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This 'Pizzacake' Is Either The Holy Grail Of Meals Or Total Food Blasphemy

Fri, 2014-04-18 16:53
A pizza company in search of the next game-changing innovation on the pizza pie frontier seems to have already found a winner:


The six-layer towering achievement of human civilization known as "Pizzacake" is among the concepts put before the pizza-loving public in the Canada-based Boston Pizza chain's new promotional campaign.

Boston describes Pizzacake, which currently leads the rankings, as "great for birthdays, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and even lonely nights watching infomercials."

The "Pizza Game Changers" promotion promises "if you like it, we'll make it," and sneakily includes regular menu items you can order for real, like its new taco that uses a pizza instead of a taco shell.

As Eater notes, the clever promotion is probably just that, so don't get your hopes up about blowing out candles on the pizzacake for your next big bash.

If, however, the pizza gods are kind, here are four more amazing/wacko "game changers" that could soon come to pass:

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Dear Mr. Peabody: No One's Loss of Life, Liberty and Health For Your Coal Profits Is Acceptable Collateral Damage

Fri, 2014-04-18 15:15
Falling on the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow coal miners' massacre, a growing movement of citizens groups will gather on Saturday afternoon in St. Louis to join the great Washington University sit-in against Peabody Energy.

The pillars of Big Coal are crumbling in St. Louis this week -- according to Wall Street analysts, and as an extraordinary grassroots movement holds Peabody and its university hosts and investors accountable for its legacy of ruin amid climate change, a failed regulatory system, and a proposed strip mine expansion that will effectively destroy the farming community of Rocky Branch, Illinois.

And for coal mining families across the nation, the Ludlow Massacre of children, women and immigrant union coal miners, is one of the most defining cautionary tales of injustice and rallying cries for action in the American coalfields that still resound today: No one's loss of life, liberty and health for coal industry profits is acceptable collateral damage.

A century later, the indefatigable students at Washington University have inspired the nation with their nearly 2-week sit-in, now joined by students at Southern Illinois University and across the nation, and are asking the same questions about their university's ties with Peabody Energy's climate change-denying mining operations.

In a line: No one's loss of life, liberty and health in Rocky Branch, Illinois -- on Black Mesa, in Arizona, or the Bear Run strip mine in Indiana, or across the globe -- should be acceptable collateral damage for the Attorney General in Illinois or for Washington University trustees or anyone in the United States, in order to pander to Peabody's state-subsidized profit line.

When the Saline County board voted earlier this week to grant Peabody the right to make potentially disastrous road changes in Rocky Branch to facilitate a proposed strip mine expansion--even though Peabody has yet to receive the proper EPA permits--one commissioner simply dismissed the inevitable destruction as "only at 12 households affected by this."

Only 12 households?

Memo to Saline County commissioners: We all live in Rocky Branch, if you consider the toxic fallout of the strip mining operations on our water, land and climate.

Rocky Branch is not "only 12 households," but the deeply rooted and historic community of war veterans, retired coal miners, business owners, farmers, preachers, parents and grandparents, and tax-payers who have the same civil rights and constitutional rights to environmental protection as anyone else.

Rocky Branch residents on Rocky Branch road. Photo courtesy of Justice at Rocky Branch.

This week, in fact, marks the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," who reminded us in 1963: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."

In an age of climate change and the need for immediate action, never has that sentiment been more compelling.

In the tradition of King and the civil rights movement, students and community advocates at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale also held protests for divestment from Peabody yesterday.

Carbondale, SIU: Photo courtesy of Chelsea J. Brady

Mother Jones, the great "Miner's Angel" and immigrant union organizer, who is buried near St. Louis in our southern Illinois Progressive Miners' cemetery, once reminded the nation of the lessons from Ludlow, where coal company guardsman murdered innocent children, women and striking union miners:

"No one listened. No one cared. The tickers in the offices of 26 Broadway sounded louder than the sobs of women and children. Men in the steam-heated luxury of Broadway offices could not feel the stinging cold of Colorado hillsides where families lived in tents. Then came Ludlow and the nation heard. Little children roasted alive make a front page story. Dying by inches of starvation and exposure does not."

