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I On Exceptional Living - The Chicago Edition

Sun, 2016-06-05 16:44

Irene Michaels, Arny Granat, Kay Rose, Richard Rose
Photo Courtesy of Irene Michaels

In I On Exceptional Living I have discussed a supermodel, Beverly Johnson, to a suburban-supermom, Vicki Reece, and now I am happy to continue the series with more special individuals whose lives are leaving a mark on the world in a variety of ways - this time some special Chicagoans will be highlighted. The following six people are especially deserving of recognition for their achievements in the Windy City and beyond, and I'm excited to share a snippet of their stories with my readers. And perhaps we can expand in the future

Kay Rose

Kay Rose has spent a lifetime excelling in the world of fashion. As a St. John's specialist at Chicago's Saks Fifth Avenue, she turned a small boutique section into one of the most profitable departments in the entire country. Featured multiple times in Chicago Magazine, Kay is one of the faces of Chicago fashion. Her current venture, the Kay Rose Collection, brings fashionable accessories to customers of great taste. With this business, Kay will no doubt continue to be a vital part of the Chicago fashion world. Check out all of her designs at The Kay Rose Collection.

Alex Pissios

As the President of Cinespace Chicago Film Studio Alex Pissios has been at the center of Chicago's revitalized film and television industry. Cinespace converts old factories into soundstages, and Pissios' studio occupies 1.45 million sq. ft. of what use to be the old Ryerson Steel Company, a former steel-processing plant on the Southwest Side. Pissios' work has been instrumental in drawing filming of such hit shows as "Chicago Fire" and blockbuster films like "Transformers" to Chicago, prompting hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of investment into the Windy City. Pissios also leads the Cinecares Foundation which was was founded in 2014 to fulfill the legacy left behind by the founder of Cinespace, Nikolaos Mirkopoulos, and has led remarkable initiatives for both improving education and supporting community-based arts programs. Pissios truly is succeeding in his effort to enrich Chicago, in more ways than one.

Stanley Paul

For more than 30 years, Stanley Paul has been a Chicago institution, and perhaps one of the best-know bandleaders in America. As head of the eponymous Stanley Paul Orchestra, he continues to be a fixture of the city's social scene. Whether a wedding or a gala ball, the Stanley Paul Orchestra can be counted on to provide the finest music playing around. Stanley Paul himself has overseen the band's growth and the develop of an astonishingly broad repertoire ranging from the classics to the contemporary. A true Chicago legend, we look forward to his gracing city ballrooms for years to come.

Contessa and Irene Michaels -- Photo courtesy of Irene Michaels

Contessa Helena Bottega

Contessa Helena Bottega is undoubtedly one of the finest fashionistas in world. Her boutique in Chicago's Gold Coast is a one-stop shop for all of the finest designers and most fabulous clothes you can find today. It was at the Contessa's boutique that I found my own wonderful wedding dress, the bridal couture section is absolutely DIVINE, so I have a deep personal affection for the place. In addition to her fabulous sense of style, Contessa Helena showcases an eclectic mix of classic and exotic fashions by designers like Roberto Cavalli, Blumarine, Rocco Barocco and Morgan de Toi, to name just a few.

Joseph Ahern

Joseph Ahern is one of the titans of Chicago television. As the chief of ABC 7 from 1985 to 1997, and of CBS 2 from 2002 to 2008, Ahern has shaped Chicagoans' TV-watching experience for decades. He has left a mark that stretches far beyond local television however, as he helped accelerate the career of one of Chicago's finest when he supported the launch of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" while at ABC 7. Ahern continues to give back to the community, currently serving as CEO of the 100 Club of Chicago, which helps support the families of first responders who have fallen in the line of duty. Ahern's work for the people of Chicago makes him deserving of special recognition.

Richard Melman

One of Chicago's great restaurateurs, Richard Melman has been at the center of some of the city's great culinary landmarks, including Wildfire Grill, Shaw's Crab House, and Big Bowl. Melman's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has grown to include more than 100 venues. Not bad for a kid who used to sell ice cream and peanuts on Chicago's beaches! Despite his vast culinary empire, Melman's life still revolves around his family, his wife of 40 years and three children. Truly, he is a great Chicagoan.

I am so excited to highlight the exceptional lives of some of my Chicago friends...Frank Sinatra said it best "'s my kinda town"...and the people in it are so exceptional I could not wait to tell the rest of the world about 'em...

Check back for full stories on some these great Chicago residents.

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King Rahm for Alderman!

Fri, 2016-06-03 14:37
(Chicago-Thursday June 2, 2016) Appointed 4th Ward Interim Alderman Holds Fundraiser Next Door to Opponents Campaign Office.

When I heard that Rahm Emanuel's 4th Ward Aldermanic Appointee was having her fundraiser literally next door to my office I knew that I was witnessing a classic Rahm 'fish wrapped in newspaper' tactic - in other words try and intimidate me and my supporters with the big money people he controls. So I went to my office Thursday evening to see who would be raising money for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked interim/candidate Sophia King.

Wow! I saw a lot of folk who I've become acquainted with over my years of advocating for the public good in Chicago. Sadly none of the folk leaving the fundraiser are folk I've seen fighting for the poor, challenged and disadvantaged. I'm not saying they haven't contributed to any worthy causes I'm just saying I haven't seen them rubbing shoulders with the poor. I didn't see anyone from the 'Laquan McDonald 16 shots and a Coverup' crowd.

It is crystal clear to me that my opponent in this race is Rahm Emanuel. I have been consistent over the years spotlighting the pain and damage his administration has wrought because he lacks the skill-set as well as the political-will to govern the poor, disadvantaged and challenged.

The 4th Ward is markedly diverse. Hyde Park. The University of Chicago. A bit of Downtown and the plain-old-everyday-neglected-west of the Obama Presidential Library-neighborhoods. The haves and the have-nots. The issues and headlines that affect my city also affect the 4th Ward in which I live. Policies, programs, education and public safety must be intentional and optimally developed for the entire ward lest we continue to shortsheet the least of these.

Whoever wins this seat can be the independent community voice and will of all the people. Or another rubber stamp that executes the orders of the Few in total obeisance to the Mayor. Checks and Balances be damned.

The special election for the 4th Ward aldermanic seat is February 2017. My name will be on the ballot. Rahm Emanuel's name will not but I know that back behind the big curtain it will be him I'm running against.
Twitter: @gslivingston

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The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Pizza

Fri, 2016-06-03 11:10

If you’re tuned into the politics of food and the influence that large corporations can have on public policy, you’re probably familiar with the term Big Food by now. And Big Ag. And don’t forget Big Soda.

But you probably haven’t heard about another powerful arm of the food industry's lobbying: Big Pizza.

Meet the American Pizza Community.

A coalition founded in 2010 and led by some of the nation’s largest pizza retailers, the APC includes popular national chains including Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesars and Pizza Hut, plus many of their suppliers.

The group, according to its spokesman Tim McIntyre, is aimed at “work[ing] together on topics that are unique to the pizza industry” and no, that doesn’t just mean trying to get you to eat more of that cheesy, greasy goodness we all know and love.

The way the APC puts it, they’re going to battle in the war on pizza.

“We want to stop the demonization of pizza,” McIntyre said in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. “Think of it this way: bread is good; tomato sauce is good; cheese is good. Put them together and they’re somehow bad.”

This has meant that, since its inception, APC has focused primarily on fighting the push to add nutritional information to restaurant menu boards. The APC has vocally opposed this, arguing in a 2013 Bloomberg article that the mandate would be “virtually impossible” for the pizza industry to meet due to the seemingly endless combination of toppings a customer might choose for their pie, as well as the fact that most chains’ customers don’t even set foot in a store to buy from them.

That’s not all the group is up to.

In a press release issued last month and reprinted by the Pizza Today trade publication (but not published on the organization’s own website), the APC lashed out against the Department of Labor’s final ruling on overtime eligibility. That ruling doubled the overtime salary threshold from the current $23,660 to $47,476, guaranteeing overtime pay for millions of additional workers.

The APC believes the change will be an expensive one that will negatively impact job and income growth, overburdening employers already facing small profit margins with significantly increased administrative costs.

The ruling, McIntyre told HuffPost, “cuts right at the heart of the restaurant industry.”

This was not APC’s first foray into wage issues. It had previously opposed the minimum wage hike in California and lists employment and labor policies among its top issues on its website, but the group has received little publicity for these efforts.

Of course, these policy positions should not come as a surprise given the stance of the restaurant industry as a whole on worker pay. Trade groups like the National Restaurant Association, home to industry heavyweights including McDonald’s and Darden Restaurants, have been consistent and vocal opponents of wage increases.

That opposition also shows in the data. Restaurant workers across the board struggle to get by as the majority of them receive low wages and few benefits. According to a 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute, one in six restaurant workers live below the official poverty line.


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Still, there’s good reason to believe pizza restaurants, while rarely the target of #FightFor15 worker protests, are among the broader industry’s biggest offenders on worker pay and conditions.

The major pizza chains’ records on these issues reveal a long string of controversies. Last month, the attorney general of New York filed a lawsuit accusing Domino’s of “rampant, systemic wage theft” at 10 stores where workers were allegedly underpaid at least $565,000 and that the company’s headquarters, not just its franchisees operating those stores, were involved.

For his part, McIntyre, who also serves as executive vice president of communications, investor relations and consumer affairs at Domino’s, told HuffPost that the company “believe[s] in paying people fairly -- and we believe in providing opportunity to those willing to come in and work hard every day to build a career with our brand.”

Of course, Domino’s isn’t the only pizza chain that has been involved in worker pay controversies.

Previously, four franchisees operating nine Papa John’s restaurants in New York similarly were forced to pay almost $500,000 in back wages and damages to its workers. Though Papa John’s headquarters was not named in that lawsuit, nor another one alleging delivery drivers were being short-changed, the company’s CEO John Schnatter has faced criticism over the low wages paid to his company’s workers or the remarks he made in opposition to healthcare reform.

Pizza Hut franchisees, too, have also faced wage theft allegations.


Despite all this, it almost appears as though Big Pizza gets a pass on its questionable politics.

Even as consumers, especially younger ones, are becoming more health-conscious in their food-buying habits, we're still eating a ton of this stuff. 

According to a 2014 USDA report, about one in eight Americans has consumed pizza on any given day. And, contrary to the trend of health-conscious youngsters, that number rises to one in four when only males aged 6 to 19 are considered.

Pizza is retaining its throne as America's go-to comfort food, too. According to research released earlier this year by Harris Poll, pizza is more popular than the creamy triumvirate of chocolate, ice cream and macaroni and cheese.

In addition to eaters becoming more health-conscious, they are also -- thanks to the growing food movement -- drawing new connections between the food they eat and its politics. All of this should spell disaster for Big Pizza, so why -- the industry's own proclamations of the "war on pizza" aside -- isn't it?

Michele Simon, a public health attorney and the author of Eat Drink Politics, argues there could be a class element to be considered when one compares how activists often protest McDonald’s, for example, but rarely target popular pizza chains.

“Activists often choose issues, especially in public health, based on what they, the privileged class, can look down on,” Simon told HuffPost. “So it’s easier to look down on eating low-brow foods like cheeseburgers, fries and soda than pizza, a fun food everyone enjoys.”

