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How A High School Teacher's Road Trip Changed The Course Of Art

Fri, 2016-01-08 09:20

The term outsider art was officially coined in 1972 by Roger Cardinal in his book of the same name. "I believe," Cardinal wrote, "that a paramount factor in the critical definition of the creative Outsider is that he or she should be possessed of an expressive impulse and should then externalize that impulse in an unmonitored way which defies conventional art-historical contextualization."

Years before the genre had a title, however, a high school teacher in Evanston, Illinois, found himself, along with his then wife, on a somewhat eternal road trip collecting artwork for his Wisconsin farmhouse. He didn't know exactly what he was looking for, but he certainly had a type. Unusual, obsessive, raw, impassioned -- the kind of thing you'd be more likely to find at a thrift store or an abandoned house than a museum or gallery.  

Today, almost 50 years later, Carl Hammer is the owner of one of the most beloved outsider art galleries in the country, and probably the world. Yet when he began his quest for odd artworks, not knowing the extent to which it would shape his life, Hammer preferred the term grassroots art to outsider. 

"I taught at a school that was very diverse, and it was kind of a slogan at the time -- grassroots this, grassroots that," Hammer explained in an interview with The Huffington Post. "We had just lost Martin Luther King Jr., we had lost our president, anti-Vietnam protests were everywhere. People were getting back to what was valued by the hippies at the time, this wanting to drop out of society. It was time to get back to real feelings about things. It was about discovery, recognizing an innate goodness about life and everyone, inclusively."

Hammer extended this same sentiment to art, privileging objects made from raw human emotion over those made in response to certain concepts, trends or historical movements. Many of the artists Hammer was interested in were not even self-conscious enough to refer to themselves as artists. They were simply people who, in his words, "had so much creativity they didn't know what to do with it." They created fiendishly, for no other purposes than self-expression and self-discovery, their quickly proliferating brainchildren overflowing at an unstoppable pace.

"There wasn’t an antique shop, thrift store, resale shop, auction that I didn’t haunt," Hammer continued. His teacher's schedule afforded him a healthy amount of free time -- weekends, summers and breaks, during which he could travel.

"I remember the excitement I felt one day driving up in Northern Wisconsin. I'm driving down the road and there’s this house that is covered from top to bottom, spilling onto the grounds of the property, with these strange, ethereal figures -- half soldiers, half angelic -- and all these birds and animals. We went up to the windows and the house looked abandoned, but it was filled with all these carvings."

The house turned out to be the residence of now famed outsider artist Albert Zahn, sometimes called the "birdman" because of his copious collection of brightly colored bird sculptures. Zahn's work will show as part of Hammer's booth at the Outsider Art Fair this year.  

In the early days, neither Hammer nor the artists he was discovering knew exactly what they were doing. The artists were making more and more work, covering their houses and yards with objects they felt were important without quite knowing why. For Hammer, he had to trust his gut. As a high school liberal arts teacher with little knowledge of the contemporary art world, he trusted his intuition when selecting artists he felt inspired to pursue. 

"Not having had the lessons about art appreciation I wanted to have had and probably should have had, it was about a discovery and fine tuning [a] process I’ve made on my own," Hammer said. "Those were kind of the early days of major discovery, giving definition to what outsider art was. The debate about what is and what isn’t continues." 

Eventually, Hammer opened a gallery in downtown Chicago, right in the center of the city's bustling artistic energy. Of course, most of the energy was, at the time, not related to what Hammer was exhibiting. "People refused to look at what we were offering as art," Hammer said. 

He recalled one particular exhibition "High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture," that took place at the MoMA in 1990 in New York City. The show divided the art world into tiered planes: high art -- the result of classical training -- and low art -- that of indigenous cultures.

"I remember being insulted by the fact that they were categorizing art like this," Hammer said. "I had a considerable amount of animosity toward a philosophy that would create and perpetuate this kind of notion, about the self-taught artist being on a lower level; it just seemed preposterous to me."

For a while, Hammer knew his work was more at home in an antiques show than a gallery show. "When I would bring around the work of people like Bill Traylor or Mr. Imagination, people would be like, 'What the hell are you thinking?'" Hammer said. Now, the work of Traylor, a former slave known for simple yet incredibly accurate silhouettes of people and animals, is included in the Whitney's debut show "America Is Hard To See."

There was one group of artists, however, who appreciated the value of outsider art far before it was the norm: The Chicago Imagists. This artist circle, associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1960s, rejected the minimalism and conceptualism dominating the New York art scene at the time in favor of grotesque and fantastical figuration, comic-inspired explosions of bright colors and bad taste. 

It was the Hairy Who, a subgroup of the Imagists, who discovered outsider artist Joseph Yoakum, and adopted him into their milieu, including him as an unofficial member. They also fiercely collected the work of Lee Godie, a homeless woman who spent most days selling her paintings outside the Art Institute of Chicago, and is now one of the city's most treasured artists. 

Today Chicago could be considered the capital of American outsider art, serving as home to artists including Yoakum, Godie and arguably the most well-known name in the field, Henry Darger. Perhaps it's a coincidence that the Imagists were the first artists to realize the artistic value of the more unusual makers in their wake, or perhaps this acceptance made Chicago the outsider mecca it is today. 

"Slowly but surely things started coming together, people started celebrating outsider art and I was like, 'Woah, how is this happening?'" Hammer recalls. One huge influence was the 1982 Smithsonian exhibition "Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980," which caught the attention of The New York Times.

"Folk art, thus seen, is untaught art, and it is also uncorrupted art," the NYT review reads. "No one ever told these people what to do. Nor has their work been staled by exposure."

Looking back, Hammer can hardly believe the progress the genre has made. "We're looking at prices on a Darger or a Traylor that exceed anything I ever imagined," he said. "I sold my first Traylor drawing for $500. Now it’s probably worth a couple hundred thousand dollars. I’m talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money. That really is the ultimate statement of recognition." 

Hammer seems equally as beguiled by his own transformation from high school teacher to dealer and collector, guided by something powerful he still can't quite define. It's a funny kind of expertise, one without training or guidelines or rigid logic. "Something catches my eye and I don’t know exactly what that is," he explained.

To think that, on a whim, he became the first person to represent now-illustrious names -- it's hard to fathom. And yet, it all seems wholly appropriate given the instinctual nature of the artwork itself. "I have freed up my own thinking through this whole experience. My own way of looking at and accepting things has been transformed, enhanced, in ways I would never have guessed," Hammer conlcuded.

Carl Hammer Gallery will exhibit at the Outsider Art Fair, from Jan. 21-24, 2016, at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. 

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You're Not Believable as a Love Interest

Fri, 2016-01-08 08:21

Photo by Joe Mazza at Brave Lux Chicago

I'm a stage actor based in Chicago. I've been a working actor for 10 years. I have been very lucky in my career in many ways. I have worked with and for incredible people. I have also heard this:

-- "You really need to lose some weight if you want a career."

-- "You won't work until you're 40, because you're never going to play the love interest, but after that you'll work a lot."

-- "You would need to lose 20 pounds for the role."

-- "You're not believable as a love interest."

-- "You should really wear more makeup, and show your cleavage more."

-- "We can work with your body type, but if you are serious about this career you need to have your nose and teeth fixed."

-- "You don't have a commercial body type."

-- "They told us you were smaller."

-- "I mean, you're good-looking, but you're not beautiful."

There is more. There is so much more. This is just a sample. For the last 10 years, I have been conditioned by my industry to hate my body.

Not all of the above things were said with malice. Most of those individuals thought they were helping or didn't even realize they had said something inappropriate. Some of them were helping, and did help me land a role I wanted. It doesn't change the fact that I, an average-sized woman have dealt with so much sizeism and sexism in one of the last industries where you can discriminate against someone because of how they look. And if I've dealt with it, I know others have and that some have it worse, way worse.

The statement that bothers me the most is "you're not believable as a love interest," because it's a damn shame. I have played the love interest before. Being believably in love with another human on stage just happens to be my specialty. (Also, I take issue with the term "love interest." Men are never referred to in that way, even if the woman is the lead. But that's a different fight for a different day.) Am I not right for the particular love story you're telling? Great. But to say that I am not right to ever love on stage ever? Horseshit.

