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Dove 'Patches' Ad Tricks Women Into Believing That A Sticker Can Solve Low Self-Esteem

Wed, 2014-04-09 14:19
If you could purchase a magical patch that would make you feel better about your body, would you do it?

In a new marketing campaign for Dove, psychologist and body image specialist Ann Kearney-Cooke presented "real women" with the "RB-X" patch, a "revolutionary product developed to enhance the way women perceive their own beauty." The women were asked to keep a video diary for two weeks chronicling any changes they felt. Every woman featured in the final spot agreed that wearing the patch made them feel better about themselves, which in turn affected their behavior. One participant was more open to approaching guys, another dreaded shopping less than before, and another proudly wore clothes that revealed her arms -- something she would not have done before wearing the patch.

At the end of the video, Kearney-Cooke revealed to each woman that the patch was just a placebo -- and that any change in attitude simply came down to the wearers' state of mind.

"I was really expecting there to be something," participant Brihtney says through her tears. "To see that there's nothing, it's just... it's crazy."

After watching the spot, The Huffington Post reached out to Dove's PR team to verify that the women featured are not actresses. "The women in the film are not actresses," a representative told HuffPost via email. "Dove hosted an open audition for an undisclosed documentary to find women to participate in the film. Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke presented it as an experiment in which the women were invited to wear a beauty patch that was created to help them feel more beautiful."

In one sense, the ad is empowering, proving that women do have the ability to change how they feel about themselves simply through the power of their mind. "I'm beautiful, I'm strong, and I'm independent... I can just be whoever I want to," participant Katelyn said on discovering the patch had no effect. On the other hand, the "experiment" framework of the ad seems slightly manipulative -- and suggests to women that their low self-esteem can be easily-cured with a couple weeks of positive thinking.

Kate Dries at Jezebel critiqued the commercial, arguing that its underlying message isn't about women's empowerment, but Dove's branding:
It's definitely true that positive thinking works miracles. But that's not what this campaign is really about; it's about teaching women that Dove knows better. Dove is smarter. You should buy Dove because they're on your side and they can teach you things.

While the "beauty patch" experiment had good intentions, it's hard to watch the video without feeling a bit skeptical. Next time, we hope that Dove can make women feel good about themselves without manipulating them first.

10 Kids Hospitalized After Accidentally Being Served Booze At Pizza Party

Wed, 2014-04-09 14:09
At least 10 children, most of them under the age of 10, were taken to the hospital Tuesday night after they were allegedly served alcohol at a birthday party at a Chicago pizzeria.

Police and ambulances were called just before 10 p.m. to Home Run Inn in Little Village after parents said one of the young diners' drinks smelled like alcohol, according to DNAinfo Chicago. The restaurant's wait staff began clearing away the beverages after a parent tasted alcohol in the drink.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports police say only one 7-year-old was accidentally served spiked fruit punch, but all of the children told police they had also drank from the 7-year-old's cup. They were taken to the hospital as a precaution and police say it was determined none of them had alcohol in their systems.

Daniel Costello, president of the Home Run Inn Restaurant Group, told the Chicago Tribune they "are currently working with staff to conduct an internal investigation to discern the facts of what occurred.”

No charges are expected to be filed against the waitress or the restaurant because police believe it was an accident, ABC Chicago reports, and it will not be investigated further.

Still, a parent of several of the children who reportedly consumed the alcohol told DNAinfo she was upset the restaurant did not apologize for the apparent mistake.

Here Are All The U.S. Senators And Governors Who Support Legalizing Marijuana

Wed, 2014-04-09 13:29
Marijuana is now legal in two states, and local politicians across the nation seem eager to expand that number, so let's take a look at the kind of support these lawmakers are getting from their governors and U.S. senators. Here's a GIF showing every governor and senator who has come out publicly in favor of legalizing weed, a stance now shared by over half the nation, according to some polls:

That's right -- out of 50 governors and 100 U.S. senators, not a single one has announced support for full legalization, even in Colorado and Washington, which have already passed laws legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has repeatedly said he respects the will of his state's voters, who approved Amendment 64 by a 10-point margin in 2012. But he's also maintained that he "hates" the "experiment" and believes it will ultimately be detrimental to Colorado. In Washington, which will begin legal marijuana sales later this spring, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) told The New York Times that while he understands some of the reasons for ending marijuana prohibition, he has concerns about the law's possible effects on children. Nationwide, only Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has said he's even willing to discuss the prospect of legalizing pot.

Since the passage of legalization laws in Colorado and Washington, senators from those states and others have gotten behind efforts to help transition marijuana into a well-regulated, legitimate industry, but none have come out in support of legalization itself. Other lawmakers have emerged as relatively progressive on the broader issue of pot policy, but while many high-profile politicians across the nation have made pushes to increase access to medical marijuana or to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the substance -- still federally classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD -- nobody has been willing to go so far as to endorse legalization. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) perhaps came closest earlier this year when she said that she supported "what Washington State voters have done" with regards to legalizing marijuana.

And it's not like they haven't had the opportunity to do so. Seventeen states have introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, according to the Times. While these bills have not gained widespread favor among state lawmakers, not a single senator or governor has backed the efforts, with most either opposing or opting to remain entirely silent on the issue. At the national level, legalization legislation offered in the House similarly failed to move any senators to be more aggressive on the issue.

As Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Times, prominent politicians likely still feel vulnerable to charges from the right of being soft on drugs and crime. This line of attack has been popular since the beginning of the war on drugs, and anti-pot groups told the Times that risk-averse politicians were right to fear a potential backlash for supporting legalization. But as Tony Newman, also of the Drug Policy Alliance, wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post, the refusal to support legalization actually appears increasingly unwise for lawmakers looking to expand their national profile:

Being "soft on drugs" is an outdated concern. Can anyone name a politician in recent years who was hurt politically because they supported commonsense drug policy reform? I can't think of any ... The growing momentum for marijuana legalization is often compared to the sea change of support for marriage equality. Support for both have taken off on similar trajectories. It has become clear to Democrats that supporting marriage equality is not only the right thing morally, but the right thing career-wise. This wasn't always the case. Just a few years ago President Obama, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and others were much more cautious.

California's Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) believes that now is not the time for "caution" when it comes to marijuana legalization. While California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has argued that legalization would be a bad idea, Newsom distanced himself from Brown on the issue last month, saying legal weed was necessary and characterizing the war on drugs as "a trillion dollars wasted."

Legalization is not only a cause among Democrats. While many Republicans remain resistant to the idea of more lenient marijuana laws, some in the GOP have begun expressing skepticism of the traditional enforcement-heavy policies that contribute to approximately 650,000 arrests each year for marijuana possession. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has suggested that he'd support a path toward state decriminalization, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, though an opponent of marijuana in most forms, recently said he would consider approving edible medical marijuana for adults. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has also repeatedly touted a softer-on-drugs approach, particularly toward pot, as he prepares for a potential 2016 presidential run.

Although most national politicians are reluctant to speak in favor of legalization, an overwhelming majority of Americans now see it as inevitable. A recent poll found that 75 percent of respondents believe the sale and use of recreational weed will eventually will be legal nationwide. In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) put that window at less than five years.