“We’re not responsible consumers when we buy four pizzas for $20 and tip $3 to the delivery person, if that."
Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project


Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, a non-profit working to expand opportunities for low-wage workers, added that pizza is not only tasty and convenient, but also extremely cheap, which makes it appealing for a wide cross-section of eaters.

It’s not uncommon for major pizza chains to offer coupons lowering the price of a single pizza as low as $3 or $4, or even less. On honor of the opening of their 100th Chicago location in 2014, Domino’s offered $1 pizzas at all of its Chicago-area locations for a 100-minute window.

But such extremely low prices are not sustainable. When food prices go that low, Conti argued, someone -- almost certainly a worker -- is getting stiffed.

“We’re not responsible consumers when we buy four pizzas for $20 and tip $3 to the delivery person, if that,” Conti told HuffPost. “If we’re getting that much of a bargain, someone somewhere is paying the price. We have to realize this is no way to have an economy that works for everybody and is robust.”

Of course, not all pizza restaurants have spotty records on worker’s issues, so there is reason to be hopeful.

Saru Jayaraman is the director of the University of California Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, a group working toward improved wages and working conditions for restaurant workers.

Currently among ROC United’s 100 “high-road” restaurants the organization has partnered with -- employers that offer better wages, paid sick days and advancement opportunities -- are two pizza restaurants, Dimo’s Pizza in Chicago and The Just Crust in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Beyond that, pizza pickings are slim. No national pizza chains are among ROC United’s “high-road” employers, but Jayaraman is confident that could change. She said she is meeting with restaurant CEOs every week who are interested in treating their workers better, and is confident there is an opportunity for a pizza retailer to step in and fill the void.

“In 15 years of organizing, I’ve never seen a moment where the high road is more visible, viable and trendy,” Jayaraman told HuffPost. “I think there’s a consumer community out there that is certainly wanting to eat good pizza that treats its workers fairly.”

Meanwhile, the next time a piping hot pizza arrives at your door an hour after you ordered it, it might be worth considering what that pie actually cost.

“Our workers and our local economies pay the price for those cheap pizzas,” Conti added.

-- 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.

Illinois is Trashed Like North Avenue Beach

Fri, 2016-06-03 09:46
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

It appears someone has left half of our generation at the north avenue beach.

-- Luke Wittenkeller (@ThatOneLukeKid) June 1, 2016


Hey Luke,

What's up? You are so right. Someone left half your generation at North Avenue Beach this past weekend. Or maybe it was half your generation left North Avenue beach totally trashed. Ah, what's it matter? Who cares, really? As long as you all had a good time and got what you wanted, right? Right, dude.

That's certainly how Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Mike Madigan have been playing it for a year and a half now.

And hell, that's how your parents raised your generation, right? You show up and you get a prize? I'm down with that now. It's all about me.

Ya know, more of us should join the fun. Let's just all make it all about us. In fact, I'm not gonna show up at work tomorrow. I can't ever get Matt Dietrich to agree with me, or see my way of thinking, so screw it. If he's stupid enough to show up, he can just run the website.

What's the point, anyway? None of the worthless politicians give two hoots. We've got no budget, no plan, no future. We've gone a year now without a budget, but it's really more like two years when you consider that last year Rauner signed only the school portion of the budget and vetoed everything else. This year, not even schools got done. Heck, man, that governor dude is sticking it to the man. The man being House Speaker Mike Madigan, of course.

Of course, Madigan stuck it right back, telling Rauner he could take his last-minute, Band-Aid budget bargain and stick it in a committee where the sun doesn't shine like it does at the beach. Ya with me? You know what I mean, right?

That's the way. Why not all the rest of us? Really, why not? What's the point?

The state's totally, officially trashed now, too, right?

So, hey, next time you're heading to the beach on the Blue Line and you see someone getting jumped, just chill. Turn up the tunes on your earbuds and you can drown out the hollering.

Maybe the cops on the West Side can just start leaving those kids and adults who get shot and killed for no good reason lying on the streets until the bodies pile up like the beer cans and vodka bottles. No one cares about them anyway.

Chicago Public Schools are circling the drain, too, ya know. So, probably, are dozens of other school districts in central and southern Illinois. No state money to pay teachers or get ready for the fall, so hey, teachers can come party at the beach with us now! Bring the little kiddies to the beach, too. They won't have anything to do and they're sure as heck not even gonna be able to work at a Mickey D's by the time they grow up.

Their parents are so busy working, running them to dance class and scouts and those stupid fake wave pools in the burbs anyway, they don't even stop to notice schools' not gonna open.

Man, can you imagine how they're gonna react when they realize schools are shut down and they have to find somewhere to plant those kids all day, every day, for who knows how long? That I gotta see. Maybe they'll stop, take a breath and realize it around, whadya think, August 15th?

I don't know. I do feel so bad for all those people who just need a little help, though, you know?

I know it should be all about me and I'm right and everyone else is wrong and all, but I looked at my phone before I decided to chuck it and absorb that attitude and I couldn't help it. I saw the email from that Responsible Budget Coalition.

"The failure of our leaders to reach a budget agreement means that:

Child care centers that serve the children of tens of thousands of low-income workers will stop receiving funding."

Leaders?! Did you see that? They actually called them "leaders." What a joke, Luke. Anyway, man o' man. Tens of thousands of kids with no day care. Can you imagine? That'll mean they have to hang with their parents. Which means their parents won't go to work either. Whoa. Guess Starbucks and Mickey D's will be shutting down.

"As many as 130,000 low-income college students could lose the Monetary Assistance Program grants they need to afford a college education."

Did you catch that one, Luke? Man, I guess we'd better find some more beaches to trash if we're gonna be joined by 130,000 college dropouts. Maybe they can start braiding plastic from the beach garbage into bracelets and sell them to the rest of us when we're trashed.

That's cold, right? Well, tough, it's every man and woman for himself.

And there goes my alma mater, Eastern Illinois University. Oh, well, tough luck for all those students and teachers and professors and secretaries. So long to the bars and the falling-down frat houses and the T-shirt shops and fast-food joints in Chuck-town without any higher ed funding. Guess they all can just come up here and beg for change on the streets with the rest of the homeless people who aren't getting help any more.

All that joblessness and no hope of learning and getting ahead is gonna make a lot of people depressed. They're not all going to embrace our new screw-everybody-else approach to life, right? But that coalition says the wait time on suicide hotlines is gonna be at least six months.

"In-home care services for seniors will continue to be slashed, forcing them into nursing homes, and many more will join the over 3,000 seniors that have already lost home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels) services.

All 29 agencies serving survivors of sexual assault will continue furloughs and staff reductions begun in July 2015 and services for over 3,700 sexual assault survivors will be in jeopardy."

Seriously? Think about it, Luke. Now, I'm getting really depressed. And angry ...

What about all those Down Syndrome kids and adults and the ones all over the autism spectrum? What's gonna happen to them without any state money?

And did you hear Maryville Academy is gonna stop taking care of kids with no parents or parents with problems? Yeah, state officials said they probably were going to have to cut their funding by $23 million. There goes a 132-year history. I guess those 60 kids can come hang at the beach with us for the summer. What about later? I don't know, I guess they figure it out for themselves.

Just like all those people who are mentally sick. All of them and the people who've been working to support them can just give up now, too.

Remember Tina Wardzala? The woman I wrote about a couple of times who was assaulted as a kid and raped as a young woman? She's bipolar, agoraphobic and has post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of no state funding, she had to give up seeing a psychiatrist she was comfortable with and used to seeing.

I couldn't help it, Luke. I checked on her recently. Her counselor of many, many years told me she quit showing up some time in the past few months. The counselor, Kathy Allen, reached out, but she hasn't heard from Tina.

It made me wonder how many people like Tina are in trouble in my own neighborhood and all those other neighborhoods in Illinois.

"We are finding ways to stay afloat for now," Allen wrote me, "but have seen our waiting list grow dramatically in recent months to the point of having to temporarily close services to new clients.  We continue to advocate for a reasonable solution to the budget crisis that recognizes the needs of vulnerable children, adults and families in Illinois and the cost-effectiveness of providing 'upstream' services and supports for these at-risk populations."

It's all about me, right? Just like the Springfield politicians are showing? I'm supposed to just go the beach, get smashed and trashed and leave it all behind? Let someone else worry about it?

Right. Later, Luke.

NEXT ARTICLE: Ricketts makes his case for open-air plaza outside Wrigley Field

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Arianna Huffington to Hunter College Grads: To Create a Better World, Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Thu, 2016-06-02 20:32
I had the great privilege of joining Arianna Huffington, HuffPost's editor-in-chief, at the 2016 Commencement Ceremony of my alma mater, Hunter College. Arianna gave the keynote address and was given the President's Medal by Hunter College President, Jennifer Raab.

During the ceremony, I was reminded why Hunter holds such a unique place in my memory. Hunter is truly one of the most diverse academic institutions in America, and fosters a message of tolerance and academic prosperity across many disciplines. Listening to President Raab's remarks, I was taken by the range of academic and personal triumphs made within the graduating class of 2016 -- many through extreme adversity. I was again made grateful that I was able to have an academic experience in New York City, enriched by a kaleidoscopic student body.

Arianna's speech eloquently echoed Hunter's motto, which I remember was prominently emblazoned on the wall of our campus in Manhattan.

Mihi Cura Futuri: The care of the future is mine. It is my job to remember that our collective future begins with my personal choices.

You can read Arianna's entire speech below:

President Raab, CUNY Board of Trustees member Brian Obergfell, CUNY Vice Chancellor Gillian Small, Hunter administration, faculty, staff, and above all, the graduating class of 2016 and their proud families, I'm deeply honored and grateful to be sharing in such a special moment in your lives, and especially honored to be at Hunter. And congratulations to valedictorian Sarah Soo-Hoo, a double-major in economics and biology -- that's quite a combination. Sign me up for whatever startup you end up launching. Though I was especially impressed to learn that you were raised in New York City and somehow became a golf champion. Anyone that can do that certainly has a bright future ahead of them.

This is such a unique place, and one that reflects the great city it serves -- a place where people from different countries, different traditions, speaking different languages, come together, united in a desire to better themselves, and the world. As an immigrant myself -- I know it's hard to tell since I have lost every trace of my Greek accent -- I of course feel completely at home here.

I'm proud to be at a place where nearly a third of undergraduates were born overseas, where nearly 40 percent speak a native language other than English, where about a third are the first in their families to go to college, and where almost 20% of you are graduating with a second degree. Also impressive is that this is a place where so many of you have held down jobs while going to school, and have triumphed over so many obstacles to get to this moment of celebration. If this were a sporting event, we'd all be spraying each other with champagne right now, but President Raab vetoed that idea.

Now I know when you Google stalk someone you're not supposed to tell them, but I've been secretly getting to know you a little better. And I've learned all kinds of things, like, for instance, that Hunter has apparently been doing some innovative work on the subject of time, coming up with some kind of quantum system of Thursdays somehow replacing Mondays, which I'm still confused about -- so I have no idea what today is. I've also learned there's a place you spend a lot of time at named Oasis, which, from what I've been able to glean, might be ironically named. And I know it may sound silly, but I feel a connection to you because Hunter College and HuffPost are both on the 6 train. We're connected by a green line of destiny.

More well-known is that Hunter has nurtured the best and the brightest throughout our history, from Nobel Prize winners to civil rights activists, to former congresswoman Bella Abzug, who famously remarked, 'This woman's place is in the House -- the House of Representatives.'

