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Kobe Bryant Passes Michael Jordan For 3rd On NBA's All-Time Scoring List

Sun, 2014-12-14 18:53

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kobe Bryant has reached rarefied air.


The Los Angeles Lakers star passed Michael Jordan for third on the NBA's career scoring list Sunday night in a 100-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.


Bryant entered the game needing nine points to pass the icon with whom he is often compared. He got the mark with two free throws with 5:24 to play in the second quarter.


"I'm just honored to be here, man, to still be playing," Bryant said. "I appreciate being able to play this long. Careers normally don't last this long. I really appreciate the opportunity to still be out there playing and performing and doing what I do."


Now only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone have scored more points than Bryant.


"I congratulate Kobe on reaching this milestone," Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, said in a statement released to The Associated Press. "He's obviously a great player, with a strong work ethic and has an equally strong passion for the game of basketball. I've enjoyed watching his game evolve over the years, and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next."


Bryant didn't break a record Sunday night. Abdul-Jabbar is still more than 6,000 points ahead of him and in no danger of being caught. But moving past Jordan was cause for celebration.


The two players have been linked for years and Bryant often mimicked Jordan from his earliest days in the league, from the way he pumped his fist after big shots to adopting the fade-away jumper as his career has progressed and even sprinkling in a little tongue-wagging on his drives to the bucket as a youth.


"He knows how much I've learned from him," Bryant said. "From the other legends, but him in particular."


The Timberwolves stopped the game, and a Lakers-heavy crowd gave Bryant a standing ovation as Wolves owner Glen Taylor — the NBA's chairman of the board — presented him with the game ball.


With a big smile on his face, Bryant received hugs from teammates and the Timberwolves, and waved to the crowd during the brief stoppage.


Bryant has been chasing Jordan for almost two decades now. He's still one title short of the six Jordan won with the Bulls, but has now caught Jordan in the game's defining individual statistic.


Bryant had 32,284 points when he took the floor against a Timberwolves team that includes 19-year-old rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, two players who were barely born when Bryant made his NBA debut in 1996.


He missed four of his first five field goals, but knocked down a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter to pull within two points. He nearly passed Jordan with one of his patented fall-away jumpers from the baseline, but it rimmed out and with 5:24 to play and 24 seconds on the shot clock, No. 24 stepped to the line and calmly swished two freebies to do it. He finished the night with 26 points and 32,310 for his career.


It took Bryant 1,269 games to reach the NBA's career scoring podium. Jordan amassed his 32,292 points in 1,039 regular-season games.


Jordan moved into third place in 2003, and the top of the NBA's scoring mountain had remained unchanged for nearly 12 years. Ever since Bryant really started to hit his stride as an elite scorer beginning with his fourth year in the league, he was widely considered the one to the record books would have to reserve a spot for.


"Just like we've never seen another player like Michael Jordan, we will never see another player like Kobe Bryant!" Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson tweeted.


Jordan retired and came back twice, giving up prime years that cost him a shot at Abdul-Jabbar's record. Jordan also played three years of college while Bryant jumped straight to the pros and started racking up the points, albeit at a gradual rate.


But Bryant endured his own hardship as he rose up the ranks. His aggressive climb up the scoring ladder was stunted as he dealt with major injuries to his Achilles tendon and knee that limited him to six games last season. He has returned this season as ferocious as ever, but has struggled with efficiency while shooting a ghastly 38.7 percent.


Moving any further up the list will be a challenge. Malone (36,928) is more than 4,500 points ahead of the 36-year-old Bryant for second place and Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) is on top of the mountain by a healthy margin.


If Bryant couldn't surpass Jordan at home, and he couldn't do it against the long-time rival Celtics in Boston, what better place than Minneapolis, the birth place of the Lakers franchise. The famed "Laker Nation" is as strong here as it is in any road venue, with thousands of fans wearing purple and gold every time they come through town.


Bryant's first career game came against the Timberwolves as an 18-year-old in 1996, when he went scoreless in six minutes.


The vast majority of the fans who come to Target Center in Lakers gear weren't around when uprooted and moved to Los Angeles after the 1959-60 season. They come not to see a team that brought five championships to the city between 1948 and 1954.


They come to see Kobe, and he gave them all a little history to remember on Sunday night.


"I think it puts him in the conversation of who is the greatest," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "I think his name's going to be mentioned when it's all said and done. His goal is still to win another championship or two, so we'll have to wait until the book is completed, but as I said at the beginning of the season, he still has a lot left in the tank."

Congress Passes Historic Medical Marijuana Protections In Spending Bill

Sun, 2014-12-14 08:24
Congress dealt a historic blow to the United States' decades-long war on drugs Saturday with the passage of the federal spending bill, which contains protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where they are legal.

The spending bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs. If the bill is signed into law, it will bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law.

“When the House first passed this measure back in May, we made headlines; today we made history," Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who in May introduced the medical marijuana protections amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), told The Huffington Post regarding the bill's passage.

"The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws," Farr added. "This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”

The bill protects medical marijuana programs in the 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, as well as 11 additional states that have legalized CBD oils, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that has shown to be beneficial in some severe cases of epilepsy.

“Congress has finally initiated a drawdown in the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. “This legislation makes it clear that the DEA has no business interfering in states’ medical marijuana laws. Taxpayer money should not be used to punish seriously ill people who use medical marijuana and the caregivers who provide it to them.”

Under the Obama administration, the DEA and several U.S. attorneys have raided marijuana dispensaries and sent people to prison, even though they complied with state laws. According to a report released last year by advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, the Obama administration has spent nearly $80 million each year cracking down on medical marijuana, which amounts to more than $200,000 per day.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance with "no currently accepted medical use," alongside heroin and LSD. Since that doesn't change with the passage of the omnibus package, it's not entirely clear how the protections will work in practice.

"This isn't finely written policy yet," Farr said in June after the amendment first passed in the House, Forbes' Jacob Sullum reported. “This is a statement of congressional intent that [the] DEA [should] back off on these issues. We will have to continue to reconcile federal policy with state policy.”

A statement issued by Americans for Safe Access following the spending bill's passage Saturday called the measure "historic" and said patients' rights advocates believe it "will dramatically impact DOJ enforcement, including ending federal medical marijuana raids, arrests, criminal prosecutions, and civil asset forfeiture lawsuits."

Industrial hemp also received new protections from DEA intervention under the spending bill. The same plant species as marijuana, cannabis sativa, hemp contains little to no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana associated with the "high" sensation. The farm bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February, legalized industrial hemp production in states that permit it.

Eighteen states have legalized industrial hemp production, and more than a dozen others have introduced legislation that would authorize research into the plant, set up a regulatory framework or legalize growing it.

Earlier this year, the DEA made headlines when it seized hemp seeds intended to be used in the launch of Kentucky's legal hemp research pilot program. A month later, the hemp seeds were released, and the state began planting its research crop.

It wasn't all victories for marijuana in the spending bill -- the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, D.C., which nearly 70 percent of voters approved, appears to be blocked. However, several members of Congress have taken issue with the language used in bill, arguing that law may still be able to move forward.

Sandy Hook Anniversary Vigils Shine Light On A Nation Plagued By Gun Violence

Sat, 2014-12-13 23:33
This Sunday marks two years since 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before turning his gun on himself. For the loved ones of gun violence victims across America, the anniversary of the tragedy serves as a grim reminder of how little has changed since then.

On Thursday evening, dozens of family members grieving the loss of relatives who died in shootings, along with advocates for stricter gun laws, gathered at Roosevelt University in Chicago for a vigil memorializing both the Sandy Hook victims and victims of gun violence in their own city. The Cook County medical examiner’s office has reported 406 homicides, many of them due to shootings, in Chicago this year.

Speaking before the packed room, Beti Guevara, who teaches science classes at the Barreto Boys & Girls Club in the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, said she keeps five bullet casings she found on the sidewalk one day while walking around her community as a daily reminder of the importance of her work.


Participants in a Chicago vigil brought photographs of the loved ones they were remembering.

When she asks students in her classes to raise their hands if they know somebody who has been shot, she said, on most days all the hands go up.

“These are babies, but they’ve lost their fathers, their mothers, their sisters and their brothers,” Guevara told The Huffington Post. “When somebody gets killed through gun violence, there’s a ripple effect and that ripple effect is on the family -- but they don’t report on the news about it afterwards. After they bury the child, then where’s everybody?”

