Subscribe to CNC Huffpo feed
Chicago news and blog articles from The Huffington Post
Updated: 46 min 26 sec ago

The Is The Ultimate Routine For A Perfect Work Day

Fri, 2015-01-23 07:20
You might think the perfect workday includes a promotion or a raise, or perhaps your evil boss getting fired. Sadly, such monumental events don't happen very often.

The good news is that there are plenty of little things you can do to improve both your productivity and your happiness if you feel stuck at your desk all day.

One simple trick is to structure your time better -- which includes taking more breaks. In fact, the highest performers work for 52 minutes consecutively before taking a 17-minute break, according to a recent experiment conducted by the productivity app DeskTime.

Other helpful habits are even easier to pick up: Just going outside or taking a few minutes to watch the latest cute cat video can help make you a better worker.

Sure, you might realistically not have enough time to incorporate all these suggestions in your daily routine, but every little bit helps. That's why we've pulled together research and anecdotal evidence from a variety of sources to build the perfect workday.

Check out HuffPost's perfect workday below:

See tips on how to set up your workspace here:


How to pick the perfect plant for your office >>

What the perfect office looks like >>

Office Set-Up


How to set up your desk >>

var w = jQuery('#hpin-container').width();
if (w >= 929) {


Infographic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.

University Of Chicago President: 'Chicago's A Better Place' For The Obama Library Than Columbia

Fri, 2015-01-23 07:02
University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer spoke about his school's bid for the Obama presidential library, saying it'd be more fitting for the establishment to go in Illinois than New York.

"Columbia [University] is a very good place, but Chicago's a better place for this library," Zimmer told HuffPost Live at Davos.

"As you know the Obamas have very deep history with the community on the South side of Chicago," he added. "It's a reflection of their roots and what drove them. I think it's a very natural place. Of course they decide, and we hope that's what they decide."

Below, updates from the 2015 Davos Annual Meeting:

War in Two Directions

Thu, 2015-01-22 16:06
"Sometimes they have drug and alcohol problems and when they feel that the VA is ignoring them, not answering the phone, failing to return calls for assistance or there are long wait times, they get more and more disgruntled. The VA is ripe for a mass killing but no one is listening to us."

The speaker is John Glidewell, former chief of police at the Cheyenne, Wyo., VA medical center, who was quoted in a Washington Post story a few days ago. As I read his words, I realized they sounded a far deeper note of desperation than the story was addressing, even though, my God, the events being reported on were the fodder of scandal.

The story was a follow-up about a murder that took place at another VA clinic, in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 6. Jerry Serrato, an Iraq vet whose claim of PTSD, and the subsequent treatment and benefits, was denied, fatally shot the clinic's chief psychologist, Timothy Fjordbak, then killed himself.

Beyond the terrible details of the double killing and the fact that "there have been a string of shootings and violent incidents in VA medical centers across the country," the story managed to sound only a superficial warning, it seemed: about the lack of metal detectors and surveillance cameras at VA clinics, and, of course, the need for a larger, better trained staff to deal with all of America's distraught vets.

All of which leads me back to Glidewell's quote and its implicit linking of "disgruntled" and "mass killing" -- as though the transition from one to the other in American society is obvious and fully accepted by now and armed irritation, you might say, is simply the way things are.

Yes, by all means, the VA is failing American veterans terribly, with wholesale claim denials and scandalous waiting times and a general, contemptuous dismissal of the psychological and physical wounds American vets are coming home with -- that is, a rich man's investment in the waging of war, to the tune of many trillions of dollars, but a pauper's investment in its aftermath. Something else is going on here as well, however, that's deeper and darker and not limited to the failure of government programs.

In a column I wrote almost a decade ago, I reflected: "Bush's war to promote terror -- the perfect self-sustaining fear machine -- isn't just generating an endless supply of hardened enemies beyond our borders. It is also creating the conditions of social breakdown and psychological blowback within our borders. Guess what? Under Plan Bush, we'll never be safe."

This seems to be coming to pass. If a word like "disgruntled" -- which describes, at worst, an everyday sense of being mistreated or snubbed -- can flow seamlessly into "mass killing," then America is at a serious precipice. We're becoming a heavily armed, mentally ill society. And our primary institutions are either contributing directly to the situation or, at best, failing to notice it.

The obvious mega-contributor to our social breakdown is the unending War on Terror, of course. It's a war cynically waged in two directions: at the enemies beyond our borders that we've manufactured and the collateral-damage-in-waiting who live with them; and at the lower and middle classes (the 99 percent) here at home, who have the nerve to expect a reasonable share of the empire's wealth.

The War on Terror is our first prolonged post-Reagan war, waged in the context of social austerity. Sorry, vets. Sorry, poor people. There's almost no social safety net anymore, even to care for those who used up their physical, emotional and spiritual health participating in that war. There's only... more war, in the form of domestic surveillance, militarized police departments and the like. This is the making of a broken, Fourth World, emotionally disturbed society, which sees enemies everywhere and addresses all of its spiraling ills militarily.

Consider another recent, tragic news fragment: the death, this past Sunday afternoon, of Johnathan Guillory, a 32-year-old vet who served in both Iraq and (as a contract worker) Afghanistan. He was shot and killed by two police officers at his home outside Phoenix. He was married. He had two young sons.

Why he died isn't completely certain, but he was clearly caught in the jaws of America's war on itself. He suffered, or claimed to suffer, from PTSD. His wife told Phoenix TV station KTVK: "Sometimes he couldn't even deal with day-to-day life. It was a struggle for him to get through each morning, but he did."

He once sought emergency help from the VA but, "they turned him away," his wife said. "They told him there was no room, and that he'd have to make an appointment."

Neighbors said there were occasional disturbances at the couple's residence. On the afternoon in question, police went to the house in response to several 911 hang-up calls. Police say Guillory pointed a gun at them and they fired in self-protection. His wife denies he had a gun and said there had not been a disturbance. And this is where the story ends: in a she-said, they-said mystery. The news cycle moves on.

We don't know what really happened. All we know is that a vet and dad is dead (another one), and our militarized insecurity marches on.

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


13 People Who Aren't Letting Life Get Them Down

Thu, 2015-01-22 15:45
Life handed these people lemons, and they made some FANTASTIC lemonade.

Many of the challenges that these people face are no laughing matter. Armed with a positive attitude and a fantastic sense of humor, however, they've shown us how to make the best of a bad situation. Take note!

20 Awesome Photo Ideas For Wedding Parties Who Know How To Have Fun

Thu, 2015-01-22 15:39
All too often, brides and grooms get bogged down in big day B.S. and forget the most important ingredient of an awesome wedding (besides love, of course!): fun.

One way to increase your matrimonial fun quotient? By goofing off and letting loose with your besties and bros. Below are 20 wedding party photo ideas you'll definitely want to borrow.

Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Weddings on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Kollabora CEO Nora Abousteit Says The Gender Ratio At Davos Should Be '50/50'

Thu, 2015-01-22 15:35
Nora Abousteit just pointed out the elephant in the room at the World Economic Forum: Where are all the women?

