Subscribe to CNC Huffpo feed
Chicago news and blog articles from The Huffington Post
Updated: 10 min 34 sec ago

These 9 American Destinations Are The Local Answer To Your European Wanderlust

Wed, 2016-09-07 14:40

This season, we’re all feeling a little wanderlust. Whether we’re daydreaming of island-hopping in the clear waters of the Mediterranean or strolling along the banks of the Seine, our minds tend to dwell anywhere but here. But what if we could satisfy our globe-trotting cravings in our own backyard? All it takes is opening our eyes to the hidden gems and Euro-inspired surprises that are right around the corner ― the ones you find on paths you never expected. We partnered with Sanpellegrino® Sparkling Fruit Beverages and its new Delightways app to bring you nine American adventures that meet each and every one of your Euro-travel dreams ― no passport required.

Know of another hidden gem in the U.S. that didn’t make our list? Share it in the comments!

No matter where your adventures take you this season, take time to experience the joy of wandering and exploring new paths. Sanpellegrino® Sparkling Fruit Beverages is bringing a taste of Italy and The Life Deliziosa to the U.S., inspiring us to savor the flavors of life’s little joys ― the ones you find where you least expect them. With the help of Delightways, a new app by Sanpellegrino® Sparkling Fruit Beverages, you can discover more delight-filled gems off the beaten path by creating custom wandering routes through cities including San Francisco, New York and Chicago. Delight isn’t only in the destination, but in the moments of joy we find along the way ― as long as we take a moment to explore.

-- 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.

Live Stream Rehearsal of The Joffrey Ballet's New Nutcracker

Wed, 2016-09-07 12:04

The Joffrey Ballet Company Members Rehearsing The Nutcracker, Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Is September too early to start thinking about The Nutcracker?

Not if you're in Chicago.

Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is here, working on a brand new version of this holiday classic, which is set to replace Robert Joffrey's long-standing Nutcracker this December. It is much anticipated, especially after his wildly successful interpretation of the ballet classic, Swan Lake.

The Joffrey allowed a live stream of those rehearsals in the studio, and they will be doing the same with The Nutcracker on Thursday, September 8th from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm CST. This is a unique opportunity to get an insider look at how a ballet is created, as well as a preview of this world premiere. It provides a wonderful opportunity for those who live in other areas to get a peek inside Joffrey's studios, and see the company at work. It also gives Chicago-area residents an idea of what they will see on stage this year.

Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater will serve as the host for this event, which takes place on the company's YouTube channel.

The Joffrey Ballet will share this new version of The Nutcracker beginning on December 10th at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. With live music by the Chicago Philharmonic and all new sets and costumes, it's sure to be a popular event this holiday season.

-- 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.

Chicago Artists Unite To Condemn Gun Violence In Their City

Tue, 2016-09-06 11:59

A group of Chicago artists are speaking out against the routine violence in their community.

So Chi Voices creates music which they hope will help to call attention to the alarmingly high murder rates in Chicago. Over Labor Day weekend, 13 people were killed and 65 people were shot. The long, bloody weekend wasn’t an isolated occurrence. August marked the deadliest month in nearly 20 years with at least 90 homicides.

Community members, including So Chi Voices, say that despite the violence they’re being ignored by local authorities which is why the collective is so important in helping them to lift their voices.

“Chicago-based So Chi Voices is a musical movement,” co-founder Julie Nichols said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “[We’re] a collective of artists committed to uplifting our community through music. This vibrant musical collective originally came together in 2015 in response to Chicago’s rising and ignored senseless violence. Our mission is to introduce progressive change and positivity to the community, turning pain into purpose.”

While shining a light on the violence that plagues their city, So Chi Voices aims to uplift through lyrics filled with hope which can be heard in their song “See Another Day.”

One emcee raps in the song:

“Down here, feel like nobody cares. We still marching for victory while Rahm ignores our bloody tears. Everyday, we try to switch the gears. But it’s hard to stay up, when they keep burning down the stairs.” 

Though a song can’t bring back the more than 500 lives lost this year in the city to gun violence, So Chi Voices praises Chicago residents for their resilience and offers a much-needed song of healing.  

Watch So Chi Voice’s video for “See Another Day” below.

-- 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.

2016 NFL Contenders And Pretenders

Tue, 2016-09-06 11:14

The 2016 NFL season has yet to kick off, which means it’s the perfect time to decide which preseason darlings are for real, and which are simply hype trains heading nowhere.

There’s buzz around Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, and chatter regarding a much healthier Green Bay offense. And can we really trust Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton during crunch time, considering their suspect playoff history? 

Let the fun begin. 

"This is the biggest of the bold!" @Schultz_Report on predicting @RGIII being the comeback player of the year

— GMFB (@gmfb) August 23, 2016

To read my five predictions for this season, click here. To read about 20 breakout stars, click here.

New England Patriots ― Contenders 

Brady will miss four games, but the Patriots appear to be in good hands with third-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who will assume control of the offense in Brady’s absence.

Garoppolo’s scant NFL experience ― he’s thrown just 31 passes in his career ― shouldn’t overshadow his athleticism around the pocket and more importantly, his accuracy. Preseason is hardly a barometer for success, but the former second-round pick and Eastern Illinois standout has been accurate and steady nevertheless. And when Brady does return, we can expect the 39-year-old to pick up right where he left off, completing one of the best seasons of his brilliant career.

Perhaps the other key question mark for New England is its less-than-stellar receiving core. Julian Edelman hasn’t been healthy, and with Brandon LaFell bolting to the Bengals, there isn’t a clear-cut No. 2 wide out.

But honestly, what are we really talking about here? The Pats still have Brady, they still have Gronk and they still have “the Hoodie.” The AFC East hardly scares anyone, and the Pats open with games against Arizona, Miami, Houston and Buffalo, the last three of which take place at home in Foxborough, Massachusetts. A staggering 14th division title in 16 years seems like a lock, and so does another potential Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Steelers ― Contenders

The AFC may not be especially deep, but the Steelers represent as big a threat as anyone. As I previously wrote, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a real chance to break the all-time single season yardage record. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the league, and running back Le’Veon Bell will be lethal once he returns from a three-game suspension (reduced from four games upon appeal).

It’s no secret that Pittsburgh’s real issue in 2015 was its defense. The team ranked 21st in total defense, 30th in passing yards allowed and 11th in points allowed. Not surprisingly, the front office addressed this gaping hole and upgraded personnel, adding a pure cover corner in Artie Burns and a versatile, athletic safety in Sean Davis with its first and second-round draft picks.

Make no mistake: This isn’t exactly Chuck Noll’s unit of the 1970s, but second-year defensive coordinator Keith Rivers employs an aggressive, attacking 3-4 scheme that should be better in 2016 with young talent all across the board.

Arizona Cardinals ― Pretenders

This isn’t a knock on head coach Bruce Arians, nor is it a dig at an elite defense with ball-hawkers at every level. The real issue with Arizona is quarterback Carson Palmer, who simply has not been able to achieve success when it matters most ― in the playoffs.

The tricky part is understanding why: Palmer, without question, is a terrific player. He’s armed with a resurgent Larry Fitzgerald, rising star John Brown and the gifted Michael Floyd, not to mention last season’s second half stud, rookie running back David Johnson.

The Cardinals will put up a ton of points, but can we really trust the 36-year-old Palmer in the clutch? Take last year’s NFC Championship, for example: The former Heisman Trophy winner threw four picks and lost two fumbles against Carolina. One week prior, against Green Bay, the Cards won in spite of Palmer, who tossed two more interceptions. The bottom line is that winning a Super Bowl without good quarterback play is a daunting task, and Palmer has not yet shown he can go the distance.

Seattle Seahawks ― Contenders

I was recently at Seahawks camp with head coach Pete Carroll, and one thing is for sure: The team’s mindset at this year’s camp was considerably better than it was at last year’s.

Seattle is loaded and, just as importantly, it’s finally healthy. Tight end Jimmy Graham, running back Thomas Rawls, cornerback Richard Sherman, strong safety Kam Chancellor, free safety Earl Thomas, wide receiver Paul Richardson, cornerback Jeremy Lane ― all of these guys were either hurt and couldn’t play last season, or played hurt and less effectively.

Take Rawls, for instance. Before his season-ending ankle injury, the undrafted rookie from Central Michigan was leading the NFL in yards per carry. He will be spelled by rookie third-rounder C.J. Prosise, an electric playmaker who Carroll believes will become a very special player. Meanwhile, Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor and Lane comprise the Legion of Boom, a unit that helped Seattle lead the NFL in scoring defense for a fourth consecutive year.

Richardson is a burner who will open up the field vertically ― always a plus ― and then there’s Graham, fresh off a devastating injury that some speculated would end his career. The 29-year-old former All-Pro tight end never established himself as a go-to weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson last year, but expect that to change in 2016. Seam routes, play-action, red-zone targets ― it’s all there for the taking, and with the continued development of receivers Doug Baldwin (15 touchdown catches last year) and Tyler Lockett (9 total touchdowns), expect Graham to seize it. 

The biggest concern surrounding the Seahawks is their young and inexperienced offensive line, a unit which the team has spent less money on than any other team in the league. Offensive line coach Tom Cable is hardly fretting over it, though, telling The Huffington Post via text: “That’s their only disadvantage and that’s ok!”

Green Bay Packers ― Contenders 

Expect a much more balanced offense for the Packers this year. That’s what a healthy Jordy Nelson and leaner Eddie Lacy will allow this team. It’s hard to say who is more important, but let’s begin with Lacy, who by any metric underachieved last season. A Second-Team All-Pro in 2013, Lacy’s added weight made him a liability. No longer armed with his deceptive quickness and burst, the running back endured a significant regression in total yards, yards per carry and touchdowns. However, Lacy entered camp considerably leaner and it’s showed. His deft feet and ability to once again break tackles is noticeable, and we should expect the 26-year-old to resume his duties as the bell cow back for the Packers. 

Nelson, meanwhile, never managed to get on the field in 2015 after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. Not only did quarterback Aaron Rodgers lose his favorite target, but Nelson’s injury forced Randall Cobb into the No. 1 receiving role and Davante Adams into the No. 2 role, neither of which panned out. Green Bay ― with Lacy struggling ― was in turn forced to throw the ball more than it desired, and Rodgers’ numbers reflected the Packers’ predictability.