Guevara can personally attest to this “ripple effect” -- her brother was gunned down when she was 12 years old, and she saw firsthand the effect his death had on her parents. She says she wishes that more protests, like the ones that have taken place in response to the grand jury decisions about Michael Brown's and Eric Garner’s deaths, would focus specifically on gun violence.

“We’re going down the streets of Chicago with our rage and we’re blocking traffic," Guevara said. "And yet we lost so many babies last week, and nobody is getting outraged and nobody’s stopping traffic.”

Rafael Burgos came to the vigil to remember his 18-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who was shot and killed in October. She was picking up her brother from a friend's home, and died instantly when bullets came through the window of the house.

Alexandra was “a good girl, never in any trouble never in any gangs of any kind," Rafael told HuffPost. "She was a good, loving young lady. She was a very positive role model for many people.” The teenager was attending college and wanted to become a social worker some day.

“It just feels like an emptiness,” Rafael said, describing life without his daughter. “Every day you wake up and it feels like there is a part of you missing, because there is. And it’s like you walk and you function and you want to participate in life and it’s like you feel like a shadow.”


Less than two months ago, Rafael Burgos' daughter was fatally shot in Chicago. He said the shooting has made him "feel like a shadow" of his former self in his day-to-day life.

Rafael added that the shooting also particularly impacted his younger son, who witnessed the tragedy.

“My son struggles every day. He tries to go through the motions but he’s hurting, we’re all hurting,” Rafael said. “He’s trying to be strong for us.”

Sharon Gardner, a mother of six, came to the vigil in honor of her brother, who she said served in the military in Operation Desert Storm. He was fatally shot in 1994, only six months after he returned to Chicago.

“I just feel so cheated, so cheated,” Gardner told HuffPost. “He survived all that war and turmoil overseas -- then he wasn’t here with us more than six months in his hometown.”

Gardner said she fears for her children, especially her 15-year-old son.

“I pay life insurance [for him] before I pay my rent now,” she said.


Sharon Gardner's brother was fatally shot 20 years ago. She says she still prays for him daily.

Participants in the vigil walked two blocks to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park and released 26 white balloons into the air in memory of the 26 people who died in the Sandy Hook shooting, along with an additional balloon that represented victims of gun violence in Chicago.

At Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral on Thursday, hundreds of mourners and activists took part in a two-hour vigil, including Gilles and Joyce Rousseau, whose daughter Lauren was a Sandy Hook teacher. The attendees used the service as an opportunity to recommit themselves to ending what speakers called "the nation's epidemic of gun violence." Despite the vigil's hallowed location beneath the sweeping stone arches of the cathedral nave, the event felt less like a memorial service and more like a very polite rally aimed at calling supporters to action.

In his remarks, the Right Rev. Gary R. Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, described an epic battle between "the gun lobby," exemplified by the National Rifle Association, and what he called "the cross lobby," the hundreds of congregations across the country taking "faithful action to prevent gun violence."

"The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby," Hall told the attendees. "In the end, we will prevail in this struggle because love and justice always finally win over fear and hate. Let us commit ourselves, today, to stand where God calls us to stand: with and for those who suffer and die from the illegal and immoral use of firearms."

While the date of the event and the green memorial ribbons given to guests were both reminders of Sandy Hook, attendees drew resolve and spirit from more recent events as well, like the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin and the recent fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Speakers and attendees alike said they viewed all the victims as pieces of the same problem: senseless deaths by guns.

The sentiment was similar on Friday in the Riverdale area of the Bronx, where members and staff of the Sisters of Charity bowed their heads in remembrance not only of those killed at Sandy Hook, but of all victims of gun violence across the world.


Members of the Sisters of Charity in the Bronx dedicate a moment of silence to victims of gun violence.

“Hold all those lives hurt and lost through violence in your heart -- both those who have inflicted violence and those who have endured it,” said Sister Karen Gray. “Perhaps you know someone whose life was lost to gun violence. Gently hold their presence in your imagination."

After a brief pause, the sisters read aloud the names of people in their community who had been lost to gun violence. Sister Barbara Ann Ford, a Bronx native who was shot to death in 2001 in Guatemala after spending two decades doing relief work in the country, was one name. Archbishop Oscar Romero was another.

Gray read aloud statistics about background checks for buying guns in the United States. Forty-nine percent fewer suicides with a gun in states where a background check is required for all handgun sales. Thirty-eight percent fewer women killed with a gun by an intimate partner. Thirty-nine percent fewer police officers murdered with a handgun that was not their own. And so on.

“God of life, every act of violence in our world, in our communities, between myself and others, destroys a part of your creation,” Gray said to close the service. “Stir in my heart a renewed sense of reverence for all life. Give me the vision to recognize your spirit in every human being, however they behave towards me. Make possible the impossible by cultivating in me the fertile seed of healing love. May I play my part in breaking the cycle of violence by realizing that peace begins with me.”

At a church in the quiet suburb of Oak Park, Michigan, a group of 40 people assembled on Thursday to discuss the problem of gun violence in the nation and particularly in their state, whether in nearby Detroit or in a small town.

Linda Brundage, the Michigan chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke at length about gun control and the need for stronger background check laws.

“Stop being the silent majority,” she told attendees gathered at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish. “We must find our voices to change the gun culture in the United States.”

The group held candles in a circle as they recited name after name, memorializing loved ones lost to gun violence.

Cassandra Davis of Redford, Michigan, spoke to the crowd about her son Jeremiah, who was shot to death in November of last year by a 15-year-old. Jeremiah was 11.

“I didn’t even allow my son to play with a gun," Davis said. "He never owned own a toy gun."


Cassandra Davis lost her 11-year-old son, Jeremiah, to gun violence last year.

According to news reports, the teen who shot Jeremiah was playing with a gun that is believed to have been found at his grandmother’s house. The two boys were at Jeremiah’s father’s home in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights, and Jeremiah’s father and the 15-year-old’s mother were both in the house when the shooting took place. The teen, whose name has not been released because he is a minor, later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Davis said Thursday’s gathering was the first time she had been able to talk about her son at length in public. But she has become close with some of the women at Moms Demand Action and may continue to tell her story, in part to push for gun control laws to be strengthened and for gun safety to become a stronger priority, particularly in families with children.

"I protected my son as much as I could -- as a mom, as a parent," she said. "He couldn’t ride his bike from one corner to the other [without me] standing there watching him. I didn’t let him go around the block. He’s like, ‘Mom, why can’t I go around the block and so-and-so did?’ Because I said so. I’m protecting you, it’s my job. I said, ‘Well, when you get to be 12 years old you can go around the block.’ He didn't make it.”

Darrell and Katherine Lotharp brought their daughter, Starletta, to Thursday’s gathering. Starletta was eight months pregnant in the spring of 2002 when her partner, Michael Brown Sr., was shot and killed by a neighbor.

“Unfortunately this neighbor was a convicted felon that had just got out of prison,” Darrell Lotharp said. “So what does he do? Get into an argument with a citizen, and he goes and pulls the gun out and shoots him. For nothing. They arrest him within 24 hours and he's right back in jail. It disrupted a whole family, over nothing, and that’s sad. There’s no rhyme or reason for it.”


Darrell and Katherine Lotharp with their daughter, Starletta, whose partner was shot to death when she was eight months pregnant.

Starletta gave birth four days after the funeral.

“He never saw his daughter. Things like that, that hurts,” her father continued. “If he didn’t have a weapon, I don’t think it would have happened. But he had easy access to a gun. What’s a felon doing with a gun?”

Meanwhile, Davis told attendees there are still countless things she can’t bring herself to do in her son’s absence: Go in his room. Watch University of Michigan football games. Eat pizza or macaroni and cheese. Walk at a favorite park. Watch the news.

“I still can’t get over it. I wake up every morning saying I can’t believe my baby’s gone,” she said. “I kept my son in a good neighborhood, a good school district. It doesn’t matter where you’re at -- people have guns everywhere."

Christina Wilkie reported from Washington, D.C., Christopher Mathias reported from New York, Joseph Erbentraut reported from Chicago and Kate Abbey-Lambertz reported from Detroit.