For the most part, Americans are ready to see it happen. In the past year, polls have shown support for legalization reaching record levels: 54 percent now back legal weed, according to a recent Pew survey. And in Colorado, legalization has only gotten more popular after the first few months of taxed and regulated pot sales, which topped $14 million in January alone.

Volunteer Rates Hit All-Time Low

Wed, 2014-04-09 11:34
Volunteering in the United States hit an all-time low last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

According to the BLS, 62.6 million people -- or 25.4 percent of the population -- donated their time at least once to causes between September 2012 and September 2013.

That’s the lowest percentage of volunteers since the group started tracking such figures in 2002.

The rates declined for both men and women, though women still gave more of their time of the two.

People between the ages of 35 to 44 were most likely to give back to their communities. Rates were lowest among 20 to 24 year olds, confirming a number of theories that millennials aren’t all that interested in improving the world around them.

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, those born after 1982 are preoccupied with money and fame, and are less likely to give back than previous generations of the same age did.

The BLS didn’t share any insight as to why volunteer rates have declined.

However, experts say the decline can’t be attributed to an improving job market since employed people consistently donate their time more than unemployed people, the Washington Examiner noted.

Experts say that the most troubling statistic, though, was the fact that volunteering figures dropped among educated people -- a demographic that usually proves to be a staple among community organizers.

The number of people with a bachelor’s degree, or a more advanced degree, who volunteered dropped to 39.8 percent in 2013 from 42.8 percent in 2009.

"This could be the canary in the coal mine," Nathan Dietz, senior research associate at the Center on Nonprofits & Philanthropy of The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., told The Nonprofit Times. "That number had been staple a long time and all of a sudden the bottom dropped out. Education is the single best predictor of volunteering. It’s people with a job and a good one."

Listen To Michael Jackson's 'XSCAPE'

Wed, 2014-04-09 11:16
The title track from "XSCAPE," the new Michael Jackson album that will be released five years after his death, has leaked online. Produced by Rodney Jerkins, "XSCAPE" is vintage MJ: there are woo-hoos and hee-hees plus a driving bass line that basically invites everyone to dance like no one is watching. Listen below.

[via Vulture]

Which Illinois Med Schools Are the Highest Ranked?

Wed, 2014-04-09 10:54
U.S. News and World recently released its school rankings for 2015 -- ranking universities across the United States in categories like engineering, medicine, law and business.

Four Illinois med schools ranked in the Top 100. U.S. News and World surveyed 153 accredited medical programs (128 medical schools and 25 schools of osteopathic medicine) across the country, and 114 schools responded with enough data to adequately rank them. Deans and administrators of the programs, hospital residency directors, and administrators were then asked to rate the schools on a variety of criteria.

So which schools from Illinois made the Top 100? Find out in the list below!

How has state funding to public universities shifted over time? It's pretty drastic. See the stats here.

The general election is coming up. Don't miss our easy-to-read, informative candidate scorecards!

Check out more stuff from Reboot below!

What did Gov. Pat Quinn say about investing in Illinois' public universities and community colleges during his 2014 budget speech? Read the full text here.

GOP candidates might have a bit of trouble winning over young voters

Here's the 2014 gubernatorial race in editorial cartoons

Who's getting money from the most powerful people in Chicago? Find out here. 

Don't forget to like Reboot Illinois on Facebook!

Here's 1 Unexpectedly Awesome Reason To Be Proud Of Your Home State

Wed, 2014-04-09 10:24
We know, we know -- your state is the best. Whether you hail from somewhere with the most exquisite coastline, the hippest art scene or the most sublime mountain range in the nation, we bet you've found at least one reason to be seriously proud of your home state. We did you a solid and found one more:

Alabama, you helped put the first man on the moon.

Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, also called "the Rocket City," has played a vital role in the U.S. Space program since its beginnings. The Marshall Center developed the Saturn V rocket that sent America to the moon and spearheaded high-priority projects like The Hubble Space Telescope. The photo above depicts the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which was part of a series of Spacelab missions managed in Huntsville, Ala.

Image: NASA

Alaska, you have more bald eagle neighbors than anyone else in the world.

Indeed, the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is possibly the most patriotic landscape in the nation. The 48,000-acre sanctuary hosts some 3,000 bald eagles who gather between the months of October and February to enjoy the season's late salmon supply. It was established to protect Alaska's bald eagle population, and now boasts the largest concentration of the regal birds in the world.

Arizona, you pioneered the McDonald's drive-thru.

The first drive-thru McDonalds opened in Sierra Vista in 1975. The drive-thru was established to accommodate off-duty soldiers from a nearby military base, as they were not allowed to leave their vehicles to enter a restaurant while wearing their uniforms. Of course, McDonald's would quickly discover that plenty of civilians also appreciate the convenience of a drive-thru.

Arkansas, you're basically coated in cheese dip.

In Arkansas, cheese dip is more than just an accessory to tortilla chips. While the rest of the world generally associates the dip with Mexican food, Arkansas restaurants offer the dip everywhere, from burger joints to cafes. One Arkansas lawyer and filmmaker, Nick Rogers, made a documentary, "In Queso Fever," tracking the history of cheese dip to an Arkansas restaurant called Little Mexico, circa 1935. Of course, some Texans would contest that claim. Regardless of its true origin, there's no doubt that Arkansas has turned cheese dip into a point of pride -- and into a global competition, with its World Cheese Dip Championship.

California, without you, we may have never gotten the "all-you-can-eat" Chinese buffet.

Norman Asing opened an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in San Francisco in 1849, which is believed to be the first Chinese restaurant in the U.S. Asing's restaurant, Macao and Woosung, offered an unlimited platter of deliciousness for the price of $1. That's the equivalent of about a $30 buffet nowadays. Eventually, this type of restaurant would spread deliciousness across the nation.

Colorado, you've got the most badass nature preserve in the country.

Just north of Denver, in Keenesburg, you'll find the The Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center, which calls itself the country's oldest wildlife sanctuary exclusively dedicated to carnivorous animals. Founded in 1980, the spacious wildlife preserve was created specifically to "prevent and alleviate cruelty to animals which are abandoned or that are subject to deprivation or neglect by providing care and boarding for such animals." The preserve has been a safe home to an enormous range of enormous (and some smaller) animals, like lions and wolves and emus. It currently accommodates over 290 carnivorous "residents."

Connecticut, Disney World has nothing on your super special amusement park.

Bristol is home to any thrill-seeking history buff's dream destination. We're talking, of course, of Lake Compounce, the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States! Lake Compounce opened in 1846 as merely a humble "picnic park" with a gazebo, a few rides and a public swimming pool. Today, the 332 acre-wide amusement park boasts 44 rides, a beach and a water park. How's that for progress?

Image: Wikicommons

Delaware, you were once home to the world's tallest Lego tower.

This remarkable, architectural feat was made possible by over 500,000 Lego bricks and Delaware's truly dedicated Red Clay Consolidated School District. The tower earned the Guinness World Record in late 2013 for the "Tallest Structure Built with Interlocking Plastic Bricks." The impressive testament to Delaware's industrious youth stood at nearly 113-feet, or 11-stories tall, before being deconstructed.

Florida, you gave the world the gift of air conditioning.