Hunter is a living testament to the power of diversity, tolerance, and progress. But as much as we would like to think otherwise, these values cannot be taken for granted. They have to be safeguarded, protected and defended every day. You don't have to follow the news particularly closely to realize they're under assault right now. We have a presidential nominee who smears Mexicans as 'rapists,' who wants to institute a religious test to enter a country founded on religious freedom, who wants to erect barriers and walls. But this is an institution based on breaking down barriers and walls, on proving the value of opportunity, openness and diversity. So all of you have a special role to play in upholding Hunter's rich legacy at a time when it is threatened like never before in our lifetime.

And I'm very happy that at HuffPost we have a wonderful Hunter graduate, Karah Preiss, leading our editorial video initiative to bring us together through a combination of making science accessible and a lot of humor. The series is called Talk Nerdy to Me. And one of her first episodes was about the search for other habitable planets, a search which has accelerated since the Republican nominee was decided. In fact, Elon Musk has just announced that he hopes to send a human to Mars by 2025. And that's all well and good, but with the potential outcome of this current election, can't we find another habitable planet just a little bit sooner? It doesn't have to be a fancy planet, it doesn't have to have rings. It just has to support intelligent life. Everybody will be welcome because of course, in space, we're all immigrants.

I'm often asked if I had the chance what advice I would give to my younger self. So here is what I wish I could go back and tell myself on my own college graduation day: 'Arianna, stop worrying and get more sleep! Every aspect of your life will actually improve if you get more sleep -- your work, your health, and your happiness.' And I might also tell my younger self something about certain hairstyles that might look dated later on, but that's a different speech.

But I didn't learn about the true value of sleep and recharging until much later in my life. And what I'm here to tell you today, after my own painful experience of collapsing from sleep deprivation and burnout nine years ago, is that to make the most of who you are and of all the hard work that has gotten you here today, to fulfill all your dreams, you actually have to start -- as they tell us on airplanes -- by putting on your own oxygen mask first, before helping others. Not because you are selfish, but because that is how you are going to be at your best and most effective. The science on this is conclusive: burnout and sleep deprivation degrade every part of our lives, including our productivity and our empathy.

It's not a surprise, for instance, that some of our best ideas come in the shower. In fact, I'm terrified that Apple will soon create a waterproof iPhone and rob us of yet more of our precious time away from technology, where we can think, imagine, dream without our smartphones holding our attention hostage. I remember the first time I started walking around Soho, where I live, without multitasking and staring at my phone. I actually began noticing things that weren't on my tiny iPhone screen, including a beautiful building near my apartment. 'What a gorgeous building,' I told a friend I was with. 'When did it go up?' '1890,'she said.

It was in the Industrial Revolution when we began to think that we could treat humans as machines by minimizing downtime. This was when sleep became not just devalued but actively scorned, as just more idle time spent not working. But now we are in something of a golden age of sleep science, revealing that sleep is, in fact, a time of frenetic activity in our brains, with profound consequences on both our physical and mental health.

So now we are at this amazing moment in the zeitgeist when the culture is slowly shifting, and I urge you to be pioneers in this shift, and accelerate it. It was my generation that built this world fueled by burnout, and it's now up to your generation to change it. And that means, among other things, no longer celebrating people who are always on, who answer emails or texts immediately no matter when they're sent, who make a show of working 24/7. In fact, I had dinner with a man recently who bragged about having only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before. I thought -- but I didn't say: 'This dinner would have been a lot more interesting if you had gotten five.'

Your former President, Donna Shalala, recounts how back in the days she served as President Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services, the President would often call her up in the middle of the night to talk policy. At one point, she took to sleeping with her big briefing books next to her bed. It's perhaps no surprise that President Clinton himself later said, 'Every important mistake I've made in my life, I've made because I was too tired.'

Because when we're always on, when we're always connected, we're there, but not really there, and we go through our days at 60 or 40% capacity, or worse, sleepwalking through our lives in a zombie state. Or we're in constant emergency-mode, eternally panicked about all we have to do. This is why my screensaver is a picture of gazelles: They are my role model. They run with all they've got when there is danger -- a leopard or a lion approaching -- but as soon as the danger passes, they stop and go back to grazing peacefully without a care in the world. But human beings can't distinguish between real dangers and imagined ones. Past failures and future worries activate a fight-or-flight response the same way as real dangers, and unlike the gazelles, we can't stop running -- we just keep going, until we crash.

And when we're sleep deprived, all our fears, anxieties and self-doubts are exacerbated. We are more likely to go into catastrophic thinking and negative fantasies -- that interview went bad, therefore I won't get the job, therefore I'll never get a job. As Montaigne put it: 'There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.'

I was delighted to find out that three of this year's graduates, Dana Seag (Dana Seeg), Catherine Traynor, and Alicia Ambrosino, launched a national alliance on mental health at Hunter. Because, as Catherine said, 'Not everyone has to have a mental illness in order to care about mental health.'

And what modern science is revealing is that when you scratch the surface of depression or anxiety, over 80 percent of the time you find sleep deprivation. So if I could give you one graduation present -- one that would make it easier for you to deal with whatever problems and setbacks life brings, as well as access your best, most creative ideas for your life and for the world -- I would give you the gift of waking up and greeting each day with fresh eyes, fully restored after a good night's sleep.

We all have different areas in our lives where we are more insecure and anxious. You probably all know what is your biggest anxiety trigger, so you can test how sleep deprivation exacerbates it. I'll tell you what my greatest anxiety trigger is. It has to do with my two daughters -- any parents here who identify with me? If I text one of them and she doesn't respond within five seconds I move into the most idiotic negative fantasies. A few years ago I was in Switzerland on a grueling business trip, and I woke up, still sleep deprived, to a text from my daughter Christina that she was feeling terrible and needed a doctor. I immediately tried to call her and she didn't answer. And then of course I moved into full-scale panic, calling everyone -- her friends, her friends' parents, all our relatives, and just stopping short of calling the police and putting out an Amber alert for her. I'm sure there are people in this audience who I called! But, of course, she was fine, it was just a very bad cold and she had gone back to sleep, which is why she hadn't responded to my texts. But my sleep deprivation had turned that into a full-blown emergency.

There will always be emergencies and unexpected challenges in your life. The question is how do you deal with them. You can't control what the world brings to you, but you can control how you respond to it. That's why my favorite expression of wisdom -- one that I keep laminated in my wallet -- is by Marcus Aurelius, who was both the emperor of Rome and a Stoic philosopher: 'Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you. This, in a word, is art -- and this art called 'life' is a practice suitable to both men and gods. Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing; what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend?'

And if we live life this way, then we have more resilience and more ingenuity to help us deal with the hardest moments. I remember one of the low points in my life, when my second book was rejected by, yes, 37 publishers. By about rejection 25, you would have thought I might have said, 'Hey, you know, there's something wrong here. Maybe I should be looking at a different career.' Instead, I remember running out of money and walking, depressed, down St. James Street in London and seeing a Barclays Bank. I'm not sure why, but I walked in and asked to speak to the manager. And I asked him for a loan. Even though I didn't have any assets, the banker gave it to me. It wasn't much, but it changed my life, because it meant I could keep things together for another 13 rejections and then, finally, an acceptance. In fairytales there are helpful animals that come out of nowhere to help the hero or heroine through a dark and difficult time, often helping them find a way out of the forest. Well, in life too, there are helpful animals disguised as human beings -- in my case, as a bank manager, ready to help. So, very often, the difference between success and failure is faith and perseverance, which are easier when you believe in yourself enough to take care of yourself.

As you head out into your new world, you might well feel overwhelmed with far too many items on your to-do list. So here is a hack on how to trim those lists down and give your life some breathing room. You can complete a project by dropping it. There is no law for example that you have to binge-watch the entire Game of Thrones series. That's the way I finally checked learning to play piano, and learning German, and becoming a good skier, off of my to-do list -- I 'completed' them by just finally getting rid of them. It's about priorities, and realizing you're more than your to-do lists.

I'd like to close on a note of gratitude. Not just my gratitude for having the chance to be here with you today -- though there's that -- but also how important it is to build gratitude into your every day.

And there's no time like the end of the day to reflect on what you're grateful for, and what were your moments of joy. And I love that because my new goal in life is not just to get stuff done, not just to be effective, but to bring joy into my life and into everything I do and touch. And you know what? I get more stuff done as well!

No matter what the challenges, each day let's also find joy in what we're doing. As Colette said, 'What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.' Let's move from struggle to grace. And that's entirely a matter of our attitude.

But it is infinitely harder if we are sleep-deprived and exhausted to tap into the joy that is independent of circumstances, the joy that lies beyond our to-do list, our job title and our next promotion -- the joy that people have found in the middle of the darkest times. And nothing takes the stress out of anything potentially stressful in our days faster than joy. Stress and joy cannot occupy the same space. Speaking to 1700 people is, on paper, stressful. But unlike some of you who might have, uh been out celebrating last night (and I can't really blame you) I had eight hours of sleep. And I love being here connecting with you. So it's not stressful, it's joyful.

And when we take the time to recharge and renew ourselves, we are more likely to find shortcuts through the problems and solutions to the greatest challenges. Those of us in the media have tended to focus on the crises. Indeed, there is an old saying in the news business, one that's guided editorial thinking for decades: 'If it bleeds, it leads.' That is, stories of violence, tragedy, dysfunction and corruption get top billing -- at the top of the hour, at the top of the computer or phone screen or above the newspaper fold -- driven by the assumption that these are the stories the public will be most drawn to watch or read. This ethos is wrong, both factually and ethically. And it's lousy journalism. That's why at The Huffington Post we have created a global solutions initiative that we call What's Working. Because as journalists, our job is to give our audience an accurate picture -- and that means the full picture -- of what's going on in the world. Just showing tragedy, violence, mayhem -- focusing on what's broken and what's not working -- misses too much of what is happening all around us. What about how people are responding to these challenges, how they're coming together, even in the midst of violence, poverty and loss? And what about all the stories of innovation, creativity, ingenuity, compassion and grace? If we in the media only show the dark side, we're failing at our jobs. And it's not just journalists and the media. Whatever field you're in, having the courage and daring to recognize that you can make a difference begins with focusing on solutions. And when you do that, you will inspire others to do the same.

And every night can become a reminder that we are more than the sum of our successes and failures, that beyond all our struggling and our rushing there is a stillness and a joy that are available to us, that come from a place deeper and more ancient than the unending noise that surrounds us. The motto of your school translates to 'the Care of the Future Is Mine.' And it fills me with optimism that the care of our future rests with you. But if I could add a rider to that, the care of yourself also rests with you... and taking good care of yourselves will give you the resources to take care of our collective future.

So please remember that life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen. You're leaving a special place, and the world needs what this place has taught you -- your wisdom, your creativity, your tolerance, the strength of your diversity. It's a richness you are bringing with you into the world. Please remember to regularly replenish it.

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Tribune Publishing Could Not Have Picked A Worse Name For Its Rebranding

Thu, 2016-06-02 18:34

What the tronc? 

Tribune Publishing, the troubled owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, announced Thursday it was trading its storied corporate name for "tronc Inc." -- short for Tribune online content. 

The internet immediately began masterfully, mercilessly, making fun of the rebranding:

This is our new logo. Again, tronc.