Sandy Hook Anniversary Vigils Shine Light On A Nation Plagued By Gun Violence

Sat, 2014-12-13 23:05
This Sunday marks two years since 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before turning his gun on himself. For the loved ones of gun violence victims across America, the anniversary of the tragedy serves as a grim reminder of how little has changed since then.

On Thursday evening, dozens of family members grieving the loss of relatives who died in shootings, along with advocates for stricter gun laws, gathered at Roosevelt University in Chicago for a vigil memorializing both the Sandy Hook victims and victims of gun violence in their own city. The Cook County medical examiner’s office has reported 406 homicides, many of them due to shootings, in Chicago this year.

Speaking before the packed room, Beti Guevara, who teaches science classes at the Barreto Boys & Girls Club in the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, said she keeps five bullet casings she found on the sidewalk one day while walking around her community as a daily reminder of the importance of her work.


Participants in a Chicago vigil brought photographs of the loved ones they were remembering.

When she asks students in her classes to raise their hands if they know somebody who has been shot, she said, on most days all the hands go up.

“These are babies, but they’ve lost their fathers, their mothers, their sisters and their brothers,” Guevara told The Huffington Post. “When somebody gets killed through gun violence, there’s a ripple effect and that ripple effect is on the family -- but they don’t report on the news about it afterwards. After they bury the child, then where’s everybody?”

Guevara can personally attest to this “ripple effect” -- her brother was gunned down when she was 12 years old, and she saw firsthand the effect his death had on her parents. She says she wishes that more protests, like the ones that have taken place in response to the grand jury decisions about Michael Brown's and Eric Garner’s deaths, would focus specifically on gun violence.

“We’re going down the streets of Chicago with our rage and we’re blocking traffic," Guevara said. "And yet we lost so many babies last week, and nobody is getting outraged and nobody’s stopping traffic.”

Rafael Burgos came to the vigil to remember his 18-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who was shot and killed in October. She was picking up her brother from a friend's home, and died instantly when bullets came through the window of the house.

Alexandra was “a good girl, never in any trouble never in any gangs of any kind," Rafael told HuffPost. "She was a good, loving young lady. She was a very positive role model for many people.” The teenager was attending college and wanted to become a social worker some day.

“It just feels like an emptiness,” Rafael said, describing life without his daughter. “Every day you wake up and it feels like there is a part of you missing, because there is. And it’s like you walk and you function and you want to participate in life and it’s like you feel like a shadow.”


Less than two months ago, Rafael Burgos' daughter was fatally shot in Chicago. He said the shooting has made him "feel like a shadow" of his former self in his day-to-day life.

Rafael added that the shooting also particularly impacted his younger son, who witnessed the tragedy.

“My son struggles every day. He tries to go through the motions but he’s hurting, we’re all hurting,” Rafael said. “He’s trying to be strong for us.”

Sharon Gardner, a mother of six, came to the vigil in honor of her brother, who she said served in the military in Operation Desert Storm. He was fatally shot in 1994, only six months after he returned to Chicago.

“I just feel so cheated, so cheated,” Gardner told HuffPost. “He survived all that war and turmoil overseas -- then he wasn’t here with us more than six months in his hometown.”

Gardner said she fears for her children, especially her 15-year-old son.

“I pay life insurance [for him] before I pay my rent now,” she said.


Sharon Gardner's brother was fatally shot 20 years ago. She says she still prays for him daily.

Participants in the vigil walked two blocks to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park and released 26 white balloons into the air in memory of the 26 people who died in the Sandy Hook shooting, along with an additional balloon that represented victims of gun violence in Chicago.

At Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral on Thursday, hundreds of mourners and activists took part in a two-hour vigil, including Gilles and Joyce Rousseau, whose daughter Lauren was a Sandy Hook teacher. The attendees used the service as an opportunity to recommit themselves to ending what speakers called "the nation's epidemic of gun violence." Despite the vigil's hallowed location beneath the sweeping stone arches of the cathedral nave, the event felt less like a memorial service and more like a very polite rally aimed at calling supporters to action.

In his remarks, the Right Rev. Gary R. Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, described an epic battle between "the gun lobby," exemplified by the National Rifle Association, and what he called "the cross lobby," the hundreds of congregations across the country taking "faithful action to prevent gun violence."

"The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby," Hall told the attendees. "In the end, we will prevail in this struggle because love and justice always finally win over fear and hate. Let us commit ourselves, today, to stand where God calls us to stand: with and for those who suffer and die from the illegal and immoral use of firearms."

While the date of the event and the green memorial ribbons given to guests were both reminders of Sandy Hook, attendees drew resolve and spirit from more recent events as well, like the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin and the recent fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Speakers and attendees alike said they viewed all the victims as pieces of the same problem: senseless deaths by guns.

The sentiment was similar on Friday in the Riverdale area of the Bronx, where members and staff of the Sisters of Charity bowed their heads in remembrance not only of those killed at Sandy Hook, but of all victims of gun violence across the world.


Members of the Sisters of Charity in the Bronx dedicate a moment of silence to victims of gun violence.

“Hold all those lives hurt and lost through violence in your heart -- both those who have inflicted violence and those who have endured it,” said Sister Karen Gray. “Perhaps you know someone whose life was lost to gun violence. Gently hold their presence in your imagination."

After a brief pause, the sisters read aloud the names of people in their community who had been lost to gun violence. Sister Barbara Ann Ford, a Bronx native who was shot to death in 2001 in Guatemala after spending two decades doing relief work in the country, was one name. Archbishop Oscar Romero was another.

Gray read aloud statistics about background checks for buying guns in the United States. Forty-nine percent fewer suicides with a gun in states where a background check is required for all handgun sales. Thirty-eight percent fewer women killed with a gun by an intimate partner. Thirty-nine percent fewer police officers murdered with a handgun that was not their own. And so on.

“God of life, every act of violence in our world, in our communities, between myself and others, destroys a part of your creation,” Gray said to close the service. “Stir in my heart a renewed sense of reverence for all life. Give me the vision to recognize your spirit in every human being, however they behave towards me. Make possible the impossible by cultivating in me the fertile seed of healing love. May I play my part in breaking the cycle of violence by realizing that peace begins with me.”

At a church in the quiet suburb of Oak Park, Michigan, a group of 40 people assembled on Thursday to discuss the problem of gun violence in the nation and particularly in their state, whether in nearby Detroit or in a small town.

Linda Brundage, the Michigan chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke at length about gun control and the need for stronger background check laws.

“Stop being the silent majority,” she told attendees gathered at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish. “We must find our voices to change the gun culture in the United States.”

The group held candles in a circle as they recited name after name, memorializing loved ones lost to gun violence.

Cassandra Davis of Redford, Michigan, spoke to the crowd about her son Jeremiah, who was shot to death in November of last year by a 15-year-old. Jeremiah was 11.

“I didn’t even allow my son to play with a gun," Davis said. "He never owned own a toy gun."


Cassandra Davis lost her 11-year-old son, Jeremiah, to gun violence last year.

According to news reports, the teen who shot Jeremiah was playing with a gun that is believed to have been found at his grandmother’s house. The two boys were at Jeremiah’s father’s home in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights, and Jeremiah’s father and the 15-year-old’s mother were both in the house when the shooting took place. The teen, whose name has not been released because he is a minor, later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Davis said Thursday’s gathering was the first time she had been able to talk about her son at length in public. But she has become close with some of the women at Moms Demand Action and may continue to tell her story, in part to push for gun control laws to be strengthened and for gun safety to become a stronger priority, particularly in families with children.

"I protected my son as much as I could -- as a mom, as a parent," she said. "He couldn’t ride his bike from one corner to the other [without me] standing there watching him. I didn’t let him go around the block. He’s like, ‘Mom, why can’t I go around the block and so-and-so did?’ Because I said so. I’m protecting you, it’s my job. I said, ‘Well, when you get to be 12 years old you can go around the block.’ He didn't make it.”

Darrell and Katherine Lotharp brought their daughter Starletta to Thursday’s gathering. The couple's other daughter was eight months pregnant in the spring of 2002 when her partner, Michael Brown Sr., was shot and killed by a neighbor. She gave birth four days after his funeral.

