of your scalp. Extending outward with each pulse of your fingers, taking time to slowly massage every section. As a bonus, adding essential oils - like lavender, almond, rosemary or peppermint - provides an extra layer of aromatherapy, enhancing your overall well-being. Do this daily, for a few minutes, whenever possible.

Maintenance - Using a natural bristle brush will help stimulate hair follicles, increasing blood flow to the scalp. Make sure to brush your hair once it's dry or use a wide-tooth comb, gently, on wet hair. Letting your hair dry naturally, instead of using a hot dryer, also helps prevent hair loss and hair damage. The same applies for any heating tools you may use. Washing your hair in lukewarm - not hot - water prevents scalp and hair damage. And, try not to pull your hair into tight ponytails, buns or braids, using soft methods instead (never in the same space).

Diet - Of course, a well-balanced diet does your body good, so adding supplements like sources rich in protein and B vitamins, can help promote full and healthy hair. Try smoothies made with lettuce, capsicum and carrots or spinach with berries and chia seeds. Vitamin C helps prevent breakage and brittle hair so load up on oranges, guava, peppers, papaya and dark leafy greens. And always make sure to drink plenty of liquids to keep your entire body, from head to toe, hydrated and replenished. As always consistency is key to success!!!
 
Happy Hair Days!

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Tribute to the Victims of the Orlando Shooting

Thu, 2016-06-16 14:43
When any human being dies, a part of me dies. The death of any human being should affect each of us because we are one; every human being belongs to me just as I belong to every human being. My life just as my death is of infinite significance to everyone out there in the same way that the life and death of any human being is of infinite significance to me and to the world. The deaths of these innocent brothers and sisters at Pulse Night club in Orlando is not only horrible but despicable. My heart bleeds in pain. All men and women of goodwill in the US and throughout the world are rightly appalled at this unmitigated tragedy.

But this horrible act is not only something we all should condemn and grieve about especially here in the US; it is something that America must confront. Tears are not enough; comforting words will ring hollow to the loved ones who are left to carry this terrible pain for the rest of their lives or many LGBTQ brothers and sisters who feel the heat of homophobia coming from religious and political extremists. These men and women who were slaughtered in the most senseless mass shooting in America will not rest in peace until this nation confronts the twin monsters of gun violence and home grown radical Islamic fundamentalism.


Political grandstanding or our politicians making political capital out of this unmitigated tragedy insults the memory of these brothers and sisters and the beautiful lives they led until their violent end. This is a time for our political gladiators to sheath their swords, and think only of these hapless victims, their families and a traumatized nation. What makes sense; what will speak to the darkness of these times is for America to answer the question: How long will this continue? How can this nation continue to stew in the blood of her citizens because of gun violence? How can we justify this irrationality under the guise of the right to bear arms? What nation on earth will simply allow anyone to carry assault weapons as a right as if to say that protecting ourselves is simply guaranteed through obtaining guns? All the people at pulse night club if they were Americans had a right to bear arms but who in his right mind will carry guns to a club?

These beautiful men and women were only thinking of life and not of death; they were simply celebrating life not preparing to die or to inflict violence on any person. They were celebrating the gift of love. Most of them were gays and Pulse was a sacred space where they gathered to simply feel the warmth of acceptance and love in the smiles, friendship and warmth of each other. They gathered to enter into the reality of the most beautiful thing happening on earth, to love and to be loved. In a world that often misunderstood them or even in many instances preach hatred towards the LGBTQ persons and judge them so harshly, Pulse was a safe space where they could touch the margins of heaven. Coming to Pulse was for most of these brothers and sisters like a little heaven where they felt a glimpse of the eternal in the ecstasy of love where time and eternity stopped in the beautiful dance of human affection beyond borders. It was in the midst of this heavenly presence, in the quiet of the morning that an angel of death came calling.


This angel of death was equipped with two false weapons. The first a false Islamic religious notion of purity and order distorted by a poisoned mind and a darkened soul. This was an unhappy young Islamist, who drank to the dregs a venom of hatred for the LGBTs community and for humanity. Second, he was equipped with guns and assault weapons because America has given evil and morbid people like him the right to acquire arms so easily. And in his conscienceless and irrational rage, these weapons offered a coward the most atrocious means of displaying his existential sterility in the most wicked and heartless destruction of these pure trees of life planted in God's garden of love at Pulse.

I believe that every human being is beautiful to God--this is true for everyone, black or white, gay or straight, saints and sinners. Everyone is someone beautiful to God. There is a divine light and life in all of us; we all bear the image and likeness of God. Each and everyone of us has a special gift; a special song to sing, and a special love and service to render to confer on creation a beauty beyond measure. This is why it is so hard to accept that a mass killer like this incarnation of evil who visited so much pain on so many in Orlando is beautiful to God. But the irony of it all is that when we think of what he could have become if he had been true to his identity as a child of God, and if he had been true to the authentic values of the Islamic religion, we see in its starkest form the reality of evil.


