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Teen Arrested For Tipping Waitress With Feces-covered Money

Tue, 2014-10-14 18:59
A teenager's $2 tip to a restaurant waitress brought new meaning to the term "dirty money," because the bills were allegedly covered with fecal matter.

The suspect, a 17 year old in Muncie, Indiana, was charged with battery with bodily waste, reports.

The incident happened Sunday afternoon after the Brothers Bar & Grill waitress left the bill at a table where the unnamed teen sat with three members of the Ball State football team.

The teen reportedly emerged from the restaurant's bathroom and put money into the waitress' black folder.

According to police, the waitress saw the suspect laugh when she picked up the check and smelled a “foul odor.” She said two of the bills were covered in a brown substance that she later realized was fecal matter, the Ball State Daily reports.

Police were summoned and arrested the boy. He was later released to a guardian. Because he is a minor, his name is not being released.

His three companions were Ball State defensive back Darius Conaway, defensive lineman Kennan Noel and linebacker Nicholas Isaacs.

The Ball State University associate athletic director released a statement concerning the incident.

"We…find the alleged actions deplorable. We are continuing to collect information on the matter and will refrain from further judgment until then," he said, according to

The money left to the waitress isn't the only thing that stinks at Ball State. The football team is currently 1-5.

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Obama To Campaign For Democrats In Maryland And Illinois Gubernatorial Races

Tue, 2014-10-14 18:58

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, who has largely limited his campaign appearances to fundraisers ahead of next month's elections, will hit the stump in the coming days on behalf of candidates in Maryland and Illinois, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Obama will appear at a campaign event on Sunday in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, for Anthony Brown, the state's Democratic candidate for governor. Opinion polls in the usually reliable Democratic state have tightened in recent weeks between Brown, and Republican candidate Larry Hogan.

Also on Sunday, Obama will travel to Chicago in his home state of Illinois to attend a campaign event for Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who is in a close race with Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

Republicans are hoping to capitalize on Obama's weak approval ratings to make gains in this year's midterm elections. (Reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Peter Cooney and G Crosse)

Producers Discuss Moving the Needle in Music at AES Conference

Tue, 2014-10-14 18:22
In the evolving and ever-changing music business, the one thing that still remains constant and the common thread shared among this award-winning producer panel is integrity in the music and art, as well as serving the artists. This past Saturday at the AES Convention, music industry executives and professionals gathered for the Grammy SoundTables producer panel on "Songs that Move the Needle," featuring Alex Da Kid, Don Was, Michael Brauer, Niko Bolas, No I.D., moderated by Ed Cherney.

The panel kicked off with award-winning producer and engineer Cherney, reflecting on what brought him into this business in the first place despite its hardships with declining record sales. "I love music and would have worked for free just to be near the music and in the studio. I dedicated myself to be open, honest, giving, and have integrity and serve the artist," said Cherney.

Grammy award-winning producer Alex Da Kid shared his musical journey that started in London with his professional training as a football player that influenced and impacted his transformation music recording.

"It taught me how to put your all into something," said Da Kid. "I thought my life was laid out in front of me and then I fell out of love."

During a challenging time for Alex, his friend gifted him with the digital music editing software Fruity Loops that changed his life forever and ignited his musical journey to becoming a musical genius of our generation discovering talent that moves today's culture from Imagine Dragons, Skylar Gray, X Ambassadors, Jamie N Commons and Candice Pillay.

"This program taught me how music was constructed and changed the way I perceived music," said Da Kid.

He later decided to pursue a degree in music "just to be around and closer to the people doing it." It is obvious this is his life's calling and now he's broadening his business from being a record label owner of KIDinaKORNER, publisher, songwriter and producer, to film, TV, digital, technology to create a new platform for music and artist development that helps build fan bases and a direct to consumer platform.

"I want to wake up every morning and be inspired - I am grateful to have complete creative freedom every day is different for me since I have so many interests."

Da Kid shared his process in developing the hit song "Radioactive" with Imagine Dragons that remained on the top Billboard charts for 80 weeks.

"There are no boundaries anymore and that's what is exciting to me," said Da Kid. "We broke the song at alternative - at first no one really got it - we took rock and gave it a twist and added a hip hop element to it."

No I.D.'s musical lens was shaped by his environment and upbringing in Chicago.

"I see music through a life culture perspective - whether negative or positive - the rich history in Chicago made me a student of music early on, more than a creator. I don't think if I grew up anywhere else I would have the same perspective."

No I.D. started off as a house music DJ. "Being a DJ artist, produced musician, tech geek and loving the study gives me perspective to keep reinventing myself. It frees me up to apply what I learned and not be boxed into what I should do."

When asked about being Kanye West's mentor, a nickname he received over the years, he shared that it wasn't his intention and goal. "Where we grew up, there were no outlets to learn. I was his outlet and a male figure to bounce off creative ideas and other life and music discussions.

For No I.D., sharing knowledge and learnings from life experience is key. "What you pass down from what you know is better for your legacy than what you do for yourself."

Blue Note President Don Was also shared his insight wearing both hats on producing and running the label where he's worked with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Norah Jones.

"Everyone's got their own way of doing this - what brings me the most joy is working with artist who have a strong vision and are eloquent in how they express it musically," said Was. "I like to create a situation to make them feel comfortable and loosen them up."

Inspired by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones growing up, Was later had the honor of working with his childhood music idols.

"I learned a lot from them," said Was. "When you create music that helps people make sense and gets them through their own lives, it's a beautiful feeling. I feel responsible to help artists make records they want in a climate where selling tracks to consumers is no longer a viable business."

Rahm Emanuel's Re-Election Chances Just Improved

Tue, 2014-10-14 17:08
Despite the fact that his local approval ratings have been dismal for some time now, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's chances for reelection in 2015 just improved.

First came the announcement Monday afternoon that Emanuel's primary rival, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, will not be running for mayor.

Lewis had yet to formally enter the race, but was seen by most pundits as the challenger with the best shot at defeating Emanuel in the mayoral election Feb. 24.

The fiery union leader was hospitalized on Oct. 5 and it was reported by both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune that she is suffering from a cancerous brain tumor, reports that the Lewis exploratory committee has not confirmed.

Her exit from the race took place the same day that campaign contribution limits in the contest disappeared thanks to an Illinois state law that voids contribution caps should any candidate contribute at least $100,000 to their own campaign within a year of the election. Conservative candidate William J. Kelly topped that amount Monday with a $100,000 donation toward his mayoral campaign.

The Chicago Tribune notes this move will allow supporters of Emanuel, who has already raised over $9 million toward his reelection effort, to contribute beyond what they've already kicked in at or below pre-existing contribution caps.

The remaining mayoral challengers include Ald. Robert Fioretti, community activist Amara Enyia, former alderman Robert Shaw and police officer Frederick Collins. Fioretti, the best-known candidate in the race to date, has so far raised just under $400,000, according to the Tribune.

Dick Simpson, a University of Illinois-Chicago political science professor and former alderman, told HuffPost that he expects the campaign contribution limit change will benefit both Emanuel and Fioretti, though the incumbent mayor will likely get a bigger boost via more of the large-sum, out-of-state contributions he received during his 2011 campaign.

Another high-profile rival of the mayor's, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, already announced in July she would not be running for mayor.

The filing deadline for Chicago's mayoral race is Nov. 24, giving leeway for additional candidates to submit petitions but little time to lay the groundwork needed for such a major campaign, Simpson said. He expects Fioretti to remain the highest-profile challenger to Emanuel in the 2015 race.

"You can't decide today to run for mayor and be a credible candidate," Simpson said.