“Unfortunately this neighbor was a convicted felon that had just got out of prison,” Darrell Lotharp said. “So what does he do? Get into an argument with a citizen, and he goes and pulls the gun out and shoots him. For nothing. They arrest him within 24 hours and he's right back in jail. It disrupted a whole family, over nothing, and that’s sad. There’s no rhyme or reason for it.”


Darrell and Katherine Lotharp with their daughter, Starletta. The couple's other daughter was pregnant when her partner was shot to death.

“He never saw his daughter. Things like that, that hurts,” Lotharp continued. “If he didn’t have a weapon, I don’t think it would have happened. But he had easy access to a gun. What’s a felon doing with a gun?”

Meanwhile, Davis told attendees there are still countless things she can’t bring herself to do in her son’s absence: Go in his room. Watch University of Michigan football games. Eat pizza or macaroni and cheese. Walk at a favorite park. Watch the news.

“I still can’t get over it. I wake up every morning saying I can’t believe my baby’s gone,” she said. “I kept my son in a good neighborhood, a good school district. It doesn’t matter where you’re at -- people have guns everywhere."

Christina Wilkie reported from Washington, D.C., Christopher Mathias reported from New York, Joseph Erbentraut reported from Chicago and Kate Abbey-Lambertz reported from Detroit.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated Darrell and Katherine Lotharp's daughter Starletta was eight months pregnant when her partner, Michael Brown Sr., was killed. The couple's other daughter, who was not present, was Brown's partner.

Pamela Wright's Son Was Shot Dead A Month After Newtown. This Is Her Story.

Sat, 2014-12-13 23:05
WASHINGTON -- Tyrone Lawson's pictures are still on the wall of his home in Chicago. His clothes are there, too. Every now and then, his mother, Pamela Wright, will take out an old gray T-shirt to remind herself of his smell. She still sees his friends. And she even stays true to their dinner traditions: a pizza picnic every Wednesday. As time passes since that night her son was shot dead outside a college gymnasium, Pamela holds on more tightly to the routines they shared.

"I've moved on but I haven't moved much," she says. "And I don't think I want to."

This Sunday marks the two-year anniversary of the shooting of 20 students and six educators at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. For much of the country, the grisly milestone will be marked with remembrances, moments of silence and calls for action. For Pamela Wright, it will mean that and more. She is part of the universe of individuals who have lost loved ones in the 94 school shootings that have taken place since Newtown -- a number that went up to 95 during the time it took to publish this piece.

"You don’t think anything like that will happen to you," Pamela says. "You don’t put yourself in that situation until it occurs. Now I look at Sandy Hook, those parents had to be insane. Literally, I mean, to even wake themselves up."

Pamela is 54 years old. Tyrone was her only child. His birth was carefully planned. She hadn't wanted to get pregnant until she was 35, to give herself time to work and, perhaps, become more mature. From the moment Tyrone was born, though, he would remain unrelentingly wonderful to her. Every year, the two of them would take trips with their extended family to a camping site in nearby Indiana where they'd fish and swim and walk outdoors. They learned how to hook worms and would walk to the lakefront to find seashells, which they'd use to carve pieces of wood. Each year they'd mark a new piece with the date of their visit.

When he entered his senior year of high school, Tyrone, an honors student, had lofty ambitions. He wanted to work at ComEd or maybe even become a Navy SEAL -- a career option that racked his mother's nerves.

"I didn’t want him to get killed in the war they were having," Pamela explained. "I always tried to talk to him, like: ‘Are you really sure?’ I always had that fear. It didn’t matter."

She pauses to reflect on how misplaced, in retrospect, those thoughts now seem.

"I never would have thought he would have gone to a basketball game and never came home to me," she says.

Pamela says she has no guilt about what happened the night of January 16, 2013, though one gets the sense when talking to her that this is an ongoing internal battle she wages. What haunts her instead is that no internal triggers went off. No warning signs, no subconscious moment of dread. Instead, it was all quite normal. Tyrone, who was 17 at the time, texted her that afternoon, asking if he could go to the high school basketball game between Morgan Park and Simeon at Chicago State University that evening. She said no at first. It was a school night. But Pamela's own mother prevailed on her to let Tyrone enjoy the fleeting moments of his senior year.

They met up at home before he left. After eating, Pamela drove him to the game and gave him money for the ticket. They said their goodbyes and she told him to be careful.

"I wonder if there was something that was telling me that I shouldn’t let him go and I just didn’t read it," she says.

What killed Tyrone, in the end, was misfortune. The basketball game had been contentious, though not remarkably so. But as the two teams shook hands after the game ended, an argument broke out. Players were separated and sent back to their lockers. The tension spilled out into the stands and, from there, into the parking lot. As Tyrone ran away from the scene, two men shot him twice in the back. Someone tried to get him to keep moving. But he couldn't get up.

It was 9:20 p.m. Thirty-one minutes later, he was pronounced dead.



What does it feel like to be told that your child has died?

Pamela still isn't sure. In that moment after she received calls from a relative and from Tyrone's friends, she felt like a vast cone was being placed over her life. She could see the chaos surrounding her. But inside, she couldn't yet feel, hear or comprehend it.

"You don’t have a mind," she says. "There is nothing going through you. … It is indescribable. Sometimes I wish I could describe how your whole life has been eliminated. If you look at your children, they are like 99 percent of your life. And for someone to just kill your child is ... it’s ... unbelievable. It really is."

Pamela refused to look at Tyrone's body at the hospital, thinking that it would, quite literally, kill her. Gregory Young, her then-fiance and now her husband, identified the body instead. It was only later, at the coroner's office, that Pamela got her first glimpse.

The shooting made headlines, in large part because Simeon was (and remains) a basketball powerhouse, featuring the nation's top high school player at the time, Jabari Parker. But even just one month after Sandy Hook, the public -- and certainly the city of Chicago -- was already growing desensitized to such violence. When Tyrone was shot, there had already been four school shootings since Newtown, two of which had resulted in deaths.

Early on, Pamela coped by pretending her son wasn't dead. She'd tell people that he had gone away to the Navy and would be back soon. "That was my way of dealing with what had happened," she says. "He was going to come back and I’ll see him then."

Had she had another child, Pamela figures, it might have been easier. She'd never replace Tyrone, but she'd shift her focus elsewhere. Instead, she filled the void by reaching out beyond her family. She went into therapy, started keeping a journal and talked to other mothers who had lost children to gun violence.

"It's not hard to find them in Chicago," Pamela notes.

More recently, she's dipped her toes into the world of activism. Last week, she and Young boarded a plane and flew to Washington, D.C., for a press conference marking the two-year anniversary of Newtown. Standing in front of a crowd of 30 or so in Senate Room 115 inside the Capitol Building, Pamela nervously chewed gum and listened to the procession of speakers. As Everytown for Gun Safety, the group hosting the event, played a new video of a school shooting drill, she turned away and wiped tears from her eyes.

When it came time for her to speak, Pamela took a deep breath, pushed her hair out of her face, and approached the microphone.

"Some media outlets don't count what happened to my son as a school shooting," she told the crowd, referencing the disputes over the methodology Everytown uses to count post-Sandy Hook shootings. "They whittle down their lists by removing anything resembling so-called gang violence, not to mention accidental shootings or suicide. But Americans know that any time a gun is fired on school grounds, fear strikes an entire community."



After the speech was done, Pamela was relieved. She sat back in a chair and looked around the room.

In less than two years, life has brought Pamela horrible and inconceivable twists and turns -- but not closure, at least not yet. The men who killed Tyrone are both in jail. Pamela is still left wondering about the moment they killed her son.

"The only thing I would like to know is, did my baby die fast, did he know I loved him, and did he feel pain?" she says. "I can’t answer those. I know he loved me, but did he have a chance to think about that I loved him?"

Watch an interview Pamela Wright gave to the Chicago Tribune shortly after her son Tyrone was killed:

'Everyone Has A Stake In This': Tens Of Thousands Mobilize Across America To Protest Police Killings

Sat, 2014-12-13 19:13
As tens of thousands of people rallied in the nation’s capitol and demonstrated through the streets of New York on Saturday, protesters in other cities across the nation also held events of their own to denounce racial injustice.

Chants of “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe” were heard in cities from Boston to San Diego as protesters spoke out against police brutality and racial profiling.

