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Federal Authorities Investigating Chicago Public Schools Contract

Wed, 2015-04-15 19:40
Federal authorities are investigating whether Chicago Public Schools improperly awarded a contract to a training academy that formerly employed the head of the school system, Catalyst Chicago reported on Wednesday.

The investigation focuses on a $20.5 million no-bid contract awarded to a development academy for principals and other school officials by CPS in 2013. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, whom the Chicago Tribune reported has not been accused of wrongdoing, worked at the academy before being hired by CPS in 2012.

Catalyst Chicago noted that the no-bid contract raised questions in 2013 because of its size.

"No-bid contracts should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances that demand highly specific skills in a short time frame,” Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, told Catalyst Chicago in 2013. “It's too early to say if this one qualifies. But Catalyst has raised enough other questions to merit a review by the CPS inspector general."

The CPS inspector general did in fact open an investigation into the contract, but declined to comment to Catalyst on whether that investigation was still ongoing.

The Tribune reported that CPS is considering appointing an interim CPS CEO while the investigation was ongoing.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a press conference on Wednesday that he was not sure exactly what the focus of the investigation was. When asked whether he still had confidence in Byrd-Bennett, whom he appointed in 2012, Emanuel said that he couldn't comment until he had more information on the investigation, according to the Tribune.

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Twice the Burden: Low-Wage Employers Cost Taxpayers Billions in Public Assistance and Lost Tax Revenue

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:57

On Tax Day, while working Americans contribute their part to keeping the country running, many companies that pay low-wages will exploit a loophole in the tax code that that allowed them to write off taxes on over $66 billion in executive compensation pay between 2007 and 2010.

The way the U.S. tax code is written now, performance-based bonuses and stock options for chief executives can be deducted from taxable corporate income. The more performance-based compensation the businesses pay to their executives each year, the less the companies owe in federal taxes.

That's why Democrats in Congress are trying a two-pronged approach to increase wages and boost the economy. There is now a bill in the works to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour -- an increase that meets with the approval of an overwhelming number of Americans, including a majority of Republicans.

Democrats are also proposing to fix the tax code by ending tax giveaways for companies that don't increase wages for their rank-and-file workers. Instead of rewarding companies for giving millions of dollars in stock options to their CEOs, an updated tax code would encourage companies to pay their workers a livable wage.

Companies like McDonald's and Walmart rake in billions in profits each year and return nearly as much to their shareholders. Their employees, however, are paid so little that accepting charity or public assistance becomes vital to making ends meet. As a result, taxpayers subsidize these companies' low-pay practices to the tune of billions of dollars each year in low-income public programs.

In fact, low wages in the United States cost taxpayers a stunning $153 billion on average every year. Underpaid workers are forced to rely on public assistance programs like food stamps, Medicaid, the earned income tax credit and Children's Health Insurance Program to support themselves and their households, according to a report this week by the University of California Berkeley Labor Center.

That's why thousands of workers are joining together on April 15 to call for $15 an hour and the right to form a union. These workers -- including fast-food, home care, retail, child care, and airport workers and adjunct professors -- are the same people who turn to public assistance to make ends meet. They are striking at a time of record income inequality -- created in part because wages have stagnated for the last 30 years, and also because the tax code has shifted to benefit the wealthiest and burden the rest of us.

The day of strikes builds on growing momentum for higher wages nationwide. It is expected to be the largest mobilization by workers seeking higher pay in U.S. history. Launched just two years ago, the "Fight for $15" movement has helped set a new standard for wage increases in both the private and public sector. Recently,Aetna, First Green Bank, C1 Bank and Moo Cluck Moo all announced or began implementing minimum pay rates to levels that can make a difference in the lives of their workers. Cities and localities have also acted to substantially increase minimum wages. Seattle and San Francisco already began phasing in minimum wage rates of $15 earlier this year.

Responding to pressure from workers, companies like Walmart, McDonald's, Target, Gap, and others have raised wages -- though not by enough to cut into their workers' reliance on public assistance.

The thousands of workers who are striking on Tax Day are right to demand a greater share of the profits that corporations gain because of their labor. It's time to restore that fundamental promise of America that working hard will lead to a better life.

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What People Are Really Saying When They Complain About 'Black Lives Matter' Protests

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:32
Protesters gathered in cities across the U.S. on Tuesday, in the latest round of demonstrations against police violence, misconduct and mistreatment of minority communities.

In New York City, an estimated crowd of 400 participants marched across Brooklyn Bridge, on their way south from Manhattan to Brooklyn. A plainclothes policeman reportedly drew his firearm on a crowd of demonstrators after allegedly being attacked. Both officers and protesters reported injuries in the resulting fracas, which ultimately ended with 42 arrests.

In what has become a common display of disobedience at these demonstrations, protesters also reportedly hopped the bridge's pedestrian barrier and ran across vehicle lanes, snarling traffic. Similar scenes unfolded at protests around the nation Tuesday, as demonstrators streamed out into major thoroughfares and slowed or blocked cars from passing. These acts are almost always illegal, and the widespread disruption they cause has become a regular point of criticism, particularly from people outside the movement.

These resulting complaints and others, though, often tend to be shortsighted and selfish. Those complaining miss the broader point about why these protests are happening in the first place, and show that some people's support of this movement is entirely conditional on their not being personally affected by it in any way whatsoever.

Obviously, nobody likes to be inconvenienced, and particularly not during an evening commute, which in all likelihood sucks as it is. And yes, brunch might be more pleasant if it wasn't interrupted by someone reading off the names of African-Americans killed by police. We understand that some people feel these are massive intrusions on their lives. But maybe it's time they understood that this is what their complaints sound like.


"I'm fine with protesting, but why don't they protest in front of a police station or another approved location instead of blocking traffic?"


"I'm fine with protesting, as long as I'm not forced to see it, hear it, acknowledge it, be at all inconvenienced by it or challenged to do anything about it."


"Protesting is pointless. It doesn't make a difference."


"Protesting is pointless because I don't see any immediate change and my life is comfortable enough that I'm happy to continue accepting the status quo."


"I agree that 'Black Lives Matter,' but disrupting my commute will only turn me against these protests."


"I agree that 'Black Lives Matter,' but every little piece of my daily life matters more."


"I understand why people are protesting, but regular people would be more likely to support them if the protests didn't mess up their daily lives."


"I understand why people are protesting, but regular people were totally on the verge of being shaken out of their complacency until protesters inconvenienced them with their tactics. Pretty much, it's the protesters' fault that the public is still overwhelming apathetic."


"I support the right to protest, but why don't people get out and organize voters instead? That's how change is supposed to work."


"I support the right to protest, but can't people just trust that a system that has failed to address these injustices for decades will one day eventually fix them? Also, I choose not to pay attention to any efforts beyond these protests because I actually don't care that much."


“I know people are angry, but why don't they propose some solutions instead of just messing stuff up?"


"I know people are angry, but I haven't been paying any attention to the protesters' demands so I'll just pretend they don't exist."


"I'm against police brutality, but these protests only make people more sympathetic to police."


"I'm against police brutality, but any disruption to my daily life should be treated as a criminal offense possibly deserving of physical suppression and excessive force."


"I get that people are upset, but breaking the law in protest of other violations just seems counterproductive."


"I get that people are upset, but why don't they just ask politely for change? Also, I have absolutely no clue what civil disobedience is all about."


“Protests are a fundamental right, but I don’t like that they're costing cities millions of dollars in police overtime.”


“Protests are a fundamental right, but balance sheets are more important than #BlackLivesMatter. Also, I choose to ignore the millions of dollars cities spend settling police brutality lawsuits, or on arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people of color for petty crimes.”


"I'm against these injustices, but until #BlackLivesMatter becomes #AllLivesMatter, the movement won't experience widespread support."


"I'm against these injustices, but I can't support any movement that doesn't make me feel like I have a personal stake in it. Also, I totally don't see race or color."