When Misguided Cops Turn The War On Weed Into A War On Growing Things

Tue, 2014-10-14 14:57
If law enforcement officials around the country are going to continue cracking down on marijuana grow operations, especially in heavily armed, unannounced raids, maybe they should consider hiring a botanist or two.

Earlier this month, Dwayne Perry of Cartersville, Georgia, was startled out of his bed by a low-flying helicopter. Moments later, WSB-TV reports, heavily armed officers and K-9 units with the Governor's Task Force for drug suppression showed up, apparently believing they were about to make a weed bust. What they found instead: okra. The vegetable.

Perry was confused and frightened by the incident. The officers were "strapped to the gills," he told the station. While Perry claimed his reputation may have been damaged by the mistake, he said he also realized that his life was put in danger because of it.

While law enforcement often trumpets successful anti-drug operations, agencies are less eager to admit when drug raids are marred by tragic miscalculations. Law enforcement's heavy-handed tactics have led to the death or injury of a number of innocent victims. Earlier this year, deputies threw a stun grenade in the crib of a 19-month-old, resulting in severe burns to the child. The sought-after suspect wasn't home at the time, and the officers ultimately avoided charges, with the sheriff suggesting the accident was unavoidable.

In another recent incident, a 59-year-old was gunned down by a SWAT team in a no-knock raid, as he believed his home was being burglarized for the second time in as many days. Officers were operating on a tip given to them by a meth addict.

Getting it right isn't always easy, but when the consequences of getting it wrong can be so dire, errors understandably attract criticism. Many of the stories below are the result of a combination of poor plant identification skills, questionable tips from the public and rushed or unprofessional conduct by law enforcement. These mistakes, even when made with the best intentions, show the risks associated with a war on drugs that often prioritizes harsh prohibition of both marijuana and other drugs over concerns for public safety, civil liberties and due caution.

Weed, But Not That Kind

The war on drugs has long been a cash cow for local law enforcement agencies that receive funding based on the number of arrests and the value of assets forfeited during drug busts. Critics claim this system of incentivization can make officers see what they want to see -- perhaps a grove of marijuana plants -- rather than what is actually there -- say, a field of giant ragweed.

In 2001, members of the Texas Capital Area Drug Task Force -- a controversial federally funded anti-narcotics unit that gained notoriety when it botched a number of high-profile raids in the early 2000s -- forced its way into a residence, after a circling helicopter said it had spotted a large marijuana grow operation on the property. Entering with guns drawn and without a warrant, the officers aggressively confronted the house's occupants, including a Vietnam veteran and a widow. Behind the house, the offending plant they found was ragweed. The mistake led to a lawsuit, which was eventually settled for $40,000.

It would be one of three botched raids by the task force in under a year. Two of the raids led to innocent fatalities, and eventually resulted in the task force being taken over by the governor's office.

Giant ragweed (seen in the file photo above) is not marijuana.

In 2010, cops in Corpus Christi, Texas, were similarly duped by an innocuous weed when they uprooted, tagged and transported 400 plants from a city park, believing it was marijuana. The plant was actually horsemint, meaning that taxpayers footed the bill for some glorified yard work that day.

Texas police are not the only ones to have been perplexed by herbs in the past. In 1994, officers in Connecticut mistook oregano, apple mint, catnip and other plants for marijuana after entering a vacant grocery store with a warrant to confiscate weed. They found no drugs.

The War On Gardening

Adlynn and Robert Harte, two former CIA employees living in Kansas, opened their door on April 20, 2012, to find a team of sheriff's deputies armed with assault weapons and bulletproof vests with a warrant to search their house for marijuana. The Hartes and their two children were detained and held at gunpoint while law enforcement raided their house. They found three tomato plants, one melon plant and two butternut squash plants growing in a basement hydroponic gardening setup built by Harte and his 13-year-old son, whom officers reportedly accused of being a pothead.

Harte stands next to his now-defunct indoor garden in the basement of his home in Leawood, Kan., Friday, March 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

In November 2013, the Hartes filed a lawsuit against county officials, including the sheriff, alleging the only intelligence that could have led to the raid was a trip by Harte and his son to a gardening store and his wife's "brewing of loose tea leaves that they discarded in the trash." The lawsuit, seeking $7 million in damages, claims deputies failed to do a proper investigation to follow up on whether the family was actually growing marijuana.

The Hartes aren't alone in questioning whether such police techniques don't risk effectively criminalizing gardening. A few states over in Illinois, Angela Kirking, a face-paint artist, was also caught up in part of the same multi-state garden store operation last year. Three weeks after being observed by an officer leaving a local shop with a "green plastic bag containing unknown items," Drug Enforcement Administration agents, guns drawn, raided her house before 5 a.m., eventually turning up enough marijuana for a misdemeanor possession charge.

Kirking claimed she had visited the garden store to buy fertilizer for a hibiscus plant, and sued to have the search warrant thrown out. She argued that an innocent trip to a garden store shouldn't have served on its own as grounds for an investigation, which included officers rooting through her trash to find a small quantity of marijuana stems and examining her electric bills to conclude they were higher than normal. A county judge later ruled against Kirking.

Fiasco At The Garden of Eden

In August 2013, police in Arlington, Texas, conducted a SWAT raid on the Garden of Eden, a small organic farm that had clashed with its neighbors, who claimed the property wasn't clean enough.

The Arlington Police Department also reported receiving complaints that marijuana was being grown on the premises, a tip they pursued with aerial surveillance and a visit by an undercover officer that led to an unsubstantiated claim that a resident of the farm was in possession of marijuana. Despite the seemingly flimsy evidence, police then conducted a 10-hour raid, in which employees of the farm were reportedly handcuffed and held at gunpoint for at least 30 minutes. Officers came away with "17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants ... native grasses and sunflowers." No weed.

The would-be drug bust was itself a total bust, but police officials defended their actions because the militarized crackdown did lead to the correction of code violations, for which the city took the Garden of Eden to court earlier this year.

A Middle School Marijuana Grow Operation?

That's what police apparently thought they might find when four armed agents, backed up by a helicopter, showed up to the Camino de Paz Montessori School and Farm in Cuarteles, New Mexico, in 2010. After asking to inspect the school's greenhouse, in which students were growing plants as part of a math and science lesson, officers found tomatoes. The incident led some to question whether these sorts of raids were an appropriate use of funds.

You Say Tomato, They Say Marijuana

In Canada in 2008, armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided commercial fisherman Bruce Aleksich's business, expecting to uncover a large marijuana grow operation. They handcuffed everyone in the place and left them on the ground for more than an hour, Aleksich said. After checking the premises and vehicles for drugs, all the police could find were tomatoes. In a very un-Canadian exit, officers reportedly left without so much as an apology.

No tomato plant is safe.

Tomato and marijuana plants are similar in that they both have green leaves.

Okra (Again)

In another case of mistaken identity in 2002, La Porte Police Department officers who, according to the Houston Chronicle, had "experience identifying marijuana plants," obtained a search warrant for 88-year-old Irene Gilliam Hensley's property after being unable to tell the difference between okra and pot.

This is not marijuana. With five thick leaflets of varying sizes, the okra leaf actually looks significantly different from a pot leaf if you look at it at all.

Officers conducted the raid after receiving a tip that Hensley's grandson was growing marijuana. The information reportedly came from a 15-year-old cousin with whom Hensley's grandson had been feuding.

Questionable tips or eyewitness accounts often serve as the basis for botched or unnecessary drug raids. In 2008 in England -- where police response to marijuana cultivation is arguably less militarized than in the U.S. -- police received a tip that shopkeeper Amrat Kanji was growing pot in the attic of his store. Officers reportedly entered his business and rudely kicked customers out before heading upstairs to find the offending shrubbery, a curry leaf plant.