While the march in Washington had the largest turnout, with an estimate of more than 50,000 protesters, cities including New York, Chicago, Oakland and San Antonio each had significant participation from protesters who took to the streets in solidarity.

In Los Angeles, on the corner of Hollywood and Highland, 50 protesters circled four intersections, disrupting traffic and chanting "no justice no peace, no racist police."

It has been a bigger group than appeared last week, according to 28-year-old Sharlene, a recent transplant from New York.

"Everyone has a stake in this -- everyone should be out here," she told The Huffington Post. She talked about her brother, "the best kid you could imagine," who has been stopped and frisked seven times by local police.

Nearby, hundreds marched from Berkeley to Oakland while more than a thousand rallied outside the Oakland courthouse. Meanwhile, in Boston, state police arrested 23 protesters Saturday afternoon, charging each of them with disorderly conduct.

Crowds across the nation consisted of people of all ages and demographics, reflecting a diversity praised by many.

"At previous protests for other similar causes, it's been only black faces," Los Angeles resident Aiesha Spires, 27, told The Huffington Post. "I appreciate the diversity and I appreciate that [the white allies] are taking cues from us and not taking over."

Consensus among several protesters in Los Angeles was that awareness of racial injustice and accountability of police brutality were the salient needs.

That sentiment was shared among the tens of thousands of others who expressed the same concerns throughout the country -- and as portrayed in images from protests across America. Take a look at some of them below:



15 Of The Most Beautiful Architectural Photographs From Around The World

Fri, 2014-12-12 20:10
This article originally appeared on ArchDaily.
by Katie Watkins


Fifteen images ranging from a close-up of Herzog & de Meuron’s Beijing National Stadium to a portrait of a graveyard-turned home in the Philippines, have been selected as the finalists of the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) 2014 Art of Building Photographer of the Year competition. The public will now decide who will take home the title and a £3,000 cash prize.

“There is a cornucopia of styles and stories in this year’s final,” said Saul Townsend, CIOB spokesman in a press release. “In a world full of high definition colour technology, black and white photography still inspires a host of photographers. Voters are in for a visual treat and will hopefully be inspired to look at the built environment in a new way and to take part themselves next year.”

The fifteen finalists were selected by panel of judges that included photography critic and editor Sue Steward, award-winning photographer Matt Wain and the editor of Construction Manager magazine, Elaine Knutt.

Take a look at the 15 finalists after the break and don’t forget to vote for your favorite before January 11, 2015 on CIOB’s Art of Building website. The winner will be announced February 5.



File ref: 9222
Name: Frank Machalowski
Title of Photograph: Multiexpo Potsdam#5
Photo taken in: Potsdam, Germany
Photographer from: Germany
Photographer’s description: This multi-exposure picture reduces the building to its core without any irrelevant background. It emphasizes the building.






File ref: 9573
Name: Hoang Long Ly
Title of Photograph: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Photo taken in: Abu Dhabi – UAE
Photographer from: Vietnam
Photographer’s description: This mosque is a religious icon not only for Abu Dhabi but also for the Islamic world of UAE.






File ref: 9805
Name: Mario Bejagan Cardenas
Title of Photograph: Bird’s Nest Puzzle Close-Up
Photo taken in: Beijing, China
Photographer from: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Photographer’s description: Beijing National Stadium is an eye-catching state of the art structure. The stadium is a work of exceptional design and proves to be a mind-boggling complex artifact as you get up close.





File ref: 9910
Name: Rajaram
Title of Photograph: Near to fire for bricks
Photo taken in: Pondicherry, India
Photographer from: Pondicherry, India
Photographer’s description: The people are working near a hot fire to burn the bricks. To make a single brick is not as easy as we think.





File ref: 9381
Name: Richard Pennington
Title of Photograph: Concrete Arteries
Photo taken in: Amsterdam, Holland
Photographer from: Essex, UK
Photographer’s description: A rare infrastructure perspective of Amsterdam’s newest Metro Line. I liken the concrete Metro tunnels of the city to the arteries running throughout or bodies that keep it alive and functioning.





File ref: 9003
Name: Flores Giorgini
Title of Photograph: Water pipe on a roof
Photo taken in: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Photographer from: Paris, France
Photographer’s description: When I took this photo it was because I found it really strange that this pipe was on the roof; it is an interesting contrast with modern buildings.






File ref: 8856
Name: Pierre Cuony
Title of Photograph: Up
Photo taken in: London
Photographer from: Switzerland
Photographer’s description: This picture is a low angle shot of a beautiful building in London. Good place, right time.





File ref: 9806
Name: Mario Bejagan Cardenas
Title of Photograph: My home, my playground and my cemetery
Photo taken in: Manila, Philippines
Photographer from: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Photographer’s description: Thousands of families have made a city’s graveyard their home as authorities grapple with rising population and housing shortage. Depressing community where hapless residents call this place a home among the dead.





File ref: 7858
Name: Lisa Shalom
Title of Photograph: Giuseppe Perugini Bathroom
Photo taken in: Fregene, Italy
Photographer from: California, USA
Photographer’s description: Giuseppe Perugini was a famous architect who built very modern home decades ago in the heart of Fregene, Italy. Since his death, the home is abandoned. Here is a woman gazing through a small window in the bathroom.






File ref: 10170
Name: Pessoa Neto
Title of Photograph: Library by Siza Vieira
Photo taken in: Portugal
Photographer from: Portugal
Photographer’s description: I really loved the light coming down the centre of the Library building. I saw two young kids and just waited for the moment.






File ref: 8151
Name: Pulock Biswas
Title of Photograph: Little House
Photo taken in: Bangladesh
Photographer from: Bangladesh
Photographer’s description: It becomes a work of art.





File ref: 8869
Name: Wahid Adnan
Title of Photograph: Getting lost on a roof
Photo taken in: Bangladesh
Photographer from: Bangladesh
Photographer’s description: A Muslim man is deep into his thoughts on a roof of a building surrounded by other buildings. Access to a roof in Dhaka is not always possible for people as the owners don’t allow tenants to go up.





File ref: 8523
Name: Yana Bulyizheva
Title of Photograph: Songs of light
Photo taken in: Milan, Italy
Photographer from: St.Petersburg, Russia
Photographer’s description: The photo shows Duomo not from the main facade, it shows details, and this architectural element is like a powerful luminous song for me.





File ref: 8477
Name: Patrick Mouzawak
Title of Photograph: Inception
Photo taken in: Milwaukee, USA
Photographer from: Madrid, Spain
Photographer’s description: The multiple layers created by this architectural form with a human attending to it as if carefully repositioning the triangle shapes herself.





File ref: 9330
Name: Lana Yankovskaya
Title of Photograph: Capsule
Photo taken in: Germany
Photographer from: Kiev, Ukraine
Photographer’s description: Mysterious construction, as if it’s from the future, but at the same time from the past. Reminds about aliens or mad architect, about emptiness and uselessness, which in fact, no one needs what we do, and it all will turn to ash.




Cite: Watkins, Katie. "15 Finalists Nominated for the Art of Building Photographer of the Year Award" 11 Dec 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 12 Dec 2014.



15 Finalists Nominated for the Art of Building Photographer of the Year Award originally appeared on ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website in December 2014.

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Chicago Protesters To Eric Holder: Police Brutality Has To Stop

Fri, 2014-12-12 17:20
A small group of protesters gathered Friday afternoon outside the Chicago hotel where U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder held a closed-door meeting with police, political and community leaders.

The topic inside and outside the Sheraton Towers: law enforcement issues in the wake of policing incidents that claimed the lives of unarmed black men in Missouri, New York City and elsewhere.

"I'm hoping that we will be able to see justice served in the Eric Garner case. That's the primary goal," protestor Shirleen Jackson, an organizer with the group Stop Mass Incarceration Network, told The Huffington Post. "We can't continue to allow the justice system to murder our young men and get away with it. There needs to be some kind of investigation into this case and many others. We want policies that will ensure the protection of our citizens."

The Chicago Tribune reports that during the meeting -- which was attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Zachary Fardon and anti-violence activist Father Michael Pfleger, among others -- Holder said the nation is facing "critical times."

"We have to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the lack of trust that exists between some communities and law enforcement," Holder said, reportedly suggesting that one of the ways to tackle the chasm of mistrust was "to have meetings like this."