The founder and CEO of Kollabora, a website for "DIY enthusiasts" to meet and collaborate, did not hold back about the lack of women at Davos when she spoke with HuffPost Live's Roy Sekoff.

"I just think there should be a very hard quota -- 50/50," Abousteit said. "Just to make sure that there's enough women there." With over 2,600 attendants from 140 countries around the world, women only make up 17 percent of the guests. We couldn't agree more with Abousteit.

"Women do have more difficulties to get to the higher positions, so give them a chance to get higher visibility," she said told Sekoff.

Sounds about right to us.

Blood on Their Hands: The Racist History of Modern Police Unions

Thu, 2015-01-22 15:30
Outraged by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's statements concerning the killing of Eric Garner, Patrick Lynch, the longtime leader of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA), the NYPD's officers union, recently made the outrageous assertion that the Mayor had "blood on his hands" for the murder of the two NYPD officers.

In Milwaukee this past fall, the Police Association called for, and obtained, a vote of no confidence in MPD Chief Ed Flynn after he fired the officer who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed African American; subsequently, the union's leader, Mike Crivello, praised the District Attorney when he announced that he would not bring charges against the officer.

In Chicago, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), a longtime supporter of racist police torturer Jon Burge, is now seeking to circumvent court orders that preserve and make public the police misconduct files of repeater cops such as Burge, by seeking to enforce a police contract provision that calls for the destruction of the files after seven years. And in a show of solidarity with the killer of Michael Brown, Chicago's FOP is soliciting contributions to the Darren Wilson defense fund on its website.

Such reactionary actions by police unions are not new, but are a fundamental component of their history, particularly since they came to prominence in the wake of the civil rights movement. These organizations have played a powerful role in defending the police, no matter how outrageous and racist their actions, and in resisting all manner of police reforms.

New York

In June 1966, New York City Mayor John Lindsay, responding to widespread complaints of police brutality, called for a civilian review board. Five thousand off duty NYPD cops rallied at City Hall in opposition, and the head of the PBA, leading the campaign against civilian review, intoned that "I am sick and tired of giving in to minority groups, with their whims and their gripes and shouting. Any review board with civilians on it is detrimental to the operations of the police department." Invoking the specter of increased crime, the PBA mounted a massive public relations campaign against the measure, and it was defeated in a referendum that year.

In 1975, in response to proposed budget cuts that included police layoffs, the PBA ordered a rampage through the city's black and Puerto Rican communities, with thousands of off duty cops waving their guns, banging on trash cans, and blowing whistles for several nights until Mayor Abe Beame obtained a restraining order.

Ten years later, after Mayor Ed Koch revived the issue of civilian review in the wake of a white cop killing Eleanor Bumpurs, an elderly and mentally ill black woman, the PBA again condemned the idea, staged a work slowdown in response to the attempted prosecution of the officer, Stephen Sullivan, and pressured Koch into reinstating Sullivan even though he had been criminally charged with the killing.

In 1992, when David Dinkins, the first (and only) African-American Mayor of New York City sought to implement a civilian review agency to investigate allegations of police misconduct, the PBA organized another City Hall rally in protest. This time, the crowd of officers numbered 10,000, with PBA members hurtling barricades, jumping on cars, blocking the Brooklyn Bridge and kicking a reporter. Some of the rally's participants carried signs showing Dinkins with a bushy Afro haircut and swollen lips, with racist slogans, including ones that ridiculed him as a "washroom attendant."

In the mid-1990s, the independent Mollen Commission, appointed by Mayor Dinkins to investigate police corruption, documented widespread police perjury, brutality, drug dealing and theft in the NYPD, and found that "by advising its members against cooperating with law-enforcement authorities, the P.B.A. often acts as a shelter for and protector of the corrupt cop." These findings were seconded by senior NYPD officials and prosecutors who were quoted by the New York Times as saying that they would continue to "have trouble rooting out substantial numbers of corrupt officers as long as the P.B.A. resists them."

The Times further quoted these officials as complaining that the PBA, "fortified with millions of dollars in annual dues collections . . . is one of the most powerful unions in the city. As an active lobbyist in Albany and as a contributor to political campaigns, the P.B.A. has enormous influence over the department and is typically brought in for consultations before important management decisions are made."

In the Abner Louima case, the PBA's role extended beyond reactionary advocacy and agitation to active participation in a conspiracy to cover-up the brutal crimes of its members. In 1997, an NYPD officer sexually assaulted Louima in a Precinct Station bathroom by violently shoving a broken broomstick into his rectum. His attacker and three of his police accomplices were charged with criminal civil rights offenses.

Evidence in the criminal proceedings revealed that a PBA official had chaired an early meeting with the implicated officers, one of whom was a PBA delegate, at which they fabricated a false story designed to exonerate one of the conspirators. Even after the officers were convicted, the PBA continued to defend the officers, both publicly and with financial support, and to advocate for them with their fabricated version of events--with none other than Patrick Lynch claiming that "people with a political agenda have fanned the flames of this incident," leading to an "innocent man . . . being punished beyond belief."

More recently, Lynch and the PBA, together with the NYPD sergeants and captains associations, after condemning Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin's order that sharply limited the NYPD's discriminatory stop and frisk policies, unsuccessfully sought to appeal her order after Mayor de Blasio made good on his campaign promise not to appeal.

And this past year, confronted with another indefensible case of NYPD violence, PBA President Lynch again went on the offensive. In August, after the medical examiner determined that Eric Garner's death at the hands of officer Daniel Pantaleo was a homicide by means of a chokehold, Lynch declared that the examiner was "mistaken" in finding that the death was a homicide, and that he had "never seen a document that was more political than that press release by the [medical examiner]."

In a classic case of doubletalk, he further asserted that it was "not a chokehold. It was bringing a person to the ground the way we're trained to do to place him under arrest." He chastised Mayor de Blasio for not "support[ing] New York City police officers unequivocally."

In December, Lynch praised the Staten Island Grand Jury's decision not to charge Panteleo, while accusing Garner of resisting arrest, brushing off two police misconduct lawsuits--one for sexual assault during a search-- brought against Panteleo and idolizing him as "literally an Eagle Scout," a "model" cop, and "mature, mature" officer.

And once again, the PBA unleashed a work slowdown in further protest of Mayor de Blasio that lasted several weeks.


In Chicago, the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents CPD patrol officers, has a similarly notorious history.

Handmaiden to the rioting cops who indiscriminately and brutally beat demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic Convention, the FOP held a reunion of their 1968 troops in 2009 at the FOP Lodge. They proudly displayed pictures of some of the wanton police brutality on their website and, in an attempt to rewrite history (and the Walker Report's findings of a "police riot"), trumpeted that "the time has come that the Chicago Police be honored and recognized for their contributions to maintaining law and order--and for taking a stand against Anarchy. ... The Democratic National Convention was about to start and the only thing that stood between Marxist street thugs and public order was a thin blue line of dedicated, tough Chicago police officers."