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

9 Things The IRS Would Tweet On Tax Day If It Were Cool

Wed, 2015-04-15 16:23
The IRS is the hottest Twitter account since @CIA. At least, it could be.

Listen, you expect that the IRS's Twitter feed is not going to be very exciting, and THEN ... well, it's not. It's a pretty standard government social media feed. Heavy on info, light on fun. But we're pretty certain that if the IRS could let loose on social media, they would have a Twitter account that looks more like this:

Oh, also don't audit us, IRS, please and thank you.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Hardworking Americans Deserve Fair Wages and Full Benefits

Wed, 2015-04-15 15:56
The United States is the richest country in the history of the world -- and as a country we've never been richer. This is largely because American workers have delivered significant productivity increases to their employers. However, workers' wages have been stagnant or even declined for 35 years. It is harder today to get ahead and stay ahead -- to earn a good living that allows families to put enough food on the table, pay the rent or mortgage, get a quality education and even save a little for vacation every once and a while. We must ensure American workers get the long-overdue raise they deserve.

The Labor Center at University of California Berkeley just released a very sobering report this week. Despite working hard every week, nearly 75 percent of low-wage workers are forced to rely on Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Stamps and the Earned-Income Tax Credit. Well, today as we all know is Tax Day. Taxpayers should know it costs them more than $150 billion a year to fund these programs for working Americans because their wages are not nearly enough. These costs wouldn't be necessary if every worker received good pay and good benefits.

Back in my home state of Illinois, I have protested with the workers in the Fight for $15 -- and a union. Food service workers, home care workers, farm workers and other low-wage workers log long hours. They come home tired after providing services and producing goods that make our country stronger. They deserve fair treatment from their employers and they deserve a voice in collective bargaining.

For far too long, virtually every time Americans have been asked to make "tough choices," it has resulted in disproportionate harm for hardworking Americans and retirees. I believe that is about to change. I firmly believe this is a populist moment for our country. But we need everyone here to keep up the fight. We must organize. We must protest. We must cry out in a loud voice that America needs a Raise. We must keep working until workers in this country don't have to struggle to make ends meet.

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Egypt: There Is No Time Like the Present

Wed, 2015-04-15 15:10
This past October, amidst fear-based cries from all sides as to why I shouldn't, I left for Egypt for 10 days with one of my favorite travel partners. The itinerary was just what you would expect: Cairo and the Pyramids, a trip down the Nile, Luxor and its environs; a trip of one fabulous, mind-boggling ruin after another. I expected to be wowed by the ruins, I hoped to enjoy the food, and I anticipated having great weather. All true.

What I didn't expect, or even consider before leaving, was the Egyptian people themselves. Warm, educated, and hospitable, in every corner of every destination, the Egyptian people were welcoming, reasonable and gracious. To be sure, we walked a privileged existence while in Egypt, staying at glorious hotels (Kempinski and Al-Moudira) and on a sumptuous boat specifically used for the Nile (Dahabiyya). But we didn't do everything high end. We often ate at everyday type places because we wanted a sense for street food, although we did treat ourselves at Sofra Restaurant in Luxor.

Sphynx at Giza with no one in sight.

We also took the subway and taxis and walked every bit of Cairo on foot, including the Al-Qarafa slum built around the Northern Cemetery, just like we do in every major city we visit. In fact, it was our third day in Cairo, walking through Al-Qarafa, that I realized what a special, special people the Egyptians are. Clearly out of our element, people exited their makeshift homes to welcome us to their neighborhood. This kind of hospitality happened again and again. An Egyptian would share with you his last meal on this deathbed because being hospitable carries such honor.

Unfortunately for Egypt, due to the fear caused by upheaval in other Middle Eastern countries, tourism has fallen off dramatically and the economy has tanked. The Egyptian people are suffering dearly for it. When I asked about the biggest concerns for their country, all the Egyptians I encountered said jobs, not politics or religion. In my experience, at every ruin, temple or tomb, there were throngs of well-educated, knowledgeable and hardworking people -- people who had lost their jobs in government, university and the travel industry -- willing to share their vast knowledge of the sites and Egypt's history for 30 percent of what they used to be paid.

Pyramids at Giza, empty except for a few school children.

In one restaurant, the owner -- who pulled up a chair to smoke a hookah and chat -- explained that the garbage from his restaurant fed both a large family and some college students, and that people were vying and in line for his garbage. We took a taxi by a man who in no uncertain terms could only be called a great, or great, great grandfather, and was still working because he had to. The lack of tourism is crushing down on a country that depends on it for survival and it was heartbreaking to experience.

The flipside to this, of course, is great for the visitor. There were almost no tourists everywhere we visted, and we hit the biggies: the Cairo Pyramids at Giza, Valley of the Kings, the Egyptian Museum. The whole 10 days we saw only one American couple. There were a few French, and a few more Dutch (oh, those levelheaded Dutch!), but there were practically no tourists. If you can believe it, on our small, elegant Dahabiyya, a boat that sleeps 12, we sailed alone up the Nile. Wanting the business, the proprietor let the boat sail at a deficit, just to keep people working. At the Valley of the Kings, we were often alone in many of the crypts and at the Pyramids, there were mostly Egyptian kids goofing around on a day off school. The result was an incredibly precious experience of history and the ruins, which would have most certainly been dashed had there been gobs of annoying tourists. If there were ever a time to get up close and personal with the beginning of civilization as only seen in Egypt, it is now while it is still safe and empty.

A friendly hookah in Old Cairo.

One would think that the economic situation would have made people beg, but they didn't. They offered us private tours of the ruins and wanted to be hired, but no one begged. In fact, we were incredibly lucky with some outstanding guides, so much better educated than the job demanded, just pouring over us with history, facts and cultural tidbits. The only time people did ask something of us was when teenagers wanted to take pictures with us to show their friends on their phones. Seemingly, a picture with a Westerner is something of a celebrity sighting, making our time there only that more endearing.

And no, I never, ever felt unsafe. While the government situation could be considered unstable, how is this different than many other places around the world? The people were seemingly in harmony across all religions, as Christians and Jews do live in Cairo, albeit fewer of them. At the time we visited, there were some student demonstrations and some very undemocratic and random arrests, jailing many of them. Also during the time we were there, there had been shootings on the south side of Chicago, my city, and I wouldn't tell people not to visit Chicago. In fact, Chicago is a lovely city and I hope you visit. And there is no better time to visit Egypt than now.

On the deck of our Dahabiyya.

In short, for all the warnings that I would be in danger, that Egyptians don't like Americans and that I would be a target by doing the tried and true tourist attractions, it just wasn't true. Egypt, relatively speaking, is removed from the troubled areas of the Middle East and I found it to be calm and safe.

Below is the itinerary as put together by my travel partner, who really nailed the beauty and essence of Egypt is our short time period. We have tried to list as many of the places, contacts and websites from the 10-day trip as possible below. If you do visit or have been to Egypt recently and have any comments and pictures, feel free to share.

Karnak without a soul.

Day 1: Fly Chicago to Istanbul, Istanbul to Cairo, arrive late

Day 2: Walk from our stellar hotel Kempinski Nile in Garden City through the big city markets arriving at Old Islamic Cairo and the Khan el Khalili market, stopping for food in small cafes, and tea and hookah. We decide against eating stuffed pigeon.

Day 3: Pyramids at Giza with Abdel Sattar Abdel Kader (mobile: 002-0100 39 619 91) who was a wealth of knowledge, and has some great stories about regular life in Cairo. Visit the Citadel of Salah Al-Din and take lots of pictures with teenagers. Visit Al-Qarafa/The Northern Cemetery-turned-town across the highway, realizing that these people are nothing but warm and gracious.

Day 4: Visit the Egyptian Museum. Walk across the Nile to a more residential part of town, Zamalek, for a great lunch (Five Bells) and wander back amidst all the holiday partying along the Nile.