His Friday appearance in Chicago was part of a six-city tour that includes stops in Memphis, Cleveland and Atlanta.


Aaron Bernard Hollins, Jr. holds a "Black Lives Matter" sign outside a Friday afternoon meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Protestors touted the need for nationwide changes in policing strategies. Jackson said she wants to see more chokehold bans enacted, similar to one recently proposed in Chicago.

Aaron Bernard Hollins, Jr., who was among some 18 people demonstrating outside the meeting, told HuffPost he thought Holder's meeting was "a step in the right direction."

"But if we don't let our voices be heard," he added, "the same things are going to keep happening."

Hollins' motivation for joining the protest was to highlight the death of Laquan McDonald, a black 17-year-old who was fatally shot in October by a Chicago police officer.

"Not a lot has been said about it," he said.

The number of police at the protest was roughly equal to the number of protesters. Bicycle police edged protesters off the sidewalk outside the hotel, but confrontations were otherwise civil.

As the law enforcement roundtable went on inside, a few curious onlookers stopped to watch. At one point, a woman stopped to scold the protesters.

"You try being a cop for one day!" said the woman, who was white, wagging her finger at the group before hurrying off.

"Try being a black man," Hollins replied, holding his sign.

Chicago Police Officer Disciplined Over Playing 'Sweet Home Alabama' At Eric Garner Protest

Fri, 2014-12-12 15:17
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Police Department says it will discipline an officer who played "Sweet Home Alabama" over a police-cruiser loudspeaker during a march protesting police treatment of African Americans.

The song is considered an anthem to Southern pride but some interpreted his playing of the song during Saturday's march as racially insensitive.

The department didn't identify the officer or say how he'll be disciplined.

The department says in a statement that the officer maintained he played the song because he is a University of Alabama fan. But the department says it can't condone an act considered "disruptive or disrespectful" to protesters or residents.

Saturday's march was one of many in response to decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, not to prosecute white police officers in the deaths of unarmed blacks.

Choosing A Secret Santa Gift Is Hard, But There's One Option That's Always A Hit

Fri, 2014-12-12 15:01
If you're someone's Secret Santa this holiday season and you have no idea what to buy them, these thoughtful gifts will definitely get everyone into the holiday spirit...

... Or, spirits.




Image credits: Getty/Imgur

This New Phone App Can Tell When You've Had Too Much To Drink

Fri, 2014-12-12 13:47

A new federally funded cellphone app allows people who may have had one too many to get an idea just how drunk they are — and hail a ride home.


Users enter their sex, height, weight, and number of drinks consumed to help figure out their blood-alcohol level. They also can play two interactive games to test reaction time and cognitive agility. And the app uses GPS technology to call cabs and pre-load phone numbers for potential designated drivers.


The app, called ENDUI — pronounced "End DUI" — was announced Thursday by government and police officials in Maryland. Funded by federal money reserved for drunken-driving education efforts, the app is among several in a handful of states to tackle drunken driving — though Maryland's is one of the most elaborate.


"It's unique," said Kara Macek, a spokeswoman at the Governors Highway Safety Association, which funded the new app, developed by the Maryland Highway Safety Office for about $50,000.


"I think states are starting to go that route because they're trying to reach consumers where they are and where they spend time, and everyone spends time on their phone," Macek said. "I think we're going to see more of that as we go forward."


States with similar apps include New York, New Mexico, Colorado, and California, which launched its version two weeks ago.


Like the other states, Maryland's app is available for free on Android and iPhone.


One of the games on the app involves pressing a red "brake" button when an image of a pedestrian passes by or a car ahead stops. The app says just how fast — or slow — users react and how much time their car would have needed to avoid a collision.


The other game shows nine road signs that blink in different order; users try to recall the order, which gets increasingly challenging with each round — with or without drinks.


"The game is meant to be a hook and pull you in," said Tom Gianni, chief of the Maryland Highway Safety Office. "Then it's meant to give you a lesson of, 'See what can happen. Imagine if you were behind the wheel.'"


A feature that estimates blood-alcohol levels has users enter their height and weight, and details about what kind and how many drinks they have. For instance, the app estimates that a 130-pound woman who just drank a glass of red wine would have a blood-alcohol level of .04 percent.


Though that's under Maryland's legal limit of .08 percent, the app warns that "driving ability is likely to be impaired."


"Get a cab or have someone that has not been drinking take you home," the app advises.


At nearly every step, the app warns users that no matter what the results, "driving with any amount of alcohol in your system may impair you and be illegal."


Gianni called the driving-related features the most important for someone who's been drinking.


"It kind of takes the guesswork out of a situation where you've had a few drinks and you're not sure what to," Gianni said. "This takes all the brainwork out of it."

2014 in Sports: 6 Takeaways From the Complicated Year That Was

Fri, 2014-12-12 13:44
In many ways, 2014 was a year to forget in the world of sports. The instinct in most fans is to try and use sports as an escape from the problems or bad news of everyday life, but this year sports themselves were often the bearer of bad news. Donald Sterling's skin-crawling racism, Paul George's gruesome and avoidable injury, Tony Stewart's involvement in the death of the young Kevin Ward, Jr., the Ray Rice video, Adrian Peterson's switch, Roger Goodell's all-around incompetence -- we shook our heads at each one of these stories with disgust or disappointment, often both.

However, while it's easy to lament to the failings of our sports fandoms in 2014, there's no denying that there was also a lot of good to come from the past year. Here are six ways in which sports inspired us, captivated us and reminded us why we investment the time in them in the first place.

We touchingly said goodbye to a pair of living legends in 2014: Derek Jeter and Landon Donovan. When watching the two of them this year, it was obvious Father Time had his grip on both of them. Jeter's average barely hovered around .250 and Donovan was ignominiously left off the United States' World Cup team. Nevertheless, showmen and icons that they both are, each man managed one final memorable moment just before they exited the stage. It'll be a long time before either sport finds a superstar of similar magnitude.




There was the collective rush of dousing our cheers with a heavy dose of patriotism during the Winter Olympics and World Cup. T.J. Oshie's marvelous shootout performance against Russia had people clamoring to put him on our currency. Meanwhile, Tim Howard's dominant goal-tending in Brazil earned him a tongue-in-cheek spot in the president's cabinet, as the "Secretary of Defense." Although the men's soccer team was bounced in the round of 16, moments like Howard's uncanny saves or John Brooks' goal ensured that this once maligned-sport is here to stay as a domestic force.





2014 was also the year of personalities and pioneers, of iconoclasts and trailblazers. Michael Sam and Jason Collins inspired us all this year. Sam became the first openly gay football player ever to be drafted into the NFL and Collins became the first openly gay active NBA player ever. At the Little League World Series, Mo'ne Davis proved "you throw like a girl" is actually the best compliment going. As for big personalities, Seattle Seahawks cornerback has that in spades. Bigots and stupid people dismissed his brash and uninhibited comments following the NFC Championship Game as just the ranting of an uppity, angry black man, when in fact they were actually the embodiment of the most fundamental axiom of sports: if you can walk the walk, you're sure as hell allowed to talk the talk.






The year's single best game in all of sports didn't come in a championship or postseason tournament, and it didn't feature any real household names (unless you count the two old guys on the sidelines). On February 1st, Duke and Syracuse met at the Carrier Dome for the first time as conference rivals. What followed was an instant classic in every sense of the phrase, a back-and-forth overtime battle that saw the Orange ultimately prevail 91-89. The two teams met in Durham for a rematch later that month. That game was exciting but not as priceless as the first, though it did give us one unforgettable moment, in Jim Boeheim's reaction to a late game charge call.




And then there are the moments of individual grandeur, the flights of fancy and raw athleticism that leave us speechless. Thoreau saw the sublime in the ripples of Walden Pond, but I see it in the fingertips of Odell Beckham, Jr. Here are a handful of the most amazing individual plays and performances in sports this year.