Without the threat of play-action and with both Cobb and Adams unable to get open, Rodgers threw for a career low 3,821 yards while amassing a 92.7 quarterback rating, also a career low in a full season. But Nelson, like Lacy, has appeared spry throughout camp, and we can expect the Packers’ high-powered offense to be humming all year as a result.

Cincinnati Bengals ― Pretenders

We can’t talk about quarterbacks underachieving in the postseason without mentioning Andy Dalton. To his credit, Dalton was superb for much of 2015, compiling his best season as a pro while leading a high-octane offense. But he unfortunately had to leave the playoff game against Pittsburgh with a thumb injury. The Bengals ― true to form under coach Marvin Lewis ― catastrophically surrendered a late lead at home and lost to their rivals. As a whole, Dalton is winless in four playoff games, completing fewer than 56 percent of his passes to go along with one touchdown pass and six interceptions.

All of this is to say, what exactly has changed in 2016? Dalton remains under center, and the backfield duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard aren’t exactly world-beaters. A.J. Green is sensational, but the Bengals sure are asking a lot of talented rookie wideout Tyler Boyd. The defense is stout, but so is the rugged AFC North, and playing a first-place schedule won’t make life easier for the flawed Dalton and company. 

Carolina Panthers ― Contenders

Reigning MVP Cam Newton returns to avenge a Super Bowl debacle in which he became immortalized for all the wrong reasons. What makes Carolina so dangerous isn’t just an elite defense ― although it surely helps ― but it’s the return of the ultra-talented Kelvin Benjamin, a former first-round draft pick and 1,000-yard receiver as a rookie who was sidelined all of last year with a torn ACL. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Benjamin ― a former HuffPost draft sleeper ― is a red-zone magnet capable of making Newton even better inside the 20s and on third down. Speaking of third down, “the Panthers converted just 35.7 percent of their third-down passes into first downs last year, 18th in the league,” according to

Remember too, that Newton earned his first MVP without any shred of an upper-echelon receiver. Ted Ginn Jr. ― the same Ted Ginn whom Arizona cut right before he signed with the Panthers ― was Carolina’s leading receiver not named Greg Olsen. All the while, the Panthers “led the NFL in red zone scoring percentage last year, converting nearly 70 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns,” also per 

Benjamin, an athletic marvel whom Newton can trust on 50-50 balls, should instantly strike fear into opposing secondaries, and his presence makes the reigning NFC champs that much scarier.

Denver Broncos ― Pretenders 

The defending world champion Broncos not only lost quarterback Peyton Manning to retirement, but more importantly, lost coveted free agent Brock Osweiler to a fat contract in Houston. In turn, they become just the sixth team in league history to defend a title with a new quarterback the following year.

Of course, Denver didn’t exactly win the Super Bowl because of great quarterback play: It won because of a tremendous defense that held Cam Newton to 18-41 passing and an interception, arguably the worst game of his career. And that defense remains intact as well: Game wreckers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware return, as do linebackers Brandon Marshall and Shane Ray, not to mention the cornerback duo of Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, who is playing after a gunshot wound put his career in jeopardy.

The reality however, is that neither rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch nor Trevor Siemian are capable of winning a Super Bowl, even with a defense as proficient as this one. Siemian will start the season, so it’s worth noting that not only did he almost retire after his tenure at Northwestern, but the seventh-round pick in the 2015 draft has yet to attempt a single NFL pass. To be sure, the mobile Siemian doesn’t have to be great for Denver to win football games. But this remains a tall task, and the AFC West will be widely improved with two potential breakout teams in Oakland and Kansas City.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out my SiriusXM Radio show 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. ET on Bleacher Report channel 83.

-- 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.

Crowd Psychology States Uranium Market could be ready to Soar

Tue, 2016-09-06 08:20
A genius can't be forced; nor can you make an ape an alderman.
Thomas Somerville

By any estimate, the uranium market is trading in the extremely oversold ranges, but when the trend is down, a market can trend into the extreme of extremely oversold ranges, and we have seen this occur many times in the past. The 15-year chart illustrates that the next layer of support comes into play in the $21.50-$22.00 ranges, so despite being extremely oversold the market still has room to trend lower. One positive is that the trend is about to turn neutral and if it does it would be the first move into the neutral zone in a very long time.

Taking a long-term view; a monthly close above $35 would be needed to indicate that a multi-month bottom is in place. From a Mass Psychology perspective, uranium would start to look quite tempting at any level below $23.00.
On the five year chart, Uranium is has broken through former support (27.50-28.00) now turned resistance and it appears that almost all the ingredients are in place for a test of the $21.50-$22.00ranges.


Uranium costs about $60 a pound to produce and yet mining companies can barely get $30.00 a pound for it. At some point, something has got to give, and that will most likely be the mines. More and more mines will close up shop and call it quits, and it is not easy to bring an offline mine online again; it takes time to get an inactive mine back online.

Countries like Japan, Germany and a host of other nations dreaming of giving up on Nuclear energy are well just dreaming. Japan is now re-embracing nuclear, as will Germany and or any other country with hopes to wean itself away from Nuclear power. It is either Nuclear power or Coal, and since these countries claim to be fighting global warming, they will rather embrace Nuclear than coal.
From the fundamental perspective, the picture looks quite compelling, but fundamentals tend to paint a falsely positive picture. If we take a look at Cameco, one of the top players in this sector, the technical picture is far from positive. Despite trading in the oversold ranges, the stock broke down after posting a surprise second-quarter loss.

The brown dotted lines represent the multiple levels of support the stock has broken through; in fact, the stock has just traded below is 2004 lows. We would not be surprised if it dipped to $8.50 with a possible overshoot to $7.20 before a long term bottom takes hold. If uranium trades lower but Cameco's stock price does not take the same path, it will trigger a positive divergence signals and such signals are usually indicative of a bottom.

Overall while there are many factors in the fundamental arena calling for a bottom, the technical and psychological patterns offer opposing viewpoints; both suggest that uranium is likely to test the $22 ranges before a long-term base in is in place. As the sector has taken a massive beating since it peaked in 2007, it would be a good idea to keep this sector on your radar and possibly start looking at some stocks in the industry.

Ability is of little account without opportunity.
Napoleon Bonaparte

-- 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.

These Lesbian Farmers Aren't Here To Take Over America. They Want To Grow It.

Sun, 2016-09-04 09:02

Apparently, it’s news to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that lesbian-identified farmers exist. And he believes they are a threat to rural America.

On an episode of his show last month, Limbaugh alarmingly quoted from a story from the conservative website The Washington Free Beacon, which trumpeted “Feds Holding Summits for Lesbian Farmers.” The headline referenced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights on a LGBT-focused #RuralPride initiative and LGBT Rural Summit held in Des Moines.

“What they’re trying to do is convince lesbians to become farmers,” Limbaugh warned. “Okay, go ahead and laugh at it, but I’m telling you what they’re doing. They are trying to bust up one of the last geographically conservative regions in the country; that’s rural America.”

“I never knew that lesbians wanted to get behind the horse and the plow and start burrowing,” his rant continued. “I never knew it. But apparently enough money can make it happen, and the objective here is to attack rural states.”

Of course, queer people are not confined to living in cities and many, including a number of lesbians, are already farming. Some have been at it for years. (There is no official estimate of how many queer people are currently farming in America as the government does not track such data.)

So why does Limbaugh’s ‘warning’ matter? Because the average age of U.S. farmers continues to rise and many of those famers lack family members who will take over their businesses when they retire. The nation’s farmland, then, needs someone to take up the reins. So, why not queers?

In an effort to celebrate and recognize the lesbian farmers of America, HuffPost Queer Voices reached out to a number of them. These are their stories.


“It doesn’t matter that I just happen to be a lesbian.”

Liz Graznak is the owner of Happy Hollow Farm in Jamestown, a central Missouri town that’s about a 45-minute drive outside of Columbia.

Graznak oversees everything that takes place on her thriving, 7-acre certified organic vegetable farm, which is currently in its seventh year. That work includes taking part in farmers’ markets 52 weeks a year, running a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program every harvest season and selling produce to local grocery stores and restaurants.

The farmer, who also heads up the Missouri Young Farmers Coalition, doesn’t have much in the way of free time and hadn’t read Limbaugh’s comments. She doesn’t plan to. She knows his argument rings hollow when compared to her own experience, which has been defined by a community that has embraced her, her business and her family, including her wife Katie and daughter Sylvia.

“This is a big ole red state, but I know that my neighbors respect me and think I’m doing great things,” Graznak said. “They see that I’m a hard worker and a kind person and that I employ people and buy things in the local town and put my money in the local bank and I have a lot of friends in this community. We’re farming and we’re growing food and we’re feeding people, and it doesn’t matter that I just happen to be a lesbian.”

She added that she wouldn’t trade the farming life for anything.

“I’m very proud of what I do,” Graznak told HuffPost. “I’m active, I’m outside, I’m engaged in this great learning opportunity for all these people that come out to the farm. I’m feeding people and I get to live in a really beautiful place.”


“This is an opportunity to move the United States agricultural movement in a more representational, beneficial direction.” 

Michaela Hayes is one of the four women who lead Rise and Root Farm, 3 acres of farmland in the small village of Chester in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The four women, Hayes’ wife Jane Hodge among them, met while working with the non-profit organization Just Food in the South Bronx and are in their second season of growing vegetables, herbs and flowers using organic methods.

Hayes says she was attracted to farming because of its “amazing capacity to be a tool of healing,” and that’s something she wants to bring to spread to more people by allowing visitors to come up to their farm, get their hands in the soil and connect with where their food comes from.

She’s seen firsthand the impact it has on Rise and Root’s visitors.

“It’s incredibly transformative for people to get out in the soil, touch the plants and listen to the frogs and the birds and seeing the bees and insects that are here,” Hayes said.

The women see themselves as having an impact, too, on the typical demographics of the farming industry — typically male and overwhelmingly white. It’s an impact that is long overdue.

“We’re an intergenerational farm. We’re gay and we’re straight, we’re black and we’re white, so we have all these difficult conversations about social structures and who has access to what and how,” Hayes continued. “This is an opportunity to move the United States agricultural movement in a more representational, beneficial direction.”