Day 5: Fly to Aswan. Met by the great Abdulla Yosef. Visited Philae Temple and the Aswan Dam before boarding our Dahahbiyya, the Zekrayaat boat, when we realize that we will be alone on a boat meant for 12. This boat is run by Ayman Simman, Djed Travel. After cruising up the Nile a bit, we visit Habu Temple -- where we are alone again! -- and the Temple of Kom Ombo. We now realize we have the greatest guide and the greatest gig.

Day 6: Continue up the Nile with great food, guides and service, visiting an old quarry, Gebel Silsila Tomb, Edfu Temple, and the Temple of Horemheb, then breaking for tea and a swim in the Nile in between. Spend incredible romantic night alone on the Nile under a full moon.

Day 7: Visit the Temple of Horus and El-Kab Tomb and arrive at dusk at the town of Esna with the call of prayer echo into the night. Visit the local market.

Day 8: Visit Esna Temple and make our way to Luxor, visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut and Colossi Memnon, and the Valley of the Kings: King Ramses IX, Ramses IV, Nobels Tomb and Sen Nefer Tomb. Settle in at the glorious Al-Moudira.

Day 9: Sleep in and lounge by the pool. Then, heading out on our own, we visit Karnak, falling upon the walking encyclopedia Mohamed M. Abdelraheem, a graduate of Cairo University's Egyptology Department, who knew something about every grain of sand at Karnak. As dusk fell on this beauty, we stop for tea and hookah in the local market, speaking with Osama Abd El Ghany . We then visit Luxor Temple, briefly at night, in pristine glory and falling upon a Christian guide named Gabrielle. We ate at the superb Sofra Restaruant and hopped on the overnight train to Cairo.

Day 9: Cairo, back at our phenomenal hotel Kempinski Nile. We intend on a day of rest and relaxation at the hotel pool followed by an evening of discovering Cairo's night-time downtown cafes, but end up spending it with the hotel doctor for a slight throat infection. Maybe swimming in the Nile wasn't the brightest idea?

Day 10: Fly Cairo to Istanbul, Istanbul to Chicago.

Enjoying several dishes at Sofra Restaurant with more on the way!

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Citizens Stand For Economic Equality With #BlackWorkMatters And The #FightFor15

Wed, 2015-04-15 13:48
Police brutality is not the only issue concerning black lives in America.

#BlackLivesMatters is a hashtag that has taken the Internet by storm and symbolizes a movement around the validation and protection of black lives around the globe. However, while the campaign includes the fight against many issues plaguing the African American community, one particular civil rights focus took the main stage on Wednesday: #BlackWorkMatters. In a push for racial justice, protesters took to the streets in cities across the country -- from New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Sacramento and New Orleans -- to demand a $15 per hour minimum wage and the creation of a union for fast food workers.

Black Youth 100, a non-profit organization focused on racial, social and economic freedom, released a video Monday explaining The Black Work Matters campaign -- also known as the Fight For $15 -- which calls attention to the disproportionate number of young black people who work in low wage jobs and the experiences they have in these positions.

“It’s a fight for the dignity of workers,” says Charlene A. Carruthers in the video, the National Director BYP100. “It’s a fight for workers to be able to collectively bargain. It’s a fight for workers to actually be in safe environments where their issues and their grievances can be heard.”

The mission of the campaign, which was also a part of Wednesday's protests, is to empower low wage workers to negotiate fair terms for their employment. Low pay and unsafe work environments plague jobs for parents and families that work in fast food and other low wage industries, according to BYP100 Chicago Chapter co-chair Janae Bonsu. “It’s inhumane,” she says.

“Before the fight 15 I didn’t think I had the right to stand up to my employer,” said Jessica Davis, a fast food worker and single mother of two. “I thought… the pay and the disrespect was something I deserved.”

Choosing between going to work or taking her children to the doctor is a decision Davis doesn't want to have to make based on money.

“A union would have someone fighting for us,” Davis explains. “Because right now we’re the only people fighting for ourselves. The fight for $15 gave workers like myself, knowledge, power...It really just gave us a voice, low wage workers a voice.”

Wednesday's protesters hope to achieve economic justice not just for the lives of low wage workers and their families, but the health of the entire American economy.

Take a look at the awesome turnout the Black Work Matters and the Fight For $15 rallies made Wednesday in the Tweets, Instagram posts and photos below.

The squad @BYP_100 NYC backyard building for tomorrow's #fightfor15. #blackworkmatters

— Arissa (@Riss_understood) April 15, 2015

I #FightFor15 because Black youth deserve a fair shot at a secure future. #BlackWorkMatters

— PrestonMitchum (@PrestonMitchum) April 15, 2015

Walked up on #FightFor15 protest in front of McDonald's demanding $15/hr. I wish the press would interview me;). They're calling this "wages slavery." Ahhh, nope. Not quite.

A photo posted by Anthony Bradley (@drantbradley) on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:19am PDT

"Half of lowwage wrkrs in Chi are Black. We're here to say that #BlackWorkMatters!"-Maxx, @BYP_100 #FightFor15

— Fight For 15 Chicago (@chifightfor15) April 15, 2015

An energized but altogether peaceful demonstration at the corner of #Amsterdam and 71st Street. A variety of issues perhaps clouding the overall messaging, as voices lobbied to #RaiseMinimumWage as part of the #Fightfor15, while also staging a #BlackLivesMatter 'die in.'

A photo posted by Jason Kurtz (@jskurtz07) on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:50am PDT

#FightFor15 #Burritos4Justice

— Smedley Butler (@Smedley_Butler) April 15, 2015

Albany's new crossing guard union is in the house! #FightFor15

— Citizen Action of NY (@citizenactionny) April 15, 2015

NYC CLC staff marshals preparing to lead marchers down Flatbush Ave. during this morning's #FightFor15 protest in Downtown #Brooklyn.

A photo posted by NYC Central Labor Council (@centrallabornyc) on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:38am PDT

.@banditelli it's going down in the UWS! #FightFor15

— Eric Mace (@erocmace) April 15, 2015

#FightFor15 is everywhere today: 1,000+ here at 62nd/Amst for a livable min wage in fast food, health care, retail.

— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) April 15, 2015

Outside of public housing in the #uws asking questions #fightfor15 #raisethewage #fastfoodglobal #Manhattan #nyc photo Alyssa Aguilera @vocalnewyork

A photo posted by Working Families (@workingfamilies) on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:06am PDT

3 Million New Yorkers work every day yet need government benefits to put food on the table #FightFor15

— Diana Richardson (@Vote_Richardson) April 15, 2015

#sf shutting down #fastfoodnation 4 #FightFor15, a union, & @YWU @jwjsf @jwjnational @SEIU

— Eric Mar (@ericmar415) April 15, 2015

#Fightfor15 protestors stage die in at #McDonalds on #UWS. Fast food workers fighting for $15hr and unions .

— Rocco Vertuccio (@RoccoNY1) April 15, 2015

The #FightFor15 is ON in Sacramento!

— Organize Sacramento (@OrganizeSac) April 15, 2015

#FightFor15 crowds marching north.

— Ivan Pereira (@IvanPer4) April 15, 2015

I believe that we will win! #FightFor15

— Maria Montano (@mmontano81) April 15, 2015

If we don't get it Shut it Down!! #FightFor15

— Jemere (@Turnup4mine) April 15, 2015

fast food workers just pulled a striker waiting for the bus!!!!! #FastFoodGlobal #FightFor15

— mindy isser (@mindyisser) April 15, 2015

#FightFor15 crowd holding die in outside McDonald's

— Ivan Pereira (@IvanPer4) April 15, 2015

#BlackWorkMatters protest with @StandwDignity on 4/15! #FightFor15

— Show Me $15 (@Show_Me15) April 15, 2015

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Six of the Best Illinois Bars Outside of Chicago

Wed, 2015-04-15 13:43
While Chicago might have the most famous bars of any other town in Illinois, other cities around the state have their fair share of watering holes, neighborhood joints and dive spots. Here are six great Illinois bars outside of Chicago, as compiled by Thrillist and accompanied by reviews from Yelp.