I just did the casting for a local Equity musical, and we saw all types of women for the female lead. Three of the women called back for the role that weren't the typical "love-interest type" actually thanked us for seeing them for a role they would never normally be seen for. I'm so glad that it made them happy, but I'm so upset that this is an anomaly. We need to do better by them. We need to be braver. Those of us who affect casting decisions need to be as brave as the actors bearing their souls in front of us.

So how do we change the game? Artistic directors, casting directors, directors, anyone involved with casting... we have to do better. Not for me; I'm fine. I have become less interested in being a "cog in the machine" and more interested in becoming a part of the solution. But we need to do better for those who come after me.

We need to diversify. If you are involved in the producing process, ask yourself, "Does my show have specific plot points related to race?" No? Then you should think about looking outside the caucasian race.

"Does my show have specific references to body type?" No? Then you should be open to other body types.

"Are there some roles in my show that could possibly be re-allocated for women to play?" Yes? Then think about switching the genders of those roles. And don't forget the trans community, the disabled community, the community that brings you into a new perspective.

Be actively inclusive.

And, don't expect these different groups to just show up; seek them out, invite them, include them. Do your due diligence and make your company one they feel welcomed to be a part of. It's worth the extra work.

Theatres wonder how to stay relevant -- how not to die off once their main audience literally dies off. This is how. We need to start casting in a way that looks like the world that we live in. Casting predominantly white and male is antiquated. It doesn't fly anymore. If we don't change with the times, we will become irrelevant. And worse, it's uncreative in a creative art form. We have so many more types of stories to tell with so many more different types of people. Let's do better.

And as for me? I'm taking my body back from this industry. It hasn't been mine for 10 years. I will no longer lose weight for you. I will no longer try to mold myself into what I think you want me to look like. I will no longer starve myself for a quick weight loss to please you. I will no longer change myself in any way for you.

When I take all the pressure to change myself away and I take all the negative feedback away, I realize that I actually like myself. When I stop worrying that if I speak my mind people will not like me or worse... dun dun dun... they won't cast me, I like myself a whole lot. This is my New Year declaration.

Follow Harmony's escapades at her blog: With Harmony

Find Harmony on Facebook: Harmony France

This post originally appeared on With Harmony.

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The Touching Story Of Why One Woman Went Home In A Homeless Person's Shoes

Fri, 2016-01-08 00:56

On a frigid evening last weekend, an Indiana woman gave her own winter clothes and shoes to a homeless person she saw on the street. In the end, however, the woman says she’s the one who ended up receiving the greater gift -- in the form of two wet and worn boots.

In a Jan. 3 Facebook post that’s gone viral this week, Kelly McGuire, 24, tells the story of the special encounter.

That day, she had gone to Chicago with her husband to watch a football game, she said. While en route to catch the train home, she spotted a homeless woman crouched down low on the street.

“[She was] trying to stay warm,” recalls McGuire, who said she felt inexplicably “drawn” to the stranger.

“I had passed countless amounts of homeless people all day but for some reason I was so drawn to this woman,” she wrote. “I told my friends to please wait for just a moment and I tried to quickly get back across the street to talk with this mystery woman.”

When McGuire got closer, she noticed that the woman -- whose name she learned was Amy -- had a cardboard sign. It read: “I am in need of winter boots and winter clothing items.”

Given the freezing temperatures, McGuire says that she had amply layered up that day, wearing “Under Armor pants and an Under Armor long sleeve shirt along with 2 additional pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 2 sweatshirts, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a coat, a hat, a scarf, and my favorite new pair of winter boots.”

McGuire said that she had taken off many of these layers while at dinner and had stuffed them into her bag. As she spoke to Amy, McGuire said she became convinced of what she had to do.

“I HAD EVERYTHING IN THAT BAG THAT SHE NEEDED. Shirts, sweatshirts, gloves, scarves, etc. The boots she was wearing were worn and were wet. Mine were warm and waterproof,” wrote McGuire in her Facebook post. “I handed her the bag of clothing and winter items that I had taken off … and my leftover pizza, and told her that I would like to give her my boots.”

McGuire says Amy “stood up and cried” at the gesture. “I sat down with her, untied my boots, and slid off the top layer of my fuzzy warm socks and handed them to her. She said they were the nicest shoes she's ever had,” wrote McGuire.

The story, however, does not end there.

McGuire says she’d been planning on walking back to the train in just her socks, but Amy had something else in mind.

“I started to walk away and [Amy] said, ‘I don't want your feet to be cold, can I give you my ‘old’ boots?’” McGuire wrote. “She who had nothing, offered me these boots. HER boots. I wore them all the way home … I just cannot stop thinking about her.”

McGuire says she hopes her story will remind people of the power of kindness. 

“I want this to be about Amy's sweet gesture, not my own,” she wrote in an update to the original post. “Thinking about how many people have seen this has sparked an idea in me. Can you imagine if that many people did even just one random act of kindness for someone? We need to truly be the change we wish to see in the world.”

H/T: ABC News

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Cop Accused Of Violently Assaulting A Pregnant Woman. For The Second Time.

Thu, 2016-01-07 18:00

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CHICAGO (CN) - A police officer accused of past misconduct faces a new federal complaint accusing him of raping a pregnant woman and threatening to arrest her if she resisted.

Identifying herself only as Jane Doe, the woman filed the complaint on Wednesday against Richard Jones and the city of Harvey, a south suburb of Chicago.

Doe, who says she is 20, says Jones began harassing her in June 2015.

The Harvey police officer allegedly added his phone number to her cellphone without her consent, and began calling her repeatedly. Doe says she did not answer his calls or messages.

In August, when Doe was visibly pregnant, Jones saw her at a gas station and made comments to her such as "You know how good you look," "I've wanted you since the first day I saw you when you were wearing that dress," and, "There are so many things I would like to do to you," according to the lawsuit.

The next day, Jones pulled Doe over for driving without a license and ordered her to follow him to a nearby train parking lot, she says.

He allegedly waved her into a secluded area behind the parking lot, then forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Jones then ordered Doe to bend over the car, where he raped her, ignoring her protests and the fact that she was pregnant, according to the complaint. She claims he threatened to arrest her if she did not comply with his demands.

Jones remains on the force, despite the fact that this is not the first time he has been accused of misconduct against a pregnant woman, Doe says.

In 2011, Jones allegedly caused 17-year-old Kwamesha Sharp to miscarry by kneeing her in the stomach and sending the ambulance away. A settlement in her case could cost the city up to $1 million, the Chicago Tribune reported last year.

The Tribune detailed Sharp's case in an investigation of policing in Harvey, Ill., a town it said provides "perhaps the clearest view of the breakdown of oversight" of police in Illinois, in a state already infamous for its lack of police oversight.

"This is Illinois, where the state-imposed ethical standards for a cosmetologist are far higher than those for a cop," the Tribune's report begins.

Sharp's allegations did not trigger any state review of the officer's actions that day, according to the Tribune.

Instead, a special police committee reportedly gave Jones one of 71 statewide bravery awards.

Recent evidence of the lack of police oversight in Chicago, and the uproar over the video of Laquan McDonald's shooting, has trigger major personnel changes in the city's police department and the Independent Police Review Board. The board allegedly fired one of its investigators last year for finding a police shooting unjustified.

But Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg, himself a part-time police officer in a neighboring town, has opposed an outside review of the department.

The U.S. Justice Department investigated the city in 2008 after dozens of rape kits were found unprocessed - and some of the men connected to those kits had raped again.

It concluded in 2012 that the city's "system for reporting, reviewing and investigating use of force is grossly deficient and creates a high risk of excessive force."

The Justice Department recommended that Harvey implement clear policies on the use of force, and expand its investigations of allegations against police officers. However, it is unclear if Harvey has adopted any of the suggestions.

The City of Harvey did not immediately respond to a request for comment made Thursday at noon.

Doe is represented by Ronak Maisuria with Erickson & Oppenheimer, the same firm that represents Sharp. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

This story was originally published by Courthouse News.

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Mack Herron's Death and Reverse Mortgage Anxiety

Thu, 2016-01-07 16:49

The late Mack Herron with his sister Barbara at their family home in January 2015.