— Kurt Gessler (@kurtgessler) June 2, 2016

— Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson) June 2, 2016

If you’re wondering where you know the #tronc font from, it’s from Nickelodeon.

— Margaret Lyons (@margeincharge) June 2, 2016

There's also the issue of the English meaning of "tronc" -- a box for collecting tips for staffers (typically at a restaurant or hotel) to split later -- which derives from the French word for "poor box."  

Tribune Publishing, a media company with a nearly 170-year old legacy, has -- like most newspaper publishers -- been in tumult lately as advertising and circulation plunge.

Chicago tech mogul Michael Ferro invested in Tribune Publishing this year (he still holds shares in the rival Chicago Sun-Times.) Ferro swiftly installed a new CEO and became board chairman.

Since then, Ferro has fended off an $860 million offer from USA Today owner Gannett Publishing. 

Ferro is said to be longtime friends with another major Tribune -- sorry, tronc  -- investorbillionaire Los Angeles surgeon Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Soon-Shiong was announced Thursday as the company's vice-chairman. He said he plans to speed tronc's transition from newspapers to online publishing with machine vision and artificial intelligence. 

“We will benefit from Dr. Soon-Shiong’s entrepreneurial spirit and strong technology expertise as we aggressively implement the changes necessary to transform the company and create superior value,” Ferro said in a statement. 

The company's statement on the rebranding -- a gobbledygook of buzzwords like "monetization" and "premium, verified content" -- also noted it would shift from the New York Stock Exchange to Nasdaq, where it will begin trading June 20.

Topping off the company's tone-deaf nonsense, the team behind the rebranding apparently forgot to check tronc-related social media accounts before the announcement: 

Bring me the idiot consultant who sold Tribune Media on announcing this awful name without looking locking down all related social accounts.

— Tronc Chicago (@TroncChicago) June 2, 2016

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Poverty, Militarism and the Public Schools

Thu, 2016-06-02 15:16
What's the difference between education and obedience? If you see very little, you probably have no problem with the militarization of the American school system -- or rather, the militarization of the impoverished schools . . . the ones that can't afford new textbooks or functional plumbing, much less art supplies or band equipment.

The Pentagon has been eyeing these schools -- broken and gang-ridden -- for a decade now, and seeing its future there. It comes in like a cammy-clad Santa, bringing money and discipline. In return it gets young minds to shape, to (I fear) possess: to turn into the next generation of soldiers, available for the coming wars.

The United States no longer has a draft because the nation no longer believes in war, except abstractly, as background noise. But it has an economic draft: It claims recruits largely from the neighborhoods of hopelessness. Joining the U.S. military is the only opportunity to escape poverty available to millions of young Americans. We have no government programs to build the infrastructure of peace and environmental sustainability -- we can't afford that, so it has to happen on its own (or not at all) -- but our military marches on, funded at more than half a trillion dollars a year, into ever more pointless wars of aggression.

Glory, glory hallelujah. I'd never been to a Memorial Day parade in my life, but I went to this year's parade in downtown Chicago because members of the Chicago chapter of Veterans for Peace were going to be there, protesting the militarization of the city's schools.

I arrived as the parade was still assembling itself along Wacker Drive. What I saw, along with the Humvees and the floats (Gold Star Families of the Fallen, Paralyzed Veterans of America: Making a difference for 70 years) were thousands of young people -- mostly kids of color, of course -- bedecked in various uniforms, standing in formation as martial music erupted sporadically, driven by the drumbeat of certainty. Some of the boys and girls seemed as young as 10 or 11. One boy walked past me twirling a rifle like it was a baton. Was it real? Was it loaded?

The concept of America is a totally military phenomenon, I thought as I walked along the parade route. This is what holds it together, not culturally, but as a legally organized entity. The flags, the rifles, the Humvees, the names of the dead . . . the uniformed children. For a moment I wondered if I could continue calling myself an American.

Then I met up with the Vets for Peace people at State and Lake -- a small group of men and women handing out stickers that read: "No military in Chicago Public Schools. Education, not militarization."

"The idea is, just by being here, we're having people stop for a moment and think about the militarization of Chicago schools," Kevin Merwin told me. "There's opposition to the wholesale militarization of youth in Chicago. It's the most militarized school system in the country, if not the world."

Indeed, according to various sources, there are between 9,000 and 10,000 young people in the Pentagon's JROTC program, with "military academies" -- often in spite of furious community opposition -- taking over portions of 45 of the city's 104 high schools.

"Kids in seventh grade are being rolled up into this Memorial Day parade," Merwin said. "We're inculcating kids into the military system at a young age -- the kind of thing we criticized the Soviet Union for back in the day. And it's mostly kids of color."

Ann Jones, addressing this hypocrisy, pointed out in an excellent essay that Congress actually passed an act in 2008 -- the Child Soldiers Prevention Act -- that was "designed to protect kids worldwide from being forced to fight the wars of Big Men. From then on, any country that coerced children into becoming soldiers was supposed to lose all U.S. military aid."

However, not surprisingly, the economic interests of the military-industrial complex eventually gutted the intention of this rare bit of compassionate legislation. Five of the ten countries on the child-solider list, Chad, South Sudan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, have been granted "waivers" so they can continue to purchase American weapons.

"Too bad for the young -- and the future -- of those countries," Jones wrote. "But look at it this way: Why should Washington help the children of Sudan or Yemen escape war when it spares no expense right here at home to press our own impressionable, idealistic, ambitious American kids into military 'service'?

"It should be no secret that the United States has the biggest, most efficiently organized, most effective system for recruiting child soldiers in the world."

Those who want to perpetuate the military mindset -- that is to say, the servants of the most powerful economic interests in the country -- have to grab the minds of the young, because only in one's youth does militarism resonate with uncontaminated glory. This is why the Army maintains a gamer website. And it's why every branch of military service sets up shop in our most desperate schools and parades the Junior ROTC boys and girls before the public on Memorial Day, our national holiday in celebration of arrested development.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at or visit his website at


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To the Little Kink-Haired Girl

Thu, 2016-06-02 14:48
Little kink-haired girl, you inspire me.

Sitting with your texturally diverse friends while wearing your puffs and braids with casual confidence makes me feel so proud. I know that you just think that your barrettes are pretty and that you hate sitting still while Mommy does your hair, but to me, your indifference to your texture reveals that something incredible is in the works.

When I was your age, I didn't know my hair. I only knew my relaxer. I knew my favorite brand and the smell of its chemicals that my hair was only "nice" when the relaxer was freshest. I knew that the reappearance of my natural texture was a problem and that a relaxer was a magic elixir that would solve it. I knew the little girls on "kiddie perm" box had pretty hair because of what was in the box. I knew that if I was really diligent with my relaxers that maybe I would one day have pretty hair like them.

When I was your age, I didn't know my hair.

I was barely acquainted with my kinky hair. We'd only met briefly. I only missed it when my mom one day, apparently nostalgic for the days of ribbons and barrettes put me in pigtails to go to school. My once thick, full braids were now a limp, short semblance of what they used to be. I cried. Being "bald-headed" was the worst fear of every black middle school aged girl that I knew, and I had happened upon it. Processing and manipulation ruined my hair, but being unaware of this contingency, I blamed the only visible culprit, my hair itself. I had the "stupid" hair that didn't grow. My hair was the problem, and it had to be put down.

I graduated to adult relaxers and became good enough to apply them myself. I always got the super strength because "that's what it takes to knock these naps out!" I would joke to my friends. My natural hair was bad, possibly the worst. It had to be "fought" and "handled" and "tamed". So I became the "nap tamer". I would fight though my kinky new growth and the stinging and the smell to arise victorious over my blasted natural texture. My hair was good again. See you nappy newcomers in six weeks.

My natural hair had to be 'fought' and 'handled' and 'tamed.'

My hair didn't grow, but that's not something my hair was good at. It was thinning, but that made it easier to straighten. It was weak and breaking, but all hair did that. I was finally fine. My hair was finally fine. I knew it in and out. It was mediocre, but I knew it in and out.

Then my sister cut of all of her hair.

It was glorious.

And bold.

And terrifying.

So terrifying that despite the fact that I loved her hair, I refused to go natural for another two years, because I didn't want to face the villainous texture that I had worked so hard to defeat before.

Before then wearing your natural texture as a grown-up was completely foreign to me. Wearing your natural texture was the antecedent to permanent straightening, and nothing further. I wasn't for it. And it wasn't for me.

But my sister disagreed. And cajoled. And nagged me...

And won.

I cut my hair off.

And suddenly, the kinks and I were reunited.

I then realized what you already know, little kink-haired girl; my natural texture is a part of me. And it really isn't a big deal. I don't have to fuss about it, or beat it down, or change it in any way. I just have to wear it. And that doesn't have to be hard. One day it won't have to be a stand, or defended, or scrutinized. One day wearing my texture won't be seen as courageous, or subversive, or political. One day my hair will just be my hair. Just like it is to you.

One day wearing my texture won't be seen as courageous, or subversive, or political. One day my hair will just be my hair.

I hope that I can be more like you, little girl. But more than that I hope that you represent a change in America forever. I hope that you continue to not have to think about not getting hired because of your hair, or losing the battle and your hair to relaxers, or being "bald-headed", or not being pretty enough because you are different. I hope that you when you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine that you see beautiful and powerful representations of yourself everywhere. I hope that you and your kinks never part and have a long and happy relationship together. I hope that you never change and that you remain carefree, never feeling like you have to choose between a hairstyle you can't afford to maintain and looking "unpresentable". I hope that your generation represents a new attitude towards the "other". I hope that your generation has no "other". I hope that you can continue to teach me how to accept who I am just by being your cheerful, vibrant self everyday.

I hope that you when you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine that you see beautiful and powerful representations of yourself everywhere.

You are already light-years ahead of me when I was your age.

I hope that one day I can catch up to you.

This was originally posted on
This post is part of HuffPost's My Natural Hair Journey blog series. Embracing one's natural hair -- especially after years of heavily styling it -- can be a truly liberating and exciting experience. It's more than just a "trend." It's a way of life. If you have a story you'd like to share, please email us at

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Obama's Favorite City To Spotlight Is Filled With People Who Distrust Him

Wed, 2016-06-01 08:51

WASHINGTON -- In the summer of 2008, Andrea and Andrew Hauser of Elkhart, Indiana, were confidently planning out their lives. They'd bought a home the year before, and in August, they found out they'd be having their first child.

Then it all started to unravel. By that fall, the recession sweeping across the country had struck Elkhart and almost flattened it. The city was a major hub for the RV industry, and as the U.S. economy fell in on itself, not many people were interested in buying luxury vehicles.

The Hausers, who worked in the industry, weren't spared. Andrea lost her job first. Three weeks later, while driving back from a trip to spend Thanksgiving with family in Georgia, Andrew got a call saying that his company was going out of business.

Plenty of others were in the same boat. Andrea's brother and father were soon jobless, and she estimates that eventually, 75 percent of their friends were without work too. They'd have parties where they'd eat, play cards and exchange bleak jokes about the economy. The Hausers got by on unemployment insurance. But half of it was going to the $800 a month Andrea had to pay for COBRA coverage, since her pregnancy meant that she couldn't afford to go without health insurance. They cut back elsewhere, shopping for cheaper groceries and never going out for dinner.

"It wasn't the end of the world," Andrea recalled. "But it was easy to feel like we were going to experience what our grandparents experienced during the Great Depression."