Fast Eddie's Bon Air


From Thrillist: First built by Anheuser-Busch in 1921, this local institution is all about cheap food -- 99-cent bratwurst and 29-cent shrimp, anyone? -- and watching live bands on an outdoor patio that resembles something you might find in Wrigleyville... only way less douchey. The Big Elwood on a Stick (marinated tenderloin) is a must. As is the people watching.

From Yelp: Fast Eddie's Bon Air is a true dive bar with a grill. The drinks and food, are both inexpensive. If you need a cheap date, this is the place. The decor is tacky, but the ambiance is still fun.

Rock Island Public House

Blue Island

From Thrillist: Though it's yet to reach it's second birthday, RIPH feels like it's been around a while (maybe something to do with the fact that its historic digs predate the Lincoln Administration). The 16-strong tap list rotates at a feverish pace (including one-offs and rarities you'd be hard-pressed to find in Chicago, or just about anywhere), the old-school juke box is impossible not to spend a few bucks on (ditto for the arcade games), and the picnic-tabled patio just feels like home. The occasional food trucks that hang out in front? Totally a bonus, as is the fact that it's super easy to get here on the Metra.

From Yelp: This is hand down one of my favorite bars. I love the Beer selection they have, also love that they have craft beer! Not a lot of places have good craft beer (especially, on tap) which is the best way to drink it. I think it is awesome that they have pinball machines (you don't see them around anymore), an old school juke box, and the staff is nice and friendly. Definitely, one of my favorite hang outs.

Hangar 9


From Thrillist: The old Hangar burned down, so they built this one resembling -- you know -- an airplane hangar, but with more modern touches and garage doors that open up to let the breeze in. This bi-level bar is known for top-flight local rock and bluegrass bands, but if you're not up for that, there's nothing wrong with sipping craft brews in the beer garden. Oh right, they have a beer garden!

From Yelp: This is a truly awesome spot and probably my favorite bar in town. They easily have the best tap selection in town every week. They also have the best music and sound quality of any place in town. The building itself is just awesome too, very modern. I'm a fan of the big door open in the summer to the patio. I'll give it 4 stars for the wait to get a drink when it's crowded and they have no kitchen.

Liquid Blues


From Thrillist: The town made famous by Groundhog Day should be as famous for this psychedelic dive, but it isn't. Sure, offbeat touches like lava lamps and beaded curtains are nice and kitschy, but what makes this place stand out is just how much fun it is. Throw in energetic live bands and a must-have Friday fish fry, and we dare you (double-dog, son) not to have a good time here.

From Yelp: Liquid Blues is a classic basement bar. They have a great selection of craft beers and the best fish fry in the county. Whatever your age, you will feel welcome here. Unpretentious, good tunes, and solid service. And one more thing... I've travelled the country and have yet to find anything that challenges their Mac and Cheese made with white whine, buttermilk, and white cheddar. It's the perfect winter time meal.

The Foundry


From Thrillist: If your local sports bar had a torrid affair with a Vegas sports book, the results might come out looking something like The Foundry and its 22 movie-sized projection screens oriented along the main wall in a way that'll feel familiar to anyone who's squandered money on the Bears in Vegas. While you can't bet on the human-based sports here, thereis an OTB. Oh, and a tobacco shop. So yeah, cigars, drinking, gambling... it's pretty close to Vegas. There's also pool, shuffleboard, and volleyball... so basically, if you're ADD, you'll fit in just fine here.

From Yelp: Love this place. Been here a dozen or so times over the last couple years. What I like is its a place multi suited for all types of people or groups. I've come here after dinner with my wife for drinks and to play Shuffleboard. I've come with a group of guys to watch football game and throw darts. Just the other day I came here with my 13 year old son to watch the afternoon Blackhawks game and we played Shuffleboard for a couple hours. Kids are allowed until 8pm. After that it's 21 and up.

The Blind Pig Co.


From Thrillist: You may've spent some fine nights in Champaign drinking whiskey Cokes for free because your friend was in Sigma Chi with one of the bartenders, but you no longer know any (present day) Sigma Chi's, and your tastes have progressed beyond well liquor. Enter The Blind Pig Co., which does some fine brewing in its own right, and also has a draft list stocked with the kind of stuff you never would've appreciated in college: Founders Rubaeus, Deschutes Hop In The Dark, and Stone Cali-Belgique. Just bear in mind that your recovery ability has also changed since college.

From Yelp: Lovely little pub-style establishment, plenty of space, extensive beer list. Definitely one of the finest places to get together with friends in town. Looking forward to my next visit!

Check out six more non-Chicago Illinois bar picks at Reboot Illinois.

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Natalie Westling Presents Every Tomboy's Guide To Being A Modern Lady

Wed, 2015-04-15 12:37
One badass chick has resurfaced The Ladies' Book Of Etiquette And Manual Of Politeness to show women how to nail the whole ladylike thing.

In a new video for i-D Magazine, 17-year-old model Natalie Westling reads from a 1950s etiquette book that describes itself as a "complete handbook for the use of a lady in polite society." Westling, however, puts her own spin on how to be a modern lady with style, grace and, of course, badassery.

Westling reads chapters from the book of etiquette aloud, which contain "full directions for manners, dress, conversation" as well as "rules for courtship and kitchen" for the true renaissance woman. Demonstrating each old school tip with a modern spin and a heavy dose of cool, Westling gives these outdated tropes a much-needed upgrade.

Here are a few of our favorite suggestions (ladies, take note):

Chapter One: “Dress”

Polish your silver and gold.

You must know how to sew.

Chapter Two: “The Regal Arena Of The Kitchen”

Make sure your man is well-fed.

Chapter 3: “Courtship And Manners”

Be a good listener.

Remember, always cross your legs in public.

Voilà! You're a lady.

Westling wraps up the video reminding every woman that a true lady "always knows her place."

Who run the world? Ladies.

H/T The Cut

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Curtis Granderson: Mo'ne Davis Should Be Compensated To Pay For College Education

Wed, 2015-04-15 12:17
On Jackie Robinson Day, New York Mets outfielder and three-time MLB All-Star Curtis Granderson joined me on HuffPost Live. Granderson, 34, believes that Little League superstar Mo'ne Davis should be compensated to help fund her college education down the road.

Curtis Granderson On Mo'ne Davis.

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Click below to watch my entire interview with Granderson.

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Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure to catch my NBC Sports Radio show "Kup and Schultz," which airs Sunday mornings from 9 to 12 EST, right here.

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Curtis Granderson: Shortage Of Black Baseball Players Is A 'Big Problem'

Wed, 2015-04-15 12:04
On Jackie Robinson Day, New York Mets outfielder and three-time MLB All-Star Curtis Granderson joined me on HuffPost Live. Granderson, 34, discussed the lack of black baseball players in the game today, the return of his teammate -- pitching phenom Matt Harvey, and the Mets' fans role call.

Click below to watch Granderson's take on a shortage of black baseball players.

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Granderson discusses pitcher Matt Harvey.

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Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure to catch my NBC Sports Radio show "Kup and Schultz," which airs Sunday mornings from 9 to 12 EST, right here.

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8 Women Share What Happened When Antidepressants Killed Their Sex Drive

Wed, 2015-04-15 11:56
Women are two and a half times more likely than men to take an antidepressant medication -- and for many, it's affecting their sex lives.

According to a Johns Hopkins health alert, 30 to 70 percent of people on an antidepressant will experience sexual problems as a side effect.

"This is not something that women are imagining," Lauren F. Streicher, a practicing OB-GYN and the author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever, told The Huffington Post.

Streicher explained that a low sex drive is a common side effect of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant. These pills alter the body's levels of seratonin, which can affect libido.

For many of the women who experience sexual side effects, these drugs don't provide a tenable solution for their anxiety or depression because of how they can impact their marriages, relationships or social lives.

However, there's hope.