“The population of rural America is way more open-minded than [Limbaugh] seems to think.”


Courtney Skeeba always dreamed of having her own land, living in the country and making her own food. And in 2001, through the Homestead Ranch, she realized that dream.

Alongside her wife and son, Skeeba operates her small ranch in Lecompton, Kansas, as a sustainable goat farm, selling soaps, creams, shampoos and other products derived from their milk.

Skeeba says she loves “being able to sustain life without relying on having to buy something.” But with that perk comes a lot of downsides.

“Not everything is sunshine and rainbows,” she told HuffPost. “Sometimes, when it’s three-o’clock in the morning and it’s below zero and you’re trying to catch baby [goats] so they don’t freeze to death, you ask why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Another benefit that makes sleepless nights worthwhile is the close bond they’ve developed with the community members they see every week at the Lawrence, Kansas farmers’ market.

Though Skeeba wasn’t initially sure how she and her family would be received by their more conservative peers, she said any trepidations she had wore off pretty quickly.

“The population of rural America is way more open-minded than [Limbaugh] seems to think,” Skeeba said. “Farming or just living in a rural setting is a community-based lifestyle and I think anyone that is open to that community is welcomed. It transcends any sort of orientation.”


“We have developed our prosperity and are working to help spread it throughout our challenged community.”

Of course, queer people aren’t just farming in the country. They’re also farming in cities, too. Kay Grimm and Sue Spicer are at the helm of Fruit Loop Acres, a permaculture fruit farm on the near east side of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Their farm started in 1994 as four adjacent city lots and has since grown to almost three-quarters of an acre, plus about 2 more acres of scattered-site farmland.

They are working to increase the amount of locally-grown, healthy food available to their neighborhood, an economically struggling food desert. When their black raspberries and tart cherries are in season, the farm is open for you-pick appointments, and they also sell their fruits to local restaurants.

Their mission has since expanded to include their Basic Roots Community Foods delivery service, for which the couple partners with other local growers. The service has been in operation since 2005.

“We have developed our prosperity and are working to help spread it throughout our challenged community,” Spicer told HuffPost.

The two consider the land they have nourished all these years a “living history of the Indiana ecosystem” in how it showcases varieties of fruits, nuts and plants that have been native to the region for many centuries. They hope it will be around for a long time to come.


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

-- 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.

Flight Attendant's 'Looney Tunes' Announcement Will Make Your Spirit Soar

Sun, 2016-09-04 02:33

Why, you wascally fwight attendant!

Zach Haumesser gave Southwest Airlines passengers a hilarious “Looney Tunes” treat when their aircraft touched down in Chicago last week.

The airline steward impersonated a bunch of Warner Bros. cartoon characters for the comical landing announcement. It was as if Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety Bird were all actually there. 

Co-worker Jordy Elizabeth captured the Buffalo, New York, native’s mesmerizing performance on camera.

This is just one of the million reasons why I LOVE my job,” Elizabeth wrote on Facebook on Thursday.

Check it out in the clip above.

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=5763afe6e4b0853f8bf06964,57c2c0b0e4b04193420f824b,56d6e4abe4b03260bf78a64e

-- 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.

Stephen Colbert Teases Viewers With Spoof Interview Of Donald Trump's 'Top Cop'

Sat, 2016-09-03 04:37

Donald Trump’s crime-fighting super-cop from Chicago does exist after all! Well, at least in Stephen Colbert’s mind.

The Late Show” host conducted a hilarious spoof interview Friday with a man he said was the senior officer who last month told Trump he could stop the city’s crime in just one week.

Only, it wasn’t the real cop. Mainly because the Chicago Police Department says no one in its senior command has ever met with Trump or a member of his campaign. But also because Colbert’s interviewee turned out to be a male stripper who was only dressed as an officer. 

“I told him there are some naughty people out there who need to be in cuffs,” the officer, who called himself Rod Johnson, told Colbert of his chat with the GOP presidential nominee ― before launching into a rather racy routine.

Check it out in the clip above.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=57c150f0e4b085c1ff2999ed,57a44217e4b021fd987837cf,576e24bfe4b0dbb1bbbab7b0

-- 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.

Fact-Check Friday: Rauner Resurrects 2014 Campaign Theme vs. Democrats

Fri, 2016-09-02 10:49
This article was created for PolitiFact Illinois, a collaboration between Reboot Illinois and Pulitzer Prize-winning national website PolitiFact. For additional fact checks in this partnership, visit the PolitiFact Illinois website.

In August 2014, as the race between former Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner hit full throttle, no issue was more hotly contested than Rauner's charge that Quinn had reduced spending on K-12 education as state finances spiraled ever-downward under his leadership.

Specifically, the Rauner campaign cited Illinois State Board of Education data that showed school funding going from $7.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2009 to $6.8 billion in FY 2015. Rauner said that amounted to a $600 million reduction. Quinn, however, said his administration actually increased state-level funding during that time by $442 million.

Whether school funding increased or decreased from FY 2009 to FY 2015 depended on whether you counted $1.8 billion in federal economic stimulus money in your calculation. Rauner did, Quinn didn't. The issue never was settled, and seemed to disappear after Rauner defeated Quinn in the 2014 election.

Then came Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair on Aug. 17. Rauner is not up for election this year, but his legislative agenda is. His campaign fund in recent weeks has given $10 million to the Illinois Republican Party to support GOP candidates who are running against what Rauner describes as a "corrupt machine" run by Democrats. Throughout the summer, Rauner has revived some of the themes that were a big part of his own, successful campaign two years ago.

As he rallied the Republican faithful at the fairgrounds for the final charge to Election Day, Rauner reached back into his 2014 campaign quiver for another shot at Democrats' stewardship of school funding in Illinois.

"They are strangling our state. They are driving jobs away. They are raising your taxes to the highest property taxes in America. They are building massive government bureaucracy everywhere, crushing our economy," Rauner told an enthusiastic crowd. "They are cutting our school funding. Four times in the last 10 years before we came into office."

So here we are again, almost exactly two years from when this debate first erupted, only this time the argument is expanded to include all Illinois Democrats and narrowed to "four times" that they cut school funding. We decided to dig back in and find out if it's true.

Here's how Rauner's claim rates on the Truth-O-Meter.

-- 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.

Women's Shelter Family Rescue Sees Miracles Daily

Fri, 2016-09-02 10:04

By Natalie Crawford

It came down to a matter of matching blinds.

Women, removed from shelters, lived in their cars, awaiting the opening of Family Rescue's Ridgeland Transitional Housing because the state objected to the fact that some window blinds did not match. After six long years of jumping through the state's hoops and convincing private investors that Ridgeland and domestic violence was worth their money, Family Rescue found the only thing standing between 22 families in need of a home and the December elements was matching window blinds. So, housing center officials opened anyway, ready to face whatever fines the state would throw at them.

In an interview, Joyce Coffee, the executive director and chief executive officer of Family Rescue's women's shelter on Chicago's South Side, recalls this moment in December as one she'll  never forget.

Finally open, women stood inside Ridgeland for the the first time, never having met each other, and around them spun a little girl. She went woman to woman, offering a hello and kind smile, before off again she'd twirl. The girl turned to her mother to ask, "Mom, will this be our home? Can we have a Christmas tree?"

The women began to weep.

Shelters like Family Rescue pull off more than just Christmas trees and Christmas miracles every day. Coffee and the other workers at Family Rescue prove every day can be miraculous through the work they do shepherding women through recovery from domestic violence. Family Rescue provides women with more than shelter, food, and clothing. They also offer court advocacy, helping women navigate a complex court system. They are the only agency with offices inside a Chicago police station to aid victims. Open since 1981, Family Rescue was only the second domestic violence shelter in the city of Chicago and the first and only shelter operating on the South Side until February. The numbers, from  the most recent anual report, show:

  • 12,358 nights of safe shelter were provided

  • 23,242 nights of affordable housing were provided

  • 1,462 crisis called were answered

  • 938 orders of protection were obtained for victims

Throughout its 35 years, Family Rescue has faced hardships--struggling through the recession, the state budget impasse, and other funding challenges. As a result, the management of the women's shelter faced expensive yet necessary building renovations that could have resulted in them having to close their doors. Instead, Family Rescue got a lifeline when it was won an Impact 100 grant that allowed the shelter to continue its work. Impact 100 is a volunteer organization of metropolitan women who pool $1,000 donations into four, $100,000 grants they award annually.  

Illinois faces many challenges. And there are many ordinary Illinoisans rising up daily to meet those challenges. In the first of an occasional series of Illinois success stories, Reboot Illinois sat down with Coffee to learn more about Family Rescue's struggles and how it is rising up to achieve success for women who need help. The interview that follows has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Bulletin board in Family Rescue.

Q: What is the mission of Family Rescue?

Joyce Coffee: It basically says that we are an agency that is dedicated to eliminating domestic violence in the Chicago community, and we do that through direct services, through systems advocacy, and through community education, which fosters prevention...The mission statement has enough flexibility to allow us to experiment and do things but enough structure so that we don't stray from ... the original purpose of the organization.

Q: How did Gay Northrup start Family Rescue?

A: She went to England and worked for a year for a woman by the name of Erin Pizzey, who is generally credited with opening the first battered women's shelter...Erin had written a book called Scream Quietly or Your Neighbors Might Hear...Then [Gay] came back to Chicago and coordinated a speaking tour for Erin to come here, and Gay started the Domestic Violence Project with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army was like her incubator; they knew she was going to spin off to become Family Rescue, and that lasted a couple of years. Then she incorporated Family Rescue and bought this building. This was a convent, and she bought it with money from Angela Lansbury, the actress...and the Benjamin J Rosenthal Foundation.

Playground at Family Rescue.

Q: How did you get involved with Family Rescue?

A: My first job was running a day care center, and I had women in my day care center and DCFS was taking their children away from them. This woman finally came to me and she was crying and...said 'Joyce, can you help me?' And I said, 'Well, why are they taking them away? Are you abusing your child?'...and she said, 'No no no!' Well, someone was doing something, and you know what she said? She said, 'My boyfriend did this or did that'...I didn't know about domestic violence, didn't even know the word, and I wrote this proposal and it was funded. Judges would allow women to keep their children if they went to counseling ... so that was my first touch with domestic violence even though I didn't know that's what it was.