In the 1970s and 1980s, the FOP, demonstrating its reactionary and racist essence within its own ranks, aligned itself against the forces that were fighting to bring affirmative action to the CPD. The Afro American Patrolman's League led the battle and was confronted in their legal struggle at every turn by disgruntled white officers and the FOP.

In 1990, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution that declared December 4 "Fred Hampton Day." On December 4, 1969, Hampton, a dynamic young Black Panther Party leader, was slain in his bed by Chicago police in what, by 1990, had been documented and widely accepted in the African-American community as a politically motivated murder. Surprisingly, Mayor Richard M. Daley did not oppose the resolution. But the FOP most certainly did.

FOP President John Dineen launched a lobbying campaign to repeal the resolution, publicly belittled the BPP's service programs and slandered Hampton, who was considered to be a martyr by many African Americans and activists, as a person who "dedicated his life to killing the pigs." History repeated itself in 2006 when, after the City Council unanimously voted to rename the block where Hampton was murdered "Chairman Fred Hampton Way," FOP President Mark Donahue organized the families of slain CPD officers to lobby for its rescission, while publicly voicing his cop membership's "outrage" and "disbelief" at the decision.

In the early 1990s, the FOP began its campaign-- which it continues to pursue to this day--of defending Jon Burge and his fellow police torturers. In November 1991, the emerging evidence of a pattern of police torture by Burge and his cadre of all-too-willing enforcers compelled the City of Chicago to initiate administrative proceedings before the Chicago Police Board in order to fire Burge and two of his co-conspirators for the brutal electric shock torture of Andrew Wilson. Since the city was no longer financing the torturers' defense, as it had in the civil rights damages case brought by Wilson, the FOP stepped up and gladly assumed responsibility.

The FOP and its spin-off organization, the Burge-O'Hara-Yucaitis Family Fund Committee (BOY), then set out on a campaign that sought not only to raise money for the defense, but also to viciously attack Burge's victims and the lawyers from the People's Law Office, (including myself) who had brought much of the damning evidence to light. They falsely accused us of fabricating the evidence of systemic torture and of making millions from exposing the scandal. They also organized a raucous fundraiser at a local union hall where Burge was lionized by thousands of cops and prosecutors.

After a six-week evidentiary hearing, the Police Board fired Burge and suspended one of the other charged officers. Dineen called the decision a "travesty of justice," and only weeks later the FOP announced that it intended to enter a float honoring Burge and his compatriots in the annual South Side Irish Parade--a parade in which Chicago Mayors and numerous other politicians regularly marched. The public outrage and cries of racism that followed the FOP's announcement were swift and strong, and the FOP was forced to withdraw the float.

A few years later a federal judge, quoting Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," ordered that a number of police files that documented the systemic nature of the torture "with all its pus flowing ugliness" be released "to the natural medicines of air and light." The FOP intervened in the suit, seeking to overturn the order, and continued to pursue its battle to suppress the files with an unsuccessful appeal.

In 2008, the FOP again became actively involved in defending Burge after he was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying under oath about whether he tortured African-American suspects. The FOP Board, without putting it to a vote of its membership, pushed through a resolution to pay for Burge's lawyers in the criminal case.

Defending its decision, FOP President Mark Donahue asserted that Burge, despite the more than 100 documented cases of torture that had been amassed against him over the years, had been unfairly tarnished by allegations from criminals, and that politicians and lawyers for Burge's victims had fueled a media hysteria which "caused Jon Burge to be the 'poster child' of alleged police torture in this city for an entire generation." Invoking what can be described as the FOP's unrepentant motto, Donahue vowed that it "will stand with the police officer every time." A group of African-American officers unsuccessfully challenged the decision in Court, stating, "We do not support torture. We do not condone torture. We do not embrace torture. We will never support that type of behavior on the department."

In 2011, Burge, despite his high-priced FOP-financed defense, was convicted of three felonies and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in federal prison. Nonetheless, the Police Pension Board, which was comprised of four former or present CPD officers and four civilians, voted 4-4 on the question of whether Burge should be stripped of his pension, which he had been receiving since 1997. By law, the tie was resolved in pensioner Burge's favor.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit, seeking to reverse the decision, and the FOP defended the ruling, with an FOP-financed private lawyer arguing on behalf of Burge. The case was appealed all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which, in a 4-3 decision this past summer, ruled in favor of Burge and the Pension Board.

This appalling history is not limited to New York, Chicago or Milwaukee by any means. Other notable examples include Detroit in the mid-1970s, where the Detroit Police Officers Association challenged police reforms and affirmative action initiatives which sought to stem rampant police brutality against African Americans with a lawsuit; after it lost its case, it orchestrated a police riot.

In Los Angeles in the early 1990s, African-American Mayor Tom Bradley condemned the state court jury verdict which absolved LAPD officers of criminal charges for brutally beating Rodney King, by stating that the verdict "will never blind us to what we saw on that videotape," and further stated that "the men who beat Rodney King do not deserve to wear the uniform of the LAPD." In response, the L.A. Police Protective League reacted with a vengeance that, according to Police Chief Richard Riordan, lasted for years.

And more recently, in Seattle, the Police Officers' Guild mounted a verbal attack on then-Mayor Michael McGinn after he stated, in response to the shooting of a Native American word-carver, that the Seattle police force had no place for officers who did not share his commitment to racial justice.

Whether unions which represent police officers, correctional guards and other law enforcement officers are the same kind of workers' organizations as other unions, which can potentially be used to further the interests of the working class as a whole, has been vigorously contested by many progressives and leftists over the years. But the disturbing history of these powerful organizations makes it very clear that they mirror and reinforce the most racist, brutal and reactionary elements within the departments they claim to represent and actively encourage the code of silence within those departments. They are far from democratic, with officers of color and women having little or no influence.

In truth, police unions further the-all-too-accurate conception that the police are an occupying force in poor communities of color, and are antithetical in principle and action to the progressive principles of the labor movement.

Flint Taylor is a founding partner of the People's Law Office in Chicago. He is one of the lawyers for the families of slain Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and together with his law partner Jeffrey Haas was trial counsel in the marathon 1976 civil trial. He has also represented many survivors of Chicago police torture, and has done battle with the Chicago Police Department--and the Fraternal Order of Police--on numerous occasions over his 45 year career as a people's lawyer.

This Will Make You Rethink Every Vegetable You've Ever Cut Up And Cooked, You Monster

Thu, 2015-01-22 15:11
And you thought onions made you cry ...

It happens so naturally now you probably don't think about it anymore. After all, you've been doing it your whole life. You get home from work, maybe unwind a little, and then pull out some delicious vegetables to slice up for dinner.

And then one of the vegetables screams, "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

UCB group Also Also tackles the topic of delicious cooking, but from the perspective of two tomatoes named Ronald and Clarence and their friends, the garlic.

As you might imagine, what you believe is a wonderful, healthy meal prep, is perhaps the most unspeakable horror a vegetable could ever experience.


Comedy 'Should Never Be Cool' Says Colin Quinn In New Web Series 'This Is Stand Up'

Thu, 2015-01-22 13:49
Comedy is becoming kind of "cool" again, isn't it?