For anyone experiencing a decreased sex drive linked to antidepressants, Streicher stresses that the first step should be speaking with a doctor: Fixing the issue "is not a do-it-yourself project." Options to combat low libido include changing the dosage or switching antidepressant medications, lengthening foreplay or introducing dirty talk, and speaking frankly about what makes sex unappealing and then tackling the root of that issue.

"Sometimes not wanting to have sex is not necessarily a libido issue," Streicher said. "It could be that's there's pain, or incontinence, and you have to connect those dots and ask yourself why you don't want to have sex."

She especially urges women to stay on their medication unless they have their physician's go-ahead to stop taking it.

"Libido is very complex," she said. "We know that antidepressants have this effect, but it's wrong to assume that things will be fine once you go off the meds."

The reality is that finding a solution to a lowered libido caused by antidepressants isn't simple. When HuffPost asked for women in our Facebook communities to share their experiences, stories poured in from women of all ages. Several revealed that relationships and marriages had fallen apart due to their low sex drives; others reported going off their medication in order to enjoy a healthy sex life again.

Here are eight real stories from women who have struggled with this issue. Respondents were granted anonymity to speak openly about personal matters of an intimate nature. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

1. "I have tried in the past to get off the medication and it doesn't go well."

I've been on antidepressants since I was about 18 or 19. It took years to find the right combination, and I never took them properly until I was 28. It's been almost five years now and I'm on Paxil and Topamax. They help me a lot. The downside is a lower sex drive. It's already extremely low because I had a complete hysterectomy at 28 due to severe endometriosis. So I'm in menopause and to help that, I take a low dose of estrogen. If that would help my libido, it's canceled out by the Paxil and Topamax. I hate making that compromise but if I chose sex and ditched the meds, I'd still be useless once the depression took over. I have tried in the past to get off the medication and it doesn't go well. So far the time being, I stay on.

-- Age 33, Worcester, Massachusetts

2. "I felt like something was wrong with me, and sometimes still do."

For reasons I'd rather keep to myself, I attempted suicide when I was 21 years old. I've been on one form of antidepressants or another since then. A few of the antidepressants made me feel like a zombie. I had even less interest in things than I did before I started taking medication. I felt like something was wrong with me, and sometimes still do. Intermittently, I'd stop taking my medication, against the wishes of my doctors, because I would rather feel something than be completely numb. I've got a failed marriage under my belt now because I wasn't affectionate enough with my husband. I've even lost jobs because I was in zombie-mode.

-- Age 30, Denver, Colorado

3. "Do I want to be a relatively happy mother and wife, or be moody and depressed but be able to orgasm?"

I started taking Prozac after my son was born. I had postpartum depression and needed help, and Prozac worked. I was able to be a better mother and stopped crying all the time. But I noticed quickly that my sex drive was minimal and it was extremely difficult to orgasm. I stopped the Prozac but ended up feeling depressed again this winter, so I've started taking it again. It's such a tough trade-off -- do I want to be a relatively happy mother and wife, or be moody and depressed but be able to orgasm?

-- Age 26, South Bend, Indiana

4. "The pleasure aspect of being intimate isn't there. It feels more like a chore."

I feel completely guilty when my husband tries initiating sex and I shoot him down with the usual "I'm tired," or "I'm not in the mood." He doesn't deserve that. I WANT to have sex, but physically I can't convince myself I want it. The pleasure aspect of being intimate isn't there. It feels more like a chore. It sucks. And please, before you say something like, "You're just not sexually attracted to your husband anymore," trust me, you couldn't be more wrong. I'm completely head over heels in love with him, and am very much attracted to him, especially for him always being so supportive and understanding toward everything I've been going through these past few years. He's amazing. I just can't seem to get past this. I'm coming to the point where I just want to try dealing with the stress, depression and anxiety on my own, but I don't know how to. It's not just my life being affected and especially ruined by this illness, it's my family's as well, and it's not fair.

-- Age 29

5. "It's easier to just pretend."

I went on Lexapro to be able to stand life when my husband left. The good part is that the drug has allowed me hear my inner music. Life is brighter and I'm oddly more appreciative of the world around me. On the downside, it is virtually impossible for me to have an orgasm now -- something that never used to be a problem. The bigger issue has now become whether or not to fake it. Sadly, it's easier to just pretend than to try to make a man understand that it really isn't him.

-- Age 54, Manhattan, Kansas

6. "At points I've stopped taking my meds."

I have struggled with depression/anxiety for a long time. And it's been a struggle in my marriage because of its side effects. At points I've stopped taking my meds because I have felt not making my husband feel unwanted and me just feeling depressed may be easier than having to argue about the side effects my meds give me. Which is not the answer, I know now. I know self-care is most important, but at what cost? I've often wondered if it's worth it. It's a constant struggle and I've been in therapy for years over it. And with a partner who craves that lust and sexual side from me, it makes my depression worse as I feel I am the problem.

-- Age 31, Rochester, New York

7. "Even when I am in the mood, my orgasms are disappointingly weak."

Before being depressed I had a higher than average sex drive and could enjoy sex two or three times a day. When depression set in that lowered to once a day maximum, but once I started antidepressants it dropped to almost nothing. I've lost two good boyfriends in the last year because it's almost impossible to get me in the mood, and even when I am in the mood my orgasms are disappointingly weak. I'm going to ask my doctor for different ones next visit.

-- Age 26, Richmond, California

8. "Most people my age have no problem with wanting to have sex."

I didn't start having sex until I was about 18 years old and I've been on antidepressants/anti-anxiety medication since then... so that's all I've known in my sex life. I have desire to have sex, but sometimes it's a chore. I was in a serious relationship and forced myself to do it to make him happy and "get it over with." I loved him and didn't want him to think I wasn't attracted to him, which he often asked [about]. I don't blame him. Most people my age have no problem with wanting to have sex. I have been single for over a year and don't even feel the urge to masturbate, I never have. Even though I sometimes enjoy sex, I have never had an orgasm. It's embarrassing and frustrating.

-- Age 24, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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3 Ex-Cops Are About To Do The Unthinkable: Smoke Pot On Camera

Wed, 2015-04-15 11:51
Three men identified as ex-cops smoked pot for the first time in what may be decades in a new trailer. The piece is a tease for a full video of them doing more of the same that will surely break the Internet when it debuts on the annual marijuana holiday of 4/20.

The world doesn't appear to end, even as the former law enforcement officers puff away, but we'll have to wait to see what the full-length version brings.

The video comes from Cut, the same people who first brought the Internet three grandmas smoking pot for the first time.

Read more about "weed day" here and stay tuned for the full video release on Monday. In the meantime, check out our Weedvent calendar as we count down the days to 4/20.

H/T High Times

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Even Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Can't Avoid Jury Duty

Wed, 2015-04-15 11:31
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts reported for jury duty in Maryland on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.

After answering two questions in open court about family members, Roberts was not selected to serve on the jury and left the court in Rockville.

Roberts' colleague, Justice Elena Kagan, reported for jury duty at D.C. Superior Court in January 2011, but was released the same afternoon.

Vice President Joe Biden has even been called for jury duty, reporting to a courthouse in New Castle County, Delaware, in January 2011.

"I don't consider myself different than any other person," Biden told The News Journal of Wilmington at the time. "This is important ... It is an honor to be a part of the system."

According to the AP, President Barack Obama was summoned for jury duty in Chicago in 2010, but told the court he couldn't make it.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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A Transcendent <i>Carousel</i> at Lyric Opera

Wed, 2015-04-15 11:28
Unlike Guys and Dolls or The Music Man, Carousel isn't a show that can simply rest on the strengths of its material. While a good number of classic musicals can lean on their score and inner charms to suffice for a pleasurable evening, Rogers and Hammerstein's 1945 masterpiece requires a director and design team with a rock-solid vision and perspective. Otherwise, this show, which touches on the very tender themes of innocence lost, domestic abuse and the bittersweet promise of second chances,  can easily fall of its axis and roll right into the orchestra pit.