My second real job was as a HeadStart coordinator ... in Michigan, and the bus drivers would come to me and say, 'Joyce, you know, I think you need to look at this particular child.' 'Well, what's happening?' 'Have you ever noticed that if you move real fast around that child they'll flinch?' I said, 'No, but we'll pay attention.' Now there's my second go around, and I'm finding there's women, who'd joined HeadStart and whose children were being abuse ... Still didn't know any words about domestic violence.

I left, went to California, and worked in a residential facility for severely emotionally disturbed teenagers, and then moved back here--moved to Chicago. Gay was looking for a shelter director and put an ad in the paper, so I applied ... I looked up Family Rescue and saw it was a domestic violence agency, and I didn't know anything about domestic violence, so I went to the library to get a book ... The book at the library was Scream Quietly or Your Neighbors Might Hear. So I read this book and said, 'Man, I've come in contact with domestic violence.' So I come into the interview, and Gay gets to this thing about do you know anything about domestic violence? And I said, 'You know, I didn't think that I did, but I've been working with this issue ... and I read this book ... And remember what I told you about that book? She was sitting there smiling, and she hired me right on the spot.

Joyce Coffee, executive director and chief executive officer of Family Rescue.

Q: What are some obstacles that Family Rescue has had to overcome?

A: We've had challenges all along. This period has certainly been very difficult and not just because of what is happening to Family Rescue, but what is happening to the social services community period. It's being decimated. Partners that we rely on to help us with our clients to meet their goals ... are closing or their wait-lists are getting longer. It's harder for us to transition women into housing and get them off of welfare. The safety net underneath them is crumbing. So the challenge has been in trying to adequately fund these services during a recession where even in times of plenty, domestic violence services have never been funded to the degree they should and could have been ... But the issues that you're dealing with and the complexity of the problems that the families bring, you need the brightest and the best, but we don't have the brightest and the best money.

Children's playroom at Family Rescue.

Q: How is the Impact 100 grant going to help relieve some of the funding stress you might have today?

A: Obviously with the funding constraints that happened and even as we were seeing the recession coming to an end, the funding community hadn't rebounded and then the state did a tail spin, so last year and this year, no budgets ... Domestic violence fortunately got our contracts paid, but in the beginning of the fiscal year last year, it was a slow path. I think we went five months with no state funding before that kink got worked out, so we used up our reserves. We used our line of credit, and the interest on your line of credit you can't pay back with government funds, so you have to pay it back out of private funds. Even though we were able to live, we didn't have any reserves, so last year ... well, towards the end of 2014, some critical renovations needed to happen. This building needed significant tuck-pointing. The brick facade was pulling away from the parapet ... There was all of this stuff that was going on with the building, and it was going to cost a little over a $100,000 to fix it. And we didn't have any money to fix it, so when the Impact 100 opportunity came, we applied and fortunately we were selected. The $100,000 is paying for this major rehab of the facility that we wouldn't of had the reserves to do, and eventually we would have had building and code violations, which would have endangered the operations of the shelter.

Q: What was it like applying to Impact 100?

A: "They are the most amazing group of women...'You're among friends.' 'You're among friends.' They kept coming over to the table ... and they'd come up and ask you questions, and they would all say a variation of that: 'You're among friends' ... You don't jump through hoops. Yeah, you have to present your cause and et cetera, but after you got selected, the helpfulness and...the ease of stuff that happened ... for a hundred thousand dollars? Do you know, I've got government grants that make you go through heck and high water for $10,000, and this is a hundred thousand dollars? ... They are so amazing.

Q: How have you seen the field of domestic violence services changing for the better?

A: One of the good things that has happened over the years is that there have been corporate sponsors who have stepped up and as a corporation championed domestic violence. When before, for many years, corporations and business would say that's a negative image or cause, and they didn't want their brand associated with you've have Liz Claiborne...Chico...Avon, Mary Kay...Kraft Foods...these corporations began championing domestic violence, and now you've got Verizon, Allstate...these champions had opened the door and made it more acceptable to acknowledge domestic violence and the impact that it's having. So that's a good thing--that's a very, very good thing.

Next article: How does Illinois stack up when it comes to bullying prevention

-- 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.

A Long Wait

Thu, 2016-09-01 21:57
Our nation is at a crossroads. What's going on has been a century in the making. I, myself, have been following this nonstop, day in and day out, 45 years straight. Every day brings yet another piece of jaw-dropping news that makes me more and more nervous.

Soon it will all be over -- we'll see how it this process finally ends, and we'll have to pick up the pieces and deal with our new reality. The country needs this more than ever. And if it should happen, it will be my happiest day in 45 years.

And that day is coming very soon. Not on November 8th, but October 8th. Go, Cubs, go!

-- 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.

Why Not Take a Chicago Sexual History Tour?

Thu, 2016-09-01 12:55
Dennis Rodkin writes about real estate and talks about sex. The Crain's Chicago Business reporter churns out real estate news during the week, but on Saturdays, he unearths stories of carnal trailblazers and maniacs in his Sexual History of Chicago walking tour.

Rodkin presents Chicago through a lens of sexual evolution. "I am trying to show that we have increasingly been open to experimentation and that we've become more accepting," he explained. "With this path we've been on, we've gone from point A to point G, and in the tour, there is an implicit suggestion to move onto points L, M, and N. We need to keep that progress going."

Delivering his lines with bravado, Rodkin often garners puzzled looks from passersby who hear talk of monkey testicles and prostitution. "I'm still laughing about the stranger who caught up with us, heard what the topic is, and called us all 'Normal-Looking Perverts,'" wrote Rodkin on the tour's Facebook page.

"Normal Looking Perverts'" Jorge Newbery and Dennis Rodkin

Although the tour visits sites of historical debauchery, all lewdness remains in the past: the naked ladies and brothels that Rodkin recollects are now ghosts of Chicago's architecture. "It's about history and it's about people who helped move the boundaries of self expression," said Rodkin.

During his twenty-five years of real estate reporting in the Windy City, Rodkin has discovered sexual stories behind historic buildings, homes, and estates. "They all went into a file over the years and eventually I had so many, I knew I had to make use of them."

The two-hour tour explores downtown's Loop as Rodkin shares tales of sexual activists and deviants alike. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chicago became a commercial capital of America. Its central location and railroad system brought farmers, executives, and characters of all kinds to and from the city. "Chicago at the time was one of the most modern American cities," explained Rodkin. "There was a lot more experimentation and a lot more people breaking the rules."

Throughout the tour, he details the history of these rule breakers, including a transgender man who in 1906 fooled multiple wives into believing he was anatomically male. The man, an employee of the Russian Consulate in Chicago, had two marriages and a fetish for showgirls. When he died, however, it was discovered that he was actually a woman wearing a prosthetic penis.

"It's one of the reasons that I like to tell the stories in person instead of writing them and sharing them online," said Rodkin. "I want to see people respond because they just go gaga when they hear that story! It's a crazy one, but it links up to a lot of the transgender questions we have today."

In an era when gay rights and transgender identities dominate social discussions and legislation, Rodkin's tour destigmatizes sexual preferences. "Conversations with friends at dinner about what happens to them sexually or what they're interested in are conversations that your parents would never have discussed. But I think it's great, I mean, why not?" asked Rodkin.

"There was a whore house in Chicago in the 1960s that had 'Why Not?' painted on the blinds and I think that's a theme of this tour," he said. "As adults, why not discuss it? It's just sex."

The Sexual History of Chicago walking tour continues through October 15th. Visit for tickets, dates, and information.

-- 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.

What Labor Day Is Really All About

Thu, 2016-09-01 12:02

Get the grills going! Stock up on beer and burgers! Labor Day is here and most of us will be heading out to picnic with friends and family. We‘ll salute the passing of another summer and note, however grudgingly, the onset of fall. But how many of us will pause to recall, even briefly, the origins and meaning of this national holiday?

Labor Day was, in fact, founded by America’s earliest labor unions as a tribute to the working people who built our country. The first Labor Day parade was held in New York City in 1882, organized by the city’s Central Labor Union to demonstrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”

Workers then had no legal right to form unions and few protections on the job. Twelve-hour work days and seven-day work weeks were the norm, child labor was commonplace, and workplace fatalities were a daily occurrence.

Yet it was an era known as the Gilded Age because its merchant class grew ever wealthier, with vast fortunes to squander on untold luxuries.

That gaping inequity between the moneyed few and the millions who struggled just to survive soon sparked widespread rebellion. Workers began to stand up for themselves, to develop unions as an organized counterweight to the power of employers, to challenge the harsh working conditions that cut short so many lives.

The reaction was swift and fierce. Employers harassed, fired, beat, and even killed workers who dared to press for dignity and fairness on the job.

It was in the midst of these fierce battles that New York’s labor unions decided to stake their claim to public space and recognition. Though billed only as a parade, that first Labor Day celebration was a bold affirmation of workers’ growing power. It required participants to defy their employers by not reporting to work that day.

At first it seemed few were willing to take that risk. Only a small number of workers had assembled at the parade’s start. But as the bands began to play and the first marchers stepped off, more and more groups joined in. Before long some 10,000 working men and women, proud and strong, jammed the city streets.

Labor groups in other states quickly followed suit—and some states even passed laws making it official. But it took more than a decade and one of the great battles of American labor history to formally add Labor Day to the roster of U.S. holidays.

In May 1894, some 4,000 workers at the Pullman rail car manufacturing plant on Chicago’s South Side walked off the job in response to wage cuts of 25 percent. Having barely begun to form a union, they faced daunting odds.

“We do not expect the company to concede to our demands,” one worker said. “We do know that we are working for less wages than will maintain ourselves and our families … and on that proposition we absolutely refuse to work any longer.”

The strike spread to other cities, eventually involving more than 100,000 workers. The American Railway Union pressed the railroad industry to agree to arbitration of the dispute. When employers refused, a boycott of rail transport shut down most of the nation’s rail lines.

In response, President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops to break the strike. The ensuing battles were bloody and brutal, with 13 workers killed and more than 50 seriously wounded in Chicago alone.

Working people nationwide were outraged. With an election looming, Cleveland tried to appease their anger by championing Labor Day as a new federal holiday and Congress quickly gave its stamp of approval in June 1894.