Are Washington University trustees, investors, the Illinois Attorney General, and the nation listening to the students and communities about the Peabody crisis today?

Illinois Agency Sticks Up For The Long-Term Unemployed

Fri, 2014-04-18 14:33
WASHINGTON -- What's happened since Congress killed long-term unemployment insurance in December proves the jobless aren't lazy, according to one state workforce agency.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced this week that 86 percent of the state's long-term unemployed were still without work at the end of January, according to a study by the agency.

“This seriously undermines the perception that unemployment insurance discourages workers from finding employment,” Jay Rowell, the Illinois agency's director, said in a press release. “You should look at this analysis as confirmation that re-authorizing emergency unemployment is a cost-effective way to help families stay in their homes and put food on their tables. But you cannot look at this and say that people don’t want to work.”

Congress allowed emergency unemployment benefits to end for 1.3 million Americans at the end of the year. Federal benefits should kick in when state benefits expire, and with 70,000 people running out of state benefits each week since then, more than 2 million have lost out on payments altogether. In Illinois, 74,000 residents stopped receiving benefits at the end of 2013, and 64,000 of those individuals were still jobless at the end of January, according to its workforce development agency.

Republicans opposed to renewing the benefits have said paying unemployed people keeps them from taking available jobs, but Rowell insists the data demonstrates the real reason for long-term joblessness is that there aren't enough jobs. Department spokesman Greg Rivara lamented that Rowell's words didn't get more attention.

"Frankly, it may have been a bad headline on my part," Rivara said Thursday, adding that he remains convinced by the data. "If the notion is, you're receiving money, so you're not going to go look for work -- well, the next month you're not receiving any money. You would think, even if there was some validity to that notion, you wouldn't have 86 percent still without wages."

Nationally, the number of Americans out of work longer than six months hasn't changed much, holding at 3.7 million in March compared with 3.8 million in December. Some experts had expected the loss of benefits to lead to a decline in the number of unemployed workers as people gave up searching for jobs altogether. (To count as unemployed, someone has to have sought jobs in the past four weeks.)

Without the benefits, the thinking went, pessimistic unemployed people would either scramble for whatever jobs they could find or give up their search, shrinking the ranks of the long-term jobless. But that apparently hasn't happened.

The Senate passed a bill to reauthorize the benefits on April 7, but it appears unlikely that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will bring it up for a vote in that chamber any time soon. Boehner said in March that it would be difficult for state unemployment agencies to implement the legislation.

Rivara said that he doesn't think it would be "too big of a lift to reinstate all those benefits," adding that the real issue is that "Congress picked a spot on the calendar, arbitrarily, to end the program, rather than choosing to end a program based on economic data."

"This recovery has been different than every recovery in the past. That certainly gets lost when you're in the D.C. bubble," he said.

The Illinois agency is the only one in the country that requires employers to submit monthly wage reports, in order to combat fraud, putting it in a "unique position" to produce this report, Rivara said.

Though Rivara expressed confidence in the study's findings, he cautioned that "you never making sweeping declarations based on one month of data." He said that the Illinois Department of Employment Security plans to release a new report soon using wage data from February.

Why Being Rejected By Your Dream School Isn't The End Of The World

Fri, 2014-04-18 14:17
Everyone's had nightmares about that classic thin envelope. It's something you dread from the time college is a mere blip on your radar, to the moment you wait with your own children to hear from the school of their dreams. No matter which way you spin it, a college rejection is never going to be fun.

But you need not worry, fellow dream school rejectees. Though the sting is still palpable, there are plenty of reasons why an initial rejection is not the end of the world.

1. These highly successful people got rejected too -- and look where they are today.

Meredith Vieira, Warren Buffett, John Kerry, Katie Couric, Steven Spielberg, Tom Brokaw and Columbia University's President Lee Bollinger all got rejected from their dream schools. But getting turned down may have been the very thing that sparked all their eventual successes. As Bollinger put it, no one should let rejections control his or her life. To "allow other people's assessment of you to determine your own self-assessment is a very big mistake," he said. "The question really is, who at the end of the day is going to make the determination about what your talents are, and what your interests are? That has to be you."