But gradually, things started to get better. In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill. The benefits would take a while to trickle down to Elkhart, but one change came quickly to the Hausers: The government now covered two-thirds of Andrea's COBRA costs. "If that had not happened, we would not have been able to pay our mortgage," she said.

Soon after, Andrew got a job. So did Andrea's brother. The country's economy was improving, the RV industry was coming back and jobs were coming back with it.

On Wednesday, Obama will travel back Elkhart in a swing that certainly seems like a victory lap. He stopped by the town several times during the 2008 campaign, and Elkhart was the first city Obama visited as president, back when the local unemployment rate was hovering over 17 percent. Currently it is 3.8 percent, one of the lowest jobless rates in the nation.

But while Obama is expected to spend the day touting his economic successes and the resilience of Elkhart's residents, it won't be a mutual lovefest. Even many people there whose lives were tangibly improved by his administration aren't starry-eyed fans of the president.

Andrea, now 33, can't recall whether she voted for Obama in 2012. She's not planning to vote for his likely Democratic successor, Hillary Clinton, in 2016, saying she'd prefer a third-party candidate. Andrew, who said he believes Obama deserves more credit for the work he did in turning around the economy, nevertheless didn't vote for Obama or his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, four years ago. Like his wife, he isn't too pleased with his choices in 2016 either.

"It's hard. It's difficult. I would like to give him a little sense of encouragement," Andrew, also 33, said. "Personally, I can't say [that] everything about him, I'm all about. But I'm also not a type of person who thinks our president should get bashed every time for one reason or another."

The Hausers are not a microcosm of Elkhart. They applaud the work done by Obama and plan to attend his event on Wednesday. But as Jackie Calmes of The New York Times recently reported, much of the rest of the city, which is reliably Republican, is far more skeptical of the president.  

Still, the Hausers' story underscores a larger problem that has vexed this president since his earliest days in office: how to reap tangible political benefits from his economic policies, or, failing that, how to succinctly explain the ins and outs of those policies at all.

According to data gathered by ProPublica, Elkhart received nearly $170 million in funds made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- about 2 percent of the $8.7 billion sent to the state of Indiana as a whole. But when asked for thoughts on how the stimulus had helped them, many recipients said they were unaware they'd even benefited from it.

"I did not receive a loan through the stimulus program, sir," said an official with Namacle LLC, a company that appears to manufacture gun parts. In fact, Namacle received two loans through the Small Business Administration, for a total of $350,000, via money made available by the Recovery Act, according to ProPublica's data.

The official confirmed the SBA loans but declined to say what he'd used the money for. "That's private information," he said.

I did not receive a loan through the stimulus program, sir.
A recipient of a Small Business Administration loan made possible through the stimulus.

Not all stimulus beneficiaries flat-out denied having gotten money through the program. But most seemed completely unaware that the loans they received or the grants they were awarded were made possible by that bill. A receptionist at Goshen Chiropractic Center PC, which got a $119,000 SBA loan, said she "certainly didn't recall" the company getting that money. A manager at McCarthy's on the Riverwalk, a restaurant that received a $213,000 SBA loan, said she hadn't been there long enough to know about the money McCarthy's received in 2009.

Leanne Brekke, who used to run Indiana Micro Metal Etching company, said she didn't know the SBA loans she received -- more than $500,000 in total -- were made possible through the Recovery Act. Brekke used that money to buy the company, she explained. But she sold it a few months ago out of concern that taxes and the possibility of a forced minimum wage hike would make her business unprofitable, if not completely untenable.

"I'm not a big President Obama fan," Brekke said. "I'm voting for Trump."

There are any number of reasons -- besides sheer confusion -- as to why Obama doesn't get more credit for his economic agenda in places like Elkhart. For one, the stimulus wasn't a universal success. PBS reported that even as jobs came back to town, "the average take-home pay in Elkhart-Goshen had dropped 22 percent -- down from nearly $74,000 in 1999 to almost $58,000 in 2014."

Three relatively high-profile electric car ventures fizzled in the town despite high expectations. And while unemployment has gone down, it's debatable how much of that is a result of the president's legislation. The Recovery Act didn't prop up the RV industry, after all. But it did spark an economic turnaround strong enough to breathe new life into the luxury vehicle market.

"The connection between what the government intervention did and the rebirth of the RV industry, the explosion of the RV industry, is not a direct connection," said Kyle Hannon, president and CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. "There probably is a line, but it is not a straight one."

"The types of stimulus projects you have here would be redoing a runway, which is a big project," Hannon went on. "But we don't have a commercial airport. Most citizens won't touch that airport. But I can't say it was a bad idea. We had five chamber members who got business from that project."

The White House doesn't dispute the idea that the president has fallen short in the selling of his agenda. Though Obama's approval on the economy has been consistently high in recent months, there is a reason he is traveling to Elkhart. He wants to convert the still unconverted. 

"Elkhart is not Obama country but he believes engaging in a constructive way with people who disagree with you is not only a vital part of democracy, but one that there is far too little focus on today," Obama's communications director, Jennifer Psaki, told The Huffington Post. The president, she added, wants to discuss "not only how far we have come, but where we go from here."

Obama certainly has fewer fans in Indiana than when he first started showing up there. In the 2008 election, he squeaked past Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the Hoosier State 49.8 percent to 48.8 percent. Four years later, he lost the state to Romney 54 percent to 44 percent. Few expect Clinton to best Donald Trump in Indiana come November.

"There are a bunch of Republicans here. Let's be honest, it's Indiana. It's a very Republican area and conservative in many ways, so it's going to be hard to sway their opinion," said Andrea Hauser. "There are certain social issues that I think people can't get past."

And so while Obama would love nothing more than to turn a tale of a saved city into a springboard for Democratic votes, he'll likely make limited progress this week. People don't always vote with their pocketbooks, as Hauser pointed out. Sometimes, in fact, they don't vote at all.

Take Elijah Wiggins, who completed advanced technical study coursework using ConnectED-donated software at Elkhart Area Career Center while he was in high school. ConnectED is an Obama-led initiative to outfit schools with next-generation broadband technology. It allowed Wiggins to learn how to draft 3D models. The coursework led to an internship and then to a part-time job, which he still holds today in addition to studying at a local community college.

"Honestly," he said of Obama, "I don't think he gets a whole lot of credit for everything that he does. I know a lot of kids who didn't realize that our software was donated or that he was even working to help us out with it."  

This will be the first presidential election in which Wiggins, who turned 18 this year, is allowed to vote. But he won't be casting a ballot.

"I didn't end up registering," he explained.

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If I Could Control My Hair, I Could Control My Life

Wed, 2016-06-01 06:59

A photo posted by Tanya Wright (@tanyattwright) on Apr 26, 2015 at 7:43pm PDT

Thirteen years ago, my brother died. I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I shot 14 episodes of a TV series. I have been an actor most of my life and don't get caught up in the highs and lows of it all. I always maintain a simple life -- no matter what. But I had amassed a bit of money -- enough for me to live for the next two years if there was no work. But that was unlikely. After my brother died, I was in pretty severe grief. I have always been a doer, a very hard worker (Perhaps it is my Taurean nature. I am a triple Taurus --sun, moon and rising.) I remember putting one foot in front of the other -- things needed to get done, tasks needed to be completed -- but feeling terribly empty inside. Four years later and I had still not gotten a job. My savings had run out. I lost my home and handed in my car to the dealer.

In 2010, I began to think about rebuilding my life. The world seemed new, different. I wanted to start fresh. I was out walking my pooch, Macarena, whom I had gotten a year after my brother's death and had the overwhelming feeling that if I could get control over my hair, I could get control over my life. The answer to it all was in my hair.

"The answer to it all was in my hair."

See, my hair has been the bane of my existence for most of my life. It is massive, curly and has a life all its own. I've had countless hair stories that could easily be horror stories! There was the time when my young mother took my sister and I to get our hair done at a beauty school (because that was all we could afford) and the student stylist proceeded to give me a cut resembling a mohawk (I had asked for a trim!)

A photo posted by Tanya Wright (@tanyattwright) on Apr 11, 2016 at 2:25pm PDT

Then, there was that time we had a candle burning in the bathroom over the sink. I was brushing my teeth and bent over to rinse my mouth out -- just then, a curly lock of hair kissed the flame of the candle and... Well, you know the rest. I remember hearing something crackle and then the vague scent of something burning, but I couldn't figure out quite what it was. It was only when I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror and saw my grandmother running towards me, swooping her bare hands over my head before the flame reached my scalp, that I knew my hair was on fire!

"My hair has been the bane of my existence for most of my life."

Now, you can see why mastering my hair was so important to me. It was something that seemed to have a life all its own. I immersed myself in the world of all things hair: I watched countless YouTube videos and delighted in a community of women who shared hairstyle and best ingredients for hair. Theirs was a do-it-yourself community I was super inspired by. I felt I had a unique voice to add, one that hadn't been seen or heard online. As I started to cultivate a more loving relationship with my hair, I realized those curly coils atop my head were teaching me a lot about patience. Elasticity. That shedding (which is natural, we shed skin and hair daily) is an integral part of the "letting go" process to make a way for the new. Our hair is the only part we can cut off, grow back, tease, color, curl and straighten. The one thing we can manipulate at will to tell the world who we are.

"Those curly coils atop my head were teaching me a lot about patience."

Ironically, with a busy career as an actress playing Crystal Burset -- the wife of transgender inmate Sophia Burset played by Laverne Cox -- on "Orange Is the New Black" my life sometimes feels more out of control than ever. At the same time, I know that the opposite is also true: That I am the captain of my ship; I am the master of my fate. Life is a healthy balance between these two ideas. And I would never have known that if it were not for my hair.

A photo posted by Tanya Wright (@tanyattwright) on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:50am PDT

This post is part of HuffPost's My Natural Hair Journey blog series. Embracing one's natural hair -- especially after years of heavily styling it -- can be a truly liberating and exciting experience. It's more than just a "trend." It's a way of life. If you have a story you'd like to share, please email us at

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Dear NCAA: My Mom Is a Sexual Assault Survivor and You Can Help

Tue, 2016-05-31 19:58
Dear NCAA,

My name is Darius Adams. I'm the son of Brenda Tracy who is a public rape survivor. It was 2010 when my mom first told me that she was raped. I was 17. We were sitting in our car in our driveway. I remember it because it was a life-changing moment for me. She didn't tell me because she wanted to. She told me because she had to. She was trying to save my life. I was out of control at the time. I was angry and broken and I didn't care if I lived or not.

I remember her crying and struggling to get the words out "I was raped." She apologized to me over and over and asked me not to hate her. "Please don't be ashamed of me. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," I still can't understand why she was apologizing to me, but after that talk, I started to see her as a different person. I saw her as someone who had been hurt, and she was just doing the best she could as a single mother with two kids. It was then that I began to turn my life around -- mostly for myself, but also for my mom. I wanted her to be proud of me. I wanted to make sure that what she went through and all the sacrifices she made for me and my brother were not in vain.

It was 2014 when my mother went public with her story. I wasn't prepared. She hadn't told me the details in 2010, but now every ugly detail was on the internet in an article by John Canzano at the Oregonian. To this day, I haven't read it all. I can't. I just can't.