But that gesture did not suffice. Cleveland was defeated for reelection. And the raw memory of the Pullman strike became the engine that powered a renewed labor organizing effort all across the country.

By the early part of the 20th century, America’s workers had built strong unions in every major industry. In the ensuing years, unions reshaped the nation’s workplaces through contracts and laws that established 40-hour weeks and overtime pay, provided for holidays and vacations, raised wages, improved safety and ensured that workers were treated with a measure of respect and fairness.

I will never forget speaking on a panel years ago with a man then in his eighties. His personal history went back to the days when the labor movement was just emerging—and he summed up the changes it had wrought in the starkest of statements: “Before the union,” he said simply, “they treated us like dogs.”

This year as we gather for Labor Day, we can’t ignore the rise of those forces who want to wipe out unions in our country—to go back to the days when employers had all the power and workers were at their mercy. Here in Illinois, our own governor, Bruce Rauner, is a prime example of this ferocious anti-unionism.

So let’s also take the opportunity to recall the dedication of those American workers who came before us, who refused to bow down or be walked on, who took risks to uphold their basic rights, who built strong unions not just for themselves but for all of those—like us—who came after. Let’s honor their courage and carry it on.

-- 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.

What Kanye Had To Say In 2005 About Being Called 'Arrogant'

Thu, 2016-09-01 08:57

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible);

Kanye West has never been an under-the-radar kind of guy. Ever since he first pursued a career in the music industry, the rapper has lived his life out loud, not shying away from voicing his opinion, touting his greatness or speaking out against perceived slights. So, while fans maintain that Kanye’s just being Kanye, some people think Kanye’s just being arrogant.

It’s a criticism that Kanye addressed directly 11 years ago on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” when Oprah confronted the then-28-year-old superstar about his reputation.

“Before I met you ... I had heard that you were really arrogant and really full of yourself and really, like, out of control,” she said to him.

“That’s not what it is. I fight for what I think is the best at the time,” he replied. “The year before the Grammys, 50 Cent didn’t win any Grammys. I went on TV the next day and I said, ‘You all robbed 50 Cent of his Grammy.’ He was the most important thing; he was the soundtrack to our life in 2003. Now, when it was my turn, I was just being an advocate for what was the best out there, which just so happened to be me.”

He certainly wasn’t the first star to refer to his own greatness, he pointed out. “Whatever happened to the Muhammad Alis?” he asked.

This attitude, Kanye continued, doesn’t come from a bad place. In fact, he suggested, it comes from a foundation of gratitude.

“I feel like I’m disrespecting the amount of blessings that God has given me to not scream it out loud and testify every single day about how happy [I am with] the situation I’m in,” he said.

Ultimately, Kanye pointed out that he’s just enjoying his life and doesn’t plan on changing anytime soon.

“It’s fun, it’s entertainment,” he said. “Life is in color and I plan to be bright red.”

Another Kanye throwback:

Long before making an album, Kanye ran into Oprah in Chicago and predicted he’d end up on her show

-- 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.

It Turns Out Trump Isn’t Speaking To Black Churchgoers In Detroit

Wed, 2016-08-31 13:34

Big buzz garnered this week around news that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would be delivering his first speech before congregants at a black church in Detroit, Michigan.

It turns out, it was all a farce. 

Trump’s campaign announced the event on Monday claiming that the candidate would attend Great Faith Ministries to address churchgoers to “outline policies that will impact minorities and the disenfranchised in our country” and answer questions “that are relevant to the African-American community,” according to a statement from Trump surrogate Pastor Mark Burns.  

Instead, according to the Detroit Free Press, Trump’s appearance will only include a one-on-one interview with the church’s pastor Bishop Wayne T. Jackson. The interview, which will be conducted on the church’s Impact Network, won’t air to the public until at least one week after it's taped. 

“He’ll be here Saturday. He’s going to sit in service and have the experience in the black church, and then he and I will be in this office and do an interview for the Impact Network that will be aired later on,” Jackson told the paper. “Just like any visitor, there will be fellowship at the service, and he can talk to people one-on-one.”

Trump’s resignation from speaking to black voters in Detroit comes on the heels of a new push from his campaign to expand his outreach efforts to black communities. However, so far, attempts to court the black vote, which have been laid out in a number of troubling speeches, have sparked criticism around Trump for merely reinforcing his own base of white, anti-black supporters than to show any real concern for the issues black voters demand that candidates address. 

Jackson, who told the Detroit Free Press that he has always voted for Democrats, said he feels the same way. He also said he plans to ask Trump if he’s a Christian, and if he’s racist.

“He needs to come to African-American communities,” he told the paper. “You can’t talk to African Americans in white venues.”

However, Jackson still believes Trump’s visit, which may include a private meeting with a small group of church-goers, will be beneficial in some way.

“My congregation trusts my judgment,” he said. “They know that I’m not going to put anything or anyone in front of them that I feel is going to be harmful, and I feel we should have an educated conversation about what you’re going to do.” 

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

-- 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.

5 Things I Learned In My First Year As A Vegan

Wed, 2016-08-31 10:57

A photo posted by nzinga young (@veganzinga) on Jun 17, 2016 at 6:14pm PDT

Going vegan has been a learning process.

Learning the atrocities of the meat and dairy industries and living more ethically are part of it, but here are other things I learned during my first year as an ethical vegan.

Exploitation is everywhere.

I was on vacation when I realized the $5 I paid to take a picture with a python was supporting its captivity. Colored candies I bought for my niece seemed vegan at the time, but were probably dyed with bug juice. Getting my sunscreen and multivitamins right was hard enough, but every few months I learned something new.

I didn't realize how pervasive animal exploitation is in our culture.

I didn't realize how pervasive animal exploitation is in our culture until I had to become more mindful. I'm a lot better now, but I'm sure there are a few more "uh oh" moments left in me.

Vegans are nicer in person.

My experiences with vegans online and offline have been very different.

Some online vegans can be pretty intense. Honest questions from aspiring vegans and differing views from well-meaning people are subject to brutal criticism in Facebook groups. There are more great vegans on social media than unnecessarily judgmental ones, but I have yet to meet a rude vegan offline.

The people I've met have been lovely. We can discuss differing opinions without raising our voices. We may not always agree, but we honor and respect each other for being different parts of the same fight.

I'm not sure if the anonymity of the internet makes people bolder or if I'm not in the right circles, but my view of vegans changed for the better when I started connecting in person.

A photo posted by nzinga young (@veganzinga) on Jul 20, 2016 at 6:35pm PDT

Activists are trying their best.

If you maintain a consistent argument and fight for full liberation, you're called a rigid abolitionist who's too stuck in your ways.

If you work for incremental change and improved conditions for farm animals, you're called a dirty welfarist who's doing more harm than good.

And let's not get started on vegans who urge us to consider the human rights issues tied into animal exploitation.

As a new vegan, I started to believe these reviews of vegan thought leaders, but I have yet to meet anyone from differing camps who wasn't passionate about animal liberation. The methods may differ from person to person, but the ultimate goal of freedom for all animals seems to be the same.

Connecting with vegans helped me formulate my own opinion about the biggest names in the movement. I may still disagree with their tactics -- especially ones that disrespect other social justice movements -- but everyone seems to be making an impact the best way they know how.

Intersectionality matters.

With a situation as dire as systematic murder, it's easy to focus solely on what's best for non-human animals. That's why it's important to have vegan organizations with a broader perspective. Groups that understand all oppression is intertwined and remind us that fighting for animals doesn't mean disregarding other injustices.

Collectively Free protests the forced impregnation of dairy cows and the underpaid Ethiopian workers that keep your favorite coffee shop in business.

Food Empowerment Project reminds us that the factory farm employees we often vilify are also being exploited.

Veganism is certainly about animals, but it doesn't mean we disrespect our own species along the way.

Veganism is certainly about animals, but it doesn't mean we disrespect our own species along the way.

I should be doing more.

I spent a lot of this year buying vegan without being vegan. I was caught up in vegan consumerism without doing anything to inspire change. I hope my latest initiative helps vegans everywhere get those closest to them to understand the importance of a vegan lifestyle.

My goal is to have a bigger impact during my second year of veganism. For more on my initiative to get our friends and family to go vegan, visit Wanyama Box.

-- 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.

Dear Mayor Emanuel: I Resign My Position As Principal Of The #1 Rated Neighborhood School In Chicago

Wed, 2016-08-31 10:52
Dear Mayor Emanuel:

In 2010, Chicago Magazine ranked Blaine Elementary School as the 16th best elementary school in Chicago, and the 6th best neighborhood school. After being hired to lead Blaine in the fall of 2011, I told my Local School Council (LSC) I had a "six-year plan" to turn Blaine into the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago.

I have the pleasure of informing you that I lived up to my promise to the Blaine LSC, and I did so a year earlier than promised. Last Monday, Chicago Magazine released its elementary school rankings for 2016. Blaine is now ranked as the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago, and #3 public school in the city overall. In the process, working with motivated teachers and engaged parents, we increased the percentage of students meeting reading standards from an already high 79 percent to 89 percent in just our first two years. That kind of growth from an already high performing school-without the addition of a selective enrollment program-is unprecedented.

Behind this significant accomplishment are a series of basic concepts based on empirical evidence regarding effective school practices and thoughtful consideration of how we might apply those practices at Blaine. One fundamental element of improving the school was ending selective access to advanced curriculum. When I arrived, less than 30 percent of students had access to it; today more than 90 percent have access. As is the case with most CPS schools, Blaine has a talented hard working staff. Another critical element of our success was to involve that staff in an effort to create systems, relationships and patterns of collaborative activity that are proven to improve teacher performance, and therefore improve student achievement. In many ways, that was the easy part.

You have made it increasingly difficult for principals and teachers to provide strong academic programs for our students.

The difficult part was mustering the will and stamina to remain steadfast in our commitment to use evidence-based practice in the face of tremendous pressure-from politicians like you-to adopt baseless "school reform" ideas like "tracking" (school based selective enrollment), "choice," and the over-evaluation of teachers; ideas that are grounded in ideology and politics as opposed to proven effective educational methods. In a word, the biggest obstacle to Blaine becoming the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago was politics. And while many people contributed to this problem, nobody in our great city is more responsible for that political obstruction than you.