2. The sting will prepare you for facing an unstable post-college future.

A 2013 poll stated that more than 40 percent of college graduates were underemployed, and more than half of grads said getting a job was difficult. The market is still recovering, and there are twice as many college graduates working minimum wage jobs as five years ago. We know the rejection hurt, but you are so much better off having experienced it now so you are prepared for the turbulent future.

3. You may end up loving your fourth choice school more.

Students often put the emphasis on big-name schools versus the places that would fit them best. But often students who don't attend their first choice school are happiest throughout their time in college. As Shawn Abbott, the Assistant Vice President and Dean of Admissions at New York University, put it to high school students, "You will love your fourth choice school. I know that I did."

4. It forces you to step back and reevaluate the most important qualities you want in a school.

It's incredibly easy to put your dream school on a pedestal, which makes the rejection that much more difficult. Yet when you romanticize instead of rationalize, you may overlook some key factors about the school you wouldn't have liked if you attended it. For example, you may not have realized how key Greek life would be on campus, or you might have underestimated how tiny 4,000 students would feel after two years. Getting rejected from a school you have your heart set on forces you to really prioritize the aspects you value most in a college experience, regardless of the school name.

5. Going to a less prestigious school doesn't mean you'll have a less prestigious future.

According to a 2011 study by Alan Krueger of Princeton University and Stacy Dale of Mathematica Policy Research, students who were rejected by highly selective schools eventually raked in salaries nearly identical to those earned by the students who went to those schools. "Even if students don't get in, the fact that they are confident enough to apply indicates they are ambitious and hardworking, which are qualities that will help them regardless of where they go to school," Krueger said. These less measurable traits, aka "unobserved student ability," could be the key to your future success in the job market.

6. The odds were never in your favor, anyway.

It's very easy to take a rejection personally and to imagine that the admissions office had some vendetta against you and your application. It's not that simple. Universities like Stanford accepted only 5 percent of their applicants for the upcoming school year, a new low amongst the most prestigious schools. The overall enrollment has increased dramatically the past few decades and a higher number of applications generally leads to the acceptance of a smaller percentage of the students who apply. Between the high number of applicants, budget cuts, in-state versus out-of state quotas and preferential treatment for alumni's children, the odds were literally never in your favor.

7. Your sadness means someone else's joy.

Somewhere in the world, a student less fortunate and more fit for the school got an acceptance letter for your spot, and they have you to thank. Former Globe columnist David Nyhan wrote a piece in 1987 that still rings very true today:

This is the important thing: They didn't reject you. They rejected your resume. They gave some other kid the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that kid deserved a break. Don't you deserve a break? Sure. You'll get one. Maybe this is the reality check you needed. Maybe the school that does take you will be good. Maybe this is the day you start to grow up.

Bad habits you can change; bad luck is nothing you can do anything about.

8. When it comes to getting a job, where you went to college probably won't make or break it.

Though you might imagine seeing "Harvard" on top of a resume would instantaneously impress an employer, there are other factors that matter significantly more. Newsweek published a survey in 2010 that showed in terms of hiring, employers ranked experience, confidence and even how you look above where a job applicant went to school. That means you should be focusing on internship and leadership experience, not the college sweatshirt you wear.

9. Rejection might be the very thing that motivates you to succeed.

J.K. Rowling was famously turned down 12 times before Bloomsbury agreed to publish the first Harry Potter book. Just a few years later, she became the first billionaire author. What happened when Steve Jobs got fired from Apple? He made an unexpected comeback that's still spoken of today. Jobs attributed his eventual success to his initial failure in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University:

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life ... Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love.

9 Ways NOT To Impress A Woman

Fri, 2014-04-18 14:08
From revealing romantic feelings for a friend to crafting a spiffy e-opener, catching the interest of someone you'd like to date can be hard. (Seriously, we sympathize with any single woman or man.) But while the methods one can use to woo a lady have definitely expanded, some should just never be used.