Curry leaves. Way to go, boys.


Hibiscus doesn't look much like marijuana, but police confusion led to a scary incident for landscape contractor Blair Davis in 2004. Davis said he was headed to answer a knock at the door when it flew open and an officer pointed a gun at him and told him to get on the ground. Around 10 members of a county task force proceeded to enter his house and question him about the plants in his yard, none of which were marijuana. The officers left after an hour, leaving only a "citizen's information card." Davis said the officers could have used additional training in marijuana identification.

This is a Texas Star hibiscus bush. It only looks like marijuana if you really, really want it to.

The Canadian war on drugs can boast a still more aggressive crackdown on a flower patch, when in 2012 Alberta police confiscated more than 1,600 "marijuana" plants -- that were actually Montauk daisies. Officers reportedly made the bust without first consulting a local unit that's dedicated to investigating marijuana grow operations. Presumably, those officers would have known the difference between marijuana and a daisy plant.

Enough Kenaf

One might be able to excuse initial confusion here, as kenaf -- a plant that grows in stalks and is traditionally used for its fibers -- has leaves that look somewhat like those of a marijuana plant.

In Mississippi in 2005, however, Marion Waltman didn't even get a chance to plead his case before police officers began cutting down more than 500 kenaf plants that he was growing as deer food. There may not have been much he could have done, as officers conducted a field test on the plants that suggested they weren't marijuana, and then proceeded with the operation.

Waltman later sued the sheriff for destruction of $225,000 in property. The case made it to federal court, where a judge ruled that Waltman hadn't shown that the mistake was "deliberate indifference" on the part of the sheriff and his deputies, and that they were therefore protected by qualified immunity.

Your Weed Smells Of Elderberries

In 1992, a Florida family claimed they were "cursed at, threatened at gunpoint and ordered to lie face down in their yard while two dozen deputies swarmed their property" looking for marijuana and growing equipment. The search, conducted without a warrant, came when a deputy followed up on a tip and found what he thought to be marijuana. It was an elderberry bush, which explains why officers found no evidence of drugs or drug-related equipment.

Seriously, this looks nothing like marijuana.

The family sued the police department for the mix-up and eventually agreed to a $40,000 settlement that came complete with a public apology by the county sheriff.

When A Plant Isn't A Plant At All

Officer Claude Weinert's first police raid was a complete failure. Responding to a report of a fire in a south Chicago suburb, Weinert spotted what he though was a marijuana plant growing in the second-story window of a house. He got a search warrant, his first as a cop, and returned with "two patrol officers and three plainclothes narcotics officers" to conduct the raid. The bust turned up a plastic plant, covered in lizards. The homeowner's son had purchased it as a place for the family's seven pet lizards to hang out.

The Nose Knows

In Quebec in 2011, officers learned the importance of conducting a thorough investigation before authorizing a raid. Despite having thermal imaging that they said suggested the home of Oliver MacQuat was a marijuana grow operation, police said they based their initial suspicions on a strong, skunky smell, often associated with weed. In the end, however, the culprit was an actual skunk that lived under the family's shed. MacQuat filed a suit following the raid and eventually settled out of court.


And in England in 2011, a couple in their late 50s drew police attention after neighbors reported that teenagers had been asking to buy marijuana at their house. After allowing a drug squad into their back yard, the confusion was proven to be the result of a patch of moss phlox in their backyard, which apparently smells enough like weed that it fooled a drug-sniffing dog, as well as a number of teens looking to get high.

This Is The Painting That Saved Bill Murray's Life

Tue, 2014-10-14 14:31
Whether he's crashing bachelor parties, nailing surprise karaoke performances or golfing in Internet-breaking PBR pants, Bill Murray never ceases to surprise us. And that's exactly what he's done with a touching story from the early days of his career.

This week, the Chicago Sun-Times' Cindy Pearlman notes the Illinois-born actor, who's in Toronto promoting his latest film, "St. Vincent," credits a painting at the Art Institute of Chicago with saving his life.

After his first experience on a stage did not go well, Murray has said, he headed toward Lake Michigan thinking, "If I’m going to die, I might as well go over toward the lake and float a bit." Before he reached the water, however, he arrived at the Art Institute and saw the "The Song of the Lark," a painting that truly moved him.

The painting, by 19th-century French realist painter Jules Breton, depicts a young peasant woman working in a field at sunrise.

(Photo by APIC/Getty Images)

During a February press conference in London, where Murray was promoting "The Monuments Men," he said: "I thought, 'Well there's a girl who doesn't have a whole lot of prospects, but the sun's coming up anyway and she's got another chance at it.' So I think that gave me some sort of feeling that I too am a person and I get another chance everyday the sun comes up."

The Breton painting isn't the only item in the museum that has been tied to the former "Saturday Night Live" star. A 17th-century Dutch chiaroscuro woodcut that's part of the museum's collection bears an eerily striking resemblance to the actor.

Why FOMO and MOMO Are Making You Feel Friendless

Tue, 2014-10-14 14:13
This article was written by teen reporters from The Mash, a weekly publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

By Elani Kaufman, Lincoln Park and Charlie Connelly​, Riverside Brookfield

It’s Friday night, you have no plans and you’re taking a break from binge-watching Netflix to scroll through your Instagram feed when you see it: a photo of your friends hanging out without you.

Why didn’t anyone invite you? Why does it look like they’re having so much fun? What are they doing later? Should you text them? What if no one responds?

Sounds like a classic case of FOMO.

FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” is a form of anxiety that causes people to feel like they’re missing out on something—a party, outing or social event. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

And yes, the acronym was added to the publication last year. But just how serious is FOMO?

“I absolutely think that this is a significant issue for adolescents,” said Jonathan Pochyly, an adolescent psychiatrist at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “The concept of (FOMO) is something that I am familiar with and talk with kids about, no question about it.”

According to a study by JWTIntelligence, 47 percent of teen millennials (13-17 years old) feel uneasy or nervous when they learn friends or peers are doing something they’re not. Forty-one percent said they spread themselves too thin to avoid FOMO. Sixty-five percent said it’s important to keep up a certain image on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

“FOMO doesn’t make me feel good because I see everyone else doing stuff and most of the time it’s my friends, and I’m just sitting at home doing nothing,” said Jones freshman Emmy Brewer.

The anxiety doesn’t just strike on the weekends. Patricia McAvoy, a social studies teacher at Mather, said the constant need to check social media is alarming—even in the classroom.

“Social media is an issue in class as (students) are constantly checking their phones for updates,” McAvoy said. “They feel a one hour class without being in contact is an issue, which I find a little over the top.”

Pochyly said the ease of today’s technology is both beneficial and hurtful to teens’ feelings.

“(Technology) is one of the things that makes life special for adolescents these days,” he explained. “There’s a lot of focus on what everyone else is doing. It became a trend and now that’s the thing to do, so there’s pressure to maintain that and keep up with it.”

As social media feeds constantly update with statuses about where friends are, what they’re doing and photos of them doing it, it’s easier than ever to feel left out.

But what about those rare instances when social media goes quiet—when even the most savvy Facebook users can’t figure out what their friends are doing? There’s a word for that, too: MOMO, or “mystery of missing out.”

MOMO is the hunch or feeling that you’re missing out on something, but you just don’t know what it is. Let’s say your best friend is “busy” on Friday night but doesn’t post a single photo, update or check-in on social media. There’s no hard proof that you missed out on anything, but the feeling of not knowing could cause anxiety.