Writer and producer Jessica Pilot and videographer Christian Hendricks have started a new video series for the "Village Voice" called "This Is Stand Up." Each three-minute episode features comedians discussing their personal views on the craft and on the current state of the form.

In this second episode, Pilot talks with "Saturday Night Live" alum and former "Tough Crowd" host Colin Quinn. Quinn talks about the why it's not good for comedy to be the cool thing, his love for Manhattan's legendary Comedy Cellar club, and why being positive on Twitter is the quickest way to attract the trolls.

Woman Tattoos Her Own Face To Cover Scars, Starts Business To Help Other Burn Victims

Thu, 2015-01-22 13:40
This woman rose above the challenges of her own experience to help others in similar situations.

Basma Hameed, originally from Iraq, was severely burned by hot oil in a kitchen accident when she was 2 years old, CBC News reported. Although she underwent more than 100 procedures in an attempt to conceal her third-degree burns, parts of her face were still scarred and discolored. After getting her eyebrows permanently tattooed on, Hameed had an epiphany.

Left: Hameed, before having tattooed herself Right: The tattoo specialist, after having tattooed herself

"I saw the result immediately," she told of the procedure, which she underwent following failed eyebrow transplants. "I was so happy that I thought to myself -- why not do the same procedure using skin tone pigments on my scar tissue, to camouflage the discoloration."

Hameed received training and cosmetically tattooed her own face, closely matching her original pigments. Today, Hameed, who has clinics in Toronto and Chicago, lends her skills to a variety of patients, including other burn victims, like Samira Omar -- a 17-year-old who was beaten and had boiling water poured on her by bullies, CBC News reported. Omar, who is being treated free of charge by Hameed's foundation, says the paramedical tattoo specialist has renewed her sense of hope.

"When she told me she could actually get my pigments back and find a skin color that could match my actual skin color, it's just a big sigh of relief," Omar told the outlet.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
Post by Basma Hameed Clinic.

It's exactly the emotion Hameed set out to inspire in her clients.

"When I first meet my clients they can be so shy and insecure about their respective skin conditions, but once we do few treatments they are like brand new people," she told "They smile, they laugh, and most importantly they feel like they can live again."

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter

It costs $36 to win one vote in Illinois, but only $18 to lose one

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:32
Gov. Bruce Rauner spent more than $65 million to win the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election, according to records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

More than $50 million of Rauner's campaign spending came after he won a hotly contested, four-way Republican primary in March, with nearly half of that spending coming in the final month of his race against then-Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn, who did not face a serious threat in the Democratic primary, spent more than $30 million in 2014. Almost all of Quinn's spending happened in the final few months leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

In spending $65.4 million to win 1.82 million votes, Rauner spent $35.88 per vote. Quinn spent $30.2 million in 2014 and received 1.68 million votes, spending slightly less than $18 per vote.

By contrast, Quinn spent about $6.1 million in all of 2010, when he faced both a tough primary race and a close general election contest with Republican challenger Bill Brady. That computes to about $3.50 per vote. If all Quinn campaign expenses for 2009 and 2010 are included (about $8.9 million), the cost rises to only $5 per vote in the 2010 general election.

The final quarterly reports for the 2014 election cycle were filed last week with the board of elections and allowed for a full accounting of how much each candidate spent in the critical month before Election Day. In the fourth quarter, which included the month of October, Rauner spent $23.9 million to Quinn's $13.4 million. The vast majority of both campaigns' spending in the final weeks of the campaign -- $13.6 million for Rauner and $9.8 million for Quinn -- was for advertising.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois to see how the two candidates' campaign spending differed and see spending breakdowns across expenses and time periods.

After that expensive win, one of Rauner's first acts as governor was to remove Chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board Aaron Jaffe from his position. The move filled anti-predatory gambling activist Tom Grey with "shock and disbelief." Grey says Jaffe was an "outspoken" independent regulator during his tenure and Grey expresses concerns about the ability of the Gaming Board to go on operating honestly without him. Read the rest of Grey's worries at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois prison worker reinstated after firing, even with his own long arrest record

ESPN Sues University Of Notre Dame For Police Records Involving Student Athletes

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:18
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- ESPN has filed a lawsuit against University of Notre Dame, alleging the school is violating Indiana's public record laws by withholding police incident reports about possible campus crimes involving certain student-athletes.

The lawsuit filed Jan. 15 on behalf of ESPN and its reporter Paula Lavigne says state Public Access Counselor Luke Britt has twice issued advisory opinions stating the university is subject to Indiana's public records law. The lawsuit and opinions don't specify what incident reports ESPN is seeking or which athletes may have been involved.

In his first opinion on Oct. 31, Britt said that while the university is private, Notre Dame Security Police Department is a public law enforcement agency subject to public records laws. He acknowledged that his view may be inconsistent with past opinions from other public access counselors, but that it wasn't inconsistent with Indiana's public records law.

And earlier this month, he wrote that Notre Dame and other that private universities in Indiana that have professional police forces should follow the state's public records laws despite being private institutions. He also noted that his October opinion "is not compulsory."

Notre Dame has argued that it believes it is complying with state law, saying that three previous advisory opinions had agreed with the university that its police department and those of other private colleges and universities in Indiana are not public agencies.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said Wednesday the university believes its practices are in "full accord with the Access to Public Records Act and consistent with multiple advisory opinions that have addressed this matter over the past 12 years."

"We are confident that our position will be affirmed in court," he said.

The lawsuit, filed in St. Joseph County Superior Court, states Notre Dame told ESPN it does not have documents "responsive" to its request.

The lawsuit contends ESPN is entitled to an unspecified civil penalty, attorney's fees, court costs and other expenses.

This Extreme Endurance Icon Ran 95 Miles In 24 Hours Wearing A Wetsuit

Thu, 2015-01-22 12:14
Simply finishing the World's Toughest Mudder is a feat of physical and mental ferocity.

It's a contest for athletes "who find marathons too easy and triathlons meh," merging extreme endurance with severe military-style obstacle courses.

Ryan Atkins of Toronto won the World's Toughest Mudder in 2013. He followed up by being the only competitor to race in all four obstacle world championships in 2014; he medaled in three, and won the Toughest Mudder for a second consecutive year, in the process racing 95 miles over 24 hours in the Nevada desert, all while wearing a wetsuit.

In a Q&A with The Huffington Post, Atkins shared details about how he eats, how he trains, and how he sleeps, his favorite travel journeys, his most useful advice, and even how he proposed to his girlfriend.

You celebrated the new year by climbing Mount Washington in horrendous weather. What was that like? What are you telling yourself when you're approaching those big challenges?

There is so much going on in your head when you're climbing a mountain in really cold, terrible, whiteout conditions. You’re always assessing risk and reward, thinking about avalanches, getting lost in the whiteout, making sure you don’t do anything stupid.

It's definitely a struggle, and my mantra is: one step after the other. There are points where you're going up, you've been out for several hours, and you can’t see the top. But you just keep plodding along and believing that you're going to get there.

Keep going, next step, next step. That's pretty core to my beliefs, and it seems to be working pretty well [laughs]. Sometimes you can't look at the challenge as a whole, the path is too daunting. But if you just think about not stopping, about keeping going the best you can, then eventually you get there.