Chicago native Mack "Mini-Mack" Herron used money he made playing professional football to help buy a house for his mother on the city's West Side in the 1970s.

The prospect of losing the home to an alleged reverse mortgage scam may have contributed to his death at age 67 last month, according to relatives.

"He was packing his bags," said Barbara Herron, younger sister of the former Farragut High School great. "I didn't know he was packing his things until after he had passed."

Herron first burst into prominence at Farragut, where he starred in baseball, basketball and track in addition to his gridiron heroics.

He continued to stand out at Hutchinson Junior College and Kansas State University, finishing fourth in the nation in touchdowns in 1969. He played professionally for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL and the New England Patriots, where in 1974 he set a single-season record for all-purpose yardage.

He used some of the money from his football career to help purchase the home in the 1800 block of S. Hamlin Ave.

Herron's years on the gridiron took a toll on his body, as did his drug use that led to repeated arrests. Barbara Herron said that at the time of his death her brother was diabetic and dealing with memory loss caused by a football-related head injury.

But he was also impacted by the strain of potentially being homeless, she said.

In 2010, Herron's mother Effie Herron had taken out a reverse mortgage on her home, which had been paid off for years.

Reverse mortgages are HUD-backed loans that allow homeowners 62 years or older to cash in on some of their home's equity. The mortgage is not due until the homeowner dies or the house is no longer used as a primary residence, but mortgage holders must pay insurance premiums.

Chicago businessman Mark Diamond allegedly convinced the elder Herron to take out the loan.

She was suffering from dementia when she signed the document, according to her daughter.

Diamond has been the subject of dozens of mortgage-related lawsuits stretching back decades. Many of the cases alleged that he targeted elderly black homeowners, many of whom were women, on the city's South and West Sides.

A number of the complaints stated that Diamond carried out a home repair scam in which he would convince his victims to take out a reverse mortgage to carry out needed repairs without explaining the terms of or responsibilities associated with the loan. He would then maneuver to get all of the money from the reverse mortgage and do little, no or shoddy repairs.

Other alleged Diamond victims include Lillie Hopson, a blind woman in her 60s, and Clyde Ross, a key figure in the Contract Buyers League on the city's West Side in the 60s who was caring for his son Tim, a wounded U.S. Marine.

Diamond could not be reached for comment, but through his lawyer Dennis Both had previously denied wrongdoing.

The elder Herron did not tell her children she had taken out the loan, so they were shocked to learn shortly before her death that the balance would come due, according to Barbara Herron.

Reverse Mortgage Solutions, Inc. was the mortgage provider.

Since 2012 the company has become the nation's third largest reverse mortgage provider after Bank of America and Wells Fargo largely left the market in 2011. The number of these loans Reverse Mortgage has granted has exploded from about 300 in 2012 to more than 3,000 in 2014, according to an analysis of HUD data.

After a series of letters the company initiated foreclosure proceedings against the Herron family.

The possibility of losing the home that had been in the family for decades troubled the former football legend deeply, according to his sister.

High levels of stress have been associated with negative health impacts in a number of academic studies.

Reverse Mortgage Solutions declined to comment.

Diamond had his own troubles last year.

The FBI raided his office in March.

In June Judge David Atkins granted an injunction requested by the Office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan against Diamond while a 2009 case her office filed on behalf of dozens of homeowners moves through the court system.

Still, some question why he has yet to face criminal charges.

In August Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a bill filed by Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16) that required counseling by government agencies and a three-day cooling off period between the lender committing to the loan and the homeowner signing it.

The law, which took effect on Jan. 1, also stated that in most cases the people who broker the mortgage will not be able to directly receive the money.

Herron said those measures could help others avoid the same predicament she and her older brother endured.

In December went to court and got a continuance until February.

Although expressing optimism that the case could be resolved, she noted that the change came too late for her brother, who died the week before the court date.

And her anxiety about the home that has been her family's emotional center and financial legacy remains.

"All our mother wanted was for us to have a house that she gave to us," Herron said. "Mack was able to help her to have a home. To lose it is saddening."

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The African American Holocaust

Thu, 2016-01-07 13:59

African American males are being attacked from every direction in America. If the police aren't killing them, then they are killing each other. In a 35 year timeframe, over 324,000 African American people were killed by their own race. This is one of the most serious challenges for this community. The numbers are unacceptable and more work needs to be done to address this crisis.

When it comes to the prison population across the United States, the numbers are very high for African American males. This represents a different kind of Holocaust for the African American people.

With all of the protest against police involved killings, one would think that the people would organize to stop the killings in the community. It appears as though we are sending the wrong message when it comes to police killings and killings within one's own race. If a police officer killed an African American male, it's a big problem. However, when African American males kill each other, it's just another statistic. Do not take this message the wrong way. The protest against police involved killings have been so effective that policy changes are being implemented nationwide.

If the protesters would put the same energy in demonstrating in the neighborhoods affected by violence, then this would be a monumental moment for the people. There appears to be some reluctance in addressing this issue on a higher level because of fear. It's easier to protest downtown or uptown, but protesting in the neighborhood against the violence would require a certain level of courage. Some people are not ready to confront would be killers. There is no media or national spotlight that comes along with stopping the Black on Black killings.

Hopefully, this article could serve as a wake up call for the entire nation. If people band together, anything is possible. A new year can bring forth positive change. The people who are interested in taking on this issue should be encouraged to work together to stop the carnage in the community. African American leaders have failed in this particular area and there is no real solution in sight. We need new minds to help reverse this epidemic of violence that continues to take lives at any given time. If you compare the killings to other epidemics like Ebola, you will see that the numbers of people killed by violence in the African American community are staggering.

It's time to do something different. Every year the same number of people are being killed in the African American community, especially in big cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and many more. The African American Holocaust is real. The majority of African American males are killed by their own people. The statistics also show that Caucasians and Hispanics are most likely to kill one another in the United States, but the numbers are very low compared to their African American counterparts.

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Taking on the Nuclear Goliath

Thu, 2016-01-07 12:45
"Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. And . . . as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

"So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

Uh . . .

These words, the core of President Obama's first major foreign policy speech, delivered in Prague in April 2009, now resonate with nothing so much as toxic irony -- these pretty words, these words of false hope, which disappeared into Washington's military-industrial consensus and failed to materialize into action or policy.

James Carroll, writing at Mother Jones in 2013, describes what happened in the wake of this extraordinary policy declaration:

"In order to get the votes of Senate Republicans to ratify the START treaty, Obama made what turned out to be a devil's bargain. He agreed to lay the groundwork for a vast 'modernization' of the US nuclear arsenal, which, in the name of updating an aged system, is already morphing into a full-blown reinvention of the arms cache at an estimated future cost of more than a trillion dollars. In the process, the Navy wants, and may get, 12 new strategic submarines; the Air Force wants, and may get, a new long-range strike bomber force. Bombers and submarines would, of course, both be outfitted with next-generation missiles, and we'd be off to the races. The arms races."

And the cause of global nuclear disarmament, once a dream with geopolitical cred, may wind up entombed in eternal apathy. As Carroll put it: "Nuclear abolition itself is being abolished."

But I refuse to believe that. What I do believe is that change of such magnitude simply cannot emerge from the actions of top-down leadership, even sentimentally sympathetic leadership like Obama's, until a counterforce for disarmament is able to stand eyeball to eyeball with world decision makers and the military-industrial matrix in which they operate.

Say hello to the Marshall Islands, the tiny, heroic island nation in Micronesia, with a population just over 70,000. This former U.S. territory, which still bears the terrible scars of 67 above-ground nuclear blasts between 1946 and 1958, when this country used it as an expendable nuclear test site, has engaged the United States -- and, indeed, all nine nations that possess nuclear weapons -- in lawsuits demanding that they comply with the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and begin the process of negotiating global nuclear disarmament.

Specifically, the lawsuits -- filed both in the International Court of Justice in the Hague and U.S. federal court -- are demanding compliance with Article VI of the treaty, signed by the U.S. signed in 1970, which reads: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

General and complete disarmament . . .

Do these words actually have meaning? Right now the Marshall Islands stand alone among the nations of Planet Earth in believing that they do.