I spent a lot of time fighting those politics during my first two years at Blaine. Some of the people I fought had good intentions, but it was abundantly clear that they did not understand effective education policy. Rather, they came with ideology and politics. We came, instead, with empirical research and evidence.

I take my profession seriously and I practice it with integrity. I did not succumb to corporate educational fads. I did not pander and I did not bend to the selfish aims of a privileged few. If an idea was not in the interests of the school as a whole, it did not happen under my watch. However, during those first two years I kept my fight behind-the-scenes and between the walls of Blaine. Like all CPS principals at the time, I took no public stances against your incompetent and uncaring mismanagement of our school system. It was my sincere hope that internal advocacy and leading by example could and would prevail.

Instead, the achievement gap steadily increased under your mismanagement as you and your appointees at CPS made one disastrous decision after another, in defiance of the evidence and research on educational practices. You have made it increasingly difficult for principals and teachers to provide strong academic programs for our students.

Accordingly, in the summer of 2013, I began efforts to ensure that the residents of our city understood the negative consequences of your administration's backward and reckless management of our school district. I did so for the following reasons:

* Decisions by you and the board you appointed and completely controlled had damaging consequences for our school system.

* Although your board was unelected, and therefore unaccountable to the residents of Chicago, you were indeed elected and could be held accountable.

* As a public servant, it was my responsibility to ensure the public understood the negative consequences of your school-related decision-making so they could hold you and your board accountable.

So for the next three years, I consistently and publicly advocated for credible evidence-based education policies. This, in turn, made me also be a consistent public critic of the ideological and politically driven policies coming out of your office and implemented by your hand-picked board.

One might think that after witnessing the unprecedented academic gains of Blaine students, you and your appointees might call on my school leadership team to help you understand how we improved at such an incredible rate. Instead, at your direction, your appointees are pushing forward with efforts to terminate my employment. It is clear that I am being punished for my advocacy, and that this retribution is more important to you than effective public education for Chicago's children.

I don't expect your appointed board to deliver justice any more than I expect it to practice fiscal responsibility or competent educational management.

Instead of learning from our work at Blaine, your appointees attempted to suppress that work and silence my voice. When CPS officials removed me as the principal at Blaine, I was already planning to relinquish my post to assume the office of president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA). However, after being chosen by my colleagues to serve as CPAA president, I decided to fight the removal on principle and to use the administrative hearing process to demonstrate the charges against me are baseless. Now, in light of the factors listed below, I will conclude that process by tendering my resignation:

* Since I have taken on the role of CPAA President, I cannot return as Blaine's principal, no matter what the outcome of the hearings. Meanwhile, the Blaine school community cannot move forward and hire another permanent principal until my case is resolved. I cannot allow those for whom I have worked so hard in the last five years to suffer the consequences of your destructive political agenda.

* The hearing process is, of course, a kangaroo court that ends with a determination by your appointed school board; the very school board that voted to censure me in the first place. I don't expect your appointed board to deliver justice any more than I expect it to practice fiscal responsibility or competent educational management.

* Thus far, during the hearing process, your appointees have failed to produce any of the requested communications to and from your office regarding me and my work at Blaine. Yet the records you produced to justify your refusal contain clear evidence that your office was involved in my removal. You confess that at a minimum the CPS legal office communicated with the City legal office multiple times regarding my termination. I will therefore have to fight for these documents outside of the hearing process through FOIA requests and possible litigation should your office continue its pattern of refusing to release information that, by law, should be publicly available.

* The flimsy charges you've leveled against me-combined with the recent elevation of my school as the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago-makes it obvious that your actions against me have everything to do with politics and nothing to do with what's good for students and families. Therefore, the point that I wished to make in the hearing process has already been made-loudly and clearly.

With the above factors in mind, I hereby resign my position as principal of Blaine Elementary School. However, my efforts to reverse your poor fiscal and educational management of our school system are just getting started.

Your actions against me have everything to do with politics and nothing to do with what's good for students and families.

In just six weeks since since I became its president, the CPAA has saved the Illinois Administrator Academies for principals after your appointees at CPS attempted to sabotage the program; made significant amendments to the Education Platform of the Democratic Party; worked with principals to form action teams that will influence city and state education policy; built relationships with elected officials in order to create access to the legislative process; created the foundation and framework necessary to build a democratic representative structure for both CPAA governance and input in CPS decision-making; joined with the engineers and teachers to oppose your wasteful expansion of absentee facilities management under Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, and started a news service that keeps school leaders informed by providing them with a thematic summary of the week's education and political news. We intend to build on this work for Chicago and its school children.

In closing, should you ever decide to prioritize student learning over the profits of your campaign donors, feel free to reach out to me and the principals I was elected to represent. We have an abundance of ideas for improving the system for the students we serve. In the meantime, we will continue in our efforts to vigorously advocate for the kind of effective evidence-based education policies and practices that your office does its best to ignore and suppress.


Troy LaRaviere, Former Principal
James G. Blaine Elementary School
Chicago's #1 Rated Neighborhood Elementary School

A version of this post originally appeared on

-- 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.

Crime Survivors Are Organizing. They Want Criminal Justice Reform, Too.

Tue, 2016-08-30 22:19

Change has come to the criminal justice system in America’s most populous state. California’s arrest rate last year dropped to its lowest level ever recorded, the result of a voter-approved initiative to reclassify several nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors. Funds saved by the drop in arrests are being shifted to other priorities like victim services and mental health treatment. Meanwhile, state residents with criminal records are currently benefitting from the largest opportunity in U.S. history to remove certain felonies from their records. Supporting these policy changes is a first-of-its-kind statewide network of crime victims, including survivors of violent crimes, who have lent their moral authority to reform efforts.

A linchpin of all these developments is a former punk drummer turned prosecutor named Lenore Anderson. She was the co-author and campaign chair of Proposition 47, the state ballot initiative that reclassified several felonies, and the nonprofit she leads organized the network of crime survivors. With big victories under her belt, Anderson is expanding her focus. Her new organization, Alliance for Safety and Justice, will deploy a similar model in a host of other states with large prison populations. The group is organizing new networks of crime survivors and pushing more states to shift resources from incarceration to effective alternatives.

“Our most important goal is safety,” she said. “Over-incarceration is really unsafe. So our intervention is to ask, how are we spending our safety dollars?”

We spoke with Lenore Anderson for Sophia, a project to collect life lessons from fascinating people. She shared personal stories of the lives caught up in a broken justice system, and of the alternative approaches that are rising to replace it. 

+  +  +

You said of your younger years, “I made a lot of mistakes. For a time, it wasn’t clear I would make it safely into adulthood.” What shifted you to the path you’re on now?

(Laughs) Hindsight is always much more linear than reality, right? I was a troublemaker as a kid. I got in trouble with neighbors, parents, police, teachers, and it wasn’t until I was older that I understood that the help that was offered me is not the help that is offered to kids of color in my exact same position. In realizing that, I made a commitment to work on racial equity and criminal justice reform for my career.

I was in California in the 80s. During the exact same time that I was in high school, the number of tough-on-crime laws that were being passed in the legislature, the number of laws that were focused on the juvenile predator ― that was when it was occurring. And at that same time, I’m in high school ― middle-class white female ― doing things that are not that different from what a lot of young kids of color would be doing at that time in their lives, and the response to me was one of forgiveness.

Police would take me home instead of taking me to juvenile hall; my parents had resources to get me counseling and therapy; teachers let me pass classes that I didn’t actually pass. There was a perception that what I was doing were cries for help, and we need to figure out how to help her get on the right path; to see me as one that needed to be protected through my juvenile confusion to adulthood.

Fast-forward ten years and I’m talking to parents of incarcerated youth. These are young people whose stories are not that markedly different from mine, with the exception of the response ― the exception of what police did, what parents had resources to do, what teachers did. I think that’s really why I do the work I do.

I didn’t go straight to college after high school. Eventually I went to junior college, mainly because I needed health insurance, and I enjoyed it. I did really well and ended up at UC Berkeley, and there I was very much interested in social justice. I go to an event where one of the speakers is Cornelius Hall, whose son Jerrold Hall was shot in the back by a law enforcement officer working for BART [the Bay Area’s rapid transit system] upon suspicion that he had stolen a Walkman.

That was a pivotal moment for me because, you know, half my friends stole Walkmans. No doubt, no question, I was one of the many teenagers who could have been Jerrold Hall, with the difference being he’s an African-American male and I’m a white female. I think that was one of the key moments where I was clear on the privilege that I had benefitted from.

What we’ve done is just so far beyond the number of people we’ve stuffed into prisons. We actually took generations of people, mostly low-income communities of color, and completely stripped hope and opportunities for basic economic stability and dignity. And we called it public safety.
- Lenore Anderson

You’ve made it a major priority to elevate the voices of victims of crime.

I worked with parents of incarcerated youth for a long time. We were organizing to replace youth prisons with community alternatives. Then I was in the district attorney’s office in San Francisco, and I similarly saw the gap between who is commonly victimized by crime and where the resources and attention go in the criminal justice system.

So when we started Californians for Safety and Justice, the mission was to replace over-incarceration with new safety priorities. And to me there has been a real big missing voice here ― the people who are most commonly victimized by crime. What are their current experiences with the criminal justice system? And what would they prefer to see?

When you look at the tough-on-crime era, they had a pretty successful media strategy. That was a 30-plus year march of dramatic expansion of a public system, dramatic expansion of the number of people incarcerated. And there were some myths that have been propping it up. One of the myths is, incarceration is the best way you protect public safety. The other myth is that that’s what crime victims want.

Well, most of the people that have been victims of crime had never been the center of public policy making during the tough-on-crime era. So the question is, how can we be more authentic in integrating the experiences of people who are victimized by crime and violence in what we’re going to replace over-incarceration with?

Safety has obviously got to be a top priority. There’s possibly no more important role that government can play in the lives of its citizenry. And to know how we’re going to deliver safety, you would think that we would talk a lot more to people who have experienced a lack of safety. We really have not. So from the outset, I wanted to make sure that we had a strategy for incorporating the voices of the victims of crime.

Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna recently announced donations of $2 million to the Alliance for Safety and Justice. They compared your political strategy to the one used by Freedom To Marry, the group that helped legalize gay marriage. What is your strategy?