It's not surprising to learn that the sweltering heat of the Sunshine State inspired one inventor to create the first-ever "comfort cooling" machine, the legendary precursor to the air conditioner. Indeed, Dr. John Gorrie of Appalachicola was convinced he could help bring down his patients' raging fevers if only he could cool down their hospital rooms. And so, as early as 1842, he constructed and operated the first refrigerating machine for "comfort cooling." This first "air-conditioning" machine eased the oppressive heat by blowing air over buckets of ice. Today, hot climate dwellers everywhere owe him their thanks -– perhaps none more so than his fellow Floridians.

Image: Shutterstock/Charnistr

Georgia, you gave us the greatest toy of the '80s.

The Cabbage Patch Kid was the brainchild of 21-year-old art student Xavier Roberts of Georgia, who was inspired by the German craft of needle molding, a kind of fabric sculpture. Little did he know that his dolls, originally billed as "Little People," would inspire one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of the 1980s. According to the company, by the end of the decade, 65 million Cabbage Patch Kids had been sold. Today, Cleveland, Ga. is home to the Cabbage Patch Kid-themed Babyland General Hospital, where Cabbage Patch Kids continue to be "adopted."

Image: Associated Press

Hawaii, you built the best place in the world to get lost.

The Pineapple Garden Maze, built at Hawaii's Dole Plantation, set the Guinness World Record for the "Largest Maze with a Permanent Hedge." Located in Wahiawa, the maze spans 3.15 acres and includes almost two and a half miles worth of paths. The maze opened in 1997 and was expanded in 2007.

Idaho, you helped bring a lifetime of entertainment straight into our living rooms.

Philo Farnsworth, the "Forgotten Father of Television," moved to a farm near Rigby, Idaho, when he was 13 years old. In 1927, Farnsworth conceived a model for a TV that reproduced images electronically on a screen, which he drew out in a diagram for his chemistry teacher.

Illinois, you raced cars before it was cool.

The first American automobile race took place on Nov. 28, 1895. The contest, sponsored by the Chicago Times Herald, featured six contestants riding 54 miles from Chicago's Jackson Park to Evanston, Ill. and back. Of course, it was hardly as fast-paced as your NASCAR race of today: The winner clocked in at just over 10 hours, averaging a less-than-heart-pumping speed of 7.3 miles per hour.

Image: Library of Congress

Indiana, you took watching paint dry to a whole 'nother level.

Mike and Glenda Carmichael of Alexandria bill their roadside attraction as the "World's Largest Ball of Paint," which weighs in at over 4,000 pounds. Since 1977, the Carmichaels have covered a standard baseball in approximately 23,400 layers of paint. This super-sized ball of paint earned the couple a Guinness World Record in 2004 for the "Most Layers of Paint."

Image: Chanel Carmichael

Iowa, you gave us something better to jump on than our beds.

When he was just 16, Iowa native George Nissen created the first trampoline out of junkyard scraps in his parents' garage. Little did he know that this piece of canvas stretched over a rectangular steel frame would eventually bring countless of hours of joy to the world. The young gymnast continued to develop the invention while attending the University of Iowa, where he built the first successful version. While on tour with an acrobatic group in Mexico, he heard the Spanish word for diving board, el trampolin, and "the trampoline" as we know it today was born.

Kansas, you brought us the frozen delight of the ICEE.

You’ll have to thank Omar Knedlik, one seriously creative Kansas Dairy Queen owner, for inventing this favorite iced soft drink in the late 1950s. Knedlik's Dairy Queen didn’t have a soda fountain, so he stored bottles of soda in his freezer. He began selling the soda bottles just after they'd first turned to ice, and customers loved the frozen delight. He spent five years developing and building the first ICEE machine. His legacy lives on today -- according to the ICEE company, some 500,000,000 of their beverages are sold every year. (And yes, Slurpees are ICEEs licensed out to 7-Eleven under a different name.)

Kentucky, you've kept the bourbon flowing all over the world.

Indeed, the Bluegrass State manufactures nearly all of the bourbon on the planet. In 2012, the state's inventory grew to 4.9 million barrels of bourbon, all aging to perfection in Kentucky. With a state population of almost 4.4 million, Kentucky actually has more barrels of bourbon than it has people.

Louisiana, you just might be home to the next Hollywood.

Step aside, Los Angeles. Last year, Louisiana was the most popular location for U.S. film production, according to the 2013 Feature Film Production Society. The Society reported that 18 of the 108 major films of last year were filmed in Louisiana, while California and Canada tied for second with 15 films each. The Bayou State set the stage for some of 2013's major releases, like "Dallas Buyers Club."

Maine, you made the greatest whoopie pie the world has ever seen.

Maine's official state treat is the whoopie pie, and their passion for the confection is inspiring. In 2011, the world's largest whoopie pie, shown above, was completed in South Portland. The cookie treat, also known as a "BFO," for "Big Fat Oreo," has never looked quite so gargantuan as on that day in Maine, weighing a record 1,062 pounds. There was also a big dose of heart behind the effort: Pieces of the whoopie pie were sold to raise money to send treats to soldiers serving abroad.

Image: Associated Press

Maryland, you gave us the most heavenly dessert at a down-to-earth price.

Baltimore dairy farmer Jacob Fussell first started making ice cream as a way to utilize his summertime supply of excess milk. Eventually, he opened the first ice cream factory in Baltimore in 1851, thus establishing himself in dessert history books as the Father of Ice Cream. At the time, ice cream had been a pricey indulgence. Fussell was the first to mass-produce ice cream and sell it at prices that were affordable to average Americans.

Massachusetts, you satisfied the Cookie Monster inside all of us with chocolate chip cookies.

Ruth Wakefield changed American childhood forever when she baked the first chocolate chip cookie in the kitchen of her Toll House Restaurant in Whitman. Though it's rumored that the cookie was a happy accident, Wakefield claimed that the recipe was meticulously planned. The state thanked her for the groundbreaking confectionary invention in 1997 by declaring the chocolate chip cookie the Massachusetts state cookie.

Michigan, you make our coastline a whole lot brighter.

Estimates vary as to the exact number of lighthouses still stationed across Michigan, though the U.S. Coast Guard tallies 90 of the luminous landmarks. They add a picturesque quality to the state's shore, which happens to be the longest freshwater coastline in the U.S. Just be careful if you visit one during winter!

Minnesota, you invented the hippest way to travel on foot.

Rollerblades first skated onto the footwear scene thanks to two hockey-loving brothers from Minnesota. In 1980, Scott and Brennan Olson remodeled a pair of old inline skates, replacing the blades with polyurethane rollers and attaching a rubber heel break. In doing so, they essentially reinvented travel for the '90s kid. They started Rollerblade Inc. out of their parents' basement and the design quickly swept the nation.

Mississippi, you brought root beer to the next level.

Edward Barq Sr., founder of Barq's Root Beer, moved to the beachside town of Biloxi and opened Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works. There, in 1898, he bottled and sold his first root beer. The Barq family maintained ownership of Barq's Root Beer for almost 80 years before selling it in 1976. Though the company's new owners moved the Barq's headquarters to New Orleans, La., Billoxi continues to commemorate its special place in soda pop history.

Missouri, you helped us say "I love you," "Happy birthday," and everything in between.

Hallmark was founded in Kansas City, Mo. by Joyce Clyde Hall. Inspired by the popularity of postcards in the early 20th century, Hall moved to Kansas City with two boxes of postcards and one bold dream. Though he lacked a formal education, he was a shrewd businessman, and he built an enduring legacy in the greeting card industry. Today, Hallmark boasts a nearly $4 billion business.