The U.S. suit was filed in the April 2014 and dismissed as "speculative." This ruling was appealed, the appeal was contested, and last month the attorneys for the Marshall Islands filed their reply brief, challenging, among other things, the U.S. government's contention that an international treaty is the province of the Executive Branch to comply with (or ignore) as it chooses.

The brief is demanding that the Judicial Branch assert itself in this matter and rule on the island nation's claims that A) as a signatory to the treaty, it is owed U.S. compliance to negotiate disarmament in good faith and dismantle its own nuclear weapons cache rather than upgrade it; and B) U.S. failure to do so creates a "measurable increased risk of nuclear danger" for the Marshall Island (and, of course, everyone else on the planet).

There's no clear time frame for what will happen next, but at some point a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will either uphold the case's dismissal or call for oral arguments to proceed.

"Under the treaty they are obligated to do what they said they were going to do," David Krieger, president of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which is working with the Marshall Islands on its case, said to me. The case alerts the public to how its interests are "being jeopardized by the failure of nuclear-armed countries to fulfill their obligations."

Today, as I write this, North Korea is claiming that it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb; if true, this is seriously disheartening news for the rest of the planet, and the claim is reaping universal condemnation. But the nuclear-armed nations aren't condemning themselves for doing the same thing. Clearly, such enormous power is difficult -- if not impossible -- to give up on one's own.

Is there a force for peace that can break this impasse? A tiny, wounded nation, which is still reaping the consequences of being forced to serve as a nuclear testing ground, says yes there is. The challenge is real, not symbolic. It's also unprecedented. Multiply their effort by the hopes of almost everyone on the planet and maybe we could produce a leader who means what he says:

"So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

- - -
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


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Illinois Ranks Among Top 5 States for Domestic Outbound Moves

Thu, 2016-01-07 11:10
The St. Louis-based moving company United Van Lines recently released its annual "National Movers Study," which shows Illinois ranked among the Top 5 states in terms of domestic outbound migration -- for the seventh straight year.

United tracks its customers' state-to-state migration patterns each year. Out of the nearly 9,500 Illinois household shipments handled in 2015, 63.2 percent were outbound moves. Only New Jersey and New York fared worse, at 66.6 percent and 64.6 percent, respectively.

You can find an interactive map of United's state-to-state migration patterns here, which includes reasons for customers' inbound or outbound moves, such as retirement, job and lifestyle, among other things.

We also take a look at the latest domestic migration data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as an analysis by Truth in Accounting and the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University.

Let's just say you can't blame it all on the weather.

NEXT ARTICLE: Number of Illinois medical marijuana patients, dispensaries grow

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Dear Gov. Snyder: You Have to Go to Jail

Wed, 2016-01-06 19:38
Dear Governor Snyder:

Thanks to you, sir, and the premeditated actions of your administrators, you have effectively poisoned, not just some, but apparently ALL of the children in my hometown of Flint, Michigan.

And for that, you have to go to jail.

To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven't figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.

But you did. Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison -- but you decided that taking over the city and "cutting costs" to "balance the budget" was more important than the people's health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders.) So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River -- a body of "water" where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years. And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to "clean" it -- which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint's aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people's taps. Your callous -- and reckless (btw, "reckless" doesn't get you a pass; a reckless driver who kills a child, still goes to jail) -- decision to do this has now, as revealed by the city's top medical facility, caused "irreversible brain damage" in Flint's children, not to mention other bodily damage to all of Flint's adults. Here's how bad it is: Even GM won't let the auto parts they use in building cars touch the Flint water because that water "corrodes" them. This is a company that won't even fix an ignition switch after they've discovered it's already killed dozens of people. THAT's how bad the situation is. Even GM thinks you're the devil.

Maybe you don't understand the science behind this. Lead, in water -- now, bear with me, this involves a science lesson and you belong to the anti-science party, the one that believes there's not a climate problem and that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs 6,000 years ago. Lead is toxic to the human body. There's no way to fully eliminate it once it's in your system, and children are the most damaged by it.

By taking away the city's clean drinking water in order to "cut costs," and then switching the city's water supply to Flint River water, you have allowed massively unsafe levels of pollutants and lead into the water that travels in to everyone's home. Every Flint resident is trapped by this environmental nightmare which you, Governor, have created.

Like any real criminal, when you were confronted with the truth (by the EPA and other leading water experts across America), you denied what you did. Even worse, you decided to mock your accusers and their findings. As I said, I know you don't like to believe in a lot of science (after all, you used to run Gateway Computers, and that, really, is all anyone needs to know about you), but this time the science has caught up with you -- and this time, I hope, it's going to convict you.

The facts are all there, Mr. Snyder. Every agency involved in this scheme reported directly to you. The children of Flint didn't have a choice as to whether or not they were going to get to drink clean water. But soon it will be your turn to not have that choice about which water you'll be drinking. Because by this time next year, if there is an ounce of justice left in this land, the water you'll be drinking will be served to you from a tap inside Jackson Prison.

I am calling upon my fellow Michiganders -- and seekers of justice everywhere -- to petition U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking her to arrest you for corruption and assault (i.e., the physical assault you committed against the children of Flint when you knowingly poisoned them).

Yesterday, the federal prosecutor in Flint, after many of us had called for months for this action, finally opened up an investigation into the matter. Now we need your arrest, prosecution and conviction.

And who will be cheering on that day when you are fitted with a bright orange jumpsuit? The poor and minority communities of Michigan who've endured your dictatorial firing of their mayors and school boards so you could place your business friends in charge of their mostly-black cities. They know you never would have done this to a wealthy white suburb.

I welcome all to look at the appalling facts of this case, which have been reported brilliantly here, here, and especially here by the great Rachel Maddow. Thank you, Rachel, for caring so deeply when the rest of the national television media didn't.

I'm asking everyone who agrees with me to sign on to this petition and call for your arrest, Governor Snyder. You are not allowed to run amok in my hometown like you have done. The children whom you have poisoned have to endure a life of pain and lower IQs from your actions. You have destroyed a generation of children -- and for that, you must pay.

It is time for you to go to prison. Out of mercy, I'll ask that you have in your cell your own personal Gateway computer.


Michael Moore

Flint native

Michigan resident and voter

For everyone wanting to sign on to this petition calling for the IMMEDIATE resignation of Governor Snyder AND for the FBI to arrest him, please sign the petitio here.

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Trust Rahm?

Wed, 2016-01-06 18:35
"Mayor Rahm's "trust" problem, huh? You wanna help him with that?" The cop narrowed his eyes, looking me over hard as he handed back my ID. "Back of the line is 'bout half a block south down Clark Street."

"Half a block?"

"Yep," said the cop. Whole lot of people want to give the Mayor advice. Eight, nine hundred a day."

"Nine hundred people a day got advice for the mayor?"

The cop chuckled. "You can call it advice."

Taking my place at the back of the line. January in Chicago. Like always, it was you and the cold, bitter wind. But the line moved fast. Talking with folks in the line, I asked the lady in front of me why she was here. She took a deep breath and spit out, "To tell him to resign! Tell him he is finished! Tell him he's kaput!" I asked her what would happen then. Instead of answering she said, "Well, why are YOU here mister smartypants?"

"I'm here to help him with his trust problem. I tried to help him with finding jobs for people so they wouldn't keep shooting grandmothers and babies. Tried a few different ways of getting my book Finding Work When There Are No Jobs to him so we could put it to use. Even included him in the book. But I never heard back. So I thought, maybe he has a bigger problem than unemployed Chicagoans. TRUST! I'd help him with his trust problem. And that's why I'm here.

The lady said, "He's doomed. But you're crazy." Then she turned around and didn't speak to me again for the next three hours as we wound our way up five floors of City Hall to the mayor's office.

Around 4:00, after an all day wait, I got to the front of the line. An army of shining bright twenty-somethings with clipboards was greeting people with the news that the Mayor was in an important meeting but that they could help us. I drew Laci. Wide-eyed, blonde and eager to serve.

"Laci, it's nice to meet you, but I thought this was where we got to talk to the mayor?'

Cocking her head, face welling up with concern. "I totally understand. I get that. You're frustrated. You love Chicago. You don't feel safe on the . . ."

"Laci, no. I'm fine. I'm just here to help the mayor and I thought he'd be available. Does this mean he isn't seeing ANY of the thousands who have waited in line these past few days?"