Man, [Freedom To Marry] were great, weren’t they? We certainly aspire to be that effective and that successful. They’ve changed the country in a pretty short period of time.  

In terms of what we’re doing in states, we’re supporting local state-based advocacy organizations to advance criminal justice reform. We’re building crime survivor leadership to advance criminal justice reform. And we’re trying to advance public policies in states that reduce over-incarceration and replace spending on prisons with spending that’ll get us safer. Smarter safety investments.

Our focus has been the state systems because that’s where the majority of the money is and the majority of the people are.
Lenore Anderson

The role of the crime survivor work is valuable in terms of the substance, valuable in terms of a missing voice, and also valuable in terms of the political dynamic around criminal justice reform. The tough-on-crime era was very successful at framing all of those policies as “the pro-victim approach,” so we’ve tried to put forward an alternative vision that can allow us to see how those policies have been flawed. Those tough-on-crime policies actually haven’t helped the majority of crime victims, and so here’s the majority of crime victims ― here’s who they are and these are the kinds of things that they want to see. Promoting their voices has both substantive value as well as political value.  

In terms of political strategy, we’re looking at the top 15 incarceration population states in the country. A smaller number of states are disproportionately responsible for a lot of the over-incarceration in the country. When you look at national incarceration rates and you start to see them come down a little bit starting in 2012, it’s almost all California. One state has that much of an impact on that curve. Why? Because we’re such a large state. We have a huge general population and a very, very large incarceration population. When we’re talking about making big change, it makes sense to go to the big states, so we’re looking at the top 15 large incarceration population states ― it’s Florida, it’s Texas, it’s Illinois, Michigan, places where a lot of people live and a lot of people are incarcerated.

Are you focusing at all on federal legislation?

We just released a report on crime victims and we both hope and anticipate that it affects the conversation on federal approaches to criminal justice. But our focus has been the state systems because that’s where the majority of the money is and the majority of the people are.

You just surveyed crime victims nationwide about criminal justice issues. What did they say?

Lots of things that are counterintuitive. The common assumption is that crime victims want vengeance, or that they want the toughest possible longest sentence. What we found is actually quite different.

We found that the majority of crime victims want rehabilitation over punishment. The majority of crime victims want shorter sentences and prevention spending over long sentences. We found the majority of crime victims think that prosecutors should spend more time focused on neighborhood problem solving and rehabilitation, even if it means fewer convictions ― even if it means fewer convictions. Those kinds of findings really stand out, and these are diverse crime victims from all backgrounds across the country.

There are enough people at this point that have had direct personal experience with the failings of our current approach to criminal justice that pretty much everybody agrees that most people get worse in prison, not better. How can that possibly be a good investment? Hearing that from victims I think is a really powerful intervention on the conversation on what we should be doing.

You told the New York Times, “My highest hope is that we start to really see some innovation that we haven’t seen in the past.” What sorts of criminal justice innovations are you impressed by right now?

There is great innovation happening in the sphere of safety and justice. For the most part, they are boutique programs, they’re on the side, they’re operating on a dime. Getting those things to scale is the issue. We know what to do. The problem is, it’s not the centerpiece.

So we have general run-of-the-mill felony calendars that all day churn out the same sort of stuff. And then you have the neighborhood court program that operates in one neighborhood, that’s holistic in its approach, that has caseworkers on site that evaluate the drivers behind why someone’s involved in crime and addresses those drivers, like addiction or mental illness or homelessness. Then the person is stable, the crime stops happening, the neighborhood’s in better shape. Those things are often on the side. So I can definitely share the things that work well and are exciting, but also recognize the main issue is scaling them up.

So neighborhood court programs are excellent models of what could be done differently, especially when it comes to cycles of low-level crime.

There are a lot of wonderful restorative justice programs. They’re really powerful because they involve the crime victim in the resolution of the case in a way that the traditional criminal justice system can’t and won’t. A lot of the members of our Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice team have become inspired around criminal justice reform precisely because of a restorative justice experience that they had in their own dealings with the crime that occurred. It is really a missing piece that victims should have when it comes to solving crimes, up to and including serious crime. That’s a huge one.

There are a lot of excellent diversion programs. There’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion that comes out of Seattle; this is where police officers say to people who are struggling with addiction: “Hey, I won’t arrest you if you go into X treatment and case management program.” It’s more of a public health approach, understanding that people may relapse, that that’s part of the process of addiction. Law enforcement officers and case managers are trying to get this person out of the cycle of addiction and that is the goal of the program. It’s very different than a goal of, “Hey, I saw you on the street again, you’re still possessing drugs, we’re going to arrest you once again.”

So, diversion programs; all of the collaborative court models, in particular the community court models; and then restorative justice stand out to me as some of the things that have really been missing in terms of priorities.

I’ll mention one other, the Trauma Recovery Center model. We talk a lot in criminal justice reform about people committing repeat crimes and recidivism rates. But there’s another less-discussed reality: the people who are most likely to be victims of crime have been victims before. Their pathway to recovery is one that we completely miss when it comes to our safety investments, and this is something that we’ve been pushing a lot. 

What if we had a better sense of who around us are victims of crime that are vulnerable to being repeat victims of crime because they haven’t gotten the help that they need to recover? There’s this model in San Francisco called the Trauma Recovery Center, and we’ve been supporting them. Any victim can use it, and when you come in, you get help filling out your victim compensation forms, but you also get on-site access to mental health counseling, relocation assistance, and other things, they’re all incorporated.

So we found this one program and started working with our state senator. We’ve now gotten enough pieces of legislation and budget allocations passed in the last four years such that in California, there are now nine Trauma Recovery Centers across the state. One of them, it’s called Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, in San Joaquin County, a remarkable organization. They also work with kids who have been incarcerated and kids who are on probation. So right there in that one community center, they have the awareness and understanding of the risks that kids face to become victims of crime, and also are helping kids who have committed crimes get off that pathway and get onto productive lives. Really amazing stuff that’s popping up.

The majority of crime victims want rehabilitation over punishment. The majority of crime victims want shorter sentences and prevention spending over long sentences. We found the majority of crime victims think that prosecutors should spend more time focused on neighborhood problem solving and rehabilitation.
Lenore Anderson

And how do you view the ideal role of prisons?

The Vera Institute of Justice took a group of people from the U.S. to Germany to see their system. One of them was the Santa Clara District Attorney, Jeff Rosen, and hearing him talk about what that looks like is really interesting. He’s written a few pieces on it and given some speeches, you should check it out if you can because I think he paints an interesting picture of an actual real system today that works.

For example, in Germany, the people who run the prisons, it’s a highly-regarded job. They are Ph.D.’s in criminology and sociology, they understand rehabilitation and so forth. It’s taken very differently in that regard.

The proper role of our criminal justice system is to stop cycles of crime, and the vast majority of ways to best do that are at the community level; if people are a danger and cannot be in the community, then the priority responsibility is to rehabilitate them during the time that they’re separated from society.

So the focus is on the pathways for someone to safely return to the community. A system that emphasized that and focused on that would look radically different than what we have now, and it would be for a smaller number of people. Because if we had the kinds of programs in place on the front-end at the community level that offered alternatives to incarceration ― diversion and mental health treatment, drug treatment, all those kinds of things ― you’d see a lot fewer people get far downfield in their involvement in crime.

What are some books that had a substantial impact on your intellectual development?

Certainly Maya Angelou was very influential. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” I read that when I was young, a very influential book, taught me perseverance and growth through challenge.

And when I was in college, Frederick Douglass. I had a college professor tell me there are only about 200 written autobiographies by people who were enslaved in this country. Slavery lasted over 200 years and there are only 200 autobiographies actually in print. Isn’t that amazing? It’s just horrifying that we have that little direct knowledge of what this country did. At any rate, Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography was really impactful.

Violent crime in California was up about 10 percent last year. Why do you think that is?

There are a couple of things that are important to note. One is, most criminologists would say you want to look at crime trends for longer periods of time to be able to accurately evaluate where they’re going and why.

Two, we know that crime trends are often very localized. A severe challenge in one jurisdiction may not be the same in another. So when you break out what’s happening in San Francisco versus what’s happening in Monterey versus what’s happening in Fresno or Richmond, it looks pretty different. It doesn’t look quite like there’s one statewide trend. You can see a lot of diversity in how crime is happening. For example, it’s down in Oakland, it’s down in Pasadena.

There are a lot of jurisdictions where it’s going up and I would say that there’s a lot more that needs to be researched and understood to get a sense of what’s happening. Violent crime is certainly up in other parts of the country, as well. This requires close attention.

The other thing I will say is that every reform that occurs does need to result in adaptive practices at the local level. Sometimes those adaptations happen and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you’re gonna do now that a particular crime no longer means automatic incarceration. What are the other strategies you’re going to use to address these things? We’ve been clear, as it relates to Proposition 47, that implementation requires that locals change their practices. If locals do or don’t, that could be having an impact as well. 

There are enough people at this point that have had direct personal experience with the failings of our current approach to criminal justice that pretty much everybody agrees that most people get worse in prison, not better.
Lenore Anderson

You’ve been doing this work for years. Is there a moment that stands out when you knew you’d made a major impact?

Proposition 47 took six crimes, changed them from felony to misdemeanor, and applied that retroactively very broadly. Anyone in California who had one of these crimes on their old criminal record can apply to get that felony removed. Rough estimates are that there are about 1 million Californians that may be eligible for record change under Proposition 47. 

So we’re like: Let’s tell the public about this. We did outreach to grassroots organizations, we did billboards, we did television, radio, and then we decided we wanted to organize a large-scale fair, like a community fair, where we would have free lawyers on site, we would have hot dogs, music, and get people to come on down and get their records changed.

So it was Exposition Park in Los Angeles, and we got 150 lawyer volunteers all trained up, and they came to volunteer. And we got 150 event volunteers. We had no idea how many people were going to show up. Just no idea, we’re rolling the dice here.

The event starts at 11am on a Sunday and our team shows up at seven in the morning, and there are people who are already in line. At seven in the morning. My staff is like, “Hey, you know we don’t start until 11am?” And people have lawn chairs, sleeping bags. The response from the people in line was, “Oh no, we’ve been here since four in the morning. This is a really important day for us.” Five thousand people showed up at this event!