“I constantly think that my friends are doing something without me when they don’t respond to a text or when I surf the Internet and they haven’t posted anything in a while,” said Riverside Brookfield senior Jake Lucas. “It’s a ridiculous feeling that I know I shouldn’t be having, but it still happens nonetheless.”

To combat FOMO and MOMO, Brewer said she uses a direct approach. If she starts feeling left out, she takes matters into her own hands.

“I usually just call people and talk to them,” she said. “I’d be upset for a bit, but then I realize that I should be reaching out to them.”

Oak Park and River Forest senior James Cullinane said he fights off FOMO by living in the now.

“If I’m hanging out with my friends around a bonfire, or even just sitting at home on my couch, I think it’s best to stay off social media and focus on what you’re doing in the moment,” Cullinane said.

Other teens like Riverside Brookfield senior Renee Kunkel stay completely disconnected from social media to avoid FOMO and MOMO.

“Sometimes I do feel like I’m out of the loop a little bit, but while I’m doing something in the moment I never have the urge to be doing something else,” Kunkel said. “I’ve always tried my best to be a person who lives in the moment.”

There’s no doubt that FOMO and MOMO will continue to affect teens, but Pochyly said he believes these feelings are simply side effects of growing up.

“These types of interactions with people are, by their very nature, a function of kids being more independent, seeking out connections with other people, moving away from just being a child in a home, and moving toward adulthood,” he explained.

In other words, sometimes growing up means not being invited to the party of the year or not being allowed to go to the sleepover on Saturday.

“You have to have the mentality that who you are with and what you are currently doing is the most important thing to you at the moment,” Cullinane said. “Otherwise, you’re putting yourself in a state of mind you really don’t want to be in.”

What’s the difference?

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Seeing photos or posts on social media that make you feel like you’re missing out on fun.

MOMO (Mystery of Missing Out)
Wondering what you’re missing out on when no one’s shared any photos or posts on social media.

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In Wisconsin, Dark Money Got A Mining Company What It Wanted

Tue, 2014-10-14 14:12
This story first appeared on ProPublica and The Daily Beast.

When billionaire Chris Cline's company bought an option to mine a swath of northern Wisconsin in 2010, the company touted the project's potential to bring up to 700 well-paid jobs to a hard-pressed part of the state

But the Florida-based company wanted something in return for its estimated $1.5 billion investment — a change to Wisconsin law to speed up the iron mining permit process.

So, Cline officials courted state legislators and hired lobbyists. And, unbeknownst to Wisconsin voters and lawmakers, the company waged a more covert campaign, secretly funding a nonprofit advocacy group that battered opponents of the legislation online and on the airwaves.

Since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on politics, hundreds of millions of dollars have flooded into the political system — much of it through nonprofit groups that have no legal obligation to identify their donors.

Usually such efforts remain hidden from view, leaving voters unaware of who's paying for the gush of campaign calls, flyers and attack ads. But a court filing recently made public by a federal appeals court in Chicago provides a rare look at how so-called "dark money" groups helped one company get what it wanted.

The document shows how, in its push for a new state law, a Cline Group subsidiary gave $700,000 to a conservative nonprofit in 2011 and 2012. That group, in turn, donated almost $3 million in 2012 to a second, like-minded nonprofit that also campaigned to change the mine permit process, tax filings show.

Both nonprofits worked to pass the mining bill. One helped to write the measure and launched a radio campaign even before it was introduced. The other tried to pressure a Republican holdout. Together, the two groups played a critical role in defeating a freshman Democratic state senator who'd voted against the bill, paving the way for its passage months later.

After the 2012 elections, some observers downplayed the impact of dark money groups after most of the candidates supported by the largest one, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, lost. As this year's elections approach, the Cline Group's strategy in Wisconsin reveals the much bigger impact such groups can have in state races. Here their money goes much further, in some cases dwarfing the amount candidates themselves spend on their campaigns.

The nonprofits that pushed for the mining law — the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Issues Mobilization Council (WMC), an arm of the state's largest business lobby, and the Wisconsin Club for Growth — declined to comment for this story. On its website, the WMC states "we have never disclosed our donors, and never will."

Neither nonprofit reported spending any money on politics on their 2012 tax returns, potentially violating Internal Revenue Service rules, experts said.

In an interview, James Buchen, a former WMC vice president, said the group's efforts on behalf of the mining bill were no different from its support of other pro-business legislation. "Our interest in this was trying to create an environment where someone was interested in coming and mining in the state," said Buchen, who left in 2012 to start a lobbying practice.

A spokesman for Gogebic Taconite, Cline's Wisconsin subsidiary, did not respond to requests for comment.

Still, documents and interviews show that Gogebic's money secretly made its way into the political battle over the mining law — and that the efforts of the WMC and the Wisconsin Club for Growth significantly swayed the results.

With the help of ads funded by the two groups, the GOP retook the state senate in 2012 and passed mining legislation similar to what the company had wanted.

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, the veteran legislator targeted by one of the groups, said Gogebic's efforts to hide its influence went beyond anything he'd witnessed since his election to the state assembly. "I've never seen anything like this done by special interests in Wisconsin in 32 years," he said.


The battle over the mining bill began in 2011, months after the Cline Group announced plans to apply for a permit to build an iron mine in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin, not far from the Lake Superior shoreline. Gogebic began working with two Republican state legislators on a bill to speed up the process of securing a permit, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Without the legislation, a Gogebic official told the paper, the company "would have to re-evaluate" whether it wanted to build the mine.

Changing the law was an easy sell for many Republican lawmakers. Gov. Scott Walker, a recently elected Republican, had pledged to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, and attracting a mining company to the state would be a step toward that goal.

The WMC, which lobbies for pro-business legislation, was a natural partner for Gogebic.

With a coordination that one lawmaker found suspect, the WMC had glossy brochures supporting a draft of the bill ready to distribute almost immediately after it became public in May 2011.

Democratic state Rep. Janet Bewly, of Ashland, speaks out against a Republican-backed bill being debated in the Assembly that would ease opening an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior on Thursday, March 7, 2013, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

"I wonder how they did that so quickly when this is a bill that I just saw for the first time," said Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio at the time. Bewley represents the area where the mine would be built and later voted against the legislation.

Weeks later, the WMC started running radio ads touting the bill, even though it still hadn't been formally introduced.

Gogebic and the WMC, according to media reports and interviews, played a key role in shaping the language of the bill. Shortly after it was introduced in late 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported it had been written by five Republicans in close consultation with Gogebic and the WMC. In an interview, Buchen said several groups, including Cline and the WMC, gave input on the bill. But one Republican lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, acknowledged that "the initial bill that came out was for the most part written by" the mining company.


The bill sailed through the Republican-dominated state assembly in January 2012, but lobbyists for Cline and the WMC knew the senate would be a tougher sell. So, they turned their focus on the GOP senator who seemed most likely to vote against it: Dale Schultz.

A former University of Wisconsin rower, with thinning hair and a mustache, Schultz, 61, represents an independent-minded district west of Madison. He'd endorsed Walker early in his run for governor in 2010, and maintained a conservative voting record. The WMC had even given him one of its "Working for Wisconsin" awards, honoring him for his "pro-jobs voting record" in the 2011-2012 legislative session. But by the time Schultz won, one staffer said, the WMC was so displeased he wasn't supporting the mining bill that it skipped the usual photo-op and dropped off the plaque in a plastic bag.

Schultz agreed that mining regulations should be streamlined. But he'd seen how lead mining had so polluted Brewery Creek in his district that it ran red for decades after the mines had shut down.

"I understood the consequences of mining done poorly," Schultz said.