Another welcome trend in 2014 was the return of the Activist Athlete. Long gone were the days of Mohammad Ali's anti-war stance, Tommie Smith & John Carlos' black fists or Bill Russell's civil rights contributions. Jordan's "Republicans buy sneakers too" had become the law of the land. Athletes were supposed to #SticktoSports. Not so in 2014. We had the Clippers turning their warm-ups inside out in silent defiance of racist owner Donald Sterling. The St. Louis Rams receivers entered the Jones Dome recreating Ferguson protestors' "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" gesture. And multiple NBA and NCAA teams have recently donned "I Can't Breathe" tees in solidarity of Eric Garner. In a year when racial strife and civilian-police relations seem headed toward a fever pitch, it was great to see that sports don't just have to be an escape from our problems -- they can also serve as a challenge to us as a citizenry to be better than what we settle for.





Thomas McKenna is a writer whose work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Gawker, Hollywood Take, Sports World News, and Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @tmckenna1

Street Drug 'Special K' May Offer New Hope For People With Treatment-Resistant Depression

Fri, 2014-12-12 12:48
A hallucinogenic drug known on the street as "Special K" offers new hope to those suffering from severe, treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine, which is derived from phencyclidine (PCP), already has a well-established medical use as a sedative or pain killer. But since 2000, small but high-quality studies have demonstrated its uses as a powerful and fast-acting treatment for major depression.

The growing body of evidence has emboldened doctors to begin prescribing Ketamine for depression, despite the fact that the drug has not been approved for such a use and the long-term effects are still unknown. To address those unknowns, various pharmaceutical companies are formulating their own versions of the drug and testing them in clinical trials, as The New York Times recently reported, but advocates say that the trials are simply an attempt to make money on tweaked versions of a generic drug.

Ketamine doesn't work like common, widely-used antidepressant medications like Prozac, Zoloft or Lexapro, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that change the balance of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Instead, Ketamine targets receptors of glutamate, an amino acid.

Scientists first noticed that targeting glutamate had an antidepressant effect more than 50 years ago, when doctors administered a glutamate-modulating antibiotic to tuberculosis patients and saw their moods lift, according to Dr. Robert Howland, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Howland recently published a review of 25 peer-reviewed studies (that had a total of 416 participants) in the journal Neuropharmacology that examined the effects of Ketamine treatment on people with treatment-resistant depression.

All 25 studies suggested that Ketamine was indeed an "active and rapid antidepressant" for people with treatment-resistant depression (approximately 10 to 20 percent of those who have depression), wrote Howland in his review. Three of those studies even showed that Ketamine appeared to reduce suicidality (suicide ideation) in people treated with the drug. This confirms that glutamate plays an active role in this mental illness, according to Howland.

But serious questions remain about the drug's long-term effects, as well as its ability to sustain the same levels of antidepressant over time without upping the dose. After all, people can become addicted to "Special K," and large doses of the drug could cause hallucinations, aggressive or violent behavior and even death from overdose, according to the University of Maryland's Center for Substance Abuse Research.

"Although limited to initial observations, ketamine may be effective not only in TRD patients but also on suicidality," concluded Howland in his study review. "However, future studies are recommended in order to test the efficacy of ketamine when compared with other active comparators such as electroconvulsive therapy or antidepressant-antipsychotic drugs combinations."

Illinois and U.S. politicians remember Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

Fri, 2014-12-12 12:31
While the identity of her successor remains a mystery, Illinois continues to remember the life and governmental career of state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Recollections came in from prominent political figures, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and even President Obama.

My favorite so far, though, arrived this morning in the Chicago Tribune, where Illinois Senate President John Cullerton memorialized his former Republican Senate colleague in a piece headlined, "Why this Democrat will miss GOP's Judy." (In the print edition, it appears aside similar pieces from Sheila Simon, who lost to Topinka in the November election, and former Gov. Jim Thompson.)

A few choice excerpts:

A couple years ago, Judy Baar Topinka and I were sparring over the numbers she was using for the state's backlog of bills, so I invited her to my office for a chat.

She strides in, tosses a folder full of financial documents on my desk and loudly proclaims:

"There's my poop."

We eventually agreed to disagree, and the conversation turned to me haggling her to quit smoking and her detailed description of the effects of the smoking-cessation drug Chantix.

And I came away with the same impression I had from numerous other meetings with Judy over the nearly 30 years that I've known her. If I may borrow from Judy's vibrant vocabulary -- when it came to state finances and politics -- she did indeed know her poop.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

Other politicians also shared their sadness at Topinka's passing this week.

President Barack Obama:

Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Judy was an institution in Illinois politics. Her public service spanned more than 30 years, including her tenure in the State Legislature and as Chair of the Illinois Republican Party. Judy was a fierce advocate for her constituents, which I got to see firsthand when she was State Treasurer - the first woman to hold that office. She was blunt, pragmatic, unfailingly cheerful and energetic, and always willing to put politics aside to find commonsense solutions that made a difference for the people of Illinois. She will be greatly missed. Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathies to Judy's family, friends and constituents today.

Gov. Pat Quinn:

Today is a sad day in the state of Illinois. I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of my friend, Judy Baar Topinka.

As the first female Treasurer of Illinois and a longtime public servant, Judy was a trailblazer in every sense of the word.

Never without her signature sense of humor, Judy was a force of nature. She left her mark on the state she has called home her entire life. Her leadership improved Illinois and paved the way for countless women in politics.

My deepest sympathies go out to Judy's son, Joe, daughter-in-law Christina, granddaughter Alexandra, her family, friends and devoted staff.

Today the entire state mourns the loss of one of the greats. Judy Baar Topinka will be incredibly missed.

Check out more at Reboot Illinois, including thoughts from House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner.

NEXT ARTICLE: Elegy for crazy, blunt, beloved aunt Judy Baar Topinka

Full 'Insurgent' Trailer Previews Total Destruction

Fri, 2014-12-12 10:25
The full "Insurgent" trailer is here, after a teaser previewed the second installment in the "Divergent" series last month. "Insurgent" follows Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in a futuristic version of Chicago after they became fugitives for deserting the factions from the previous film. Together they fight for their lives and the future of their friends to stop the Erudite leaders from pursuing evil.

Mystery! Terror! Love! It's got everything a dystopian novel-turned film franchise could hope for. Based on Veronica Roth's book series by the same name, "Insurgent" comes out March 20.



And here's a new poster:

Dear Ella, Be Proud of Your Beautiful Name

Fri, 2014-12-12 10:03
Earlier this week, as I returned to New York after a week in India for the launch of HuffPost India, I learned that while I'd been away, a story that had run on HuffPost Parents had left one of our readers a bit upset. The post was entitled "20 Kids' Names That Most Often Appear On The 'Naughty' List," and the reader was a 7-year-old girl named Ella -- which also happened to be the number-one name on the "naughty" list.

Ella forthrightly took it upon herself to write a letter to HuffPost about her disappointment. Unfortunately, a cranky (or sleep-deprived) elf must have misfiled the letter, and we only found out about Ella's reaction when it was featured on her local news station in Grand Rapids, Michigan.



So I feel duty-bound to respond to Ella directly -- and to any other boys and girls who might have been surprised or upset to find themselves on the "naughty" list based solely on a name they did not choose. Watching your TV interview, Ella, I was so impressed by your intelligence, your wit and your charm, and I am certain that you are not only very well-behaved but fearless. (Our HuffPost Parents editors tell me they agree.) As I have always taught my own daughters, Christina and Isabella (whose names weren't on either list but who definitely had their naughty moments), it is so important to stand up for yourself, tell the truth and speak out when you think something is, as you wrote in your note, "blony."

So Ella, be proud of your beautiful name -- a name that, incidentally, is only one letter away from my mother's name, Elli. She would have loved your courage and grit.

And Ella, if you're reading this, please email me at arianna@huffingtonpost.com, and we will figure out a time for you to talk about the experience on our video network, HuffPost Live. I'm sure Santa reads The Huffington Post, but I'm also equally sure that he makes his own "naughty" and "nice" lists that are much more accurate than ours.

Love,
Arianna

This Pretty Much Nails What Holiday Shopping Looks Like From Inside Your Head

Fri, 2014-12-12 09:59
Get me out, get me out, get me out ...

You've been trudging through the stores all day doing your holiday shopping. Someone smells. Is it you? *sniff* No, no you seem okay. Does that person work here? Let's ask ... nope, just wearing the same colored shirt as the employees. Well, that was awkward ...

And it goes on and on like that! CollegeHumor pretty much nails the first person stream-of-consciousness on exactly how stressful it is to do your holiday shopping. Suddenly your online shopping cart is looking a little empty.