Watch the video below for scenes from the Los Angeles record change event.

I mean, it was totally overwhelming, total chaos, computer systems break down (laughs), we need to get more water. We had no idea, we had no idea. And the stories of the impact of these felony convictions on people’s lives was devastating and overwhelming. The grandma who can’t get her granddaughter out of foster care because she has some drug possession conviction from like 30 years ago. The guy who’s been only able to find part-time work for a decade, even though he has three kids. The woman who wants to get a student loan to go to college. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. There were moments where it was just tears.

And it is overwhelming. How are we ever going to possibly be able to help all these people ― not just on this day but in this country? What we’ve done is just so far beyond the number of people we’ve stuffed into prisons. We actually took generations of people, mostly low-income communities of color, and completely stripped hope and opportunities for basic economic stability and dignity. And we called it public safety. 

Looking back, would you have handled your own education any differently?

I sure wish I took high school more seriously than I did because I probably would have gone straight to college. On the other hand, perhaps I needed those years for growing up. I certainly encourage younger folks to take high school seriously and go to college when they can. I am grateful for the junior college system in California. I think community colleges are critical tools. Not everyone can go to a four-year.

There’s so much about education that is a luxury, in terms of the chance to grapple with ideas, learn as much as you can, absorb as much information as you can. Especially as a mom and working all the time, the opportunity to just read and learn is not the luxury that I have. I really wish that I’d spent more time in the libraries. I really wish I had taken more opportunities to learn everything I possibly could from the brilliant teachers that I was around.

Think of it as this very very short period of time where you’re actual job is to learn. I mean, that’s the coolest thing ever. And it’s not permanent. That’s a very, very short window. So absorb as much as you can.

I spent some time in other countries while I was in law school, and I remember a colleague of mine in Guatemala asking me all kinds of questions about the library at the law school that I went to. It was just such a remarkable thing that there would be this many books. Recognize that college and law school in particular are serious privileges and you should take them seriously and absorb everything you can.

To know how we’re going to deliver safety, you would think that we would talk a lot more to people who have experienced a lack of safety. We really have not.
Lenore Anderson

Anything else to mention?

It’s funny to me that this is even of interest to you, to be honest. Criminal justice reform is a totally new thing to all of a sudden be a very big issue. For the majority of the time I’ve been working on criminal justice issues, it has not been a major topic in the media or a major subject of presidential candidates, all this kind of stuff. That change just in the time that I’ve been doing this work has been interesting.

I’m really hopeful that means we’ve reached a point where we can have a breakthrough on this issue in the country. It certainly wasn’t what I would have expected 10 or 15 years ago. I mean, we now have Democrats and Republicans talking about some of the same things when it comes to criminal justice reform. Wayne Hughes Jr. was a major backer of Proposition 47, a very prominent conservative business leader here in California. Newt Gingrich endorsed Proposition 47. It’s just kind of amazing, right?

It’s such an exciting time for criminal justice reform and the possibility of completely changing how the country understands safety. What that will mean for millions of people is really humbling to me. It’s so important that we turn this moment into something meaningful, that we actually take the opportunity that I think we’re being handed right now.

What’s going to make the biggest difference? How are we going to turn mass incarceration into something of the past, something that we recognize was a huge mistake in terms of public policy and human development? That’s a very humbling but exciting opportunity that I see that exists right now in this country, and something that I don’t think I foresaw happening so soon.

This interview transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

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

-- 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.

The Chicago Gang Diaspora And The Origin Of Gun Violence

Tue, 2016-08-30 11:28

Chicago is front and center in the gun violence debate that is happening within the presidential campaign. The issue was underscored by the shooting of basketball great Dwayne Wade's cousin while she was walking with a stroller post registering her other children for school. Everyone keeps asking, "why?" Why in the adopted hometown of President Obama?

The answer is simple; the Chicago gang diaspora. Gang violence in Chicago has increased dramatically since the closing of the city's housing projects, most notably Cabrini-Greene which housed 15,000 residents. As with most housing projects, Cabrini-Green was known for crime, drugs, violence and gangs. When it was decided that the Near North real estate was too close to Chicago's Miracle Mile, and too valuable with the backdrop of the murder of a young girl, it was announced that the housing project would be closed.

Cabrini-Green had a dividing line with different gangs on the north and south sides of Division Street. When the projects were closed, families were moved to other housing projects or used housing vouchers to move into areas on the West and Southsides of Chicago. During this diaspora, no consideration was given for the gang affiliation of the family. Whether it was a young son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter who was affiliated with a gang, no one asked before the family was placed in a new neighborhood.

The end result is the gangs that were divided by Division Street in Cabrini-Green now live next to each other in new neighborhoods, resulting in shootings across the entire city on the West and Southsides. Middle-class African American neighborhoods are now experiencing violence they have never known, all because of the gang diaspora.

Everyone wants a solution; politicians, the Chicago Police, the Nation. Unfortunately, it is too late. The families have been relocated without any concern for familial gang affiliation. A generation will be lost until those affiliations are somehow realigned. So the killings will continue until the current gang bangers retire. That's what happens when gang leaders and members don't understand where their territory begins and ends.

I know it sounds strange to equate a diaspora with gangs, but in the end, they believe that they are culturally a family. Gangs have been split and placed next to their rivals; house by house, apartment by apartment. The result is over 2700 shootings in Chicago this year.

The only solution is to reevaluate each family and move them again to concentrate familial gangs within certain neighborhoods. I know it sounds crazy but it will save lives.

-- 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.

Democrats Kill Redistricting Reform While Taking Credit for Supporting It

Tue, 2016-08-30 10:10
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

On Thursday, we got the news that the Democrats elected to the Illinois Supreme Court had rejected giving Illinois voters a chance to have their say on redistricting with some of the partisanship removed.

The decision was completely partisan. Majority Democrats on the court voted no to letting the redistricting question go before voters while the Republicans voted yes.

On Friday, I came home to another letter from one of the Democrats who is supposed to represent me in Springfield. This one was all about how that Democrat voted to make legislative mapmaking fairer.

What fortuitous timing, she wrote sarcastically. I'm guessing nearly everyone who lives in a district considered contested or competitive got one of these letters that surely were ordered and designed by House Speaker Mike Madigan's and Senate President John Cullerton's minions. Of course, less than a third of districts up for election this year even are contested because of the political control over redistricting.

My letter said Legislator or Candidate X "believes Illinois must change the way the state's legislative district boundaries are drawn so politics can be removed from the process and true reform can begin." It even implied my legislator owned or authored a House Joint Resolution that was "superior to other so-called 'reform' proposals because it provides: true independence," true diversity, true transparency...blah, blah, blah.

What a crock of baloney. Do not buy it.

In classic, clever campaign legislating, majority House Democrats pushed through and approved one redistricting reform proposal, while majority Senate Democrats pushed through a different one. In order for redistricting changes to be made law, the two Democratic-run chambers would have to approve the same plan and then it could go to the governor for his consideration.

That didn't happen. On purpose. So now you still can have Democratic lawmakers and Democratic candidates saying they support redistricting reform, or they're on record supporting it, or they practically sponsored it as they campaign to win your vote Nov. 8.

Let's be crystal clear on three points:

  1. If Republicans won the power to draw legislative maps after a U.S. Census, they would draw them to their political advantage too, just as they did once in the 1990s.

  2. Democrats have won the power more lately and have used it to full advantage.

  3. Democrats are the ones blocking a less-partisan approach to legislative mapmaking.

If you want to have a shot at fixing Illinois politics, redistricting reform is one of the best ways to start. Corruption is born when politicians draw maps to their advantage, packing voters into districts they know will vote for their candidates based on their voting histories. Or they pack candidates or lawmakers from their opposing party into the same district so one of them can't win. Often in the process, they draw districts that look like ear muffs or spaghetti or spiders. Or they draw districts where one side of a block is represented by one lawmaker and the neighbors across the street have a different politician.

There's no guarantee that changing the way legislative maps are drawn will fix everything. Few things are perfect and most such attempts create unintended consequences. But nearly any change in the redistricting process that removes the conflict inherent in politicians drawing their own home bases is worth a shot.

The Independent Map Amendment group that was the second consecutive one to try and to be shot down by Democrats in the courts is weighing whether to ask the court for a rehearing.

Last week, Democratic Supreme Court justices said the amendment group erred by including the state's Auditor General in its plan by having that officer oversee the process for selecting independent commissioners to draw maps.

Having seen the history of rigged mapping and attempts at changing it in Illinois, Republicans on the supreme court assailed their Democratic brethren.

"The Illinois Constitution was meant to prevent tyranny, not enshrine it," Republican Justice Bob Thomas wrote.

Enshrined tyranny. That's just what we have in Illinois. We've become numb to it.

Independents and Democrats with common sense have to join Republicans in concluding any attempt at changing redistricting is rigged against the people as the current maps are. Our very democratic, small d, rights are being stripped from us. We need to wake ourselves up from the stupor of our Illinois political slavery. Stop thinking that it doesn't matter or it's hopeless. Recruit family, friends and neighbors.

Call, email, visit your elected officials. Tell them to work with the other chamber and approve the same form of redistricting changes to send to the governor. Keep telling them. Keep up the pressure. Again and again. When they tell you they voted for reform, laugh at them. Tell them you'll vote for them after they see that redistricting changes are Illinois law.

That letter? The amendment it mentions, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 58, was supported by some reputable groups in Illinois that also supported the Independent Map Amendment. The letter correctly says that other version of redistricting reform was supported by Common Cause Illinois, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Advocacy Council.

But again, Madigan and Cullerton made sure each chamber passed different versions of redistricting reform. Tell them to get HJRCA 58 to Gov. Bruce Rauner after the election or to call a special session and get it done now. Or tell them to pass the Independent Map Amendment version because lawmakers can approve whatever they want, unlike citizen voters. Tell them then, and only then, will you consider voting for them.

Call them on their campaign crocks of nonsense. Democrats control the Supreme Court, the state House and Senate. Voting for something isn't enough. Give us a real redistricting reform law supported by non-partisan experts.

Call the Democrats' bluff. Hold them accountable. Illinois Republicans, Democrats, and independents of common sense must unite. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Next article: Personal info of up to 200,000 Illinois voters compromised in cyber attack

-- 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.