Image: Associated Press

Montana, the largest snowflake ever recorded fell on you.

Montanans can celebrate the fact that snowflakes practically the size of those paper ones you made as a kid actually fell upon their home state. In January 1887, in Fort Keogh, a 15-inch snowflake was recorded, with one rancher saying the snowflakes that day were "larger than milk pans."

Nebraska, you gave the world the sugary refreshment of Kool-Aid.

Cornhusker Edwin E. Perkins invented Kool-Aid in 1927. Due to the immense love of the drink, a Kool-Aid Days Festival is now held in his hometown of Hastings. The Nebraska government named Kool-Aid the state's official "soft drink" in 1998.

Nevada, you're to thank for our favorite pairs of pants.

In 1873, Nevadan tailor Jacob Davis successfully partnered with Levi Strauss to receive a patent for riveted pants that would end up being called the blue jean. According to the Reno-Gazette Journal, the first contemporary jeans were made to accommodate the rigors of chopping wood.

Image: Levi's

New Hampshire, you introduced us to the Segway.

Although the Segway has yet to prove itself as a world-changer, the delightfully dorky mode of transportation should still be a point of pride for New Hampshirites. New Hampshire inventor Dean Kamen came up with the Segway, which is still one of the most recognizable inventions of the 21st century. It's too bad its progress seems to be stuck in arrested development.

New Jersey, you made parties glitter (but unfortunately provided no way to clean it up).

Henry Ruschmann of Bernardsville invented contemporary glitter in 1934. American partying was never the same. The company still exists today, with the slogan, "Our glitter covers the world."

New Mexico, you have a whole town devoted to pie, which proves the rest of us are doing something wrong.

New Mexicans have a whole town devoted to pie! For some unknown reason, Pie Town isn't the capital of the state, but it is supposedly as delicious as it sounds. The pie-conomy of the town was established in the 1920s and this U.S. Route 60 stop is still home to pie masters like the Pie-O-Neer and Good Pie Cafe.

Image: WikiCommons

New York, your "Nippletop Mountain" reminds us that we're still just 10-year-olds at heart.

Nippletop Mountain is located in the Adirondacks and has an elevation of 4,620 feet. Apparently, Nippletop is known for being particularly wet, so if you plan on hiking to the tip, make sure to dress appropriately. If you do manage to summit Nippletop, we recommend you take a moment after and purchase this patch for only $6.

Image: DeviantArt user Sassy-She-Devil

North Carolina, you combined eating donuts and running into a competitive event.

Pretty jealous of Tar Heelers for this one. The rules of the Krispy Kreme Challenge are straightforward in their awesomeness: "2400 calories, 12 doughnuts, 5 miles, 1 hour." Invented by a group of students at North Carolina State University in 2004 as a dare, the challenge now attracts thousands of racers every year. Before you get too worried about celebrating a huge brand, know that proceeds go to charity. And for what it's worth, Krispy Kreme (which was founded in North Carolina) does make a tasty doughnut.

Image: Krispy Kreme Challenge

North Dakota, you taught us how to make the most out of bath time with bubbles.

North Dakotans can get so fresh and so clean. Although the exact origins of who invented the contemporary bubble bath are as murky as soapy water, the most popular bubble bath mix, Mr. Bubble, came straight out of North Dakota. In 2011, Mr. Bubble Day was even declared a state holiday.

Ohio, you literally molded our childhoods.

In 1965, Cincinnati resident Noah McVicker and his nephew, Joe, successfully received a patent for the "soft, pliable plastic modeling composition" we all know as Play-Doh. Originally the modeling product was intended to be used as a wallpaper cleaner, but, unlike the colorful clay, that never stuck. Maybe they should have called it Play-Dohio! (Or not.)

Oklahoma, you gave watermelon the respect it deserves.

In 2007, Oklahoma decided watermelon was going to be its official state vegetable. The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Don Barrington, explained that watermelon is, of course, a fruit, "but it's also a vegetable because it's a member of the cucumber family." They are both a part of the Cucurbitaceae family.

Oregon, you've got the most lucky charms "west of Ireland."

In what might be the most Portland thing ever, the city boasts the world's "smallest park" which is also home to the only "leprechaun colony west of Ireland." Mills End Park became officially recognized as a city park on St. Patrick's Day in 1976, but had been created by writer Dick Fagan back in 1948. Fagan was a journalist for the Oregon Journal, and after planting flowers in an abandoned hole intended for a light post outside of his office, he began writing about the travails of a small leprechaun colony in the park, headed by a leader named Patrick O'Toole. Nowadays the park is regularly decorated to make things nicer for the leprechauns, although the park was "occupied" in 2011 by toy soldiers.

Image: WikiCommons

Pennsylvania, you blew our minds with bubble gum.

In 1928, Walter Diemer invented the first commercially sold bubble gum while working at the Philadelphia-based Fleer Chewing Gum Company. According to Diemer, the gum got its iconic color because "pink food coloring was the only thing I had on hand."

Rhode Island, you're doing something very right by drinking coffee milk.

Rhode Islanders are lucky enough to get regularly treated to coffee milk, which became the state drink in 1993. Why this drink hasn't taken off around the rest of the country is certainly a mystery, as you'd think coffee-obsessed Americans would go crazy over this godly nectar. For now, Rhode Islanders can be proud of their Autocrat coffee syrup, a key ingredient in coffee milk, and laugh at the rest of the country for being so naive.

Image: WikiCommons

South Carolina, you've got your very own dance.

Popularized in 1923 by a song called "The Charleston," the dance with the same name took off throughout the '20s across the states. The flappers, who totally "demoralized" the country, raised Charleston's global profile, and no other dance as popular has been named after a U.S. city since.

Image: Library of Congress

South Dakota, your pheasant is the largest in the world.

Rising 28 feet and weighing 22 tons, the world's largest pheasant towers over the town of Huron. According to legend, an extremely large pheasant also towered over the early South Dakotan settlers, leaving footprints that formed creeks and river valleys, but today this bird is rooted pretty firmly to its perch off Highway 14.

Image: Huron

Tennessee, you forever ruined our teeth with cotton candy.

Contemporary cotton candy was invented in 1897 by a dentist and candy maker out of Nashville. The sugary substance was originally called "fairy floss."

Texas, you made kids' birthday parties cool with laser tag.

Created by inventor George Carter, the "Photon" gaming center became the first laser tag center in the world when it opened in 1984. It began a craze that still continues today. Around the same time, another laser tag-like facility was founded in Texas called Star Laser Force, but the Laser Tag Museum has confirmed with the founders and a Certificate of Occupancy that Photon came first. Star Laser Force did up end selling its technology to a toy company, however, and therefore was the first to get involved in the "home laser tag" market. Regardless, laser tag is a product of Texas.

Image: George Carter Inventions (photo of New Jersey location)

Utah, you extended your state pride into the night sky.

The Beehive Cluster is the astronomical symbol of Utahns. It's a bright cluster that's located near the middle of the Cancer constellation. Utah is super buzzy: The state insect is the honey bee and the state emblem is the beehive.

Vermont, muggles thank you for bringing them real-life Quidditch.