Redditor Alexander_Dumass asked the ladies of the AskWomen forum to weigh in on the worst pickup techniques. Here are nine things men do to impress women that really don't work:

1. Talk trash about women. "It literally makes no sense but it's so common."

2. Insult the person you're currently dating. "As if that will make me change my mind and hop on your dick instead."

3. Show off their wealth. One Redditor put it perfectly:
It's not douchey to have money or to spend money on nice things. It is douchey to brag about how much money you make and the nice things you own, to make a big show of spending your money so everyone can see how rich you are, or to act as though being wealthy somehow makes you better than those around you.

4. Send unsolicited dick pics. "You're gross."

5. Give you a "resume" of why you should date them. "'I'm real buff, I'll treat you real nice, I make lots of money, I'll buy you gifts...' Like I'm some sort of a shallow brainless twit that is looking to hire a boyfriend."

6. Brag about how many women they've slept with. "He went from talking about pound town to asking me downtown. It was, sadly, not a joke."

7. Lie about their interests to make it seem like the two of you have more in common. "If you've never seen Blade Runner, for example, don't say you have just because its my favorite film. I can always tell when they're lying about this and I don't think it's sweet."

8. Follow you around the gym. "I'm busy, bro."

9. Talk only about themselves. "I'm glad that you assume that you're more interesting than I am."

Something to add? Comment below, or tweet @HuffPostWomen.

State Will No Longer Make Sick People Choose Between Medical Marijuana And Guns

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:18
Illinois regulators have dropped proposed medical marijuana restrictions that would have required gun owners to choose between their weapons and their weed.

The change was revealed when the Illinois Department of Public Health formally filed rules for the state's medical cannabis pilot program -- the strictest in the nation -- after months of public feedback.

Stricken from rules originally proposed in January is language requiring legal gun owners (and their caregivers) to relinquish their Firearm Owner Identification cards before joining the state's medical marijuana registry, and banned medical marijuana patients from owning firearms.

That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that Illinois residents can legally mix the two. Federal law still bars gun ownership to anyone who uses marijuana or other controlled substances.

“Under federal law, anyone who is using marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use... is considered an unlawful user,” Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Advocates still cheer the state's decision: “Anything that makes it less burdensome for the patients is always a good thing,” said Julie Falco of Chicago, who has used cannabis to control pain from multiple sclerosis, reports the Associated Press.

The newly-filed rules not only allow approved medical cannabis use for gun owners, they also make it cheaper for prospective patients. Regulators dropped a medical marijuana registry free from $150 to $100; veterans and people with disabilities would only pay $50.

The Chicago Tribune reports prospective business owners were less enthused by the new rules, which come with high fee requirements to run a dispensary or cultivation house. Grow house owners will be required to pay a non-refundable $5,000 application fee, and the the liquid assets required to open a grow center doubled from $250,000 to $500,000.

The rules now go to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, where the rules will be reviewed and approved after a 45-day period to solicit the public's comments and suggestions.

Time's Running Out For States To Adopt Health Exchanges

Fri, 2014-04-18 12:50
CHICAGO (AP) — For the more than 30 states that defaulted to the federal government under President Barack Obama's health care law, time may be running out to decide whether to create their own state-run insurance exchanges.

With the chance to apply for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal help set to expire in a few months, even Obama's home state of Illinois is expressing little interest in taking the next step. The law's disastrous rollout and lingering unpopularity have made it risky to raise the issue in a tense election year despite Obama's announcement Thursday that 8 million Americans have signed up for subsidized private insurance. Health care advocates are pushing the Democrats who control the Illinois Legislature to pass a measure enabling a state exchange. They note many states already running their own were able to enroll customers at a faster clip and will have more opportunity to scrutinize insurance rate increases for their residents.

But it has barely been mentioned in the state capital of Springfield, with just weeks left to take action before the Legislature adjourns.