However, under Rob Ashford's sublime direction, Lyric Opera of Chicago's production is a Carousel for the ages. Not only is it exquisitely sung and masterfully acted by a cast of Broadway veterans, its hypnotic production design by Paolo Ventura elevates the dreamlike and otherworldly aspects of this heartbreaking love story.

This isn't a petticoat and ribbon Carousel, as was the case with past productions I've seen (most recently Light Opera Works solid -- if sanitized -- production in 2010). Ashford has smartly moved the action to the depression era, which, unexpectedly, dusts off any of the stuffiness that typically clouds the material.

And what a cast. As brooding carnival barker Billy Bigelow, Steven Pasquale gives one of the most heart-stopping performances I've seen in a musical in recent memory. Pasquale could so easily take advantage of the Lyric's size to make this a bellowing, swaggering performance. But, Ashford and Pasquale have delivered a much more complex and arresting creature -- one who seems lost and constantly searching for an answer. Some may feel he's underplaying the role, but, to me, he's living it -- and when he does unleash those moments of raw passion and fire, such as in his soul-searing (and show-stopping) "Soliloquy," watch out.

As Bigelow's reluctant love interest, Tony nominee Laura Osnes infuses Julie Jordan with a sweet and deep melancholy and sings like a dream. Much like Pasquale, Osnes delivers a measured, nuanced performance, which grounds this production in gritty, human emotion.

Delivering the same sensible sincerity that worked so well when she starred as Maria in Lyric's The Sound of Music, Jenn Gambatese is a highlight as Carrie Pipperidge. As her counterpart, Matthew Hydzik offers a winning Mr. Snow. And as Mrs. Mullins, Broadway hoofer Charlotte D'Amboise takes a once throwaway part and imbues it with fire, sex appeal and relentless desperation. Ashford also finds a way to tap into D'Amboise's talents in the thrillingly re-imagined second act dream ballet.

As with previous Lyric productions of R&H material, the stage is populated with a glorious singing ensemble. And under David Chase's assured baton, the Lyric's orchestra mines all the magic in this lilting score. You do not want to miss this landmark production.

Carousel plays through May 3 at Lyric Opera of Chicago. More info here >

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Chicago Progressives Emboldened After Rahm Emanuel's Super PAC Fails To Beat Them

Wed, 2015-04-15 10:36
WASHINGTON -- Chicago voters re-elected Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a runoff race on April 7, the culmination of an expensive election campaign. But although Emanuel emerged from the runoff with a twelve-point victory over Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D), the mayor's support on the city council shrunk as a number of strong allies lost re-election or found themselves fighting uphill battles in recounts.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2014, Emanuel supporters created a super PAC called Chicago Forward that was designed to support the mayor, defeat the limited council opposition to his policies and protect pro-Emanuel incumbents in need of support. Despite backing at least 25 winners in the aldermanic elections, however, Chicago Forward failed in its ultimate goal: to cow those on the council who oppose Emanuel's agenda.

The majority of the races in which Chicago Forward-backed candidates won were decided without heading to runoff elections. However, in all three races in which the group's endorsed candidate challenged a progressive incumbent, the candidate lost. Chicago Forward-backed candidates also lost, or are trailing ahead of recounts, in six of the ten runoff races in which the group backed an incumbent. These losses will likely lead to at least a 50 percent increase in the progressive opposition to Emanuel in the council’s next term.

“Basically, they did pretty poorly,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Chicago alderman. “They focused on trying to defeat incumbents and they lost all of those races.”

The Progressive Caucus -- which numbered eight members in the council's last term and is expected to reach at least 11 after all the results are in -- is emboldened by the results.

“I’m looking for what we can get done now,” said Joanna Klonsky, communications director for the Progressive Caucus.

The losses raised questions about Chicago Forward's strategy in the election. Two sources who worked with the super PAC and asked not to be identified found the approach wanting, as did the group's progressive opponents.

“Some of the strategy was confusing to me, at best,” said David Miranda, campaign manager for Alderman John Arena, the leader of the Progressive Caucus. Although Chicago Forward spent more than $41,993 against Arena, he went on to win with 54% of the vote.

Miranda said that the alderman and his campaign were reassured by data showing that undecideds would swing towards them, and that Chicago Forward should have seen the same thing. But rather than shifting those funds to a different race to help a floundering incumbent, the super PAC increased its spending against Arena during the runoff.

“I don’t know why they were spending money against Alderman Arena,” Miranda said.

According to a source in Chicago Forward's leadership, the group felt that spending on Arena’s race would attract money from the union groups it was battling, thereby diverting those groups' money away from other races. This, of course, meant Chicago Forward had to do the same thing with its funds.

Meanwhile, Chicago Forward also reduced its support for a number of endorsed candidates after investing significant amounts in them during the pre-runoff primary elections. Aldermen Deborah Graham, John Pope and Natasha Holmes all received significantly less support from the super PAC for their runoff elections -- in which they needed the funds more urgently -- than for their primary races. All three either lost or are seeking recounts.

Source: Illinois State Board of Elections.

Then there is the loss of Alderman and Chicago Vice-Mayor Ray Suarez, one of Emanuel's biggest boosters on the council. Chicago Forward only spent $2,965 on Suarez’s re-election, none of which went to his runoff campaign. Suarez lost narrowly in the runoff, receiving 49% of the vote. The group chose to pass on Suarez’s race because the incumbent had $1 million in the bank and didn’t think he needed the help.

At the same time, Chicago Forward spent more than $25,000 to support Patrick Daley Thompson, the grandson of former Mayor Richard J. Daley and nephew to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, in his successful bid for an open alderman seat -- even though Thompson faced weak opposition and union groups spent little money against him.

But the super PAC's oddest strategic choice of all was the decision to spend the vast majority of its money to help Emanuel's own runoff campaign. Chicago Forward spent $2.7 million on the mayoral race, almost all during the runoff period. (The group's total spending on Chicago races in this cycle was $3.8 million.)

This decision was made after Emanuel was forced into an unexpected runoff, and those running Chicago Forward felt they had to step in to back the mayor.

While the super PAC was created with an intent to support Emanuel, the spending choices were nonetheless odd because Emanuel was already freed from contribution limits, thanks to a conservative opponent who opted to self-fund. The main benefit of a super PAC is that it can raise unlimited contributions. But since Emanuel was able to raise unlimited contributions regardless, it made little sense to route money to his race through a super PAC when it could have gone directly to his campaign.

In total, seven incumbent pro-Emanuel aldermen backed by Chicago Forward lost their re-election bids or are trailing as they head to recounts, while all three Progressive Caucus incumbents targeted by the group won. The caucus is expected to increase its ranks in the council from eight -- out of a 50-member city council -- to at least 11, with the strong possibility of eclipsing a dozen.

Becky Carroll, executive director of Chicago Forward, defended the super PAC’s efforts, noting that the group reached more than 1 million voters through its spending campaign. “We're batting nearly .700 with at least 25 Aldermanic wins and likely more after four remaining undecided races become final,” she said in a statement.

“Chicago voters ultimately rejected much of the vitriolic rhetoric injected into these races and instead sent a message that they want leaders who are willing to work together and forge ideas that will move the city through the many long-term challenges it faces,” Carroll continued. “And the Mayor's support among the City Council remains solid with an overwhelming majority of aldermen and aldermen-elect.”

Still, this shift was likely not what Emanuel and his allies anticipated after corralling huge sums of money into Chicago Forward from Chicago-area hedge fund executives like Grosvenor Capital Management’s Michael Sacks and Citadel’s Ken Griffin to counter the large sums spent against them by union-funded groups backing Progressive Caucus policies.

Klonsky said that a number of aldermen who had previously feared ending up on the mayor's wrong side will now be more open to working with the progressives.

“Right now we can broaden that coalition,” Klonsky said. “It’s a big opportunity. It’s a great time for aldermen to break out of their silos.”