The "Harry Potter" series may have been set across the pond, but the world can thank Vermonters for the real-life World Cup of Quidditch. Students from Middlebury College created a muggle-version of the fantastical sport that now even has its own official sports association, the International Quidditch Association. For years, the World Cup would take place in Vermont, but the 16th annual tournament is taking place in Myrtle Beach, S.C..

One of the Middlebury Quidditch founders and now current commissioner of the IQA, Alex Benepe, gave HuffPost this great explanation of how the idea came about:

We had an exceptionally athletic and creative student body, and we wanted to create a new sport - so why not try making quidditch real? Harry Potter is like the Star Wars of our generation, a global cultural access point. With a few adjustments to the rules, including a human snitch, and throwing in some dodgeballs and brooms, we had a real game with a literary background, that was fully embraced by the local community. It was only a matter of time before it exploded to include official club sport teams at hundreds of college campuses.

Image: Middlebury

Virginia, you both blessed and cursed the country with frat life.

Virginians are so frat. The first fraternity in the U.S. was founded by five students at the College of William & Mary in 1776 and was named Phi Beta Kappa.

Washington, you have real-life superheroes protecting one of your cities.

Phoenix Jones leads a real-life superhero team called the Rain City Superhero Movement, which is comprised of costumed "former MMA fighters, police, medical professionals, ex-military, active military and professional camera men." The costumes aren't just for show -- in fact Jones wears a $10,000 masterpiece made of bulletproof kevlar. Besides fighting crime, Jones and his wife, "Purple Reign," give anti-bullying talks at local schools and raise awareness for other anti-abuse campaigns.

Image: Facebook user Phoenix Jones

West Virginia, you are the birthplace of Mother's Day.

West Virginians know how to appreciate their mothers. In 1912, they became the first state to designate the Mother's Day holiday, with the rest of the country quickly following. Unfortunately, the creation of the holiday wasn't entirely joyful, as the original advocate for the occasion ended up becoming extremely distraught that Mother's Day morphed into something so commercial.

Wisconsin, you host an annual cow chip competition, and therefore don't give a shit.

Cheeseheads know how to deal with crap. The annual Cow Chip Festival in Sauk Prairie (Prairie du Sac) challenges participants to throw cow excrement as far as they can. In 2013, the farthest cow chip throw measured 169.6 feet. According to the Cow Chip Festival's website, the Wisconsin State Legislature declared the "cow chip" to be the unofficial state muffin in 1989. Yum.

Image: Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw

Wyoming, even your tiniest towns have their own natural landmarks.

Wyoming has some small towns. Both Lost Springs and PhinDeli Town Buford have single digit populations, but the latter has something extra special. Seemingly by magic (well, it's not exactly magic), a tree is growing out of a rock in the small town, which has a population of one, plus the tree.

Image: Flickr user Kent Kanouse

Bonus: Washington D.C., you love wine the most.

Washingtonians drank on average about 26 liters of wine per person in 2013, beating out every state by a significant margin. This was according to a report by Business Insider, which found second place to be New Hampshire at 19.6 liters per person and last place to be West Virginia at 2.4. Although you should always drink responsibly, drinking wine may have some benefits for your health.

All images Getty unless otherwise noted.

Walmart Supports Raising Public Food Benefits -- For Its Own Profit

Wed, 2014-04-09 09:44
They say politics makes strange bedfellows. They also say poverty is just another profit opportunity, at least over at Walmart.

Walmart supports an increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, i.e., food stamps) benefits, to erase the cuts Congress voted into place last fall. Does Walmart really care more about the fate of about hungry children than does Congress? Um, not really. Walmart has instead acknowledged publicly that federal cuts to food stamps are a threat to its bottom line.

Poverty Pays

In its required 10K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Walmart was oddly blunt about what the SNAP cuts may do to its bottom line:
Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control. These factors include... changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, [and] changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans.
According to Walmart's Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley, the company didn't anticipate how much cuts to such programs would affect it. Reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that went into effect on November 1, 2013, ironically first day of Walmart's fourth fiscal quarter, led to a between $1 and $36 reduction in SNAP benefits per household, or up to $460 a year. Walmart knows its customers -- poor people with even less money -- simply can't buy enough to keep corporate profit high.

Follow the Money

How much profit? While Walmart does not break out sales paid for with SNAP, it looks like big bucks.

In a study entitled "FOOD STAMPS: Follow the Money," researcher and public health attorney Michele Simon established:
  • In one year, nine Walmart Supercenters in Massachusetts together received more than $33 million in SNAP dollars--over four times the SNAP money spent at farmers markets nationwide;

  • In two years, Walmart received about half of the one billion dollars in SNAP expenditures in Oklahoma;

  • One Walmart Supercenter in Tulsa, Oklahoma received 15.2 million while another (also in Tulsa) took in close to 9 million in SNAP spending.

Simon's research also found out that bank JP Morgan Chase is also profiting heavily off the electronic bank transfer-based SNAP program. Morgan has contracts for the SNAP electronic benefits transfer services in 25 states. In Florida, Morgan Chase has a five-year contract worth about $83 million. In New York, a seven-year deal that originally paid Morgan Chase $112 million for services was recently amended to add another $14.3 million, a nice 13 percent increase.

All this money in play affects a lot of Americans. 2011 saw a new record enrollment in SNAP, 1 of every 7 Americans.

Walmart Want to Keep Selling Sugary Soda as Food

But back to Walmart. Not only does Walmart want SNAP money, it also wants to keep as many of its products SNAP-eligible as possible. The Department of Agriculture must certify an item as available for purchase with food stamps; some long-term no-no's include alcohol, tobacco and many prepared foods. Yet the top three food vendors in terms of SNAP-money received are Coca-Cola (who makes Coca-Cola), Kraft (of highly processed foods fame), and Mars (the candy and snack food maker.) Walmart has joined those companies to lobby the Department of Agriculture, and Congress, against any measures that would restrict SNAP use to more healthy food choices.

Since Congress has been debating the soda-food stamps question on and off since 1964, it seems unlikely Walmart and the others have much to fear.

SNAP Funds Your Everyday Low Prices at Walmart

As reported previously here, one of the main reasons why Walmart can sell things cheap is that it gets away with paying below a living wage because you, the taxpayer, subsidize the employees' wages. The gap between what the majority of employed people earn through the minimum wage at places like Walmart, and what they need to live a minimum life, is made up by federal and state benefits. A report from UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education found that, "Nearly three-quarters of enrollments in America's major public benefits programs are from working families." They work in jobs that pay wages so low that their paychecks do not generate enough income to provide for life's basic necessities.

And it is not just Walmart. The same report found: "The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry alone is nearly $7 billion per year." That money, which might rightly be paid by McDonald's and Burger King and KFC, is instead paid by the taxpayers, money lenders to a government that is far more interested in subsidizing business than in caring for the nation as a whole.

This Land is Your Land

America is indeed the land of opportunity; where else in the world can the collusion of government and corporate interests create both a major lobbying effort to increase food aid to America's poor, while at the same time fleecing taxpayers so that large corporations can further monetize poverty? Exceptional, indeed.

You Can Buy Everything But The Marriage License On Groupon's New Weddings Marketplace

Wed, 2014-04-09 09:06
Budget-minded brides and grooms have a new one-stop shop for virtually everything related to their nuptials: Groupon.