"The Democrats run this state. President Obama's from Illinois. It's up to them to do it," said Jim Duffett of the Campaign for Better Health Care, a nonprofit coalition that has been helping Illinois residents sign up for coverage. "Who's in power makes a difference; you can't hide from it anymore."

Many of the remaining states that declined to adopt their own exchanges are controlled by Republicans, some of whom want to eliminate what they call "Obamacare." But Sonya Schwartz of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, which has been tracking states' implementation of the health law, puts Illinois at the top of a list of states more likely to approve an exchange. Her list also includes Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, West Virginia, New Hampshire and Delaware.

But the same reluctance is holding back many of those states, despite a November deadline to get access to funds to help secure a state exchange, with in Illinois' case could mean up to $500 million. In Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder prefers creating a state-run exchange, but has been rebuffed by the GOP-controlled Legislature. In Iowa, where the health care law is expected to be a big issue in a U.S. Senate race, the Legislature is expected to adjourn soon without any action on a state-run exchange.

In Illinois, Republicans are expected to exploit the health law's problems in election campaigns against incumbent Democrats in Congress, including Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate.

The governor's race, between incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent, wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner, is expected to be one of the most hotly contested in the nation.

While state lawmakers have less connection to the federal law, the idea of any state measure associated with the Affordable Care Act remains unpopular with both parties, said Pat Brady, a former Illinois GOP chairman.

"A lot of people don't want to have their names associated with it," Brady said.

The health care law was designed for each state to run its own insurance marketplace, but just 16 states and Washington, D.C., opted to do so. The federal government ended up running exchanges for the other states, plus Idaho and New Mexico, which ran out of time to fully implement their own exchanges.

Illinois and a handful of other states formed partnerships with the federal government, a hybrid model that allowed the states access to a first level of federal grants. In Illinois, that totaled nearly $154 million, roughly half of which has been spent or committed to outreach workers, advertising, a telephone help desk and analysis of health insurance plans.

With a few notable exceptions, state-run exchanges outpaced the ones run by the federal government. The Oregon exchange's technology glitches forced people to sign up using a time-consuming hybrid paper-online process. Earlier this month, Maryland chose to replace its glitch-filled exchange with technology from Connecticut at an estimated cost of $40 million to $50 million.

Time is now running out for the final round of federal grant funding, which requires state enabling legislation or a governor's executive order. The grants can't be awarded after Jan. 1, 2015, and federal rules set Nov. 14 as the deadline for states to apply.

"This is your last chance to pull this off," Schwartz said.

However, many state legislatures will soon adjourn their spring sessions, leaving election-minded lawmakers free to go home and campaign until November.

In Illinois, Duffett's group is trying to collect pledges of support from lawmakers to persuade Democratic leaders to introduce a bill creating an exchange before lawmakers adjourn on May 31. But a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is also the state Democratic Party chairman, acknowledged a lack of "real interest" in pursuing an exchange but wouldn't rule it out "if a consensus would develop."

Christopher Mooney, director of the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said the health law is "probably" more popular in Obama's home state than elsewhere, and that individual state lawmakers know whether their smaller districts either support or oppose it. But he said legislators normally like to avoid "unpleasant stuff," especially in an election year.

"It's such a polarizing issue, I can easily imagine them saying, 'Why bother?'" Mooney said.


Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., contributed to this report.


Associated Press medical writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at

UPDATE: Free Playoff Hockey Is Extra Awesome Because It Means Overtime Goals (VIDEO/GIFs)

Fri, 2014-04-18 12:44
Not only is playoff hockey demonstrably awesome but it is also apparently a very good bargain in 2014. After the opening night of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs included one overtime game, the second night had two more that needed more than three periods.

Free hockey!

In St. Louis, the Blues and Blackhawks played into a third overtime period before a winner emerged in Game 1 of their first-round series. All together, the first seven games of the NHL postseason included five free overtime periods.