"Oh, no! He's seeing lots of people!" Then lowering her voice, in fact I think he's in a meeting with my Dad right now."

"Who's your . . .oh never mind. We'll try and do it this way. Can I give you the message about how to help with the trust problem and you can tell him?"

"Sure! Just a few questions. Who sent you?"

"Um.. nobody sent me. I just wanted to help."

"Well that might be a teensy problem. Ahh wait. I know. Even if they didn't send you, do you know anybody who might umm. . . recommend you to the mayor."

"Sure, lots of people would . . ."

"Ok. Like, I mean people like in government or business or something?"

"Well, I went to high school with a lady who was a law professor at Harvard and taught President Obama."

"Gosh, that might be too long ago,"

"O.K. I was housemates in college with the daughter of a former federal judge and congressman. Pretty respected guy."

She shook her head

"Oh I know! My uncle ran for mayor! It was in the 80's but . . ."

She brightened and started writing on the clipboard till I said, "Course he was a republican . . ." And she dropped her pen. "OK, tell you what. Can you sum up really fast how you will help the mayor with his trust problem? You seem like a nice guy and you remind me of my grandfather. So you tell me, I'll tell my boss and she might tell the mayor. 'K? Now how can you help the mayor with his trust problem?"

The Trust Equation

"The problem with trust is that it means something different to everyone. What's needed is a common way to think about and even measure trust. Can't manage what you can't measure, right?

"I guess so. . . but how do you measure trust?"

"Start thinking of trust as an equation. Start with:

Trust=Reliability + Credibility. Or T=R+C.

Reliability means I can consistently count on the person. Credibility means I believe the person knows their stuff.

Then add 'I.' "

"What's the 'I' stand for? "


"Oooo. I don't think. . ."

"Laci, trust is personal. Can't be mass-produced. So now you have T=C+R+I. Got that?"

"I went to Wharton. I get it!"

"Great Laci. Now we have the top line."

"Numerator! So, what's the denominator?"

The bottom line is SI. Self-interest. You can have all the credibility, reliability and intimacy in the world. But when it's all about ME, no one will trust you. So the beauty of the trust equation is that you can use it to figure out all sorts of things. You can figure out in a common language what it takes to build trust. You can even figure out what is MISSING in building trust."

"So, you invent this?"

"Oh goodness no. Google the names Maister, Green and Galford. You can get the details."

"If the Mayor ever saw this, what would he do with it? Maybe call in one of his consulting companies?"

"He could. Or he can call me. I could put a few folks together and we can begin building trust again. Real trust. The kind you can measure. Of course I'd charge nothing like the connected consulting companies would charge. I'd be much, much cheaper. Do you think that would be OK?"

"Gosh, said Laci. No one's ever asked me that before."

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Professor Threatened With Firing Says Wheaton College Is Changing The Rules

Wed, 2016-01-06 15:19

CHICAGO (AP) -- The professor of a Christian college who asserted Christians and Muslims worship the same God said Wednesday that her views are in line with the suburban Chicago college's mission and disputed university accounts of interactions with administrators who've taken steps to fire her.

Larycia Hawkins, who's Christian, was placed on leave at Wheaton College in December after posting her views on Facebook. She also wore a headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims. College officials placed her on leave in December for having inconsistent views with the college's "doctrinal convictions." On Tuesday, they said she refused to participate in "clarifying conversations" about theological issues and initiated termination-for-cause proceedings.

However, Hawkins disagreed with that notion during a news conference Wednesday at a downtown Chicago church where she received backing from religious leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Hawkins, a political science professor, said she met with administrators several times after the Facebook posting and provided statements explaining her beliefs which she believes line up with the college's mission. Hawkins said she was told further discussions weren't required, but college officials then changed their requirements and said she would have to participate in two years of ongoing conversations during which time her tenure would be revoked. She said university officials advised her to get an attorney, and the next communication was the notice of termination proceedings.

"The rules changing, the goal post keeps moving. And I said, 'I have dignity, I've answered your questions and my statement stands,'" she said Wednesday.

Students, alumni, professors and clergy members from several faiths spoke Wednesday in support of Hawkins, with Jackson comparing her to Rosa Parks. Hawkins, who has been at the university since 2007, detailed her religious upbringing in Oklahoma as the granddaughter of a pastor.

She defended her views, saying that she believed Muslims, Christians and Jews were all "people of the book."

College officials have said they had had frank conversations with Hawkins on doctrinal issues as they pursued the possibility of reconciliation with her but that she "has stated clearly her unwillingness to participate in such further clarifying conversations."

A university official did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Wednesday.

The termination process involves a hearing before a faculty committee and a decision by the college's board of trustees.

Nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend Wheaton College, which is roughly 30 miles from Chicago.


Follow Sophia Tareen at

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AARP Announces The Year's Best Movies For 'Grownups'

Wed, 2016-01-06 14:27

Can't decide what movie to see? Want to make sure you pick something you can watch with the entire family? Well, we can help with that.

AARP just announced the winners of its Annual Movies For Grownups Awards. This is the 15th year the association is helping to kick off awards season by honoring achievements in cinema most relevant to those over 50. 

And there's something for everyone, no matter your taste -- from comedies, like "The Intern" starring Robert De Niro, to fast-paced action films the whole family can enjoy, like "Creed," which features an incredible comeback by Sylvester Stallone. 

A few of our favorite actors and actresses got special nods, too, all of whom will be honored at the awards show on February 8th, hosted by comedian Kathy Griffin. 

Check out the complete list of winners below and make sure you check out these award-winning performances at home or in the theatre, of course. 

Also on HuffPost:

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Illinois' Members of Congress React to Obama's Executive Actions on Firearms

Wed, 2016-01-06 10:49
President Barack Obama's proposed executive actions on gun violence were met with mixed reactions from Illinois politicians on Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, opposition and support for the measures fell along party lines.

Following Obama's address to the nation, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., held a press conference with Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) in Englewood, one of Chicago's most crime-ridden neighborhoods, during which they praised the president's steps to strengthen and enforce gun laws.

Durbin pointed out that Chicago led the U.S. in gun deaths with 468 in 2015, and that the number of shooting victims increased 13 percent over the year to a record 2,939.

"Go to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as I did just a few months ago. Ask them the following question: When you go to the most violent sections of the city of Chicago -- where the most gun incidents and crimes are taking place and you gather the crime guns and check out where they came from -- what do you find? Forty percent of the crime guns in the deadliest sections of Chicago come from gun shows in northwestern Indiana," Durbin said. "Why? There's no background check. They sell these guns in volumes and they sell ammunition. These gangsters fill up the trunks of their car, drive across the state line into the city of Chicago and you know what happens next. They are sold to anyone who can put the money up for the purchase and then they turn into deadly weapons."

"It will still take an act of Congress to close the gun show and Internet loopholes once and for all and to require background checks for all commercial gun sales nationwide," he added.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk on Sunday, before Obama unveiled his plan, seemed to avoid the partisan divide in a tweet.

Here are some statements from other Illinois politicians, including U.S. representatives, in reaction to Obama's executive actions.

NEXT ARTICLE: Bruce Rauner plans $480 million in borrowing for road, bridge construction; cites "long-term benefit"

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Michael Madigan Sees Major End-Of-Year Fundraising Surge

Tue, 2016-01-05 14:49
When we last checked the finances of the biggest Illinois political committees two months ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Republicans he supports appeared poised to enjoy a huge fundraising advantage over their Democratic counterparts in 2016 Illinois General Assembly races.

Rauner's own candidate committee, Citizens for Rauner, had $19.6 million on hand and Turnaround Illinois, an independent expenditure committee he controls and which is dedicated to helping Republican candidates, had $2.6 million.

Among the Top 10 biggest political committees statewide, they held the No. 1 and No. 4 positions, respectively. Democratic Majority, a fund controlled by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, made the list at No. 10 with $1.5 million while Senate President John Cullerton's Senate Democratic Victory Fund was No. 7 with $1.7 million.

These figures are important because Illinois campaign finance law, while limiting amounts that individuals can donate in each election, allows candidates and political parties wide latitude in sharing their wealth among each other.