Once you reach the top, it's an awesome feeling.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
Post by Ryan Atkins.

You've competed in a bunch of bizarre competitions and obstacles. What's is the strangest challenge you’ve faced?

Probably racing in World's Toughest Mudder. The first year was the strangest because there were so many aspects of it that were outside of my experience and my comfort zone, namely running for extended periods in a wetsuit, 100-plus kilometers, something I had never even dreamed of doing.

That poses all sorts of challenges, like going to the washroom at 3 a.m. [laughs], doing all sorts of tasks. You had to change up your running gait because the wetsuits are so restrictive. Even just breathing. You can't go as hard because breathing's such an issue. It feels like you're being suffocated the entire time.

Your competitions have taken you to some extreme locations. Is there a memorable travel journey that you'd recommend to others?

One of my coolest traveling experiences was running the High Sierra Trail in California. That was awesome, probably the greatest trail I've ever experienced. It starts at Sequoia National Park and finishes on top of Mount Whitney in California, and it's just a totally gorgeous trail. That one stands out.

What's most important with travel is being willing to explore wherever you are. I find amazing things right around my backyard all the time. I've been in hotels in crummy areas, and then you just go for a run and you find really cool waterways and bike paths and trails, interesting things that aren't on any map or any travel guide. It's just a matter of always being willing to go out and explore. Just because you're in an area that isn't famous for one thing or another doesn't mean it doesn't have something incredible to offer.

High Sierra Trail approaching Mt. Humphreys

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited?

Honestly, it’s probably a park not too far from where I live. Killarney Provincial Park, about five or six hours north of Toronto. It's just beautiful Canadian forest, with crystal-clear lakes and white quartzite rock all over. It's just a gorgeous place. There's hiking and canoeing. It's probably pretty remote for most people, but I think that's one of the most beautiful places I've been.

Island in Georgian Bay along the Chikanishing Trail, Killarney Provincial Park

What's your daily routine?

Every morning, pretty religiously, I eat the same breakfast, which is four eggs, toast, butter, and ketchup. [Laughs] Every morning I come downstairs and make the exact same thing. If I'm racing to get out, I'll have oatmeal. I love cooking, and I love eating healthy, but I think people can take their diet way too seriously. As long as you're using common sense and eating good food, you can't go too wrong.

Do you have any unique hobbies or ways that you spend your downtime?

I do something called slacklining. You set up a piece of nylon webbing between two trees that has a lot of bounce to it, then you walk on it and do tricks on it. It's not like a tightrope. It stretches a lot more than a tightrope, and it’s flat, about an inch wide.

I unicycle, which is also a lot of fun, and I play the didgeridoo, an Australian instrument. I find it relaxing.

Have you changed your mind about anything substantial in the course of your life?

When you're a young kid, you think you can kind of do whatever you want with your life. Then as you get a bit older, you kind of relinquish that goal. But now I've come back around. No matter who you are, if you're not happy in your current job or your current situation or career path, then there's no point in waiting, spending time doing stuff that you don't love doing

If you want it bad enough, you can probably go get it -- within reason obviously [laughs]. Everyone can't be an astronaut. But everyone can have a job that they love. The world would be a lot more fun and people would be a lot happier if that was the case.

Are there books that have had a significant impact on your life or your athletics career?

I read a book called “The Boys in the Boat” not too long ago, a book about rowing. I really enjoyed that. I typically read a lot of non-fiction. I also recently read “The Sports Gene,” which I really enjoyed. Maybe not life-altering, but it helps when I’m thinking about my training.

Have you had any mentors, and if so what did they teach you?

I've had a few different mentors. Mainly I learned the value of hard work and not giving up. When I was in university, in the summers I would work building mountain bike trails, and I would ride my bike about two hours each way, every day, then build trails all day, then ride home. I had a mentor at the time who was encouraging me to do that. It was just exhausting work every day -- eight hours of physical labor, four hours of bike riding, and then just passing out.

She helped me to see that you're able to do whatever you want. There's no limit to what you can accomplish when you put the work in.

Is there anything that your parents did for you that many parents don't do that had a lasting impact?

Support; don't pressure. That's the advice that I could give other parents, even though I'm not a parent. I know a lot of people who have incredible athletic potential, and their parents pushed them to train more, pushed them into sports too forcibly, and that just turns the kid off. That could be with any activity.

What my parents did really well was they supported everything I wanted to do, but at the same time, they never hovered over me and gave me tons of pressure to succeed and do this and that.

How do you sleep, and how do you get your best sleep?

I sleep pretty well, basically like a log [laughs]. I usually go to bed around 10:00 and wake up around 7:30 or 8:00. Lots of sleep! I'm so active during the day, I just kind of pass out at night.

When I was in university, I used to like stay up late, not necessarily partying but studying to the last minute. As I've gotten older and wiser [laughs], I realized: get stuff done when you have the time to do it. Don't leave it until the last minute. This helps with everything in life. Get things done, don't procrastinate, and then you end up sleeping better.

Do you keep a journal or diary, either for training purposes or for pleasure?

That's something I've played with on and off. In the past I’ve kept a very detailed training log/diary. Then I’ve kept a medium-detailed one [laughs]. Right now, I don't keep any kind of logs, other than what my GPS sports watch records.

I know a lot of people keep them because they like going back and looking at what they've done and what's worked for them. I haven't found it really works for me or has been worth the effort.

Workout details: 15 minute treadmill challenge (at 15% incline), followed by descending pull-ups (20, 18, 16, 14, down to 2) with 40 Squats between each set. Finish with 2k row to tie it all together. BattleFrog Series #TeamBattleFrog #Athletics8

A video posted by Ryan Atkins (@ryanatkinsdiet) on Oct 21, 2014 at 8:58am PDT

What are some changes to your diet that you’ve made that help in your day-to-day?

Something that I've been playing with on and off is my iron intake. I do so much endurance training, I end up breaking down my hemoglobin very often, so that's something I have to stay on top of. I make sure I eat red meat a couple times a week, and sometimes I take iron pills, and then combine that with lots of vitamin C to try to make sure I have those stocks nice and high.

Other than that, everything I do is pretty much natural. I don't think there's any magic bullet to diet. It's kind of fun, it’s something to play with and figure out for yourself. The basics are lots of fruits and vegetables. You know, I have a lot of people say, like, bread and gluten is the enemy, but I eat it, and I'm totally fine with it. If it doesn't affect you, then I wouldn't cut it out of your diet. I mean, eat everything within moderation and enjoy it. [Laughs]

Who is the best person in the world right now at what you do?

I don't think there is a single name that comes to mind, because the sport is so variable and so wide. There are people who excel at extremely short, powerful events, and there are people who excel at longer, slower events, and then there's everything in between. You mix in different terrain types, different elevation profiles, different obstacles, it makes it so difficult to excel in every discipline.

So I don't think there's one athlete that stands out. There's a guy from the UK named Jon Albon; he won the OCR [Obstacle Course Racing] World Champs and the Spartan World Champs this year. If I had to pick one person, I'd say him. He's a very gifted athlete.