The daily deals-turned-eCommerce website debuted its limited-run Groupon Weddings marketplace on Monday, offering eye-catching deals like $10,000 savings on engagement rings and cut-rate prices for honeymoons, reception venues and even DJ services.

Groupon first rolled out the Wedding Shop after a test run in January, according to CNBC.

"What was pretty amazing to us was not just the velocity that we saw but also the fact that consumers were talking about it," Lisa Kennedy, Groupon's vice president and general manager of fashion and apparel told CNBC. "From there we said, 'How can we make this better?'"

If the prospect of buying a tux or a reception venue online seems dubious, the savings (say, scoring a Nicole Miller wedding gown at 65 percent discount) may be persuasive enough for affianced couples who want to spend less than the cost of a new car for their big day. According to wedding planning website TheKnot, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. in 2013 was about $30,000, excluding the honeymoon.

Though Groupon regularly sells deals for goods and services like the teeth whitening and jewelry featured in the Wedding Shop, a spokesperson told Crain's Chicago Business this is the first time the company has curated offerings especially for weddings.

For its temporary run, Groupon was thorough with the Wedding Shop offerings. Among the more unexpected items in the marketplace: Deals for a name-changing service, bride and groom bobbleheads and scar treatment serum.

Like all Groupon offers, the Wedding Shop is for a limited time only -- with some offers expiring before the Wedding Shop is shuttered. The online pop-up shop is set to close April 16.

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Michael Cera And Kieran Culkin Head To Broadway

Wed, 2014-04-09 08:24
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin are slated to star together on Broadway in Kenneth Lonergan's play "This Is Our Youth," a comedy about the high times and aimless lives of two disaffected young men.

Lonergan said Tuesday that Cera, whose credits include "Arrested Development," ''Juno" and "Superbad," and Culkin, of "Igby Goes Down" and "Cider House Rules," will bring the play to Broadway in the fall after a stop this summer at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company. All three will be making their Broadway debuts. The woman in the middle of the pair will be played by Tavi Gevinson, who founded a web magazine for teenage girls and acted in the film "Enough Said." The production will be directed by Anna D. Shapiro and will have original music by Rostam Batmanglij of the band Vampire Weekend.

"This is very exciting," the playwright said by phone. "I've had many chances to do the play over the years in New York, and one reason I avoided it was because it's very hard to cast. I'm very excited about this particular group of people."

The play will be in Chicago from June 10 to July 27 and begin previews Aug. 18 on Broadway, with an opening night at the Corte Theatre set for Sept. 11. The play will be produced on Broadway by Scott Rudin.

Set in 1982 at the beginning of the Reagan Era, the entire play takes place over two days at the Upper West Side apartment of Dennis, a narcissistic kid with wealthy parents. He gets an unexpected visit from his weird friend Warren, who fled home after having a disagreement with his dad and taking $15,000.

They come up with a dangerous plan to return the money and avoid punishment: First use it to buy cocaine and then resell the coke at a profit so they can also party and attract the attention of Warren's affections: 19-year-old Jessica Goldman.

The play debuted off-Broadway in 1996 and has over the years featured such high-profile actors as Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hamilton, Matt Damon, Colin Hanks, Chris Klein, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin.

It was Lonergan's first hit, and it changed his career. "It was a big turning point in my life," he said, laughing. "This one gets done a lot because it's got three big good parts for very young people so acting students tend to gravitate toward it. I think casting directors are sick of it."

Lonergan has written several other plays, most notably "Lobby Hero" and "The Waverly Gallery." He made his film debut with "You Can Count On Me" and had a follow-up with "Margaret," which also featured Culkin. He also contributed to the screenplays of "Gangs of New York" and "Analyze That."


Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at

Chicago Pension-Cutting Plan Would Harm City Retirees, Neighborhoods

Tue, 2014-04-08 16:54
The recent clamor over the city of Chicago's supposed "pension crisis" has drowned out many salient facts. Proponents of the drastic cuts sought by the city have threatened a range of doomsday scenarios if their proposal is not enacted, including untenable cuts to city services or the prospect that retirees could receive no pension at all. Rather than the thoughtful, informed discussion this matter deserves, this is the equivalent of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Here are the facts: The pension-cutting legislation backed by the Emanuel Administration would unfairly harm some 50,000 employees and retirees who participate in the city's Municipal Retirement Fund. These are the lowest-paid city workers, including library employees, food-service and janitorial workers in city schools, health care employees, clerical workers and others.

Their average pension today is just $33,000 a year. They aren't eligible for Social Security, so this modest amount is their primary and often only source of income in retirement. And with the city already moving to eliminate their retiree health insurance, many low-income retired city workers are struggling even now to make ends meet.

Under the administration's proposal, the value of the average retiree's $33,000 pension would erode over two decades of retirement to barely $22,000 -- and keep dropping from there. It's uncertain how an 85-year-old retiree could get by on so little, and it's unjust to demand that they do so.

It's also important to note that 60 percent of municipal fund participants are women. Their average pension is even lower --just $27,000 a year today. The administration's bill would reduce their buying power to just $18,000 in two decades -- again, with no Social Security.

These workers and retirees have always paid substantially toward their own retirement -- 8.5 percent of every paycheck. The pension debt is caused primarily by the city's failure to contribute an adequate share.

Slashing the retirement income of seniors who served our city doesn't just harm retirees; it also drains economic activity from neighborhoods where the public-sector workforce is the beating heart of the middle class. Every dollar put into a community in a pension check yields $1.72 in economic activity, mostly in local businesses.

The municipal fund and the other city pension funds for teachers, police, firefighters and laborers do face an underfunding crisis. AFSCME and the other unions in the We Are One Chicago coalition are committed to finding an equitable solution to that crisis. But any solution has to be fair to workers and retirees. And it must be constitutional and developed with the participation and support of all city unions.

There is no doubt that additional revenue must be raised to address the shortfall now and in the future. While we aren't opposed to considering property tax increases as part of any solution, other sources of revenue should also be explored. As the Sun-Times recently reported, the cost of corporate tax dollars diverted to TIF funds has outweighed the cost of pension benefits earned by city employees in recent years. Making certain that large, profitable corporations are paying their fair share is just one example of ways the city can raise revenue and address the pension funding problem without resorting to drastic cuts that hurt city neighborhoods and jeopardize retirement security for tens of thousands.

Chicago's 'Revenge Shot' Has Never Been More Popular -- Are You Man Enough To Try It?

Tue, 2014-04-08 16:48
Business has never been better for Chicago's signature "revenge shot."

By all available indications, the malort boom has arrived -- at least in Chicago, where the recently-trademarked wormwood liquor known for its gasoline-like taste and the facial expressions it inspires is almost exclusively sold.

Jeppson's Malort, the company that started it all, is now the subject of a forthcoming documentary titled "The Story Will Never End." A trailer for the Fire Engine Red Films documentary, which will tell the story of the bitter Swedish besk's unlikely rise to a rite of passage for any Chicagoan, was uploaded over the weekend.

"Malort has always been a challenge, right? Are you man enough to drink malort? It's an affront to your masculinity in a bottle," Pat Berger, owner of Chicago bar Paddy Long's, explains in the trailer. "Like, you think you're tough? Take this. And Chicago's that kind of a town. We think we're tough, so we like to hurt ourselves with malort."