Rauner's donation of $10 million to his own campaign fund on New Year's Eve 2014 was a signal of his commitment to follow his own election victory with help for Republicans seeking seats in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

As 2015 came to a close, though, Madigan made a fundraising surge that, while not coming close to Rauner's $19.6 million, showed that the financial race leading up to November had just begun.

In December, four political committees chaired by Madigan -- Democratic Majority, Democratic Party of Illinois, Friends of Michael J. Madigan and 13th Ward Democratic Org -- raised $3.4 million. Together, their funds now total $9.1 million.

Madigan does not have the vast personal fortune that Rauner has accessed freely to bolster his fund (Rauner put $38 million of his own money into his election campaign), but his control of four political committees allows him to seek multiple contributions from the same donors in the March primary and November general elections.

Rauner's most frequent targets in his Turnaround Agenda -- unions and trial lawyers -- have been especially active in supporting Madigan's committees. The Chicago Tribune reported that "(m)ore than 68 percent of the political money that moved to Madigan in 2015 came from organized labor, trial lawyers and law firms."

As those donors mobilized, they helped Madigan gain fundraising momentum in the final month of 2015. Here's a look:

Next article: Rauner task force outlines 27 recommendations for local government consolidation in Illinois

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Rauner Task Force Outlines 27 Recommendations for Reducing Local Taxing Bodies

Tue, 2016-01-05 14:27
With nearly 7,000 units of government, Illinois has about 2,000 more than any other state in the nation, resulting in a behemoth bureaucratic industry that costs state taxpayers upwards of $60 billion annually.

To address the glut of local taxing bodies, Gov. Bruce Rauner in February 2015 issued an executive order that commissioned the Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates to find ways to reduce the number of local government units in Illinois and provide homeowners with property tax relief.

At the DuPage County Mayors and Managers Conference in Oak Brook on Monday, the task force's chairwoman, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, in consultation with Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies, presented Rauner with 27 recommendations outlined in a 400-page report she says could streamline local government efficiency, reduce costs to taxpayers and lower property tax rates.

"Our recommendations are designed to empower Illinois citizens and to allow local officials to lead by tackling consolidation, shared services and unfunded mandates on a case by case basis dependent on the needs of each community," Sanguinetti wrote in a letter to Rauner.

From the Daily Herald:

"Today is great day for taxpayers of Illinois. This is a critical document," Rauner said.

"We can transform the future of our state with this document. These recommendations can save billions of dollars every year," he said. "This is major, major transformation we're talking about."

Critics of the report, particularly members of public unions, say several of the recommendations, such as more local control over collective bargaining and repealing or reforming prevailing wage requirements, would hurt working-class families by driving down wages and benefits.

More from the Associated Press:

Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, said the Chicago Democrat has supported efforts to consolidate local governments in the past. But she said attaching measures that would weaken labor unions could derail those efforts.

"They are tough to pass even in the purest form," she said of government consolidation proposals. "Recommendations that include anti-union poison pills make passage nearly impossible."

*Illinois Office of the Comptroller (IOC), U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Governments (COG), Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR)

Here are brief summaries of the 27 recommendations from the report.

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15 Tips to Help You Survive Harsh Winters From a Chicagoan

Tue, 2016-01-05 12:29

Harsh, cold winters have the ability to freeze you to the core. After living in Chicago for the past 27 years, I'm starting to think of myself as an expert in how to survive winter, no matter how cold and icy it gets.

And through trial and error over the years, I've learned what methods work, which are worth some extra money, and what to avoid. Here are my tips.

1. Run Your Fans on Low, Backwards

Warm air rises, right? Well instead of spending your hard earned cash to heat up your home just to have the air rise up and out, turn those fans on to help push the warm air back down to where you are. Most fans have a setting on the side that can be switched for the winter. It sounds like it wouldn't do much to help, but trust me, it does.

2. Invest in Good Wool Socks

Seriously, the one is important. If your feet are cold, your entire body will feel cold. Wool socks are expensive, but even partly made of wool is worth it. And if they're slightly thicker, that is even better. I tend to try to buy hiking socks of medium thickness, even if they end up being on the pricer side. And if you feel you can't justify the money to have a bunch of these, having just a couple pairs for the really cold days will be more than worth it.

3. Slippers Are Not Just For Old Ladies

Speaking of warm feet, slippers are a must during a cold winter. Especially in any room that isn't carpet. My favorites are the tall Muk Luks. They are worth the money, very cozy, and help keep your legs warm as well.

4. Get a Space Heater For the Bathroom

There is nothing worse than taking a nice hot shower just to get out to a freezing bathroom. But a small space heater turned on a few minutes before a shower will make the experience feel much more like a spa. I usually pick out the clothes I want to wear after the shower and have them in the bathroom as well. That way I can get out, get dressed, and still feel warm and toasty.

5. Schedule Fun Winter Activities

This tip may not keep you warm physically, but it will mentally help you get through the cold times. If you have a favorite activity that you can only do in the winter, make sure to schedule out some time for it. For example, I love ice skating. And as much as I hate being cold, I still look forward to this activity every year. It helps me tolerate the cold coming when I know I can bundle up and get out on the ice soon.

6. Don't Skimp on a Coat

In Chicago we don't mess around with coats. They should be heavy and go down to your knees. A hood is also a must to keep the wind off your neck. Just like socks, at least partially wool is my favorite option. Down can be great as well.

7. Become Best Friends With Your Crock Pot

Throwing a bunch of ingredients together just to come back to a hot, delicious meal for dinner is a great feeling. And hot meals are appreciated so much more on cold nights.

8. Make Sure Your Boots Are Made For Walking

If you've gotten this far into the post, I'm assuming you're also from a chilly climate - and so you know how easy it is to stay inside all day long on the couch, curled up in your blanket burrito. But sometimes you have to go outside (or if you're like me, you start to go crazy without a good long walk under your belt). So make sure your boots are not only tall and warm, but they will also stand up to the test of long walks through snow, slush and salt.

9. Light Some Candles or Get Your Fireplace Going

While candles don't give off much heat, and a fireplace can actually make your home colder in the long run - having either of those near you will make you feel warmer, even if you technically aren't. I'm not sure the exact science behind it, but I think simply our brains see fire and think heat, making us feel warmer. My favorites are Woodwick Candles - they combine the two!

10. Dress in Layers

Layers trap heat between them and so even a couple thin layers will work better than one thick one. Especially if you're located in a town like Chicago, where the wind can be brutal.

11. And Tuck Your First Layer In

This may sound silly, but you will not believe how much it helps. I always wear a tank-top under my clothes during the winter and if I'm going to be outside I will tuck it in. That helps create a seal with your first layer of clothing trapping heat in and wind out.

12. Forget Fashion For a Bit

No, this doesn't have to go for every day in the winter obviously, but if you plan on being outside for more than just a short time, forget being fashionable. This may be different in other cities, but I know in Chicago we can always tell who isn't from the area when they're dressed for looks instead of warmth in the winter. And you know what doesn't look cute? Goosebumps and frostbite.

13. Drink Plenty of Warm Liquids

Having a hot cup of tea does wonders when I'm cold and just can't seem to warm up. And having a hot mug is a perfect way to warm up cold hands. I tend to drink out of mugs more than normal cups as soon as fall hits. And I always laugh when I see people using the cardboard sleeves on their coffee cups - what is the point?

14. Dress Your Bed For Warmth As Well

Flannel sheets and a second blanket are must haves. And if you're generally always cold like I am, invest in a Heated Mattress Pad. And then come back to thank me after you do. Mine is my favorite winter accessory. I don't sleep with it on, but I do turn it on a few minutes before crawling into bed and it is perfect. On extremely cold days, I can usually be found laying in bed with a good book and it turned up.

15. Spend Time With Someone Who Loves Winter and Isn't Always Cold

So clearly you shouldn't count on me for this one... but if you have a friend who loves winter and is generally positive about the season, spending some time with them could help. The emotions of others effect us, so if we surround ourselves with those who jump for joy every time it snows, we may start to dread the snow and cold a bit less.


Alexandra is a Chicago area blogger at Her writing includes life advice, random musings, and details about her family's journey into urban life in Chicago. Check out her latest post Free Chicago Museum and Attraction Days 2016.

She can also be found on the following social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin.