Gogebic officials had emphasized that they wanted a quicker permit process, but the bill they helped write also rolled back environmental protections, such as allowing the company to dump mining waste in wetlands and streams, as long as it created new wetlands elsewhere.

With Schultz's vote in doubt, two lobbyists — Bob Seitz, who worked for Gogebic, and Scott Manley, who worked for the WMC — visited him on several occasions. But that wasn't all. The Wisconsin Club for Growth launched a robocalling campaign, urging voters statewide to call his office and tell him to vote for the bill. And it used its blog to smear his record, with a post titled "Used by the media, respected by no one" and calling him a RINO, or Republican in name only.

After several constituents called Schultz's office to complain, Schultz confronted the lobbyists about the calls. "You can tell your buddies, if they're making those calls in my district, they can keep doing them, because they're making me a folk hero!" Schultz told them, according to a staffer who witnessed the conversation.

On March 6, Schultz cast the deciding vote against the mining bill, the only Republican to oppose it. Hours after the vote, Gogebic's president said in a statement that the company was scrapping plans to build the mine. "We get the message," he said.


Despite Gogebic's public proclamation, the WMC remained committed to new mining legislation. But its tactics changed.

Buchen, the WMC vice president, sent a letter to the Wisconsin Mining Association in July 2012, urging the group not to discuss a potential compromise. "We need to take our cues from the company on the substance of any legislation and the strategy to get it enacted," Buchen wrote, noting the only reason for any bill was getting Gogebic to build a mine. "Pursuing legislation that does not work for them is a waste of time."

As Election Day drew closer, the WMC and the Wisconsin Club for Growth poured money into attacking Sen. Jessica King, D-Oshkosh, a freshman running for re-election.

King, then 37 and a bankruptcy lawyer, had spent part of her childhood in Wisconsin's foster care system and worked in a juice box factory after high school before going to college and getting a law degree. She'd been elected by a slim margin in 2011, and her race was widely seen as the closest senate contest in the state.

Weeks before the election, TV stations in Green Bay started airing an ad paid for by the WMC.

"State Senator Jessica King promised to create jobs, then cast the deciding vote to kill a mine and 3,000 high-paying jobs," the ad's narrator said. "Wisconsin workers are angry."

The ad segued to grainy footage of Lyle Balistreri, a white-haired union leader, denouncing state politicians' "partisan games." "The working people of the state of Wisconsin are taking a beating," he shouted, "and this sort of thing has to stop."

Estimates compiled by a King campaign consultant show the WMC spent a total of $965,000 on TV ads in the race, with the Wisconsin Club for Growth shelling out another $919,000 — extraordinary amounts for a state senate race, according to Kenneth Mayer, a University of Wisconsin political science professor who has studied campaign finance.

King and her Republican opponent, by comparison, each spent less than $320,000 on their entire campaigns, according to state campaign finance filings. (Balistreri, for his part, wasn't actually angry with King. He told a local newspaper that the footage of him had been taken out of context. "I support Jessica King and know she will put working Wisconsinites first," he told the paper.)

More than 85,000 people voted in King's race. She lost by 600 votes.

Without the dark money ads targeting her, King said recently, "I believe I would have won that election."

In a blog post two days after the election, the Wisconsin Club for Growth bragged that it had played a "pivotal role" in the results, airing more than $1.5 million worth of ads in Green Bay "to educate voters on the records" of King and another Democrat who had voted against the bill.

"The mining law we have today would never have happened if Jessica King had won re-election," said Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, who helped craft an alternative mining bill.


When King first saw the WMC and Wisconsin Club for Growth ads on TV, she said, she suspected that Cline might have funded them.

But she had no way to know for sure until August, when a legal filing was inadvertently made public by a federal court. The filing was part of a lawsuit contesting an investigation launched by the Milwaukee County district attorney into whether Walker's gubernatorial campaign illegally coordinated with several nonprofits, including the Wisconsin Club for Growth. The document was supposed to be under seal, but it was mistakenly posted on the court's website for several hours before being taken down.

A paragraph deep in the 24-page filing states that Gogebic gave the group a total of $700,000 in 2011 and 2012, according to bank records. The document doesn't say whether Gogebic also gave money directly to the WMC.

For Wisconsin voters, the revelation came two years after the election, when Gogebic had already secured the mining law it wanted. The amount Gogebic had been willing to spend surprised even some lawmakers.

"The Gogebic spending — I don't think anybody was aware of the amount or the degree until after the legislation was signed into law," said a GOP legislator who supported the bill.

Such spending has skyrocketed since Citizens United. In the 2012 election cycle alone, social welfare nonprofits spent more than $257 million on federal elections and untold millions more in state races.

Unlike traditional political action committees and their turbo-charged cousins, super PACs — which have no limits on who can contribute and how much they can give — social welfare nonprofits are not required to reveal their donors.

"We know very little," said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics. "At some point the trail almost always goes cold, because these groups never need to reveal the original source of the funds."

Social welfare nonprofits are required to devote the majority of their efforts to "the promotion of social welfare," not political activity, but the IRS has never specifically defined what that means and seldom challenges what groups report they spend on politics.

The 2012 tax returns of the WMC and the Wisconsin Club for Growth show that both told the IRS, under penalty of perjury, that they spent no money on politics. But three law professors who specialize in nonprofits and political activity reviewed one of the WMC's ads in the King race and said it definitely qualified as an election ad under IRS rules. "This is campaign activity," said Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor and associate dean at the University of Notre Dame. "It's clear that the point is to convince people not to vote for her."

The Gogebic case illustrates the challenge voters across the country face in parsing who's funding the election ads they see, and to what end. Some Wisconsin lawmakers suspect the full amount the mining company poured into such groups may never be known.

Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, who represents the northern Wisconsin district in which the mine would be built, said he believes Gogebic has given directly to the WMC.

Shortly before the 2010 elections, he said, the WMC spent about $110,000 on TV ads and direct mail attacking him — almost double what he spent on his entire campaign. Jauch won with 51 percent of the vote.

After the election, Jauch tried to find out who'd been responsible for the last-minute ad blitz against him. Eventually, he said, he spoke with a former official who had worked on a contract for the mining company. The official confirmed that the company had given money to the WMC to pay for the ads. "That's the closest connection I can make," Jauch said.

Do you know of dark money groups spending heavily in state legislature races near you? Please email

Read our other coverage of dark money, including how easy it is for nonprofits to deceive the IRS and how the head of one group made millions by contracting with own companies in 2012.

New Social Network Promises To Serve Up 'The Ultimate Food Porn'

Tue, 2014-10-14 13:25
It could be the ultimate cocktail of social networks.

One part Instagram, one part Tumblr, with a dash of Pinterest, a twist of Facebook and a few secret ingredients, Morsel is a new food-focused social network that aims to bring big-name chefs, cooking enthusiasts and #foodporn devotees to the same (digital) table.

Users share everything from cooking techniques to recipes to stories behind a certain dish by uploading photos, videos and text to make a post or "morsel" that other users can like, save and follow. The layout mimics aspects of publisher-platform hybrids like Medium, with the visual punch of Instagram and Pinterest.

"Imagine going to dinner and the chef coming out to talk about the dish you just ordered," Kris Peterson, Morsel's CEO and co-founder, told Crain's Chicago Business. "This is a tool to help people tell a food story in a simple way."

Based in the foodie playground of Chicago, Morsel quietly debuted its website this summer before adding a mobile app to the iTunes App Store in late September. Already, the nascent social network had pulled in more than 1,300 signups -- and $800,000 of funding from food business heavyweights like GrubHub co-founder Matt Maloney, who described Morsel as “the ultimate food porn.”