Here are all three game-winning overtime goals scored from this early trio of overtime playoff games:

Alexander Steen's goal in triple overtime gave the Blues a 4-3 win

(GIF via @PeteBlackburn)

Paul Stastny sent the Avalanche to a 5-4 win with an overtime goal
(GIF via @myregularface)

Dale Weise's overtime goal lifted the Canadiens to a 5-4 win

These Mesmerizing GIFs Will Forever Change The Way You See Skateboarders

Fri, 2014-04-18 10:46
For most of the public, skateboarding is merely a hobby for those at the fringes of society. It destroys property, creates a ruckus, and cultivates the misbehaviors of wild teens -- all unfair generalizations, to say the least. In truth, there is an extraordinary amount of skill and athleticism that goes into skateboarding.

But that's not even going far enough in its defense. Skateboarding can be downright beautiful -- as much an art form as a sport. And that sheer beauty goes almost completely unheralded outside of skating culture. With that in mind, please aim your faces at these...

Robbyn Magby - 360 Hard Flip Foot Plant

Dustin Blauvelt - Hard Flip Pretzel

Jason Bastien - Rainy Fakie Tre/360 Flip

Jordan Hoffart - Powdery Tre/360 Flip

Jonathan Bastien - Backside 360 Backside Grab

Jason Bastien - Fiery Tre/360 Flip

Ryan Thompson - Fakie Flip Indy Grab

Robbyn Magby - 720 Double Flip

Jason Bastien - Nollie 360 Shuvit Late Flip

Mike Krok - Backside 180 Heel Flip

Jason Bastien - Switch Heelflip Late Fronside Shuvit

Ryan Thompson - Frontside Flip

Hat tip to Adam Shomsky and the guys at BeyondSlowMotion for putting out some amazing skate footage. Go check out their full videos if you get the chance.

50 Successful Marijuana Users Who Prove The Person Matters More Than The Plant

Fri, 2014-04-18 10:14
A version of this story was first published in 2013.

These guys just blew pothead stereotypes up in smoke.

Though marijuana opponents have long pointed suggesting that weed is tied to a lack of motivation, a sampling of successful people who have admitted using the drug suggests otherwise.

Pot policy reform group Marijuana Policy Project has released a list of the top 50 most influential Americans who have used marijuana, and it's a doozy.

The list contains politicians, Supreme Court justices, entertainers, entrepreneurs and a certain leader of the free world who had a habit of “intercepting” joints as a teen in Hawaii. Some admitted only to trying the drug once or twice, while others, like Maya Angelou, reportedly “smoked marijuana with abandon.”

“The goal here is to dispel the myth that marijuana users are ‘losers’ who lack motivation, and highlight the fact that they are typically productive and oftentimes quite successful,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a release. “As this list demonstrates, many of our nation’s most successful citizens have used marijuana.”

Check out the slideshow below for MPP's full list of of the top most 50 influential Americans who have used marijuana:

Nik Wallenda Scouts Chicago Skyscrapers For Next Live Televised Tightrope Stunt

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:53
CHICAGO (AP) — Daredevil Nik Wallenda is in Chicago scouting possible locations for a tightrope walk between two Windy City skyscrapers in the fall.

The high-wire walker told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday ( ) that he first would check out Willis Tower, which was formerly known as the Sears Tower and was the nation's tallest building. Wallenda says he hasn't ruled out Willis Tower, but that it would be problematic because there isn't a nearby building tall enough to connect his rig to. He says, though, that he shouldn't have trouble selecting a site.

Wallenda has walked across the Niagara Falls and Grand Canyon in the past two years. He's part of a family of acrobats that has been thrilling audiences for decades as The Flying Wallendas.


Information from: Chicago Sun-Times,

These 13 People Were Killed By The War On Drugs. Their Lives Were The Cost Of Prohibition.

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:50
This story was first published in April 2013.

America's long drug war has produced countless tragedies, ruined lives and led to parentless children, as well as the deaths of drug warriors, nonviolent offenders and innocents. As marijuana advocates and drug policy reformers around the nation celebrate 4/20, take a look at 13 stories of people whose lives were cut short by the drug war.

Investigative reporter Radley Balko is author of the forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.