Introduced in the documentary trailer is Pat Gabelick, who has served as the CEO of Jeppson's Malort since 1999. The company's original owner, George Brode, who purchased the recipe for malort from Swedish immigrant Carl Jeppson back in the 1930s, died that year.

"We have people that have drank Jeppson's Malort their whole lives, whole families," Gabelick says in the clip.

"The Story Will Never End" is expected to premiere in theaters this summer.

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The Fight for Equal Pay Has Just Begun

Tue, 2014-04-08 16:14
My mother, Eileen Quinn, was born before women in our country had the right to vote.

It's hard to imagine such a time, but thankfully -- over the last few decades -- many barriers to equal rights for women have been knocked down.

Passage of the Federal Equal Pay Act in 1963, and Illinois' own Equal Pay Act in 2003, one of the strongest state pay equity laws in the nation, have paved the way for women to transform our workplace and economy.

But today there are too many areas where progress is lagging, and it's holding our economy back.

Today women make up half of the workforce and heads of households across the nation. Yet discrimination and a lack of training often prevent women from accessing good-paying jobs.

This is troubling on several fronts. For one, it's not fair.

The average woman in Illinois earns just 79 cents of every dollar earned by men--a gap of 21 percent. Men earn an average income of $51,260, while women earn an average income of $40,300. Over the course of their lifetime, the average woman will earn between $700,000 and $1 million less than the average man.

Two, this "gender gap" hampers our economic potential. 70 percent of our economy is based on consumer demand. When women earn less, they spend less, driving less local growth in communities. This hurts their ability to provide financial security for their families and it hurts our ability to build the middle class.

The fact that a disproportionate majority of workers who are earning the least in our nation are women is also a troubling statistic. Nearly seven out of ten minimum or below-minimum wage workers are women.

Many women who make minimum wage are working full-time while raising children. Can't we all agree that nobody should work 40 hours a week and be relegated to raising their family in poverty?

If we are serious about building an economy that works for everyone with more jobs and opportunities than ever before, we must be serious about addressing all barriers that prevent women from reaching their full economic potential.

As women take on more financial responsibility, particularly in these tough economic times, making sure they have access to job training and professional support they need is crucial.

That's in part why I'm pushing a proposal to provide tax cuts to businesses that provide job training. And that's also why I'm pushing to raise the minimum wage in Illinois. Everyone should have a fair chance to support themselves and their families.

While we're making progress, there's much more work to do.

Illinois ranked 5th in the number of women-owned businesses in 2013 - we should be number one.

As my mother has seen throughout the years, anything is possible. Today, on Equal Pay Day in Illinois, let's redouble our efforts for the common good - equal pay for equal work.

When women succeed, our economy succeeds.

Every Week Is Youth Violence Prevention Week

Tue, 2014-04-08 15:03
While this is officially National Youth Violence Prevention Week (April 7-11), the truth is, we need 52 such weeks a year -- not one. After all, when a typical week for young people nationwide between 10 and 24 years of age includes more than 90 homicides and over 13,000 emergency room visits due to assault, something is very wrong.

And last week alone, right here in Chicago, 14 young people in that same age group were shooting victims and, during a typical school week, 125 students are arrested at Chicago's public schools, reports the Project NIA advocacy center.

This can't go on. It's not only obviously devastating for our juvenile population, but, to be blunt, it's bad for business. Consider that Chicago is home to the unique tech incubator 1871, a new world-class digital manufacturing lab, the country's largest urban medical district and universities that produce a profound number of Nobel Prize winning scholars, yet CNN uses Al Capone as a lead-in to youth violence in Chicagoland.

Juvenile violence is an issue that jeopardizes so many critical components of what makes a successful company, city and community in an increasingly competitive economic-development landscape. That's why we're striving in Chicago to develop a strong, skilled workforce, vital jobs, above-average and improving educational performance, thriving businesses and youth and families hopeful about their lives and the future.

That's why companies such as Aon, Boeing, PNC and Guggenheim Capital, among many others, have helped to launch Get IN Chicago, a private-public partnership, with a $50 million commitment that will bring the same rigor to programming and measurement that have made these businesses so successful in the first place to programs designed to reduce youth violence.

What makes Get IN Chicago different is that unlike previous well-meaning organizations and efforts, Get IN Chicago will apply solid and scrupulous analytical and measurement tools when choosing pilot programs to fund. It also will employ equally careful measures to gauge their progress or lack of it; seek projects that center and collaborate in the neighborhoods where at-risk youth live; foster inventive interventions based in evidence that estimates their impact in reducing youth violence; and repel the usual lobbying and political clout that far too often determines which Chicago projects get funded without regard for outcomes.

Get IN Chicago is committed to resisting the pressure and the reality of political decision-making when making our critical decisions on projects and funding. It is the only way we will make progress and provide a positive return on investment for our funders, and most importantly, for our at-risk youth, our communities that require vital economic transformation, and a city and nation desiring real remedies to this so-far intractable problem.

So, yes, this week is important as a reminder of what is at stake, and what needs to be done. But the problem won't go away next week, or the week after that. It is here to stay, unless we band together and take a new approach to curbing youth violence. Then, perhaps, we can all take a week off.

26 Food Things Only A Chicagoan Would Understand

Tue, 2014-04-08 14:58
If you think deep-dish pizza and ketchup-free hot dogs are all there is to understanding Chicago food, you've got another thing -- or 26 -- coming.

Chicago is a city of many, many neighborhoods, all of which come with their own culinary traditions. It leaves the city's residents with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the diverse dishes that are often only a hop on the 'L' away. And no, they don't eat deep dish every day -- or even every month.

These are the food truths only a Chicago local can truly grasp.

Just admit it, you want to move to Chicago now. Totally understandable and warranted, but please promise us you'll never eat at the Hancock Building Cheesecake Factory or order in from Pizza Hut. Deal?

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Jim Edgar on Term Limits: 'Good Politics, Bad Governing'

Tue, 2014-04-08 14:18

Bruce Rauner's plan for legislative term limits would cap the amount of time a lawmaker can serve in office at eight years, so if the proposal becomes law following this upcoming election, any lawmakers elected or reelected in the 2014 election would have their clock started. They would not be allowed to retain office following the 2022 election.

Part of the reason term limits have become such a popular reform push in Illinois is because of career politicians such as House Speaker Michael Madigan who has served in the Illinois House for over 40 years. The issue, according to former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, is Madigan is old enough that eventually he will leave on his own before being forced out by term limits.

But if term limits become law? Madigan will "stay on for eight years just to spite everyone," Edgar said at a term limits symposium co-hosted by the Better Government Association, the Union League Club of Chicago and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Madigan aside, what were Edgar's other thoughts on term limits in Illinois?


And along with Madigan, if term limits were passed into law eight years ago, which lawmakers would be forced out following the upcoming election?


First Lunar Eclipse Of 2014 To Provide Show For Skywatchers In Americas

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:37
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — North and South America, get ready for the first eclipse of the year.

Next Tuesday morning, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth's shadow. This total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes, beginning at 3:06 a.m. EDT and ending at 4:24 a.m. EDT. The moon will be rising in the western Pacific, and so only the last half of the eclipse will be visible there. In much of Europe and Africa, the moon will be setting, so there won't be much, if anything, to see.

On April 29, the Southern Hemisphere will be treated to a rare type of solar eclipse.