Rather than simply linking to a recipe or throwing a dreamy filter on a Sunday brunch pic, Morsel is a storytelling platform for food and drink lovers, its supporters say.

“Morsel gets to the heart of what makes every chef unique: the story of how his or her dishes come together,” celebrity chef and Morsel user Paul Kahan told the Chicago Sun-Times. Kahan, for example, published a "morsel" about the inspiration for his popular Big Star taqueria -- and a callout to the women who create them.

Chef and butcher Rob Levitt, meanwhile, offered an instructional morsel on how butchers cook steak at home.

And while the site is dominated by professionals, at least for the moment, its developers say it's for cooks and creators that range from amateurs to celebrities. Vetted posts will be pushed to the entire network, though, like Twitter or Tumblr, stories can be viewed by any member who follows the creator.

"Good content can go viral, elevating it to the same plane as the fanciest 13-course menu concept," Peterson told Gigaom.

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

IRMA president: Illinois' fight on patent trolls must move to the federl level

Tue, 2014-10-14 11:18
Though Illinois has passed laws against patent-trolling shakedowns, the head of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association believes this is a battle only the federal government can fight.

IRMA President Rob Karr writes:

Patent trolling is when a company or individual acquires patent rights for the solitary purpose of legal action and threats against other companies or individuals rather than using them to manufacture or create anything. Often times those targeted by trolls will opt to settle out of court rather than paying hefty legal fees because it is cheaper, even when the infringement claim is frivolous.

Patent trolling costs the U.S. economy $29 billion a year, according to a Boston University study. In the past few years, nearly half of the states have passed laws to combat the practice, but a new threat is arising that states are ill-equipped to fight: patent trolling companies bankrolled by foreign governments.

See the rest of Karr's thoughts on patent-trolling and what can be done to stop it at Reboot Illinois.

Karr's calls on Washington lawmakers to act might have to wait until after the midterm elections. Here in Illinois, statewide elections are also heating up. Though incumbent Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has shown significant leads in polls against Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, the race still has plenty of political intrigue. Members of Topinka's comptroller office staff are also employed part time by a federally funded non-profit, which Simon says is suspicious. Topinka maintains her staff has done nothing wrong. Watch at Reboot Illinois to get filled in on all the details, minus the political spin.

5 of Illinois' Most Haunted Sites

Tue, 2014-10-14 11:03
October is in full swing and Halloween is only a few short weeks away. That can only mean one thing: goblins and ghosts and ghouls have arrived in Illinois -- or at least stories about goblins and ghosts and ghouls. has compiled a list of the most haunted sites in the state, including abandoned mansions, old hospitals and cemeteries with dubious pasts. These sites have high electromagnetic field (EMF) ratings, which some people say may indicate the presence of spirits. Check out five of them here:

1. St. Turibius Church

Photo credit:
5646 S Karlov Ave., Chicago, IL 60629

EMF rating: 73.7

At this old Roman Catholic church, the ghost of a priest named Father Joe Lechert lingers. It is said that after a church reorganization he was let go, and as a result, he died of a broken heart. Parishioners and altar boys say they have seen his ghostly figure and smelled his cigarette smoke.

2. Aux Sable Cemetery

Brown Road, Minooka, IL

EMF rating: 75.0

Aux Sable Cemetery is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a mischievous young girl who has been known to play pranks, such as lowering electrical car windows when the key is not even in the ignition. The site is also said to be a portal from a ghostly dimension.

3. 206 N. Broadway (Scutt Mansion)

206 N. Broadway St., Joliet, IL

EMF rating: 75.0

Built in 1882, the Victorian house at 206 N. Broadway St. was originally a private residence, but was a school and a boardinghouse for women until the 1970s when it again became a private home. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of a 19-year-old who was shot and killed at 2:30 a.m. during a party here. It was then purchased by Seth Magosky, a history buff and John Wilkes Booth impersonator who intended to turn the house into a museum, but he died suddenly in 2007.

4. Graceland Cemetery

Photo credit:
4001 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

EMF rating: 75.0

The spirit of Inez Clark lingers in this old cemetery. She was almost 7 years old when she was fatally struck by lightning at a picnic. There is a life-size statue of her on her gravesite, enclosed in glass. It is said that on rainy nights the statue disappears, and the apparition of a little girl can be seen walking around the cemetery.

5. Lincoln Theater

103 E. Main St., Belleville, IL 62220

EMF rating: 75.0

Lincoln Theatre is believed to be haunted by a prankster ghost. An apparition of a ghostly child has run up and down the stairs, a woman has appeared in the balcony, and tricks are played in the projection booth. Reports say there are seven ghosts who call this theater home.

See 45 other haunted Illinois sites at Reboot Illinois, including a theater where people say the ghosts of victims of a fire still hang around and a Chicago pub that is said to be the home to a cowboy ghost.

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Jobs Hypocrisy: Politicians Kill Opportunity With Limits On Street Vendors

Tue, 2014-10-14 10:06
Politicians talk about unemployment nonstop. But "jobs" have become just another talking point, a measure of political job performance, a launching pad to discuss bold new plans for economic development and schemes to use other people's money to prop up big business.

The truth is that suits in capitol buildings don't create opportunities -- people with vision create livelihoods for themselves and others when they are simply left alone and allowed to flourish.

And while many states, such as Illinois, continue to pump millions of tax dollars into big business, the fact remains that, nationwide, small businesses are responsible for two-thirds of all new jobs created in the last 20 years.

In Chicago, real jobs are staring city officials in the face. Their response? Make these opportunities illegal.

Chicago's ban on street vending is an example of the worst kind of "jobs" hypocrisy.

Here, vendors are incredibly limited in what they can sell, since handling or preparing food is illegal. In fact, they can only offer whole, uncut fruit.

For the privilege of selling this highly regulated, unaltered fruit, vendors must get a peddler's license from the city of Chicago, which costs $165 every two years. If you want to legally sell anything out of a cart other than fruit, you're out of luck.

These rules have forced low-income Chicagoans, primarily immigrants on the city's south and west sides, into a shadow market, where they work to meet high customer demand and make a living in constant fear of police harassment and hefty fines.

Despite this unfriendly environment, the city is home to hundreds -- if not more than a thousand -- street vendors, according to a spokesperson for the Asociación Vendedores Ambulantes, a local street-vending organization. These entrepreneurs sell everything from elotes to tamales to fresh fruit.

Politicians constantly bemoan Chicago's jobs climate and claim to want to put people back to work -- but the city's own rules kill street vendors' chances to make a living. Officials decry the presence of food deserts and many low-income residents' lack of access to nutrition -- but the city has made it illegal for street vendors to provide affordable meals. Chicago is rife with gang violence, and has seen 1,382 shooting victims already in 2014 -- but some in the police department and a handful of politicians instead find time to demonize and harass immigrants who are trying to make a living and support their families on their own terms.

These vendors, many of whom don't speak English, are left without a voice in this fight. They can't buy influence and they aren't politically connected.

Unfortunately, Chicago isn't the only city in the U.S. that places arbitrary barriers on street vending. Many other major cities also limit vendors' ability to do business.

In addition to strict measurement and equipment requirements for food carts, Dallas also allows mobile vendors to serve and sell no more than two food items at a time.

Louisville forbids food vendors from selling within 300 feet of a restaurant, cafe or eating establishment that is open for business.

These limitations matter. When cities limit what vendors can sell, they restrict food options and keep out would-be entrepreneurs from making a living. And when government restricts where vendors can operate based on the presence of brick-and-mortar restaurants, restaurateurs gain an unfair advantage that provides no benefit to the public and only serves to harm vendors' ability to provide for their families.