What I do know is that my mom was drugged and gang-raped by four football players in 1998. I know that Oregon State University gave two of them 25 hours community service and Coach Mike Riley gave them a one-game suspension. I know that the police threw away her rape kit and the DA lied to her about her case. I know that Oregon State cared more about football and money than my mom. I know that my mom wanted to kill herself, and I know that she almost did. And all because other people decided that football, money and reputation was more important than me and my brother having a mother.

I was scared when the article first came out. I didn't know how people would react to us. Would they attack my mom? Would they say terrible things about her? Would I have to defend her? and what would I say? But a great thing happened. People reached out to us and they supported us. They expressed their love and gratitude for my mom coming forward and being brave enough to tell her story.

I was proud of her. It was the first time I saw her happy. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of her. I've heard her say more than one time "I walked out of my prison of shame and silence that day" and she did. I could see it. Ever since then my mom has worked hard to help others. She's passed five laws in Oregon. She's won numerous awards. We just went to Washington DC where she received the National Service Courage Award from the United States Attorney General.

She also changed a Pac12 rule so that athletes with serious misconduct issues can't transfer into our conference. She's my hero. And that's why I'm writing to you. I'm a college athlete, and I watch ESPN religiously. There's a serious problem in sports. We don't take sexual violence seriously enough. Seventeen years ago Coach Mike Riley suspended the men that hurt my mom for one game and just yesterday I saw the story about Baylor. Nothing has changed. Schools are still more worried about money and football than people's lives.

I'm a grown man now. I would never hurt a woman that way and I know that most men wouldn't. Why are we protecting this small group of men? Why are we allowing them to destroy people's lives? All of these victims have families and they get hurt too. I'm still dealing with what happened to my mom.

We need to do something right now, and I think it starts with the NCAA creating a policy that bans violent athletes. Enough is enough. It's been 17 years and nothing has changed. How many more years do we have to wait for something to happen? As the NCAA you have authority over many schools. YOU can change this. These schools have proven that they are not going to do the right thing. I believe it is your responsibility to step in. And please don't do it for me or my mom. Do it because it's the right thing to do.


Darius Adams

Photo: Darius Adams, Brenda Tracy, Devante Adams


[Related: What It Looks Like When A University Truly Fixes How It Handles Sexual Assault]


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

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Is Governor Rauner Deliberately Trying to Turn Illinois Into a Third World Economy?

Tue, 2016-05-31 16:00
Governor Bruce Rauner (R) of Illinois has achieved a milestone- a little over one year into his first term and Illinois has the lowest credit rating of any state and is now tied with Alaska for the highest unemployment among states in the country at 6.6%. Rauner is as ideologically rigid as other conservative true believers like Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas or Governor Rick Scott of Florida. It seems he almost set out to achieve such chaos because he has refused to sign a budget since entering office and the state's bills now total more than $159 billion in IOU's - more than twice the inflow of revenue in a single year. Social service agencies are shutting down, universities are laying off staff and programs are being cut.

Before Rauner's election, the "state's jobless rate was in the middle of the pack and unemployment was going down," according to an article in The Chicago Reporter quoting Frank Manzo IV of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. Since Rauner entered office, joblessness in Illinois has climbed steadily while the national unemployment rate has fallen. Of course, such results are a testament to the failures of trickle down economics, which so many conservatives still seem to have blind faith in.

Rauner seems to reflexively believe that by creating a "business friendly" environment which translates to busting unions, reducing wages, cutting public services, making massive cuts to the state's university system, and bankrupting Chicago public schools, he can grow jobs when just the opposite has happened.

Before he was elected then candidate Rauner explained to a partisan crowd his game plan. As told in an article on NPR: "He said he could drive a wedge in Democratic ranks by throttling human service providers, forcing Democrats to forsake their labor allies to protect the frail elderly, the homeless, abused children, and others among society's most disadvantaged. Shutting down state government might be needed, Rauner told the partisans, and he was ready to do so."

Governor Rauner is impervious to the pain he is causing since it is primarily the poor feeling it and the poor are not the constituency of Republicans. Rauner is a member of the privileged top .01% who made his riches as a speculator and investor. He has foregone his salary as governor only to benefit by far more, as much as $750,000, from tax cuts since he took office.

Of course, House Democrats did deliver a proposed budget with a $7 billion deficit to the governor and Illinois law requires a balanced budget. However, a 2011 tax increase was allowed to expire decreasing the state income tax by 25% in 2015. In fact, Rauner campaigned on letting the higher tax rate expire. According to the Daily Kos: "Illinois Democrats, including House Speaker Michael Madigan want to raise the State income tax back up and enact a special tax on millionaires similar to the one enacted in California in 2012 to avoid billions in vital budget cuts and to begin to cope with the state's $111 billion in unfunded pension obligations." On the other hand, Rauner proposes to balance the budget entirely with cuts.

According to the Daily Kos:

"Furthermore, the tax savings was distributed highly unequally. The bottom 60% of the Illinois income scale received just $479 million or only 13% of the total tax savings while the top 11% of tax payers received over 54% of the tax savings or over $2 billion dollars. Another one billion in annual corporate tax cuts go to the biggest, multinational corporations doing business in the State of Illinois, not small businesses which don't pay the corporate income tax." Thus, Illinois has a revenue problem as opposed to a spending problem.

"Today, nearly 90% of state spending is running on autopilot fueled by statutorily mandated spending, consent decrees and court orders," according to capital

Many of the Rauner's objectives have nothing to do with the state's budget anyway. His agenda includes items such as "local right-to-work laws, reduced unemployment insurance and workers' compensation payments, and term limits for legislators," according to Crain's Chicago Business. While the poor suffer and the middle class shrinks, Rauner is preoccupied with term limits. Well, Nero fiddled while Rome burned!

Of course, Republicans would not be Republicans if they were flexible. Rauner and other conservative governors can not grow the economy by impoverishing workers and disinvesting in the state's educational system and infrastructure. It is spending by consumers which creates jobs in the economy and not some mythical billionaire job creators who are standing by the sidelines waiting to start hiring when taxes are lowered. Businesses look to invest in locations with a competitive educational system, which can provide them with skilled workers, and a good infrastructure to transport goods and services. Austerity and disinvestment does not create such conditions.

However, Republican governors like Rauner of Illinois, Brownback of Kansas, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin wear ideological blinders. Their thirst to bust unions and lower salaries of workers for their billionaire benefactors and corporate friends is just too strong for them to see reason. They leave devastation in their wake, but to them if only they had a little longer their vision of creating a conservative business utopia is always just around the corner. Of course, the corner is never turned.

As one wonk opined: Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed! Well, Rauner is the latest to fail the conservative cause or maybe it is conservatism itself which is suspect!

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Martin Luther King Jr.'s Failure and America's Future: A Reflection on the 50 Year Anniversary of the Chicago Freedom Movement

Tue, 2016-05-31 15:58
"I've been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I've seen in Chicago." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Following the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) could have retired from the national fight for civil and human rights. King's activism was deeply rooted in fighting segregationists and the inequitable distribution of resources in the South. The campaigns in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham forced the nation to recognize that the social inequality experienced by Black Americans, which was engineered by elected officials, negated the democratic commitments expressed in America's founding documents. But that was not enough. King's philosophy of interdependence and the notion that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" expanded his commitment from civil rights to human rights. Human rights, according to King, were under attack by the triple evils of racism, poverty and militarism.

Instead of cementing his civil rights legacy in the policy gains of 1964-65, which so many of us are guilty of, Dr. King shifted his gaze towards the profound segregation and economic inequality in northern cities. Principle among these was the windy city of Chicago. Civil rights alone would not render the freedoms necessary for Black Americans to secure full citizenship. Voting rights were incomplete prescriptions for freedom without the power to support a candidate financially or develop a platform that would support the advancement of Black families. Integration laws were void if Black families did not have access to purchase housing outside of historically black communities, such as North Lawndale or Bronzeville. Dr. King maintained his nonviolent direct action strategy in Chicago. However, his experience in urban America shifted his demands from policy changes in America to economic reparations and subsidies by the federal government for years of neglect and disenfranchisement.

Black families were relegated to slum contract housing, unable to accrue wealth and property ownership, while white families thrived in separate and unequal housing conditions. The Chicago Freedom Movement was inaugurated in 1966 and marches were planned through the all white neighborhoods of Gage Park and Marquette Park. Local organizers would join Dr. King in visiting tenants in slum housing and encourage them to withhold rent, participate in community clean ups, and march on city hall demanding redress for the economic inequity in Chicago. This eventually resulted in an agreement with the city to enforce open housing laws. Despite their efforts and gains, the Chicago Freedom Movement failed the ultimate goal of integrating Chicago and dismantling the infamous government patronage machine. To date, Chicago is still the most segregated city in the America. Black and Brown children are still targeted unjustly and gunned down due to extrajudicial killings. The Chicago machine still restricts the economic mobility and political strength of Black and Brown communities through the corrupt patronage system.

Many Black residents in Chicago were trapped in decaying neighborhoods after they migrated from the South looking for jobs. Any opposition to the Mayor, then Richard J. Daley, was dangerous because of his power over city services and influence over public housing and welfare. Whenever Dr. King would raise an issue, Mayor Daley would institute a response to present the illusion that the city was concerned, and then withdraw the services that were distributed. The Mayor's ability to mobilize services weakened Dr. King's claims of city negligence. Mayor Daley was unlike any other adversary King confronted. Southern adversaries such as Bull Conner, George Wallace, Jim Clarke and Lester Maddox were defeated due to local coalitions that supported the agendas of King, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker and other activists. However, Dr. King did not receive the support of Chicago clergy as he did in the south because they were co-opted and refused to call injustice and oppression by their right names.

Though King's campaign in Chicago was a failure, the merit and goal of the Chicago Freedom Campaign require our continued attention. Dr. King was a prophet who did not allow the industrial advancement of the north to obfuscate structural violence and the debilitating condition of poverty. The profound segregation in urban cities permits the poor to go unnoticed and privilege to be undisturbed. This past winter, the city and nation was horrified by the public execution of Laquan McDonald. Even more appalling was the cover up by City Hall and the Chicago Police Department. This entire saga was virtually ignored because Laquan lived in a neighborhood that was deemed less valuable in the city of Chicago. If Laquan McDonald were shot 16 times in the middle of the University of Chicago or Northwestern University, the campuses, we would have displayed more compassion for him. Nevertheless, because of the location of his community and the expectation for him to fail in that community, his elected officials and the police review authority passively ignored his murder until they faced national scrutiny.

When we consider Dr. King as a failure in contemporary society, the notion is often disregarded as blasphemous. However, Dr. King's failures point us toward existing forms of oppression that still need to be confronted and abolished. The city of Chicago is one case that represents hundreds of urban cities that capitalize on the labor of the poor and protects the interests of the wealthy. As long as people are forced to live under the debilitating conditions of poverty, police brutality, and chronic joblessness, there will never be peace in a society, only brief respites of calm. Dr. King's sentiment that "those who make a peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable" has been on full display across the country as Ferguson, Baltimore, Staten Island, and Chicago have grappled with urban inequality and methods to close education and wealth gaps. As we commemorate The 50th anniversary of the Chicago Freedom Movement, let us call to mind his courage to fail in his pursuit to destroy systems of oppression. Though failure is an ever-present reality in justice work, every action we make to disrupt the social order bends the arc of the universe towards justice and exposes the demons that threaten our democracy.