The Progressive Caucus hopes that it can bring in new support to help pass a number of its policy priorities, including mandating earned sick leave for workers, rolling back a host of recently enacted regressive fees and penalties, and increasing the minimum wage by a greater amount and more quickly than Emanuel's plan to raise the wage to $13 per hour by 2018.

Throughout Emanuel's first term as mayor, Progressive Caucus aldermen clashed with the mayor's office over a range of issues, including school closings, the size of a minimum wage increase, the sell-off of pension funds to hedge funds and the privatization of city assets.

“He still has enough votes to win,” Simpson said of Emanuel, “but the opposition will be much more substantial.”

More to the point, Simpson says, is what the election results mean for the mayor: “He remains in office, but he isn’t invincible.”

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Return of the Vanishing Worker

Wed, 2015-04-15 00:06
On April 15, perhaps as you're reading these words, working people in 200 American cities will rally for a $15 dollar base wage and the right to form a union. Solidarity demonstrations are planned in more than 30 cities on six continents, and have already taken place in Switzerland, the Philippines, South Korea, New Zealand, and Japan. The "fight for $15" matters -- because the lives of working people matter, and because the success of this effort will help strengthen the American economy for everyone.

But the significance of April 15's action runs even deeper than that.

The Worker Vanishes

There were times in recent history when observers of our political and economic debates might have been forgiven for thinking that America's working men and women -- the teeming millions who built this country and were the engines of its economy during its most prosperous years -- had vanished from the face of the earth.

They were always here, of course, even in the nation's capital. Their fading footprints could be glimpsed in an occasional statistic or economic report, and they reappeared like clockwork every four years come election time. But even then they were treated like offstage characters in a one-act play, unseen and unheard, there only to be addressed by the principal actors in loud declamatory tones.

The employees in this coalition of "fast food cashiers and cooks, retail employees, child care workers, adjunct professors, home care providers, and airport workers" were still among us, of course -- teaching our children, providing us with goods and services, helping us return home after long days of travel. But as far as political insiders were concerned, they had no lines of dialogue in the drama of their own lives.

Unions have been struggling against decades of anti-labor rhetoric, hostile state laws, indifferent regulation, and weakened support in Washington. According to a report by the Campaign for America's Future called "Inequality: Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions," unions represented more than one-third of the workforce by the end of World War II. Today they represent 7 percent of American workers, roughly equivalent to 1916 levels.

The resulting political invisibility has been seen in the plunging fortunes of the middle class - or, if we dare call it that, the working class. After decades of growing inequality and a recession caused by Wall Street fraud and recklessness, how much of the post-crisis recovery went to the top 1 percent?

All of it.

Movements Matter

And yet, in a few short months, the Occupy movement began shifting the national dialogue away from the faux centrism of corporate-friendly Washington insiders and back toward the majority. That demonstrated the power which a mass movement can deploy against an insular political system.

Despite this shift -- and a resulting change in presidential rhetoric which may have ensured Obama's reelection -- the centrifugal forces driving democracy away from its majoritarian center are stronger than ever. It takes a mass movement to counter forces that powerful. The Fight for $15, born of a handful of fast-food workers but growing quickly, has the potential to be such a movement.

There's no reason to be deceived or discouraged. Movement matter. They matter because, even as the corrupting power of campaign cash makes true democracy harder than ever to achieve, the political debate can still be changed through mass protest. Today, years after Occupy first arose, even Republican presidential contenders are denouncing wealth inequality (if only to parade the failed tax-break solutions of the past).

Fight for $15 has the potential to change our national conversation the same way. In fact, the change has already begun. That presents a challenge for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Will Secretary Clinton take up the Fight's cause by embracing its clear and specific goals? That could boost her prospects in a way that generalizations about inequality cannot.

Fight for $15 can also help turn rhetoric into concrete policy changes, some of which can already be seen in new initiatives at the city and state level.

This struggle certainly matters economically. The minimum wage has fallen well behind inflation, much less productivity, while corporations and the wealthy have taken all of the productivity gains of recent decades:

This stands in stark contrast to the prosperous decades after World War II. CAF's report on unions and inequality notes that "America grew together" during those decades, "with the incomes of working people actually rising somewhat faster than incomes at the top."

Unions played an essential role in that phenomenon. They also provided workers with health benefits, secure retirements, and safer working conditions. Movements do matter.

Fight for the Future

The workers represented by Fight for $15 must contend with the corporate world's ever-evolving techniques for diverting wealth from its employees. These techniques include "permanent part-timism," in which long-term employees are treated as part-time and/or temporary workers; rampant wage theft (now with better automation!); new and aggressive forms of corporate franchising, which attempt to insulate corporations from their responsibilities as an employer; and the so-called "sharing economy," which seeks to reduce the once-prosperous American middle class to a fragmented crowd of peddlers and piece workers.

The Fight for $15 also stands in opposition to another disturbing trend: the increasingly arrogant and high-handed way so many corporations treat their employees. (As the United Steelworkers' Leo Gerard notes, that high-handed treatment includes punishing workers who are part of the Fight for $15.)

Despite claims to the contrary, corporations have enough money to pay their workers a decent wage, as this chart from Doug Short shows:

But, human nature being what it is, corporate executives would rather keep these profits than share them. It will take a strong worker's movement to change that.

The Fight for $15 matters because everyone, whether or not they make $15 per hour, is affected by the state of today's workforce. We're all affected when the economy suffers for a lack of consumer confidence. We're all affected when job insecurity prevents people from serving the highest good.

And we're all affected when our tax dollars must be used to meet the basic living needs of underpaid workers - yet another taxpayer subsidy to the wealthy and powerful.

Return of the Vanishing Worker

A change in social consciousness -- the renewal of our social contract -- has never been possible without a grassroots movement. From abolition to the first labor movement, from suffrage to civil rights, our most profound moments of social change have always begun with mass action. This movement has the potential to renew and reinvigorate our social contract once again.

Its members aren't just fighting for themselves. Fight for $15 has allied itself with students, professors, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement which is fighting to protect young African Americans. It recognizes that all struggles for justice are interconnected. Those who would exploit young people with inadequate wages are unwilling to invest in their education. The corporations who refuse to pay a living wage are bound by a latticework of interlocking investment and contracts to the ones promoting the militarization of America's urban police forces -- even as inner cities crumble and their residents are demonized.

(ALEC, the Koch Brothers-backed alliance of corporate funders and state government officials, has promoted a range of measures which have harmed urban and minority communities, including the "stand your ground" laws which led to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and others.)

As our world continues to change, we will continue to face new challenges. We will need new movements, new alliances, and new ideas. But behind them will remain an idea as old as the labor movement itself: that all working people have the right to a decent life. That means a living wage, and time to live your life. It means knowing you'll be financially secure decades from now, and knowing that your work hours have been scheduled for the next week so that you can arrange for child care.

Labor movements are a symbol of our values and an expression of our renewed hope. The Fight for $15 is a fine cause on its own merits. But its greatest importance may lie in the fact that it represents the return of the "vanishing worker" -- which in the end means the return of our friends, our families, and our neighbors -- to the American political stage.

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Chef Homaro Cantu Of 'Miracle Berry' Fame Found Dead At 38

Tue, 2015-04-14 21:01
Famed Chef Homaro Cantu, best known for the "flavor tripping" concoctions at his internationally renowned Chicago restaurants, was found dead Tuesday afternoon on the city's Northwest Side, The Chicago Tribune reports. He was 38.

Cantu was found in the building where he had been planning a brewery. The Tribune, citing anonymous police sources, reported that he appeared to have been hanged and that the death was being investigated as a suicide.

“I loved him dearly. It’s really terrible to see him go in this way. I’m going to miss him a lot,” Trevor Rose-Hamblin, Cantu’s friend and business partner, told The Sun-Times.

In a 2013 interview with The Huffington Post, Cantu said he came to Chicago from the West Coast in the '90s to work under the world-renowned chef Charlie Trotter at his eponymous restaurant.