This is why I condemn in unequivocal terms those who will claim after this horror that bearing arms is a good thing for every American and those who will deny that what he did had nothing to do with radical Islam. This man does not come to my church; he goes to a mosque. The Islamic community while rightly condemning this man must also take responsibility in the US and Canada for the burgeoning of home grown terrorists who are emerging from the ranks of young Muslim Americans and Canadians. A new form of Islamic formation is needed for young Muslims in this country by the Muslim community to combat the radicalizing message from ISIS. But we all must spare a thought about the kind of society we have here in the US that produced monsters who do the kind of unspeakable evil that took place on Orlando and the mass shootings which have become a regular occurrence in the US. Only a healthy society will produce healthy minds and healthy and well integrated men and women who live up to the ideals which we all aspire toward as a nation.


Let me also say that gun or any weapon is evil. Arms are evil because they result in death. I am not a pacifist by any means but truth be told any society where murder is rampart and violence is so rife must ask herself it is not a sign of a return to barbarism of a bygone era. What can be so barbaric and uncivilized as killing innocent people? Is it not what obtained many years when people were not advanced in learning, conflict management and building community through law and order? Is it not what Hobbes calls the law of the jungle where 'man became wolf to man'? And guns are so available in America because there are many people who are making billions from gun business. But violence is not who we are.

A dying Freud did say in his little book, Civilization and its Discontent that one of the greatest challenges of the future for humanity is whether the invention of our hands especially weapons of violence will end up in disrupting permanently our common life. This is what gun violence does to America. As a professor at an American university, I go to work every day worrying if a crazy student or an angry colleague will visit us with death in the classroom. It is such a shame that professors in US universities are now receiving training on how to act if a shooter shows up in the classroom!

This is a time to weep. But it is also a time to think together. It is a time to thank God for the wonderful lives of these beautiful men and women who were slaughtered simply because of who they are. Those who know them and love them can cherish the fact that they died celebrating the gift of who they are. But we also thank God for so many people who risked their lives to save the hostages, for so many first responders and medics who saved lives; so many blood donors lining up to give blood, and many communities who are keeping vigil in memory of the dead. The news about our humanity which comes out from Orlando is not the victory of violence, but the triumph of love, hope, and courage that we all can say to the darkness of gun violence, terrorism and hate what we will differ especially to recommitting ourselves to love and holding on the finest values and virtues of our true humanity.


But I weep that in our world there are men and women who spend their time and resources planning on how to destroy the lives of other people. We weep that in some parts of the world that there are people who celebrate such massacres. It rends my heart asunder that such people who commit such heinous act will make such claim using the name of God. It gnaws at my liver that such people will find help for their poisonous passion through the laws of the land that allows them to bear arms. I pray that these gentle souls; these pure souls whose lives were caught midstream will find peace. What pain they bore as they died! What horrors they felt in their last moment! What did they think of our humanity? What did they think of our country? What did they think of the right to bear arms? What did they think of religion? Sure they did not have chance to process anything as they planned how to find safety. But we who are still alive here and who mourn their loss must answer these questions not through tears but through action because the blood of these innocent ones is crying to heaven.

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The Reason We Waste So Much Food Is Because We Love Too Much

Wed, 2016-06-15 16:22

If there’s one thing Americans do better than pretty much anyone else, it's putting perfectly good, edible food to waste.


An estimated 30-40 percent of food that is grown, harvested, processed and transported to retailers in this country ultimately goes uneaten. And all that wasted food has to go somewhere. Most of it -- an estimated 30 million tons each year, according to the EPA -- ends up in landfills where it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.


Thankfully, interest in combatting food waste is perhaps higher than ever -- the U.S. government announced its first-ever national target for cutting waste last year -- and the push for a solution is prompting a close examination of many contributing factors. According to a new study published this week in Journal of Food Products Marketing, one key issue has been left off the table.


Researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab along with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and the Sao Paulo-based Getulio Vargas Foundation say that key issue is the way that many well-intended families over-prepare food, much of which goes uneaten, as a means of showing affection for their loved ones.


To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers analyzed food storage, preparation and disposal behaviors in 20 Upstate New York households with lower-middle class income levels. They observed that the caretakers in the homes -- all of them either mothers or grandmothers -- identified preparing and serving large portions and varieties of food and snacks to their families as a way of showing affection, of being a “good mother.”


These tendencies, the paper’s lead author Dr. Gustavo Porpino explained to The Huffington Post, can contribute significantly to the amount of food most households waste -- an estimated $640 per household annually -- as well as patterns of overeating and obesity.



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The leading source of household food waste identified in the paper was leftover cooked food that went uneaten, followed by unused raw vegetables.