What’s a controversy or debate that’s going on within endurance sports that people outside of it probably wouldn't know about?

Within the sports that I do like obstacle course racing, there are big arguments right now about the different companies and the direction the sport's going to go. You've got Spartan Race, which is one of the bigger races, pushing to be basically the only race that exists. Then you have a bunch of other companies that want their races to be legitimate. The problem is there are no real sanctioning bodies within the sport, and you've got everybody arguing about which is the “real” event, which is the “real” sport.

To me, they're all lots of fun, and they're all great, and they all have their own merits. But you do have all this quibbling going on.

Snowbeard? Check. Shredding at max speed on the skis is always fun. @battlefrogseries #TeamBattleFrog getting ready for 2015!!

A photo posted by Ryan Atkins (@ryanatkinsdiet) on Jan 9, 2015 at 4:06pm PST

You’re engaged now. How did you propose?

We had just bought our first house together, and it was our first night in our new house. I made her dinner, got the wine out, and then just as we were about to start eating, I got down on my knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes. Pretty cool.

I was tossing around the idea of proposing on top of a mountain, or in some other grandiose way. But this just seemed more intimate and more special for where we were in our lives at that point. She's my best friend

What’s a memorable gift you’ve received?

The best gift you can give someone is an introduction to a new experience or a new skill. There was someone who introduced me to cross-country skiing when I was about 18. They taught me how to ski, helped me find equipment, did all sorts of stuff. It's now a sport that I really love -- I was just doing today [laughs].

The coolest gift you could ever give someone is to introduce them to a passion that they're going to hold dear to them for a long time, maybe the rest of their lives.

What advice would you give younger people working on their education or a new career?

You should find someone who you respect, someone older who seems happy to you, and talk to them about what they do and how their career path unfolded. Do that with as many people as possible.

Don’t shy away from hard work. Some people will say, “I don't know what to do at university so I'm just going to take the easiest program and float my way through it." That's a terrible idea. If you don't know what you should do, you should err towards harder challenges.

I see a lot of friends who go through a program for three or four years -- they probably went because someone suggested it or their parents wanted them to -- then they come out of college and they really dislike the job that they trained for. Instead, just spend a couple days here and there shadowing someone who's doing the career that you're considering and see what it's like, see if it's something you could see yourself doing. Do that when you're 16, 17, 18, versus after you've spent thousands and thousands of dollars on schooling.

Transcription services by Tigerfish; now offering transcripts in two-hours guaranteed. Interview has been edited and condensed.

Rob Portman Gets A Democratic Challenger For 2016

Thu, 2015-01-22 11:17
WASHINGTON -- Democrats gained their first challenger to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) Thursday, with 30-year-old P.G. Sittenfeld, a member of the Cincinnati City Council, jumping into the 2016 race and betting that Ohioans want someone new in the stodgy Senate.

"I believe that I have got the right kind of experience," Sittenfeld told The Huffington Post in an interview Thursday morning. "There is good experience, and there is bad experience -- and bad experience is being a Washington insider who, for more than a quarter of a century, stacked the deck against the middle class."

If elected, Sittenfeld would be one of the youngest members of the chamber, where the U.S. Constitution sets the minimum age for service at 30. He faces an uphill battle against Portman, 59, who already had $5.8 million in his campaign war chest as of early January.

But Sittenfeld too has been laying groundwork, traveling around the state on what National Journal recently called a "months-long networking campaign" to introduce himself to activists and voters outside of Cincinnati. He brought on board the high-profile campaign firm 270 Strategies, which boasts several veterans of President Barack Obama's two bids for the White House, to handle his announcement. And his interview Thursday was filled with carefully tailored policy specifics that largely dovetailed with what Obama put forward in his State of the Union address this week.

"I think we need to do a whole lot more to get the economy where we want it to be and make sure that growth is touching everybody's life, not just those at the very top," said Sittenfeld. "Progress has been made, but there is a whole lot more work to do to make an economy that works for everybody."

But even as Sittenfeld displayed his polish and careful grooming during Thursday's interview, it was an outspoken progressive leader whom he cited as a lawmaker he'd like to emulate. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), he said, has advocated for many of the causes that Sittenfeld himself holds dear, among them raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work and opposition to trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"That is an area of disagreement between the president and me," said Sittenfeld. "I do not support the TPP and don't think it would be good for Ohioans."

Sittenfeld said he would have supported the Affordable Care Act had he been in the Senate when it was passed, but he remains open to the possibility of reforming it. He enthusiastically offered his support for marriage equality. He also noted that he wants to focus specifically on education policy, including proposals to turn schools into "round-the-clock-hubs" and "town square schools or community learning centers."

But it's Sittenfeld's age, not his policy portfolio, that has brought his candidacy the most attention so far. Welcoming the announcement of his campaign on Thursday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee declared that "national Democrats have hit rock bottom if they are hitching their electoral hopes in Ohio to an overly ambitious 30-year-old city councilman."

Not mentioned in the statement was that the NRSC had its own young candidate in the 2012 cycle, when Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), then 34, took on Brown. In that hard-fought contest, Mandel's age ended up being a hindrance, with stories coming out that he had hired inexperienced, unqualified friends for government jobs.

Sittenfeld dismissed the idea that he too might fall into that trap, saying that there was "no comparison" between Mandel and himself.

"This isn't about me. It is not about my age," he said. "It is about the ideas I'm going to promote and the values I'm going to champion."

In order for the Mandel comparisons to be accurate, Sittenfeld must first win his party's primary. And although he's first in the ring, it's far from certain whether he'll prevail. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is reportedly considering a run for the Senate, as is former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who currently runs the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

"I have enormous admiration for Gov. Strickland and for his service," said Sittenfeld. "What I'm focused on right now is mounting a winning campaign that I think speaks to the issues that Ohioans care about. I'm not thinking about who else is going to get in or not get in. I'm thinking about how can I connect with and hear from Ohioans."

Want more updates from Amanda? Sign up for her newsletter, Piping Hot Truth.

Enter your email address:

Workers Sue McDonald's For Discrimination, Opening New Front In Franchise Fight

Thu, 2015-01-22 10:18
A group of former McDonald's workers from Virginia are suing their stores for racial discrimination and sexual harassment -- and they're taking the rare step of naming the world's foremost fast-food company as a defendant in the suit.

The 10 plaintiffs -- nine of whom are African-American, and one of whom is Hispanic -- say they were wrongfully fired last year and replaced with mostly white workers because their managers believed there had been "too many black people [working] in the store." The lawsuit (viewable here) alleges that women were harassed and groped and that minorities were subjected to racist taunts. It also claims that managers referred to one restaurant as "the ghetto store."

Although it's usually just franchisees that are sued under discrimination claims, in this case the plaintiffs are arguing that McDonald's itself should be held responsible for the actions inside a franchised store. They say the fast-food giant should have to pay damages because it sets companywide policies and has the power to enforce them.