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Evidence In Darius Pinex Shooting Was 'Intentionally' Hid: Judge

Tue, 2016-01-05 08:16

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CHICAGO (AP) — A top city of Chicago lawyer stepped down after a federal judge accused him of hiding evidence in a fatal police shooting, the latest allegation of wrongdoing amid ongoing scrutiny of how the city deals with such cases.

Separately, the city agency that investigates police shootings vowed greater transparency, saying Monday that it would start divulging some details of active cases as it tries to bolster public confidence in the process.

Since November, Chicago has been dealing with fallout from the release of a video showing a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald. The video prompted protests and led to a wide-ranging civil rights investigation of the entire police department by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Monday's 72-page opinion from U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang was part of a civil lawsuit brought by relatives of Darius Pinex, a black man, who was shot and killed by police during a 2011 traffic stop in Chicago.

The officers, Raoul Mosqueda and Gildardo Sierra, said they opened fire as Pinex refused orders and put his car in reverse. The officers had said they stopped Pinex because his car matched a description they heard on their police radio of a car suspected of involvement in an earlier shooting. But records emerged after the trial began that officers weren't listening to the channel broadcasting the radio traffic about the suspect's car. The judge said a city lawyer "intentionally concealed" that evidence.

The judge on Monday tossed a jury's finding in April that the police shooting was justified, ordered a new trial and instructed the city to pay attorney's fees to the plaintiffs.

"Attorneys who might be tempted to bury late-surfacing information need to know that, if discovered, any verdict they win will be forfeit and their clients will pay the price," the judge wrote. He said Jordan Marsh, a senior corporation counsel, also later lied about when he was aware of the evidence.

The judge also accused the law department, which defends city employees accused of wrongdoing, of shoddy record-keeping, saying it contributed to the problem in the Pinex case.

#Chicago Judge Chang’s 72-page Order Sanctioning 2 CityofChicago attorneys in #DariusPinex wrongful death suit

— PamIam (@ChgoCitizenPam) January 4, 2016

The city law department announced Marsh's resignation later Monday, saying it "does not tolerate any action that would call into question the integrity of the lawyers who serve" Chicago. It also said it was reviewing its training and evidence-gathering procedures.

But a lawyer for the Pinex family, Steve Greenberg, said Marsh's actions reflect on the city law department as a whole. He accused the department of not acting quickly enough when it realized its attorney wasn't forthcoming about critical evidence.

"It shows the city hasn't just fought to protect officers, it also fights tooth and nail to protect its lawyers," he said. "I don't think they cared that (Pinex) got killed, they didn't care what the truth was and they didn't care they cheated (with the evidence)."

A city law department spokesman said he did not have a way to leave a message for Marsh seeking comment. And there was no public telephone listing for a Jordan Marsh in Chicago.

Also Monday, the head of the Independent Police Review Authority — which is responsible for investigating complaints of excessive force by officers — told reporters that greater openness about ongoing investigations would be a point of emphasis as she tries to win the lost confidence of Chicagoans, many of which believe the agency has operated for years to bury police wrongdoing.

Sharon Fairley said IPRA still won't be able to divulge all the details about investigations while they are underway. But she added: "The difference is we are no longer going to be standing by a hard-and-fast rule that we will never discuss the details of an investigation until it's complete. I think that position is now untenable."

In McDonald's case, IPRA and city officials cited the ongoing investigation in not making the video public for more than a year. It was released Nov. 24 following a state court order. It showed Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times as he walked away from police carrying a folded 3-inch knife.

Protests sparked by the video included some directed at IPRA, which was created in 2007, ostensibly with the independence it needed to hold officers accountable. But in practice, it rarely ruled against officers.

Fairley also announced several other reforms, including the hiring of a new chief of staff, a new chief investigator and the creation of a new community outreach position.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, to head IPRA last month after her predecessor resigned amid the growing protests.

Fairley also announced Monday that she was not aware of any video of another recent disputed police shooting.

On Dec. 27, police fatally shot 55-year-old Bettie Jones, who authorities said was killed accidentally, and 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who police said was being "combative." Both were black.

Attorneys for Jones' family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city Monday. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed last week by the father of LeGrier.


Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at

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The Hateful Eight

Mon, 2016-01-04 15:49
Today, December 30th, with just two days left in 2015, I saw the worst movie of the year. I don't usually do Worst Movies of the Year lists, but if I did, I would put The Hateful Eight at the top. And, not just for this year, but as the worst movie of the first fifteen years of the 21st Century. With a high degree of confidence that its status will be unshaken during this century's remaining 85 years.

It is a misogynistic, racist, misanthropic, rather disgusting, unlikeable movie. The latest product of an increasingly bizarre, though well funded, racially perverse imagination. An imagination that once made interesting, unique movies, filled with odd, though compelling dialogue, fun homages to older films, and fresh takes on Alex and his droog-ish ultra vi.

Now, that imagination seems demented, woman hating, eerie in its emphasis on racial violence, and one that revels not just in violence, but in ISIS quality cruelty.

An utterly self indulgent ego-pic with no one telling, whoever Tarantino is becoming (I'm thinking the moth metaphor from Silence of the Lambs), that spending millions to imitate a Ben Hur style Hollywood 'roadshow', only works when you've made a Ben Hur quality movie. All the programs, musical preludes, intermissions, and using 70mm, don't make a claustrophobic, closed room, murder mystery How the West Was Won.

In essence, in Hate8, when a bounty hunter meets a bounty hunter coming through the snow, outrunning a blizzard and, one supposes, a plot, the graphic punching of a helpless woman in the face with NBA shot clock regularity, and using the 'N' word while playing Clue in a cabin improves your odds of being the worst movie of the century immeasurably. To ask an audience to maintain wakefulness as characters are introduced again and again with 'I know you', 'You know me' let's allude to a secret past, is asking a bit much, given the lack of a single compelling character. Something might be said for the Ennio Morricone score, but it's quickly obvious that the Director prefers the sound effect of a bearded man punching a handcuffed woman, with her grunts and gasps of pain more than any Morricone musical magic.

It's three hours of endless, moronic, high school level dialogue, flitting here and there and everywhere to introduce the desperadoes, allude to hidden truths, create fantastical backstories, and sew the seeds for race hate, all in 70mm, creating as much suspense as the suspense created within the movie as to whether the Director was going to film one more scene of the front door being nailed shut again, and again, and, yes again.

There are odd asides that highlight an outhouse, stew recipes, favorite chairs, and Abe Lincoln. There are inexplicable scenes of letters read and reread, paperwork verifications surrounding bounties, warrants, affidavits, and permissions to hang someone, which suggest that the Old West was as bureaucratic the county DMV. For some, perhaps playing three hours of Quentin Cabin Clue with The Prisoner, The Bounty Hunter, The Cowboy, The Hangman, The Mexican, The Sherriff, the Confederate, and The Stagecoach Driver might be just the thing. But, alas, in Hateful Eight there is but one room, weapons aplenty, but no rules other than the Director's whims, and, without rules, there is only movie anarchy.

Which brings us to the racial animus that drives much of the movie and is driven by Tarantino's last two movies' avatar: Samuel L. Jackson. An avatar which allows QT to use the 'N' word with impunity and without responsibility. He is the vessel for QT's bizarre views on the justified black on white violence that he revels in.

Perhaps, I shouldn't be surprised at the Director's increasing preoccupation with race hate and violence given that he grew up a slave in Mississippi, experienced the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and everyday racism his entire life.

Oh, wait; QT is a middle class white kid from LA?

No way!

As in Django, Tarantino uses Jackson to spew his repugnant fantasies on race in America, riffing violent episodes to justify revenge violence. And, he ups the black on white cruelty to include the gratuitous torture and oral rape of a naked young white man, by Samuel L. The tortured and raped man, is the son of The Confederate (played by the great Bruce Dern), one of the characters trapped in the cabin by the blizzard (and, in Hate8 by an agent who didn't read the script).

Between serving as QT's Django, and now his Hate8 stand in, having to 'N' it up frequently and gratuitously, one wonders what Samuel L. Jackson, a fine actor, thinks about it all?