Ironically, lower-income households facing significant budgetary constraints may be even more susceptible to the tendency to not only over-prepare food but also to stock more food than they need. This is particularly the case among mothers and other caregivers who have experienced food scarcity in the past, Porpino believes.


“It’s reassuring to serve food in large portions,” Porpino told HuffPost by email. “It has the symbolism of wealth. It is a form to distance themselves from the state of poverty.”


In order to address the issue, researchers suggested that informational campaigns centered on positive messages -- particularly the potential financial benefits of reducing food waste in the home -- would be more helpful than negative messages that shame families or simply aim to raise awareness of food waste more generally.


In addition, the researchers emphasized the importance of involving food pantries -- which 50 percent of the study’s participants relied on to supplement their family’s food supply -- with efforts to help caregivers manage their food supply at home and meal plan.


Such efforts, the researchers write, could not only help these families -- many of whom are Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) users -- waste less food, but also eat more healthily as they would be less reliant on often-cheaper, processed foods at the end of the month, when SNAP benefits are running low and pantries experience higher demand.


“Nudges can be used to guide them not only to healthy choices, but also to take home portions appropriate to family size,” Porpino added.


Norbert Wilson, a professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology at Auburn University who specializes in food pantry research, said pantries can also reduce waste in more straightforward ways, including simply offering clients to choose the food products they prefer rather than being given a box filled with foods they may or may not like.


“Having choice will allow clients to select products that are most likely to be consumed,” Wilson told HuffPost.


There are challenges there, however. Some pantries are hesitant to embrace a client choice model because they fear this would create unequal levels of access to all foods. Further, Wilson noted, pantries are typically run by volunteers who may lack both the time and training needed to pass along information on nutrition, meal planning or food preparation.


While meal planning is key to reducing food waste, other experts have also pointed out that simply educating oneself about what expiration dates on food really mean can make a big impact. In an effort to help consumers do just that, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation last month that would standardize food date labeling.


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Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.

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A Coalition Of Hope For Saving Imperiled Iguanas

Wed, 2016-06-15 14:50
Collaborative post by Charles Knapp, Vice President of Conservation Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium; Stesha Pasachnik, Conservation Research Postdoctoral Associate, San Diego Zoo Global; Tandora Grant, Senior Research Coordinator, San Diego Zoo Global; John Iverson, Biology Research Professor, Earlham College; and Allison Alberts, Chief Conservation and Research Officer, San Diego Zoo Global




This week the online journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology published a compilation of research papers titled Iguanas: Biology, Systematics, and Conservation. The compilation highlights the diversity and unique ecology of iguanas, while emphasizing the threats to their survival and need for conservation action. Though the Green Iguana, most commonly seen in pet stores, often comes to mind when people think of these lizards, researchers have described 44 unique species of iguanas, with more on the way. Iguanas are found throughout the New World including Central and South America, the islands of the West Indies, and within the Galápagos Archipelago. However, some species can even be found in Fiji and the Tonga Islands. With so many species and so many unique environments, the diversity of sizes, colors, and behaviors among iguanas is impressive. Iguanas live in trees and on the ground. Some climb volcanoes to lay their eggs in the warm soil within calderas, while others dig nests in termite mounds and guard them for months! Some swim in the ocean and munch on algae, others restrict their diet to mangrove leaves; however, most feed on leaves, fruits and flowers of terrestrial trees and shrubs. Regardless of where they live, iguanas serve a vital ecological role because of their herbivorous feeding strategy, which is relatively unique among lizards. By eating leaves and fruits, iguanas promote foliage growth, provide nutrients for seedlings, and disperse seeds to new areas.




Although iguanas are vital to many ecosystems, they face serious threats. Deforestation and other human-caused disturbances such as predation and competition from non-native species, hunting, smuggling for the illicit wildlife trade, and unregulated tourism, have brought many species near extinction. In fact, while we celebrate the recognition of 44 species, we also mourn the fact that 82% of the 34 species that have been listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species are threatened with extinction. Consequently, these distinctive lizards are among the most threatened vertebrate groups on the planet, surpassing turtles (50-58%), primates (ca. 49%), and amphibians (ca. 41%).

There is hope. The iguana conservation and research community has grown over the last two decades. A major factor in bringing together this community has been the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Iguana Specialist Group (ISG). The ISG was formed in 1997 and has since expanded to 93 members in 24 countries, including representation from all regions in which iguanas occur naturally. The group has worked with local government agencies and NGOs to draft 14 Species Recovery and Conservation Management Plans that outline the most urgent research needs and conservation actions for individual taxa, many of which are reflected in Iguanas: Biology, Systematics, and Conservation. Not surprisingly, 29 of the 69 authors (42%) contributing to this collection are ISG members.