No government or politician can truly claim to be "pro-jobs" as long as laws that kill hopes and livelihoods exist within their jurisdiction.

Only McDonald's Would Advertise That Its Food Rots

Tue, 2014-10-14 09:56
McDonald's wants the world to know that yes, its food can rot.

In its latest attempt to woo health-conscious customers to the Golden Arches, the company has embarked on a campaign to debunk common perceptions about the quality and nutritional value of its food. At the top of the list was a the long-standing idea that McDonald's meals don't decompose.

The fast-food giant even hired Grant Imahara, the former host of the TV show “MythBusters,” to star in videos touting, for example, the quality of the beef used to make burger patties.

McDonald’s has struggled to defend its cheap, fattening fare since the 2004 release of the Oscar-nominated “Super Size Me.” A scene from the documentary, which tracks star Morgan Spurlock as he eats nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days, showed how McDonald’s french fries did not decay when kept in a glass container for eight weeks.

Compounding the bad press was a blog by a Utah man named David Whipple, who claimed to have photographs of a burger that remained unchanged since it was purchased in 1999.

On a section of the site launched to support the new PR push, McDonald’s refuted the idea that its food doesn’t rot. The company said that tests that show their food never decaying were performed in places where there wasn't enough water in the air to grow the mold and bacteria needed to decompose the food.

“You might have seen experiments which seem to show no decomposition in our food,” the company said. “Most likely, this is because the food has dehydrated before any visible deterioration could occur.”

McDonald’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn’t the first time the company has tried to fight back against the idea that its food doesn’t break down. In 2012, McDonald’s hired a doctor from the University of Guelph in Ontario to explain in a post on its Canadian website that the chain’s “hamburgers, french fries and chicken are like all foods, and do rot if kept under certain conditions.”

Visit Chicago's Worst Museums

Tue, 2014-10-14 09:47
That David Bowie exhibit at the MCA is cool as hell. George Lucas just announced that his museum is going to make our heads explode. And the Art Institute? TripAdvisor recently named it the #1 best museum in the entire United States, handily beating out institutions like the Getty Center, the Met and the Smithsonian.

Though the city easily deserves the top spot in the rankings, a fair number of Chicago museums deserve to round out the bottom. Here's a sampling of the least popular museums Chicago has to offer.

Museum of Service and Industry

Explore the Midwest's largest collection dedicated to your bar and waitstaff, featuring the Wall of Receipts, a bunch of servers named Sarah and The Interactive Undertipping Experience. Curated by Jon Taffer.

The "Dave Matthews Is" Exhibit

Before Bowie, the MCA partnered up with Wrigleyville to trace the evolution of Dave Matthews Band. Follow the band's journey from its early days as a not-quite-jam band to its current incarnation as the Jimmy Buffet of millennials.

Smith Museum of Stained Clothing

Sad about the closing of Navy Pier's Stained Glass Museum? Get over it while perusing the world's largest assortment of soiled garments, many of which belong to employees of Navy Pier.

CTA Transit Card Museum

Relive the excitement of having a working transit pass by traveling as far back in time to 2013, an exciting time in Chicago history that allowed passengers to board buses and trains without having to "Try Again." Your ticket also doubles as a MasterCard, which you will never use, because why?

Chicago Fire Festival Museum

Take a stroll through a wooden Victorian home that couldn't catch fire if two million dollars depended on it. (Note to time travelers: if you want to stop the city from burning in 1871, bring Redmoon Theater back with you to construct the buildings!)

Feel'd Museum

You haven't visited Chicago until you've been groped by local perverts! To experience the museum, ride any bus or train.

Spoiled Foodseum

Sponsored exclusively by the Four Corners Tavern Group, this trip down memory lane recreates the experience of going to a favorite Chicago bar or restaurant before it was bought out by a local conglomerate that trades the establishment's heart and soul for chicken wings and Miley Cyrus. Curated by Jon Taffer.

Divvy Museuum

An annual gift ($79) grants access to a members-only network of clueless, inexperienced cyclists.

Illinois Institute of Defeating Political Corruption

Opening date TBD.

Written by Greg Ott. This post originally appeared on The Second City Network.

Chicago Union Head Decides Against Mayoral Bid

Mon, 2014-10-13 18:41
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis — seen as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's most high-profile re-election challenger — announced Monday through a spokeswoman that she would not run for Chicago mayor in 2015.

Lewis, who often tussled with the mayor during the 2012 Chicago Public Schools teachers' strike, didn't specify her reasons and a statement released on behalf of her exploratory committee made no mention of a recent "serious illness" she disclosed publicly. "Karen Lewis has decided to not pursue a mayoral bid," said a statement from committee spokeswoman Jhatayn Travis. "Yet she charges us to continue fighting for strong neighborhood schools, safe communities and good jobs for everyone."

Lewis had been seen as the best shot so far to unseat Emanuel, who won his first term in 2011. For months, she had been circulating petitions and raising her profile at parades and political events, often harshly criticizing Emanuel and his policies. She even dubbed him the "murder mayor" because of the city's violence problem.

But earlier this month she was admitted to the hospital after experiencing discomfort. She was evaluated for a "serious illness" but CTU officials declined to say more.

Emanuel issued a statement after her announcement wishing her a quick recovery.

"I have always respected and admired Karen's willingness to step up and be part of the conversation about our city's future," said Emanuel, a former congressman and White House chief of staff.

Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who announced his bid to run earlier last month, issued a statement Monday saying he was praying for Lewis' health.

"For Chicago's sake, I hope this is not the last we see of Karen Lewis," he said in a statement. "I can understand the battle with illness, and how it can change the best thought out plans. But I also know that Karen is resilient and strong and will be back advocating for educators, students and Chicagoans in no time."

Political experts said only a handful of credible candidates would be able to mount a serious challenge at this point ahead of the Feb. 24 contest. Names floated in Chicago political circles included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has already said she planned to keep her current job and faces re-election, and Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Any candidate would have to be able to raise big funds and already have name recognition. Emanuel has already banked more than $8 million, while campaign finance filings show Fioretti had about $325,000 as of June. Also Emanuel's implied support from President Barack Obama as a former aide would be hard to counter in Obama's hometown.

However, political watchers said Emanuel's approval ratings have also been low.

"It's a mixed bag," said Chicago political consultant Don Rose. "Many people feel he's ripe for the picking."

The February election is nonpartisan. If no candidate receives over half of the ballots cast, there'll be a runoff in April between the top two candidates.


Follow Sophia Tareen at

The Nation's Most Rat-Infested City Isn't The One You'd Guess

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:16
New York City might be infamous for its massive -- and apparently growing -- rat problem, but it was a different city that took top honors in a new ranking of America's most rat-infested cities.

According to a Monday news release from pest control company Orkin, Chicago holds the distinction of being the nation's "rattiest" city.

And if the mere thought of a horrific rat problem isn't enough to make one's skin crawl, the rodents are about to enjoy a seasonal surge: "Fall is a prime time for commensal rodents to actively seek food, water and shelter when temperatures drop and before the winter weather arrives," according to Orkin. "Each fall, rats and mice invade an estimated 21 million American homes. It only takes a hole the size of a quarter for a rat to squeeze inside, and a hole the size of a dime for mice."

Below, the 12 worst cities from the new rankings, which are based on the number of rat treatments the company performed last year:

Ron Harrison, an entomologist and Orkin's technical services director, said in a statement that the ranking is dominated by major U.S. cities because they provide "ideal" conditions for rats and mice.