In all, four eclipses will occur this year, two lunar and two solar.

Tuesday's lunar eclipse may damage a NASA spacecraft that's been circling the moon since fall. But no worries: it's near the end of its mission.

The robotic orbiter LADEE (LA'-dee) was never designed to endure a lengthy eclipse. Scientists don't know if it will withstand the prolonged cold of the hours-long eclipse.

Even if it freezes up, LADEE will crash into the far side of the moon the following week as planned, after successfully completing its science mission. In an online contest, NASA is asking the public to guess the impact time. Scientists expect LADEE's doomsday to occur on or before April 21.

LADEE stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. The science-collecting portion of the mission went into overtime at the beginning of March.





Hot Air Balloon Marriage Proposal Goes Up In Flames (Don't Worry, Everyone Is OK)

Tue, 2014-04-08 12:11
After Stephen Richardson proposed to girlfriend Brandi Runyan during a hot air balloon ride on Saturday, sparks were flying -- but for all the wrong reasons.

According to ABC News, the couple and five others were on board when the balloon crashed into a live power line in Noblesville, Ind. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in the accident, but some people in the area did lose power temporarily. (Check out a video of the accident above.)

Richardson told ABC News that the couple of two and a half years doesn't consider the crash a bad omen.

“She wanted a story and she got one,” he said. “Especially after this, we’ll just keep [the wedding] simple.”

The FAA is now investigating the crash, NBC Chicago reports.

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If You've Never Stayed At A Bed And Breakfast, Here's What You're Missing Out On

Tue, 2014-04-08 11:54
Planning a getaway? Before you start checking the rates at the most popular hotel in town, we have a different idea for you: a bed and breakfast. That's right, stay in a room at the home of someone who knows your destination best.

Most people aren't quite sure what to think of a bed and breakfast. Either they have misconceived notions of the kind of service they'll get and the type of people who run the places, or they just have no idea how these quaint establishments function. The truth of the matter is, bed and breakfasts are different, but in a completely great way. Here are 11 reasons why B&Bs are a unique experience you never realized you were missing out on.

1. You will often pay less than a hotel. came up with a revealing infographic that compared average prices of hotels and B&Bs in major cities. In New York City, the average hotel charges $217 for a night, while a B&B comes in at around $169. That's almost $50 less a night!

2. Forget your continental breakfast -- at B&Bs, you can get a homemade breakfast.

That delicious-looking pastry is the "famous" pecan sticky bun at Wickwood Inn in Saugatuck, Mich. The buns are part of their Champagne Brunch, which also includes apple bread pudding, vegetable frittatas and "Sugar And Spice Popovers." We're pretty sure you don't get anything even close to that at your hotel's sad continental breakfast.

3. Most amenities are free and much better at B&Bs.

How many times have you wished your hotel would at least offer free wi-fi? Seriously, even Starbucks has that. Well, chances are, if you stay in a B&B, not only will you have free wi-fi, but complimentary parking and concierge services, too. Plus, while a hotel concierge might lazily direct you to a kiosk littered with impersonalized (and likely outdated) tourist pamphlets, many B&B owners are seasoned locals with a wealth of knowledge about the locale. Since these people were most likely born and bred in the town, you know they will happily tip you off to the best restaurants and things to do.

4. They are great place to pull off a "staycation" in your own town.

A room at The Black Dolphin Inn

Perhaps you have lived in New Smyrna, Fla. your whole life, but you have never once gone fishing. And maybe you really need to take a quick vacation but don't want to spend the money on plane tickets and hotel accommodations. Well, you could quickly book a room at The Black Dolphin Inn and sign up for the "Mosquito Lagoon Blackwater Fishing Package." It includes a day of fishing with a local guide in the backwater flats and waters of the Indian River. Oh, and a six-pack of locally crafted beer comes as a bonus.

5. A B&B can make you feel like you have transported to a completely different country.

Not all American B&Bs embrace a "quaint Americana" theme. Take The Inn of Five Graces in Santa Fe, N.M.: The 24-suite inn is filled with Afghan and Tibetan crafts and artifacts. Their attention to detail really makes for a uniquely warm, lush getaway without leaving the States.

6. The finer details of B&B rooms go beyond pretty decor and focus on comfort.

At the Blue Lantern Inn in Dana Point, Calif., each of their 29 rooms includes a fireplace to keep you warm and make you feel more at home. And in the Tower Suite Guestroom, there's a fridge stocked with soda and an in-room Keurig coffee machine. And unlike most hotels, these drinks are complimentary, so no outrageous mini-bar charges.

7. If you want to smoke weed in the nude, there's a B&B for that.

Dale Dyke and Charity Osborn recently opened up an unconventional bed and breakfast called Get High Getaways, in Denver, Colo. The couple told the New York Times that their clothing-optional B&B is targeted towards "marijuana tourists." Their B&B's living room features a camera so guests can Skype their friends when they're high, as well as a 24/7 car service and a hot tub. Osborn says she will even offer patrons her pot-filled "yummies" in the nude, if they so desire.

8. You can sleep on the same bed that a number of U.S. presidents did.

The Rosemont Manor in Berryville, Va. is a 60-acre property that was previously the estate of late Virginia governor and U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Many notable U.S. presidents have stayed at the inn, including Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.

9. You can have your own professionally trained chef cook a personalized meal just for you.

The chef above is David Smythe, the man who would cook your breakfast for you if you stayed at Barclay Heights Bed and Breakfast at Smythe House in Saugerties, N.Y. He is not only a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, but also a professor at the reputable culinary school. He could whip you up something nice, like this beautiful farm egg frittata:

10. If your sleeping experience is uncomfortable, you can fine-tune it at this B&B.

At Stone Hill Inn in Stowe, Vt., if you are not feeling your bed's pillows, you can find the perfect one when you choose one from the inn's "pillow library."

11. Finally, at a B&B, you will get the care and attention you truly deserve.

The service at a B&B goes way beyond just providing you with comfortable lodging for your vacation. The main difference between a bed and breakfast and a hotel is that the owners of a B&B see their patrons as guests, while hotels may see their patrons as customers. Many B&B owners will go out of their way to make sure their home adheres to many levels of comfort. For example, they may have made sure to open their establishment away from loud freeways or roads, and they may allow guests to bring their pets if they want to. In fact, some B&B owners are willing to rent out their whole inn to a group for a weekend so they can have a fun get-together.

And Brett Smith, owner of The Black Dolphin Inn in New Smyrna, Fla. and a third-generation hotelier who was literally born into the bed and breakfast lifestyle, says he holds the mentality that bed and breakfasts should offer a showy and original experience in order to provide the lodger with a "defining" experience. "We focus on initiatives that guests can latch onto so that they create long-lasting memories for the guests," Smith told The Huffington Post.

What Is the Most Popular Attraction in Illinois?

Tue, 2014-04-08 10:20

With Illinois' financial state in dire straits, the state needs money where it can get it. While much of this debt is being felt on the backs of taxpayers with Gov. Quinn's recent decision to make the "temporary" income tax hike permanent, there are other sources of revenue for the state, like tourism. Though there are many historic and entertaining sights to see in our state, which one do you think is the most popular attraction in Illinois, and approximately how many people do you think visit per year? Check your answers with this helpful map below!


Did you guess correctly? Or were you surprised by the results? Share your reactions below!

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