"In order to maximize its profit, McDonald's Corporate has control over nearly every aspect of its restaurants' operations," the lawsuit asserts. "Though nominally independent, franchised McDonald's restaurants are predominantly controlled by McDonald's."

The plaintiffs in the suit have received legal assistance from the NAACP and the group Fight for $15, which advocates on behalf of fast-food workers. According to the suit, the plaintiffs had a combined 50 years working at McDonald's restaurants, 25 of them accrued by a 53-year-old shift manager who lost her job in July. The rest of the workers lost their jobs in a mass termination in May.

As the South Boston (Virginia) News & Record reported at the time, a total of 17 workers were abruptly fired from three McDonald's restaurants in the area. All three locations were run by Michael Simon, owner of Soweva, the company that franchised the stores. At the time, workers told the paper they were informed they "didn't fit the profile" that the company was looking for in its restaurants.

"Most, though not all, of the terminated employees are African-American," the paper noted. "Most of the workers who remain on the job at the local McDonald’s also are black. So, too, is [Soweva owner] Simon."

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that their white supervisors wanted to drop black workers from the payrolls because the stores were "too dark," in a phrase attributed to one manager.

"I had no idea what they meant by the right profile until I saw everyone else that they fired as well," Willie Betts, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement Thursday. "They took away the only source of income I have to support my family."

Simon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement at the time of the firings, Simon denied that race was a factor, saying his company "has a strict policy of prohibiting any form of discrimination or harassment in hiring, termination or any other aspect of employment."

In the lawsuit, the workers allege that when they brought their concerns to McDonald's corporate, the company "took no actions to remedy" the firings. The workers are now seeking damages from the chain under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or sex.

"We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee -- the same franchisee that just fired us," Pamela Marable, another plaintiff, said in a statement this week.

“We have not seen the lawsuit, and cannot comment on its allegations, but will review the matter carefully," McDonald's said in a statement Thursday.

"McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent Franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values," the company's statement continued. "McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”

The lawsuit in Virginia is just the latest salvo in a broader fight against the franchise model. McDonald's franchises roughly 90 percent of its stores, leaving the day-to-day operations to individual franchisees like Soweva. Since the franchisees run the stores, they're the ones that tend to get sued when labor law is broken. That's a major upside of the franchise model for companies like McDonald's.

But unions and worker groups have been arguing in court and before agencies like the National Labor Relations Board that big chains such as McDonald's should be held accountable for the working conditions inside the stores that bear their names.

Until now, that generally hasn't been the case. But that could be changing on some fronts. The NLRB's general counsel, for instance, has named McDonald's as a "joint employer" alongside several of its franchisees accused of violating labor law during the fast-food strikes. If the agency were to view the workers as employed under one big umbrella -- rather than by hundreds or thousands of individual franchisees -- it would be much easier for the workers to unionize en masse. As it is, the fact that McDonald's workers are technically employed by different franchisees means they would have to be unionized store by individual store.

Several lawsuits currently seek to hold McDonald's responsible for wage theft allegedly committed by its franchisees. As with the discrimination complaint in Virginia, the plaintiffs in those suits argue that McDonald's ultimately exerts control over the operations inside individual stores, and that it should be held accountable when the law is broken.

7 Legendary American Dive Bars That Should Have Survived

Thu, 2015-01-22 10:14
What are the hallmarks of an authentic American dive? The flickering neon sign, the cantankerous old bartender, the backed-up bathroom or the alarmingly cheap booze?

The down-and-dirty criteria for a true dive varies, but the sense of ease you feel when you enter is universal. As dives continue to croak, you crave that blanketing effect of familiarity, mixed with stale odors, time-ravaged memorabilia and regulars sitting on either side.

These spaces shutter in greater numbers each year; there are now too many lost dives to count. Some may reopen as glossy imitations with new owners, while others seal up for the big sleep, never to serve another dollar pint. In tribute to these fallen brothers, raise a chipped glass to seven of the greats--and don't forget: The magic's in the memory.

More from

7 of America's Most Haunted Bars

5 Scotch Drinks to Try Now

The Best Rums Under $30

Her Last Chance For A Baby. His Fight Against Forced Fatherhood. The Court Must Decide.

Thu, 2015-01-22 10:01
When Karla Dunston learned there was a tumor growing behind her breastbone, the 38-year-old emergency room doctor from Illinois knew she had little time to act. Chemotherapy would have to begin immediately. Though it could save her life, it would also leave her infertile.

Dunston, who had never had children, reached out to her boyfriend of several months for help. A firefighter, nurse and paramedic who is 10 years Dunston’s junior, Jacob Szafranski agreed to help her create frozen embryos -- or, more accurately, “pre-embryos,” an egg fertilized by a sperm but not yet implanted in a woman’s body.

The pre-embryos were created using Szafranski’s sperm in March 2010. Dunston underwent chemo a month later. By May, Szafranski had broken things off via text message. (Both parties would later say in testimony and through their attorneys that neither saw the other as a long-term prospect.) He didn't want Dunston to use the pre-embryos they had created. Dunston said she would fight him on it.

The former couple is now embroiled in a lengthy court battle.

With advancements in assisted reproduction -- procedures like in vitro fertilization, embryo freezing and egg donation -- throughout the past 40 years, conception can increasingly be equal parts miracle and legal minefield. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the use of this technology has doubled in just the past decade. Yet despite the increase, fewer than a dozen states have weighed in on legal disputes that arise from the creation, destruction or use of frozen embryos.

In addition, there’s little precedence for a case like theirs. Unlike couples in previous pre-embryo custody disputes in Illinois, Dunston and Szafranski were never married.

"[It] may be the most complicated embryo dispute yet," Chicago Lawyer magazine wrote in September.

These early cases are also notable because they lay the groundwork for same-sex couples who use alternative means, such as surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, to create a family. Brian Schroeder, Szafranski’s lawyer, told HuffPost that the more states that legalize gay marriage, the more applicable these precedent-setting cases become.

"That's why this case is so fascinating,” Schroeder said. “It opens a lot of doors.”

But it’s also fraught with emotion.

"Those embryos mean everything to me," Dunston wrote in a 2010 email to Szafranski, court records show. "And I will fight this to the bitter end."

According to his testimony, Szafranski agreed to help Dunston, now 43 and in remission, after dashing into a bathroom at work to take a call about her diagnosis.

The following day, they visited both a fertility clinic and a reproductive rights attorney. At the clinic, they signed an informed consent document that stated the risks of the procedure and that “No use can be made of these embryos without the consent of both partners (if applicable).”

"We came to all of these decisions in a week’s time," Szafranski told HuffPost. He said the sense of urgency was was spurred by the possibility that Dunston, who declined to comment for this story, would not survive her cancer.

"It was very heavy,” he said. "We thought [the decision to create pre-embryos] was something that we'd be able to come back with at a certain time. It was something that would give us options."

The legal battle started in earnest in August of 2011, when Szafranski sued Dunston to prevent her from using the pre-embryos (though she had not yet tried to use them).