16 Quotes To Remind America That Black Lives Matter

Fri, 2014-12-12 08:26
The deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of police officers in Missouri, Ohio, New York and other places around the U.S. have become the latest tipping point in a long history of racial tension.

Protests, marches, die-ins and sit-ins have swept the nation -- most recently resulting in over 300 arrests in New York City over a non-indictment in the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old confronted by NYPD officers for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Social media exploded with rallying cries like #DontShoot, #ICantBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter, the latter of which points out what already should have been obvious.

It's become painfully clear that America is not the post-racial society we'd love to believe it is, or that some insist it's become. In light of that, it's worth taking a look at how 21st century society is, in many ways, still shaped by racial inequality. Below, we've rounded up just a few of the many thoughtful and informative writings on the subject. Some provide a historical perspective while some feature original personal anecdotes. Others are just trying to make sense of tragic events. All are worth the read.


Image via foxadhd.



History has shown consistent discrimination against black people across many aspects of American life.


"Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person ten times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. We believe white dominance to be a fact of the inert past, a delinquent debt that can be made to disappear if only we don’t look."

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lengthy feature in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” illustrates the ways in which slavery and its aftereffects helped build the world’s largest democracy. Coates, who did not always support the idea of reparations, primarily dissects the history of housing discrimination. [Link]



And despite years of discrimination, it still persists.


"When we blame private prejudice, suburban snobbishness, and black poverty for contemporary segregation, we not only whitewash our own history but avoid considering whether new policies might instead promote an integrated community."

A report by the non-profit Economic Policy Institute explains how discriminatory policies in real estate, banking and finance over the past century contributed to the formation of mostly black, low-income neighborhoods like Ferguson. [Link]




Often, black children can't afford to remain innocent about race.


"It was the last day of school, and I was walking with my dad, preparing to leave. Suddenly, he paused, looked at me intently and said, 'Son, you're a black male, and that's two strikes against you.' To the general public, anything that I did would be perceived as malicious and deserving of severe punishment and I had to govern myself accordingly. I was seven years old."

Jazmine Hughes’ piece on how black Americans talk to their children about the police features an array of personal stories. The above comes from 26-year-old Robert Stephens from Kansas City, Missouri. [Link]


"Is this why I didn’t get the job? Is this why my lease application was denied? Is this why I got into college? Is this why this person keeps following me around the grocery store? And when you ask, you’re looked at like you’re crazy, met with denial  --  because it’s always plausible, deniable.”

Bijan Stephen writes about “the talk” black American males sometimes receive from their parents and older relatives on the unfortunate realities of racism, particularly when dealing with law enforcement. [Link]



Police have long been accused of targeting black Americans through racial profiling, which has fed a vicious cycle of distrust between black communities and officers.


“Instead of feeling protected by police, many African Americans are intimidated and live in daily fear that their children will face abuse, arrest and death at the hands of police officers who may be acting on implicit biases or institutional policies based on stereotypes and assumptions of black criminality."

A letter released by Sociologists for Justice stated that “deeply ingrained racial, political, social and economic inequalities” are at play in law enforcement agencies around the U.S., and outlined practical suggestions for overcoming them, including body cameras for police. The letter has been signed by over 1,800 sociologists. [Link]


"Our courts and juries aren’t impartial arbiters -- they exist inside society, not outside of it -- and they can only provide as much justice as society is willing to give."

Jamelle Bouie opines on the consequences police officers commonly never face after using deadly force on citizens. In a separate article, Bouie critiques the officer Wilson's and the grand jury's image of "black brute" Michael Brown. [Link, link]



Although, again, inequality exists far beyond the realm of law enforcement.


"White rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations."

Carol Anderson, associate professor of African American studies at Emory University, writes about the institutionalized backlash that she argues has always accompanied black progress. [Link]


"There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race. Scientifically, anthropologically, racism is a construct -- a social construct. And it has benefits. Money can be made off of it, and people who don't like themselves can feel better because of it. It can describe certain kinds of behavior that are wrong or misleading. So it has a social function, racism."

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, author Toni Morrison talks about being pigeonholed as an "African American writer," when she would really like to be considered an American writer. [Link]



And reports of unfair treatment often fall on deaf ears.


"Photographs of lynchings didn’t foster a shift toward justice. News reports of water hoses and police dogs didn’t compel national outrage from 'sea to shining sea.'"

An argument that police body cameras will not solve the underlying issue behind police brutality over at The Root. [Link]


"Our white allies can alleviate their fears by returning the country to some imagined golden age of the friendly neighborhood constable, whistling as he strolls his beat, idly swinging his baton. Black Americans don’t have to be civil rights scholars to know that there is no idyllic utopia there for us."

Ezekiel Kweku writes about "respectability politics" -- wherein respectable people should have no reason to beware police -- in the media and the general public to determine whether Michael Brown's character was relevant to his death. [Link]



For his part, President Barack Obama has recognized that inequality is still a great hurdle.


"When you're dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you've got to have vigilance, but you have to recognize that it's going to take some time, and you just have to be steady, so that you don't give up when you don't get all the way there."

The president's most recent comments about race come in an interview with BET. [Link]


"We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow."

Speaking in March 2008 after criticism of remarks made by his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama delivered a speech touching on issues of inequality and race. [Link]



But oftentimes, the way we talk about racism is awkwardly flawed.


"But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down."

Chris Rock speaks about the isolating experience of being a successful black American with Frank Rich for New York Magazine. Rock points to the lack of other black patrons at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park the day of the interview to illustrate lingering inequality. [Link]


"These conversations are always so tense, so painful. People are defensive. We want to believe we are good. To face the racisms and prejudices we carry forces us to recognize the ways in which we are imperfect. We have to be willing to accept our imperfections and we have to be willing to accept the imperfections of others. Is that possible on the scale required for change?"

Roxane Gay dissects the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson at The Butter. [Link]


"We'll probably have to have a few uncomfortable conversations to sort of get things right, so everybody can walk and enjoy America like it's supposed to be enjoyed."

At the New York City premiere of "Annie," actor Jamie Foxx spoke out in wake of protests following the Staten Island grand jury decision. [Link]



Yet necessary.


“I think, if anything, more and more people are willing to talk. I think that this is opening conversation and not shutting it down. I’m actually more hopeful."

Missouri resident Mel Smith spoke about the discussion being created in the community when she came out to help clean up after the Ferguson protesters. Despite the violence, Smith thought there was still hope for repairing the community's relationship with law enforcement. [Link]

Geminid Meteor Shower Of 2014: How To Watch The Year's Best Sky Show

Fri, 2014-12-12 07:14
Listen up, skywatchers. What's expected to be the year’s best meteor shower is set to light up the skies this weekend.

The 2014 Geminid meteor shower will peak overnight on Saturday, Dec. 13 through Sunday, Dec.14. If the sky is dark and clear, viewers in the Northern Hemisphere may be treated to as many as 120 meteors per hour starting around 9 p.m. local time until dawn.

The meteors--small pieces of debris from an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon--should also be visible on Friday and Sunday nights.

(Story continues below image.)

Geminids captured in December, 2012 in South Dakota. (Flickr/David Kingham)

No special equipment to catch the meteors is needed. Just find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky and no glaring lights nearby.

“Go out late in the evening, lie back in a reclining lawn chair, and gaze up into the stars,” Sky & Telescope’s senior editor, Alan MacRobert, wrote in the magazine. “Relax, be patient, and let your eyes adapt to the darkness."

NASA says Saturday's celestial show will be particularly good for youngsters, as the best time for viewing will be in the first half of the night, before the last-quarter moon rises around midnight. Though the moonlight may interfere with meteor-watching, the brightest Geminids will probably outshine the moon. (Head over to the U.S. Naval Observatory's website to find out the moonrise time for your location.)

Unable to make it outside when the meteors show up? The Slooh space camera is scheduled to live-stream the shower on Saturday starting at 8 p..m. EST -- check it out above.

The Most Horrifying Fast Food Menu Items Of 2014

Fri, 2014-12-12 06:00
According to Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the year of the horse. People born this year are said to be full of personality, enjoy socializing and have a great sense of humor. But, there's nothing funny about the fast food nightmares this year brought. From black hamburgers to chicken corsages, let us take a slow, digestive stroll down memory lane.





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