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In Chicago, Warning Shots Lead to Felony Charges

Mon, 2016-05-30 22:36

The violence in Chicago has reached a critical level, and holiday weekends like Memorial Day tend to particularly deadly. As of Sunday morning, May 30th, four people had been killed and thirty-six wounded since the holiday weekend began. People all over the city are afraid to leave their homes, not knowing if they'll be shot walking down the street or driving to the store. Sadly, the couple pictured above has been torn apart by the violence this year.
This is Ashley Harrison and Garvin Whitmore. Ashley and Garvin are native Chicagoans who moved from Chicago to Aurora four years ago to escape the rampant violence of the inner city. Garvin got a job at a factory in Batvia, IL., and Ashley stayed home to raise their two children. On Saturday, May 28th, around 5pm, Ashley and Garvin were on the west side of Chicago, preparing to pick up Ashley's aunt so they could spend time with the family for Memorial Day weekend. They never made it. Someone ran up to the car and shot Garvin. Ashley grabbed a gun and fired warning shots into the air to scare the assailant away. Then, she dropped the gun and held her dying fiancé until police and paramedics arrived. Surveillance cameras on a nearby business recorded the incident.
This situation hits home for me for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Garvin was a classmate and friend for well over a decade. The last time I saw him, the night before his untimely death, he was smiling and having a great time with family and friends. Secondly, I can empathize with Ashley. Witnessing someone shoot your fiancé is obviously a traumatic experience. I imagine if I were Ashley, I would want to scare the assailant away as well so they wouldn't harm me and take both of my kids' parents away. Ashley probably thought she was doing the safest and smartest thing by shooting into the air instead of shooting at the attacker and potentially harming others.
Unfortunately, the State's Attorney's office did not agree. Ashley is currently being held on $250,000 bond charged with reckless discharge of a firearm and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. Instead of comforting her children, mourning with her family, and making arrangements for Garvin, Ashley is in the county jail. I don't know which is worse: witnessing your fiancé and the father of your children be killed or being arrested and charged for defending yourself while his killer goes free.
Ashley's family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Ashley's defense. To donate, click here:

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Time for Tribune Shareholders to Worry About Michael Ferro

Fri, 2016-05-27 12:44

Pictured: Tribune Publishing chairman Michael Ferro

If nothing else, Gannett's $864 million takeover bid has exposed Tribune's farcical operations under chairman Michael Ferro. But instead of Titanic hitting the iceberg by accident, Ferro is aiming for it.

Gannett's $15 offer represented a 99% premium to Tribune's shareholders at a time when the newspaper industry is in chaos and Ferro angrily spurned it in favor of his own highly speculative vision. To fend off Gannett, Tribune pulled a fast one on shareholders by issuing 4.7 million shares to Ferro-friendly Patrick Soon-Shiong's Nant Capital and diluting shares. Ego's folly takes few prisoners.

Four years ago, Soon-Shiong pulled an almost identical stunt in his biotech company's failed deal with toymaker Jakks Pacific. Shares have tumbled 54% since the NantWorks deal was announced.

Two of Tribune's major shareholders, Oaktree Capital and Towle & Co, have called this financial gymnastics out for what it is: brazen self-interest.

According to the LA Times, Gannett reported that, during a May 12 meeting, Ferro said he wanted a "significant role" in the company post-closing and he was unwilling to engage in the process unless he got "a piece of the action."

Note to Tribune shareholders: you have been warned.

As a Chicagoan, I was forced to watch Ferro sink what was left of the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2014, Ferro pressured the paper's editorial board to reverse its three-year-old no-endorsement policy and support one lone candidate for public office: now Governor Bruce Rauner. Rauner, a former Chicago Sun-Times owner, invested millions in Ferro's then ailing Merge Healthcare.

Ferro's ethical conflicts were on display again when longtime Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney was demoted for co-authoring a piece about Rauner's nasty intimidation tactics against a former employee.

Consider the Sun-Times as an encapsulation in miniature of Ferro's poor media and business stewardship: blatant conflicts of interests, censorship, a pathetic audience-draining news website, a tabloidy failure called Splash, and mass layoffs of reporters, editorial board members, and photo staff.

With this track record, how could Tribune's shareholders think that Ferro could ever guide this company into the future? His "publishing" experiment left the company in shambles. He couldn't even build a Sun-Times website!

Just in the first few months of Ferro's tenure at Tribune, history again repeated itself. Three weeks after Ferro became Tribune's largest shareholder, Justin Dearborn, the head of Ferro's Merge Healthcare, became CEO.

Yes, that Merge Healthcare.

In April, Tribune purchased Splash from Sun-Times and made its ethically challenged editor, Susana Homan, the new publisher and editor of Chicago Magazine. Homan was questioned for accepting pricey gifts from Tiffany's in return for infomercial-style reports on Chicago's local FOX affiliate.

Is this the kind of 'public trust' Soon-Shiong claims he is preserving with his $70.5 million investment? How could the public possibly trust any of this?

And why should the public or any shareholder entrust three these healthcare tech investors with Tribune's future? What credibility do they have in the world of publishing? Ferro's abysmal track record at the Chicago Sun-Times?

Ferro's Tribune has already hit the iceberg. I'm just waiting for it to sink.

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American Shameless

Thu, 2016-05-26 20:56
In spite of being an avowed pacifist, I find myself (like much of America and indeed the world these days) a spectator to violence. Some of it is fictional, as in the television show, Shameless, set on the Southside of Chicago. Some of it is all too real, as in the case of DeKayla Dansberry, a beautiful, promising athlete and young scholar (and a former student of my daughter in law) who was stabbed to death last week on the Southside of the real Chicago by a neighbor whose mother apparently provided the knife.

Looking for leadership, I am discouraged to see the frontrunner of the Republican Party, a narcissistic, sexist, racist bully, encourage his followers to engage their worst instincts. On my own side, (because these days, American politics have devolved into a sporting ritual, where everyone is on a side, even those who have made no choices) my chosen leader, Bernie Sanders, has delayed in calling out supporters who sometimes let their anger (and perhaps despair) turn them into bullies as well, particularly in Nevada.

In fiction, one of the reasons I watch violent shows like Shameless is because of the skill of its writers and actors in displaying the range of human qualities which are so easily lost in the name calling we all engage in. The poor people in Shameless are primarily white (with African American neighbors/lovers/children/friends) living on Chicago's Southside and struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, the marginal working life of many people these days (the middle class is shrinking not only in fiction but in reality) who don't have a college education or access to the jobs which used to provide a steady income in what elites like to call "the Rust Belt," and most significantly, the sense that they are falling behind and the reality of not having enough money, access or power to get ahead. At the same time, just as in real life, the characters in Shameless consistently showcase the deep bonds of family which keep them going even in the face of discrimination (against those with mental illness and poor people in general), teenage pregnancy, gentrification, and at times, their own bad decision making.

It is all too easy for people to dismiss DeKayla's murder as a product of race, class, and poverty rather than looking at the larger culture she was a part of; in spite of her, her family, and her teacher's best efforts. This culture, our culture, supports a media which has taken the mantra, "if it bleeds it leads," to a point where anyone who wants attention knows they will get more coverage with violence, whether by word or by deed. The skilled showman who has taken over the Republican party knows this-he even referenced it by noting how much his followers don't care about actual policy or plans-although he is now putting on a cloak of pretend policy and plans to provide cover for those who despise him but want power at any cost. As we mourn DeKayla, we need to also mourn our own flaws in becoming spectators to violent speech and action. It is time to turn away from the cell phone, the computer, and for my age group, the television, and take back our country from those who would make us all shameless.

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The Only Way to Stop Killings in Chicago

Thu, 2016-05-26 16:14

Shootings and homicides continue to make headlines daily in Chicago. The police do their best to implement one strategy after another to help reduce gun violence, however, the strategies are coming up short as it relates to achieving real results. New Superintendent Eddie Johnson stated that the Chicago Police Department has a list of thirteen hundred individuals that are responsible for the majority of violence in Chicago. If this list exists, then there should be some collaboration with other agencies to reach out to the people on the list and attempt to help the perpetrators secure gainful employment. There is a proven model in Richmond, California that appears to be effective by paying would-be shooters not to shoot. Some people may not agree with this approach, however, you must try something different in order to get results.

Unemployment is very high for African American youth in Chicago. The majority of young men that find themselves out of work will take to the streets as a means of self-employment. If we as leaders are serious about reducing violence in Chicago, then we must become very aggressive in regards to securing employment for the high-risk youth in the community.

The Boston Miracle yielded results in the early 1990s by engaging high-risk youth in meaningful solutions to urban violence, which led to a dramatic decrease in youth homicides. Law enforcement officials realize that we cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic of violence that plagues many cities across the United States.

In order to stop a killing, one must have a relationship with a would-be shooter in which that person will listen to reason before taking a life. This would take some serious people skills because most delinquents just commit the act and ask questions later. However, there are people in the profession of violence prevention like the Violence Interrupters that can make a breakthrough to some of the perpetrators by developing strong relationships in advance in order to detect potential acts of violence before someone pulls the trigger.

The time has come to embrace new strategies in the field of criminal justice in order to make communities safer. It would be much better to embrace a would-be shooter help them reach a higher plateau in life by stressing the need to take care of their families and providing employment as a way out of a criminal lifestyle for those who want to get out. This would be one of the only ways to at minimum reduce homicides in Chicago by thirty to forty percent.

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Margaret Cho on Being a Survivor, Morality on the Internet and Some Truly Bizarre Snacks

Thu, 2016-05-26 11:22
What does Margaret Cho have to say? Well, just about everything! In this third episode of The Celebrity Dinner Party with Elysabeth Alfano, I sit down with Margaret Cho over tequila cocktails and guacamole and chips at the Sunset Marquis to discuss morality on the internet, advice from Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer, and her newest album American Myth.

In true Cho fashion, she is warm, outspoken and very human in her responses about being a sexual abuse survivor, her larger-than-life voice, and her favorite, truly bizarre, on-the-road snack.

So pull up a chair and grab a margarita. Enjoy this intimate and personal conversation over dinner with singer, songwriter, actress and funny girl Margaret Cho. Below are two quick bites. To view the whole episode, click here.

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Doubek vs. Dietrich On Illinois House Democrats' Budget Bill

Thu, 2016-05-26 09:26
MADELEINE DOUBEK: Hey, Matt, so it looks like the brilliant, masterful House Speaker Mike Madigan has decided to throw the bipartisan working budget groups to the wind and is preparing to have his supermajority Democratic caucus vote for a budget that spends more than $7 billion more than the state is projected to take in in a fiscal year.

This will be, what, the fourth time since we launched Reboot Illinois that the Democratic majority has passed an unbalanced budget, a blatantly unbalanced one. They're not even pretending it's balanced and this time it's out-of-whack in historic proportion. What do you suppose Speaker "Velvet Hammer" is thinking?

MATT DIETRICH: Hi Madeleine. I'd love to answer your question but at the moment I'm being bombarded by emails from the governor's office and the Illinois Republican Party. Based on what I'm reading here, it looks like Mr. Speaker is thinking he wants to pass "the phoniest of all phony budgets" so he can "crush Illinois families and lead to more people and businesses leaving the state." Sounds like he's all hammer and no velvet these days.

MADELEINE: Well, actually, Matt, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno came up with a new moniker for Madigan. She's calling him the "Cheshire Cat." So, Speaker Cheshire Cat said he told the governor he and his "agents" were not being persuasive in their working groups and he was going to be running an appropriations bill.