"Commensal rodents depend on humans and their resources to survive, so unless residents and city officials take proactive steps to prevent rodents, infestations can easily get out of hand," Harrison said.

Chicago, incidentally, has also topped Orkin's ranking of the most bedbug-infested U.S. cities the last two years in a row.

Read here for the full ranking.

H/T NBC Chicago

Run The Jewels Recruit Zack De La Rocha On 'Close Your Eyes (And Count To F--k)'

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:03
Run The Jewels is possibly the most dynamic, hard-hitting duo in hip-hop today, and Killer Mike and El-P's new "RTJ2" track, "Close Your Eyes (And Count To F--k)," combines their intensity with one of the loudest, angriest and most inspiring vocalists to ever pick up a mic: Zack de la Rocha.

The Rage Against the Machine frontman hasn't been too active in music since the 2008 self-titled EP of his project "One Day as a Lion." Despite any absence, La Rocha is as furious as ever, spitting shrapnel lines with Killer Mike and El-P that target everything from preachers and politicians to corporations and prisons:

Dump cases with face and the cop pleas when we seizing a pump
With reason to dump on you global grand dragons
Still pilin' fast, plus Afghani toe taggin'
Now they trackin' me and we bustin' back, see
The only thing that close quicker than our caskets be the factory

El-P spoke to BuzzFeed about how the collaboration came about, explaining that he and La Rocha have more unreleased music from years back:

“We worked on music together in the late '90s after Rage broke up, but it never came out,” El-P said. “We remained friends, though, and when I was in L.A. working on the record I bumped in to him literally on the way to the studio. He came by and listened to what we had and a day later was recording with us.”

In other Run The Jewel news, the duo's "Meow The Jewels" Kickstarter has now surpassed three-quarters of its goal. What was initially a crowdfunding package joke, the duo has promised to re-record their "RTJ2" album with "nothing but cat sounds for music," and all funds raised are being donated to a charity directly benefiting the families of Eric Garner and Mike Brown. Just Blaze, The Alchemist, Geoff Barrow, Skywlkr, Zola Jesus, Nick Rook, Baauer, Prince Paul, Dan The Automator, Boots and Solidified Sun have all vowed to help El-P with production if the project is fully funded.

Fans can now preorder "RTJ2," which drops on Oct. 28.

Jimmy John's Makes Low-Wage Workers Sign 'Oppressive' Noncompete Agreements

Mon, 2014-10-13 15:03
If you're considering working at a Jimmy John's sandwich shop, you may want to read the fine print on your job application.

A Jimmy John's employment agreement provided to The Huffington Post includes a "non-competition" clause that's surprising in its breadth. Noncompete agreements are typically reserved for managers or employees who could clearly exploit a business's inside information by jumping to a competitor. But at Jimmy John's, the agreement apparently applies to low-wage sandwich makers and delivery drivers, too.

By signing the covenant, the worker agrees not to work at one of the sandwich chain's competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John's. But the company's definition of a "competitor" goes far beyond the Subways and Potbellys of the world. It encompasses any business that's near a Jimmy John's location and that derives a mere 10 percent of its revenue from sandwiches.

From the agreement:

Employee covenants and agrees that, during his or her employment with the Employer and for a period of two (2) years after … he or she will not have any direct or indirect interest in or perform services for … any business which derives more than ten percent (10%) of its revenue from selling submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches and which is located with three (3) miles of either [the Jimmy John's location in question] or any such other Jimmy John's Sandwich Shop.

It isn't clear what sort of trade secrets a low-wage sandwich artist might be privy to that would warrant such a contract. A Jimmy John's spokeswoman said the company wouldn't comment.

The noncompete agreement is now part of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed this summer against Jimmy John's and one of its franchisees. As HuffPost reported in August, Jimmy John's workers recently brought two lawsuits accusing the company of engaging in wage theft by forcing employees to work off the clock.

Last month, the workers filing one of those suits amended their initial federal complaint to argue that the noncompete agreement is overly broad and "oppressive" to employees. (The noncompete language from the franchisee's agreement can be found here, in the online hiring packet for a different Jimmy John's franchisee.)

Kathleen Chavez, the lawyer handling the case, told HuffPost in an email that her two clients named in the complaint were required to sign the agreement as a condition of employment; one is an assistant store manager, the other a former delivery driver and assistant store manager. Chavez argued that, if enforced, the clause would dramatically limit the places a worker could earn a paycheck following a stint at Jimmy John's.

Chavez said the effective blackout area for a former Jimmy John's worker would cover 6,000 square miles in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Founded in 1983, the college-town staple now has more than 2,000 locations.

"It is disturbing this document is being used and it is our position that it has broad impact on thousands of employees," said Chavez, who is a lawyer with the Chicago firm Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil.

Chavez used the example of a student who works at a Jimmy John's in Illinois during high school. Once he leaves for college at the University of Alabama, he has been foreclosed from working just about anywhere in Tuscaloosa that serves a decent share of sandwiches -- including, in theory, the school cafeteria -- because most of those places fall within three miles of a Jimmy John's.

HuffPost knows of no instances in which Jimmy John's has actually enforced this covenant upon a worker, and the company wouldn't necessarily be successful if it tried.

But it's not unheard of for a sandwich chain to enforce a noncompete clause. Last year, a former Subway manager accused her old employer of trying to block her from starting a new job at another sandwich shop, citing a clause the manager signed in 2009.

The effectiveness of noncompetition agreements varies from state to state. If the worker fights the clause in court, the company generally needs to demonstrate that it's legitimately trying to protecting itself, and that the clause is reasonable and wouldn't put an undue burden on a worker.

"A guy who's putting a piece of roast beef between two pieces of rye bread -- the challenge for the employer is to show what the hell this person knows that will hurt you," said one expert on noncompete agreements, who asked not to be named since he isn't involved in the case.

"Without making a judgment about Jimmy John's, I would say the lower you go down the food chain of employees, the question becomes a little more pressing: What is your legitimate business reason here?"

A company in this position may feel there's little to lose by inserting such language into an agreement. Even if the clause failed to hold up in court, the very possibility of limited employment opportunities could dissuade certain workers from rocking the boat -- like, say, those who are trying to unionize their Jimmy John's sandwich shop.

HuffPost readers: Have you been asked to sign a noncompete agreement for a low-wage job? Tell us about it.

Here Are The 20 Best Small Cities For College Students, According to AIER

Mon, 2014-10-13 14:33
Boulder, Colorado comes out on top as the best small metro for college students.

The American Institute for Economic Research compiled data from various metro areas across the country, comparing data on how students live there. They took information about student life, culture, economic health and opportunity. As AIER says, "The people students meet, the places they go, and the jobs they may hold are essential supplements to formal education."

Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, came in second, with high levels of academic research and development per student and percentage of workers in "innovative" fields.

In third place, Ann Arbor, Michigan reported both a high percentage of college-educated residents as well as a high student concentration.

See the full list here:

Man Stabbed Elderly Woman 4 Times Because She Was Black, Prosecutors Say

Mon, 2014-10-13 13:59
A suburban Chicago man has been charged with attempted murder and a hate crime after he allegedly stabbed a 79-year-old woman inside a grocery store because she was black.

Prosecutors say Pol Danilov, 26, told police that he attacked the victim on the morning of Oct. 10 at Walt's Food Centers in Homewood, Illinois, because her being elderly and black made her an "easy target," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Danilov was arrested at the store, and a knife with a 5-inch blade was found in his possession. Prosecutors say he has a history of animosity toward African-Americans.

The victim was stabbed four times and suffered a punctured lung during the attack, according to the Associated Press. She is expected to recover.

Bail for Danilov has been set at $500,000.