"I made it my life's goal to become a sous chef for Charlie Trotter," Cantu told HuffPost at the time. "I literally just flew out here one day with $300 in my pocket and no place to stay, and I knocked on the back door and got a job."

Cantu, who is survived by two daughters, met wife Katie McGowan when she did a one-day stint as guest chef in Trotter's kitchen.

This was the day I met my wife at Charlie Trotters. I married her 13 months later.

— Homaro Cantu (@Homarocantu) September 2, 2012

After four years as Trotter's sous chef, Cantu went on to lead -- and later own -- the Michelin-starred Moto, an avant-garde restaurant that featured molecular gastronomy and edible menus.

Cantu had long experimented with the West African "miracle berry," which alters how tastebuds perceive sweet and sour. The "flavor tripping" effect played heavily into the concepts for his now-shuttered iNG restaurant and the coffee shop Berrista, and was the subject of cookbooks and cooking shows.

Cantu had a scientist's obsession with food, using technology to tinker with everything from flavors to kitchen ordering systems in his restaurants.

In 2007, he wowed audiences by beating Chef Morimoto on the third season of Food Network's "Iron Chef." His patented designs have been picked up by both NASA and Whirlpool.

When Trotter, his mentor, died in 2013, Cantu went on to help lead the Charlie Trotter Project and continue the chef's mission of philanthropy and culinary innovation.

"MasterChef" Judge Graham Elliot, a fellow Trotter protégé, was among the food world's stars sharing condolences Tuesday:

Please everyone, send your thoughts/prayers to the family & loved ones of chef Homaro Cantu. A great friend, a horrible loss; speechless. RT

— GRAHAM ELLIOT (@grahamelliot) April 14, 2015

In the months before his death, Cantu was hit with a lawsuit by an ex-business investor claiming the chef improperly used money from Moto's coffers to fund personal expenses and other business ventures.

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Foes Of Marijuana Legalization Can't Like These New Numbers

Tue, 2015-04-14 19:31
Opponents of legalizing marijuana can't be happy about several new polls released Tuesday. Majority support for making cannabis legal is holding steady, while young adults are legalization's biggest fans. And that's true both nationally and in several swing states.

Nationally, 53 percent of Americans support legalization, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Pew found essentially the same result, 54 percent in favor, in a similar poll last year.

Millennials are far more supportive than other voter demographic groups, according to Pew. Sixty-eight percent of those aged 18-34 support legalization, a full 16 points higher than the next most supportive demographic, those aged 35-50. An earlier Pew survey showed that the millennial demographic is significantly more supportive across party lines.

Among Americans of all ages in both major parties, the latest Pew survey found that those who described themselves are more left-leaning than their party peers were also more likely to favor marijuana legalization. Seventy-five percent of Democrats who called themselves liberal favor legalization. Forty-eight percent of Republicans who identified as more moderate or left-leaning support legalization. However, Republicans who identified as conservative oppose legalization 2-to-1.

Overall, solid majorities of Democrats (59 percent) and independents (58 percent) support legalization, Pew found. While only 39 percent of Republicans are in favor, that's the highest GOP support since Pew started asking the question in 1969.

In another positive for legalization advocates, people are much more likely to move from opposition to support than the other way around, according to Pew. Thirty percent said they favor legalization and have "always felt this way," and 35 percent said they've always opposed legalization. But 21 percent said they used to think cannabis should remain illegal and have changed their minds, while only 7 percent said they used to support legalization but now don't.

“The more that people learn about marijuana and look at the benefits of legalization, the more likely they are to support reform," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "Our opponents sure do have a lot to say about what they see as the benefits of continuing prohibition, but voters don’t want to hear it."

Kevin Sabet, co-founder of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said that while people are changing their minds, they are doing so because of a "multimillion-dollar effort" to normalize marijuana. He added that the data don't dishearten those on his side. If anything, he said, these numbers will make them "redouble their efforts."

"Yes, it is becoming a bit of a David-and-Goliath story here, but given the widespread opposition to legalization among the scientific, medical and business world, no one should count anti-legalization groups out," Sabet said.

In two swing states, Quinnipiac surveys released Tuesday found results similar to Pew's: Younger voters strongly support the legalization of recreational marijuana, and large majorities of voters in multiple demographics favor some form of marijuana legalization at the state level.

In Virginia and Iowa, voters overwhelmingly back legal medical marijuana -- 86 percent in Virginia and 87 percent in Iowa.

As for legal recreational marijuana, 54 percent of Virginians and 47 percent of Iowans favor it. Here younger Americans are leading the way. Seventy-five percent of voters aged 18-34 in Virginia and 62 percent of that cohort in Iowa support legalizing recreational marijuana.

Last week, Quinnipiac found huge swaths of voters in three other swing states in favor of legalizing medical marijuana -- 84 percent support in Florida and Ohio, and 88 percent support in Pennsylvania. Smaller majorities supported legalizing recreational marijuana in all three states.

Meanwhile in Colorado, the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, 62 percent now back their state's marijuana policy. That's an increase of 8 points from a year ago when Quinnipiac asked a similar question.

To date, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and four states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational use. One thing that a majority of voters agree on is this: They don't want the federal government, which continues to ban cannabis, to interfere with states that have legalized it. That's what 64 percent of independents, 58 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans told Pew.

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Making A Case For Anthony Davis As NBA MVP

Tue, 2015-04-14 14:31
Deciding who gets the NBA MVP award is far from a perfect science. Just ask Los Angeles Lakers fans why Steve Nash received two during his career and Kobe Bryant remains stuck at one.

This year's award, meanwhile, appears to be a two-man race between Stephen Curry and James Harden, both of whom have put together sensational seasons while enjoying team success as well. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook will surely garner votes, but power forward Anthony Davis, the emerging 22-year-old superstar in New Orleans, firmly belongs in the conversation too.

Around league circles, the 6-foot-10 Davis, a Chicago native, is respected to no end. Despite his youth, he is the closest thing to a young Kevin Garnett that we've seen. While posting 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game, he has led an otherwise ordinary Pelicans team to the coveted 8-seed in the Western Conference playoff race. Just how ordinary? Consider that Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon are go-to options, Ryan Anderson has been injured much of the year and Dante Cunningham averages 25 minutes. If this award is about most valuable to a team, then Davis belongs at the forefront of the discussion.

We can realistically assume that "the brow" will not win the MVP, but we should consider that his league-leading player efficiency rating (PER) stands at 31.06, more than two points better than Westbrook, who ranks second. In fact, only seven players in NBA history have ever compiled a PER over 30: Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Dwyane Wade and Tracy McGrady.

Perhaps we don't properly value or appreciate Davis because his rise as a dominant player has been so recent. Not only has he improved in all three years as a pro, but he's done it quickly. As a rookie in 2012 -- fresh off winning a national championship at Kentucky and being selected first overall in the draft -- Davis was a capable scorer and adept rebounder. During his second year, he increased his proficiency in pick-and-roll, while also becoming a more reliable mid-range jump shooter, according to Synergy Sports Technology. This season, he's done what so few big men are able to figure out, and converted 80 percent from the free-throw line. Nobody in the NBA can defend him one-on-one, either from the block or the high post, and better yet, nobody has blocked more shots two years running -- even though Davis missed double-digit games because of injury.

Before the 2015 All-Star game in New York, Davis -- now a two-time selection -- caught up with The Huffington Post.

"I think [my mid-range jumper] was my biggest focus last summer -- being able to knock that shot down consistently from anywhere on the floor," he said about the evolution of his offensive skills. He also discussed how different it's been for him to be recognized in opposing cities and to be game-planned against by other teams. "It’s exciting," Davis said. "Their coach is always telling me, like, 'Man, I’m glad he wasn’t playing tonight.' It’s crazy to hear. I never thought that would be me."

Anthony Davis may not win the MVP this season, but teams prepare for him like he's an MVP. Hardware or not, perhaps that is the ultimate compliment.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure to catch my NBC Sports Radio show "Kup and Schultz," which airs Sunday mornings from 9 to 12 EST, right here.

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