Conservation action requires that local stakeholders take ownership of initiatives aimed at studying the unique ecology of individual iguana species, and implementing tailored mitigation strategies that work best when socioeconomic and political considerations are addressed. Encouragingly, scientists from countries where iguanas occur contributed significantly to the compilation. Moreover, 42% percent of the authors contributing to the compilation represent eight countries outside of the United States and Europe. This is a dramatic increase from the past two iguana compilations, published in 1982 and 2004, demonstrating the expansion of the global iguana community.




Everyone can play a role in iguana conservation regardless of where you live, or if you have a scientific background. The IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group is always open to new collaborators, and we enthusiastically welcome those who have a contributing skillset to join us. Likewise, people can contribute to the International Iguana Foundation, which supports conservation, awareness, and scientific programs that enhance the survival of wild iguanas and their habitats. For pet enthusiasts interested in iguanas, it's important to understand the damage done to many threatened iguana species as a result of illegal or unregulated trade. Listing a species as captive bred is a loophole that traders sometimes use to sell illegally exported animals. Further even if iguanas are captive bred, it does not mean that the original breeding pairs were exported legally from their country of origin. Consider conducting research on the legality and ethics of commercially traded animals, as well as their status in the wild, when purchasing a rare species. One place to start is EcoHealthyPets. Your small collective actions can make a big difference for protecting endangered iguanas.

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Citizen-Led Illinois Redistricting Reform Effort Notches Another Key Milestone

Tue, 2016-06-14 17:22
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

How about some good news about citizens taking control of their own government?

The citizen-led Independent Map Amendment initiative easily cleared hefty signature requirement hurdles, was deemed valid and won tentative approval Monday to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed to try to thwart it.

In a first for an Illinois redistricting attempt after two previous attempts in 2010 and 2014, commissioners on the Illinois State Board of Elections declared the signatures valid, giving a tentative green light to the ballot question that would ask voters if they want an 11-member independent commission to design state legislative districts rather than letting ruling politicians draw them.

"This is a huge hurdle that we've cleared and it's one that no redistricting amendment has so far cleared in Illinois, so we're very excited," said Dave Mellet, campaign manager of the Independent Map Amendment. When this was tried in 2014, "they realized this is a pretty massive undertaking and there's a lot you need to learn about duplicate signatures," he added, "so to get to 290,000 valid signatures is a huge step."

Steven Sandvoss, executive director of the elections board, told commissioners a random sample of 5 percent of the voter signatures the group turned in showed map workers had far surpassed the minimum required number of 290,216 valid Illinois voters' signatures, so a second, random sample was not needed.

A similar citizen effort in 2014 failed at this stage when the sample showed problems with many of the signatures. Two years ago, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva ultimately ruled the previous independent redistricting effort unconstitutional because it would have banned commissioners from running for public office for 10 years after serving on the commission. The new redistricting proposal does not include that restriction.

A lawsuit filed by a group calling itself the People's Map and made up of Chicago-based minority business and advocacy executives suggests the Independent Map group's efforts are unconstitutional, contending it has not met the requirement to change both the process and structure of legislative mapmaking. The People's Map group hired Michael Kasper, the same lawyer who blocked the last independent redistricting effort and who has long been connected to Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman and House Speaker Mike Madigan. Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown previously has denied Madigan is behind the People's Map objections. Kasper did not return a call for comment Monday.

The ballot question asking voters if they want to create an independent commission to draw maps could be officially certified for the ballot at the election board's August meeting if the court challenge is resolved. Cook County Circuit Court arguments over the constitutionality of the citizen redistricting effort are expected June 30.

Further, Sandvoss noted there has been no sign of any attempt at a line-by-line thorough review of the redistricting petition signatures and elections board General Counsel Kenneth Menzel said it "bodes well" that no one has asked for a copy of the petitions to examine them for problems.

"I think they understand that I think it was 73 percent of our signatures were found to be valid by a random sample," Mellet said. "The last attempt, they went through the 5 percent sample and they were found to have, I think, a 45 percent validity rate, so we're talking about almost 30 percent higher. We learned a lot of great lessons from the previous amendment and we had a lot of the same great volunteers. We had over 2,000 people, individual circulators, so it is a huge difference from that."

With the help of prominent citizens and strong donations, more than 2,000 Illinoisans did the tough work to try to change their state government and make it less political. Nearly 300,000 validated Illinois voters said all of us should have that chance to change the map rigging that occurs when politicians of one party or another draw districts after each census.

That power grab and political mapmaking is where corruption is born in Illinois. The 11-member commission would have Democrats and Republicans on it and likely won't be entirely free from political influence, but it is a giant step forward toward fairness and it just took one big leap toward a ballot near you.

With luck, and perhaps providence, the amendment will move past the courts and to your ballot. Illinois citizens are standing up and attempting to own their government.

Congratulations.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois' taxpayers paying for billionaires' stadiums

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