The actress playing the McGuffin of this movie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, seems to exist to allow the Director to work out his obvious misogyny. She is punched, elbowed, thrown up upon, degraded, and continuously called a bitch or a whore. Beginning the movie with a black eye, she has her nose broken by an elbow, has blood and brains splattered on her face for most of the movie, is continuously threatened with beatings and death, and loses her front teeth by means of a vicious punch lovingly filmed and sound effected...if the same had been depicted happening to a horse, the movie makers would be picketed by the ASPCA.

I can't believe that Tarantino's support of progressive causes, and recent vitriolic statements about New York City's policemen and women have allowed him, in reviews, to skate on the grotesque misogyny of The Hateful Eight.

Misogyny, gleeful racial violence, an incoherent plot, inexplicable plot holes, rape, all in 70mm, and with a dandy little program to read during intermission...

What's not to like?

God, this was an awful movie. No one in the theater seemed to enjoy it, or even like best they endured it. There was no word of mouth leaving the theater, everyone was silent. No texting to friends about The Hateful Eight, cell phones remained in pockets. We walked out into the cold night, glad that we did not have to bear the burden of seeing the worst movie of the year for more than 48 hours. 2016 beckoned. Tomorrow would be another day.

Not realizing, that in its timeless worst-ness, The Hateful Eight's place in history could be a burden borne for the next eighty-five years.

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Chicago: Where Peace in the Bowling World Was Reached in 1901

Mon, 2016-01-04 14:59

One of the perks of being a pack rat is that an exercise as simple as sorting through a dusty drawer full of miscellaneous junk can turn you, ever so briefly, into a history detective. When you are the third generation homeowner (with a genetic predisposition to hoarding) of a big old house, purging is not as simple as throwing out clothes you no longer fit into or admitting to yourself that you aren't ever going to use your Beddazler or ThighMaster again. In fact, if you aren't careful, you could accidentally end up tossing out a piece of highly amusing Second City history. Case in point, I might have overlooked a 24k gold-plated lapel pin from the 1929 American Bowling Congress meeting held in Chicago.

What is the American Bowling Congress?

Truly if ever there was an organization that needed to be formed for the good of humanity it was the American Bowling Congress. Here's why...according the Encyclopedia Britannica the American Bowling Congress was organized on September 9th, 1895 in New York City in order to end the feud between Midwestern and East Coast bowlers.

So thank you American Bowling Congress for preventing a second war between the states.

In keeping with the times the American Bowling Congress was an elite club open only to Caucasian men. But not just any with a passion for the game of bowling, men with a desire to see the game standardized and woven into the fabric of American society, men who were committed to cultivating majestic handlebar mustaches and mutton chop sideburns and keeping women and their hysterics away from the least until 1993 when the fairer sex was finally allowed to join. Just as a side note, 1993 was a big year for women: the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna confirmed that women's rights were human rights and they got to join the American Bowling Congress. Yay women! But I digress; back to bowling...

The rift between these bowling brethren further deepened as New York bowlers were going renegade and making up their own rules and regulations. Obviously this chaos...nay, anarchy had to be stopped and thus the American Bowling Congress was formed.

In 1901 Chicago cemented its place in history as one of the nation's leading bowling centers when the American Bowling Congress held its inaugural national men's tournament on the lanes in the Welsbach Building on Wabash Avenue in the Loop. These gatherings were held from 1901 on to discuss and maintain the integrity of the game of bowling and further the agenda of bowling enthusiasts everywhere. Balance and order were restored and bowling as the harmonious union of man, ball, lane and rentable shoes as we know it today was born...

Now how this lapel pin came to be in my possession I know not. Well I know this belonged to my grandpa or at least it was in his cufflink box, but I sincerely doubt that my own grandfather had attended the congress when he was six years old. Thus I can only assume that it belonged to my great-great uncle, George Brown, who was the treasurer for the railroad worker's union in the 1920s and 1930s and had a big three story house on Wentworth St. over on the South Side of Chicago. He was a mover and a shaker in 1920s Chicago and carried a thousand-dollar pocket watch and loved a good cigar. When you look at his life as a leader of a union in Chicago, owner of a big house during the Great Depression, with lots of cash in his tailored trench coat and a Ford Model T in his garage I think you can draw a pretty clear conclusion as to what he was...professionally speaking of course.

The moral of this story is that you never know what kind of treasures you are going to find in your own house or what amusing antics you are going to learn your ancestors might have been up to. And if there is one more takeaway here boys and girls, it's that bowling was once so highly revered that the tchotchkes at their formal proceedings were 24k gold.

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My 2016 Wish List: 3 Ways to Improve Illinois' Criminal Justice System

Mon, 2016-01-04 14:58
Fairness and safety are the cornerstones of criminal justice, and Illinois saw several important reform victories in 2015. For one, a new law requires that law-enforcement agencies that make use of body cameras must use them when responding to calls (but turn them off when interviewing crime victims, witnesses or informants). Politicians also signed on to create a pilot program in Cook County to ensure that certain indigent jail residents charged with property offenses don't languish in jail because they can't afford bail.

But if Illinois wants to ensure public safety while addressing problems such as ex-offenders' difficulty re-entering the workforce and overcrowding in jails and prisons, there's plenty of room left to improve.

1) Sealing reform - Many ex-offenders in Illinois are barred from entering their chosen professions - or simply from securing well-paying jobs - after serving their time. Without hope for a brighter future, it's not hard to see why half of ex-offenders end up back behind bars within three years. Record sealing gives reformed ex-offenders a chance at re-entering the workforce in a meaningful way. One of the main barriers to good work that ex-offenders face is the scarlet letter a criminal record leaves on a job application, even after an ex-offender has served his or her time. In 2013, Illinois passed a law allowing ex-offenders to petition to have their records sealed, meaning only law enforcement and certain types of employers, such as schools, can see an ex-offender's criminal record. But a person is only eligible for sealing after waiting two to three years from the end of his or her sentence, and not all ex-offenders are eligible. Illinois can break the cycle of crime and truly give ex-offenders a second chance by broadening sealing and eliminating wait times altogether.

2) Decriminalization - Violent crime is down, and while the state's prison population has dropped slightly, it's still far too high. Illinois' largest category of offenses is drug crimes - 18.9 percent of the state's incarcerated prisoners are serving time for violations of either the Controlled Substance Act or the Cannabis Control Act, according to research from the Illinois Department of Corrections. In 2012, Chicago City Council voted to move to civil instead of criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Nearly three years later, the rest of the state almost followed suit. The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, in spring 2015 that would have punished possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana with a fine of $100 to $200, and would have lowered penalties for possession of between 30 and 500 grams of marijuana. That bill fizzled out, but Cassidy has reintroduced a revised version she hopes will earn the governor's signature and become law. This version of the bill would make possession of up to 10 grams punishable by a fine - that means people caught with minor amounts of marijuana will be ticketed, not needlessly sent to jail, at great cost-savings to the state residents who pay for prisons and jails.

Moving to civil from criminal penalties means the state won't continue devoting resources to keeping a number of nonviolent offenders behind bars, and will go a long way toward achieving Gov. Bruce Rauner's goal of reducing the state's prison population by 25 percent come 2025.

3) Bail reform - It's time to make "innocent until proven guilty" mean something. Most inmates in local jails haven't been found guilty of any crimes - 90 percent of inmates in the Cook County Department of Corrections are awaiting trial. Others are there because they can't afford to pay their bail. This type of system results in absurdities such as a pregnant 30-year-old in jail for 135 days for stealing two plums and three candy bars, according to information released by the Cook County Sheriff. Cara Smith, Chief Strategy Officer at the Cook County Jail, said this woman, to whom she referred as M.H., was still in jail for this offense when M.H. gave birth to a baby girl she named Miracle. M.H.'s stay in the jail cost taxpayers $19,305.

Instituting a more reasonable system means taxpayers can avoid paying to lock up someone who doesn't pose a safety risk pre-trial, and who likely shouldn't have to experience exposure to jail in the first place. While it's important to keep dangerous criminals off the streets, a person's freedom before he or she has been convicted of a crime shouldn't depend on how much money he or she has. Alternatives to money bail already exist: A court notification program in Multnomah County, Oregon, reduced failure-to-appear rates by 45 percent in two years. In Washington, D.C., defendants can't be held in jail because they don't have the ability to pay bail - yet 88 percent of all arrestees appear for their court hearings.

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