Dunston countersued and won a summary judgment for sole custody of the pre-embryos. Szafranski immediately appealed the decision, and the appellate court handed the case back to the lower court in June 2013 with a new set of guidelines to consider. Months later, the court once again ruled in Dunston’s favor, sparking Szafranski to file a second appeal for which oral arguments began last month.

The fight is currently being decided in an Illinois appellate court; a ruling is expected sometime this month. The argument in court boils down to what, exactly, constitutes a controlling contract for the pre-embryos and their use: a verbal agreement to make (and presumably use) the pre-embryos, or a boilerplate document signed at the fertility clinic?

The court must also weigh which party has the stronger interest: Dunston, with the desire to capitalize on her last chance for a biological child, or Szafranski, who says he does not want to be forced into fatherhood.

“To say one person deserves [the pre-embryos] more than the other, I don't think that's right,” Szafranski told HuffPost. “I'm in no position to force her to use [the pre-embryos] if she didn't want to. I don't think the law should be able to do that to me."

"Jacob wants an equal say in the disposition of the embryos," Schroeder explained, noting, "Nothing will happen to the embryos unless both he and Karla agree."

Attorneys for both sides told HuffPost whoever doesn't win the case may appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, a course of action that could potentially land the case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

From the 10 states that have taken on similar cases, several different judicial approaches have emerged, Chicago Lawyer magazine notes. In New York and Texas, for example, courts have enforced whatever contract was made by the couple before the embryo’s creation. In Iowa, both parties must sign off on the use of embryos. In Tennessee, the court has considered the competing arguments, and Massachusetts essentially abstained from deciding the matter in court altogether.

Dunston and Szafranski’s case has already set one precedent in Illinois: It forced the appellate court to establish its dual approach to resolving legal disputes that arise from the creation, destruction or use of frozen embryos. The courts now use a hybrid of two of the common paths seen in other states: examining the contracts and balancing each party’s interests.

Unsurprisingly, their attorneys have strikingly different takes on the crucial contractual and interest elements of the case: Dunston’s attorney views the phone call in which Szafranski agreed to help her have a child if she survived cancer as the controlling contract, while Schroeder argues the informed consent document signed at the fertility clinic is a written contract that should be enforced.

"We made something together,” Szafranski said. “I was there to make embryos, no question about it. But if you asked me if I have the right to make decisions about them, I'd say yes … I'm not a sperm donor."

But Dunston's attorney Abram Moore characterizes the use of Szafranski's DNA as a "vague genetic component that won't really affect his life at all."

“In this case, [Dunston using the embryos] won't affect his day-to-day life at all. For her, it will affect her immensely," Moore told HuffPost. "He can always have children later. She can't."

Dunston did have a child in 2012 using a donor egg and sperm; the boy shares neither her nor Szafranski's genetic material.

Schroeder told HuffPost that as long as the potential exists for Dunston to use the pre-embryos the pair created, the possibility of unwanted fatherhood -- at least in the sense of having an offspring in the world -- will be "looming over" Szafranski.

"It will color his life, how he feels about himself," Schroeder. "Jacob wants to control when and how he becomes a father. He doesn't want to become a father this way."

50 Amazing, Adorable Cats, Dogs, Birds, And Bunnies -- Even A Pig! -- Looking For Homes

Thu, 2015-01-22 09:21
This little teddy bear of a dog had a loving home for the first 9 years of his life, but Chewy's situation changed and his family could no longer keep him.

His impossibly cute photo was posted on Facebook in hopes of finding a new home.

Greta Engle saw the plea and offered to foster Chewy in her home outside Baltimore, where she lives with two sons, two cats and a little Frenchie pup. So just around the holidays, Chewy was dropped off by his bereft former owner, along with "two beds, a bag of toys, a case of clothes and lots of goodbye kisses," says Engle. "However things came to a head, we were just really glad to help because it's sad for everyone."

Chewy has fit right in, snuggling and napping with his human brothers and begging for morsels of food in charming ways that make it hard to keep him at a healthy weight.

"We love him so much already," says Engle, but she can't keep Chewy forever. Her home is very full already, and this situation was temporary from the start.

So like all of the amazing, deserving cats, dogs, bunnies, and one very handsome pig in this slideshow of adoptable pets, what our pal Chewy really needs now is his very own home.

"I wish more people would treat pets like members of their family, and committed to that furry buddy for their lifetime. Boy that would be a wonderful miracle," says Engle. "Fortunately there are a lot of great people who really care."

We'd take them all these critters ourselves, it goes without saying. But we don't want to deny you the pleasure of bringing home Wilbur the friendly bunny, or tiny Chewy himself. There's also sweet Margo the cat and Natalie the pig, who will grow very big -- and, well, take a look for yourself at these 50 wonderful pets of all shapes and sizes who'd love nothing more than to help warm up your winter:

The pets in this slideshow come from shelters and rescue groups across the country -- which provided the information and photos in the adoption listings -- including: Best Friends Animal Society, Animal Allies, Barkie's Legacy, the Washington Animal Rescue League, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the Humane Society of Calvert County, PAWS Chicago, Animal Care & Control of NYC, the Humane Society of Utah, the Washington Humane Society, the Kauai Humane Society, the Humane Society Silicon Valley, the Austin Animal Center, the Kansas City Pet Project, SPCA of Southwest Michigan, All Species Kinship, the Providence Animal Rescue League and P.A.W.S. of Dearborn County Humane Center.

Know a rescue doing great work? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at!

Our Economy Is Growing '90s Fast, So The State Of The Union Set To A '90s Sitcom Audience Just Makes Sense

Wed, 2015-01-21 17:34
Barack Obama's bringing back the '90s. ALL of the '90s.

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Obama touted our new revamped economy. According to the president, "Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999." So let's all party like it's 1999, and rewatch some of the highlights of the state of the union address, paired with one of the best parts of the '90s: sitcom audiences.

This Protest Song Captures The Power Of #BlackLivesMatter Demonstrations

Wed, 2015-01-21 16:24
Who says the protest song is dead?

Certainly not Sidewalk Chalk, an eight-piece, Chicago-based band who meld together hip-hop, soul and jazz and are set to release their third album, titled “Shoulder Season,” next month.

For the band’s second music video off their upcoming album, Sidewalk Chalk matched up their emotionally-charged new song “Them, Us” with footage from a December protest where artists, including members of the band, took over the city’s Red Line train with a rush-hour demonstration drawing attention to America's racial divide in light of recent incidents of police violence. The video was shot and directed by fellow Chicagoan David Burkart and was released Monday.

Charlie Coffeen, the band’s leader and keyboardist who also helped organize the “Train Takeover” protest, told HuffPost via e-mail that the inspiration for the song “came from a need for connection and empathy in our world, a need that is as strong now as it was in the ‘60s.” Half the band’s members, he explained, experience racial profiling on a daily basis and Coffeen himself was arrested while protesting in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.

“It is painful to focus on the casualties of inequality in this country and abroad, but that focus presents an opportunity if it is viewed in the correct light,” Coffeen said. “Once we stop talking about systemic issues and the victims of hatred, we allow some the freedom to ignore that which makes them uncomfortable, and deny others the opportunity to crack this thing open, take it apart, and build something better.”