The spending bill would blow $7 billion more than we have AND it would not include several agencies being funded at higher levels because of court orders. I guess after that fist-pumping performance at the massive AFSCME rally that he thinks he's the savior to union members and human service agencies everywhere. And boy our entire school system and human service workers everywhere need help fast. The master tactician Speaker thinks he can do this, send members home for the summer and fall campaign and keep his majority. You think it'll work?

MATT: Ah, Madeleine. You evidently did not read the latest email from the Illinois GOP as closely as I did. I refer to the subtitle, "Budget Proposal Equal to Raising Income Tax to 5.5%." Did we not just have a story on that said the bipartisan working groups had forwarded a budget to their leaders that would raise the income tax to 4.85 percent? There's a pretty reasonable middle ground to be found between the rank-and-file's 4.85 percent and the apparently apocalyptic 5.5 percent. If they get to work whittling down that $7 billion by, say, passing procurement reform to save $500 million, we could have something going here.

MADELEINE: Oh, Matt, I do love your optimism. And we certainly ought to be saving some money through changing the way we purchase or procure things in state government. We need more changes than that. I have to say I think Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Gov. Bruce Rauner have a point on this one. Durkin said the Speaker's plan was a "slap in the face of every Illinoisan." I'd say we've been allowing ourselves to be slapped around for decades, but definitely in the past four consecutive years. Rauner was elected to change things after 40 years of Madigan and several years of Democratic governors. The only thing we're changing here is the amount of money being sucked out of our pockets. I don't understand why Madigan and Rauner can't find a way to compromise. Well, I do, it's all ego and power and politics, but it's got to stop.

What happened to the Speaker who pushed through benefit cuts for state workers several years ago? And the one who pushed through the pension bill that the Supreme Court rejected? He's always been fairly tight with a buck before. I mean, I know we need a tax increase at this point, or a few, and I wish we'd had some public debate for the past two years about how we ought to revamp our tax system the way Rauner said we would, but more money and more spending and nothing else has got to stop being the answer. I do wonder how some of the rank-and-file Democrats are going to go home and look their taxpaying bosses in the eyes after this.

Madigan is only guaranteeing a worse debt-drenched life for his grandchildren and their children. And oh, tell that 12-year-old Teddy at your house, the one who said your website is always whining about Illinois that I'm sorry, but we're whining for him. He's never going to be able to buy himself or his kids regular hot fudge sundaes when he grows up if he stays here.

Media critic Teddy Dietrich giving a thumbs-up to Margie's Candies but not to his father's website.

MATT: I didn't intend to give Madigan a pass. My point is that the numbers can work if people talk to each other. Madigan's $7.1 billion out-of-balance budget bill was yet another stunt that will come to nothing but may produce campaign mailers against Republicans who voted against it. I can give you 20.3 million reasons why Republicans will be able to do the same against Democrats who have rejected Rauner's Turnaround Agenda.

Need I remind you that Gov. Rauner has had his own budget proposal out there for five months? He admits it's out of balance by $3.5 billion. The Civic Federation, hardly a tax-and-spend outfit, said the $3.5 billion figure is "significantly understated."

Rauner said he'll gladly help raise taxes if Democrats embrace his reforms, but I never can follow what combination of reforms and in what form might motivate him to sidle up to the budget table. For months he has insisted that the only way to get workers' compensation insurance rates down in Illinois is to enact the most severe version of workers' comp reform -- a model used by only a few other states. He seemed to moderate a bit on that at his press conference Monday, which was good news. Get those insurance rates down NOW, claim victory and get to work on a budget, governor.

Madigan and Rauner both own the current mess and each believes he's winning. Madigan believes he's protecting the middle class, Rauner has visions of a prosperous, Turnaround-Agenda-fueled Illinois some years in the future. The more they win, the more we lose.

Next article: House passes Madigan's budget plan more than $7 billion out of balance

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Why Eating Better Starts With Changing Our Work Habits

Thu, 2016-05-26 07:27

What would you say are the defining characteristics of the American eater?

If you look at our obesity rates, they'd suggest we’re mostly overeaters. But beyond that, the question is tougher.

It’s not so much that we lack a U.S. food personality — if anything, we have multiple, conflicting ones. At the same time, more consumers are demanding that their food be “natural,” organic and GMO-free, even as Taco Bell sells record numbers of Doritos Locos tacos. We seem more interested in celebrity chefs, cooking shows and recipe videos than ever before, and yet we’re also spending a record amount of money eating out and ordering in.

To address our nation’s diet-related concerns, it would seem necessary first to better understand what we eat, how we eat it and, of course, why.

In her new book, Devoured: From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies — How What We Eat Defines Who We Are, Culinary Institute of America program director and food writer Sophie Egan digs into these questions.

It turns out previous attempts to dissect our dietary schizophrenia have ignored some important pieces. Principal among those, Egan argues, are the ways in which Americans working longer hours than the rest of the industrialized world has impacted both their motivation — and ability — to make healthier food choices daily.

So how do we go about resetting our workplaces, cafeterias and the norms they help instill to a healthier default? The Huffington Post recently spoke with Egan about the challenges ahead and the reasons for hope.

What prompted you to explore this question of how we wound up with the food culture we have today?

I’ve been working in food professionally for a number of years and was thinking about how powerful a mirror food is for who we are at a much deeper level. I was tired of hearing that in the U.S. we’re so diverse and are such a huge country that we don’t have anything we could identify as a national food culture. I felt like, well, what can be said? I dug into that question of who we are as eaters, these core values we have as Americans -- these are things we don’t even see sometimes because they’re so deeply ingrained in how we think.

And that led you to this discussion of how the way we work impacts the way we eat. It almost seems so obvious now that I’m asking you about it, but we don’t really talk about that relationship. Why is that?

It really comes down to a reframing of how we look at the root causes of our eating choices. We typically center those conversations around individual willpower or these character accusations, if you will: That Americans don’t cook because they’re lazy or we just follow whatever we saw on TV. But I would say work is a root cause. In addition to a lack of financial resources [being a factor for many people], another important root cause of some eating behaviors that maybe aren’t as healthy as people would like is lack of time. If we’re working more than we used to, something is falling by the wayside.

What was stunning to me was seeing how technology has really blurred the lines between work and home for many people. This mindset of, well, if you can work, why wouldn’t you? Whether it’s on vacation, in the evenings or on weekends, all of it. So with the increase in the numbers of hours we’re spending working, we’re not focusing on food. We look at food as fuel. You squeeze in a sandwich if you have three minutes in between meetings, or grab a Kind bar when you’re racing to catch the subway in the morning. Eating is a secondary need as opposed to something people used to design their days around.

And this starts in childhood. Kids in K-12 schools usually don’t have enough time to eat, so they’re scarfing down pizza or hot dogs or whatever is being served in their cafeteria in 10 minutes. By the time you’re in college, it’s a grab-and-go, grazing mentality. So you’re trained from an early age to see food as secondary. This is a huge cultural norm that’s very difficult to reverse.

I’ve noticed that the “food as fuel” mindset is behind a lot of the marketing of Soylent and similar products. I tried one last year and thought it tasted just as joyless as you would think. Why is this sort of message at the heart of a lot of so-called “foods of the future” today?

Culturally speaking, Soylent is a huge step backward. There’s this sense that we can take food and improve on it, to take what nature gave us and say there’s got to be a better way. A life-hacking approach. A Silicon Valley approach. But [AOL co-founder] Steve Case has this great quote that food is not something disrupting the disrupting you have to do.

Soylent is an extreme, but I would say it represents a larger idea of reducing food to its nutrients. Food is so much more than that. It does nourish us and we need certain things to survive, but I hope that people are starting to realize that flavor and taste and joy are some of the greatest pleasures of life. I think in the U.S., we have a very related discomfort with leisure and with pleasure. It’s sort of unspoken that if you sit around and do nothing, you’re lazy and you’re lesser. I think similarly there’s this sense of taboo around pure enjoyment of taste and of eating food with other people. 

There’s also an element of purity to utilitarian foods like that. In the book, you make a strong case for food — whether it be a particular diet or the practice of going to brunch — as a sort of "secular church." Is that a hypothesis you held going into this, or did it develop along the way?

I started with this question about the contradiction of why we’re willing to spend basically the whole day seeking out brunch when our typical mindset is to go to extreme lengths to minimize the time we spend obtaining, eating and cleaning up after food. So it was more of this question of what is so different about that. Very quickly, my research led me to this discovery about how different our weekday eating habits are from our weekend eating habits. We spend the least amount of time of any major developed country preparing and eating food. We’re hardwired in terms of that idea of efficiency.

But looking back, it’s very clear weekends are about indulgence and treating yourself after a long, hard week. These are also some of the only times we aren’t as scheduled, though many families have soccer games and a million other activities too. 

Your book also discusses how Americans are so used to getting our food exactly the way we want it, and points out how companies are always pushing new flavors and innovations or “stunt foods” like Doritos Locos. How do you balance these trends with ideas that could push us in a healthier direction? The answer can’t be to go back to the “good ol' days,” right?

This is a really tough question. It’s not just that we all should return to the old ways, because there’s clearly some innovation or new ways forward that should be welcomed. But what kinds of pieces from our past do we really want to resurrect?

Everyone talks today about how people are paying more attention to food than ever before, but from a policy standpoint, a number of things are still missing. One is the amount of time in schools for lunch. I think, at a broad level, going forward what I’m hoping for is for us to collectively find ways to focus on food more. And what I mean by that is, if more employers could make the American lunch break the norm in office settings. I’ve heard of a handful of companies where they ring a cowbell and everyone knows to take a break. You can’t expect individual change in the midst of the same larger environment, not only the physical marketing environment, but the cultural environment. I’m calling for cultural change, and it has to come from the top down.

I think the piece most worth resurrecting from the past would be teaching people to cook. You don’t have to call it home economics. But it should be painted as essential life skills. What if, in order to graduate from college you had to demonstrate that you knew how to cook an omelette so that you could feed yourself? If it was considered the same way as learning a language or riding a bike?

We’ve outsourced the preparation of food to the professionals. Are we going to stop eating food that comes in packages? Of course not. But we would be wise to see for what it is the availability of real, whole foods and the power that comes with feeding yourself and preparing food yourself instead of being sort of over-reliant on new solutions.

Are you optimistic that we're moving in the right direction, toward getting back into the kitchen and eating more “real” food? Or are we too set in our ways at this point?

I am optimistic. I think our appreciation for novelty and innovation is a double-edged sword. We’re eating more foods from around the world than five years ago, which is a silver lining to how much more we’re eating out. But it’s really brought a world of flavors to the masses. It has tremendous potential for healthier eating habits, because some of those other cuisines taste amazing and happen to be good for you without being positioned as good for you. That’s the best way to go.

I’m also optimistic about how much consumer awareness can change Big Food, and we’re seeing that in food companies removing artificial flavors and colorings, or antibiotics. Consumers’ collective demands are really starting to make change happen faster. I think in some ways we’re more empowered than ever before.

It is only with this greater awareness that we can we collectively take more control over our food choices. And with that, we can celebrate the aspects of our food culture that we sometimes overlook, and change those aspects of our food culture that are hurting us so that we can end up with healthier, happier relationships with the food we eat.


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.