NBA Playoffs Preview: LeBron James And The Heat Face New Kid On The Block And Wild West

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:43
The grueling nature of the NBA Playoffs may not offer the same one-game excitement as March Madness, but the high energy and the spate of storylines remain. Will Miami three-peat, or will Indiana finally stand up to LeBron? Can San Antonio make yet another finals run, and are the Clippers ready to make the first deep playoff run in franchise history? Here is a look at the eight best storylines to watch as the postseason gets underway.

New Kings Of The East?

Indiana limped its way to the top seed in the East, and the question now becomes: Which Pacers team will show up? Will it be the defensively-blitzing team of the first half -- the one that showcased Roy Hibbert's insatiable rim-protecting skills and Paul George's improved offensive game? Or, will Frank Vogel's club continue to struggle scoring and more surprisingly, on the defensive end? Indiana is just 11-13 since March, and despite maintaining the league's most efficient defense this season, they are allowing a robust 103.2 points per 100 possessions -- compared to 96.8 for the season -- over the past six weeks. Hibbert has publicly voiced his displeasure with a lack of post touches, while Andrew Bynum will sit the first round. Then again, the Pacers lost five of seven games to close 2013 before taking the Heat to seven games in the conference finals.


How can we discount the two-time defending champs, especially when this is likely their last go-around together? But Miami, like the Pacers, has struggled since March, amassing a losing record with a whole cadre of lineup changes and injury and age concerns -- namely about Dwyane Wade, whose missed 28 games this year. This is not a great defensive team either, ranking 14th in opponent field goal percentage, its worst clip since the Big Three came together. And yet, when you have LeBron James, certain deficiencies seem to disappear, or at least fade away. The world's best player has no qualms deferring to Wade and Chris Bosh for 40 minutes, but he has been lethal in the fourth quarter while shooting a career-best 57 percent from the floor.

Young Point Guards

We can wax poetic about Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry, but in Kemba Walker, John Wall and Damian Lillard (all 23 years old), we have three of the most exciting young point guards in the league, all making their first playoff appearance. Walker has yet to beat Miami in his career, but we know he rises to the moment, and he will not be gun-shy. Wall has faced the critics and overcome the notion that he can't lead a team to success, ala his predecessor, Gilbert Arenas. Perhaps Wall won't ever become a knockdown shooter, but the former No. 1 pick has increased his 3-point percentage from 27 percent to a respectable 35 percent. Lillard (pictured above) -- the reigning Rookie of the Year and a first-time All-Star -- is the most offensively gifted and probably versatile of the bunch. He is an excellent perimeter shooter, effective pick-and-roll operator and loves to take the big shot.

The Best 'Lob City' Yet

In their first year under coach Doc Rivers -- who inked a three-year, $21 million deal -- the Clippers have made tremendous improvements, both collectively and individually. Chris Paul has shed some of his domineering ways, DeAndre Jordan has become arguably the game's premier rebounder and Blake Griffin has made a case for being its best power forward. How this translates to the postseason remains to be seen, but LA has an unlimited arsenal of offensive weapons and ranks fifth in opponent field goal percentage as well. Griffin, with his 24 points per game on average, has shown his ability to be a go-to guy, but can he do it against superior defenses designed to take him out of his comfort zone in the half-court?

Dynamic Duo Or Troubled Match?

The Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook drama has become league-wide fodder: Is Durant better off without his fearless point guard's overbearing ways? The answer will be debated whenever Oklahoma City struggles during the playoffs, but the truth is that while both Durant's efficiency and the Thunder record are strangely similar with and without Westbrook, other players like Serge Ibaka and Westbrook's backup, Reggie Jackson, have seem dramatic dips in production. That is the trouble for coach Scott Brooks, who wants Durant to see the bulk of late-game touches, but also understands that his team needs Westbrook and thrives off his attacking style of play. Remember, Memphis -- its first-round opponent -- defeated OKC in five last year, but that was sans Westbrook. The peaking Grizzlies, with a healthy Marc Gasol, also have a better record than the Thunder since January 1.

Birth Of A Superstar

The NBA Playoffs have a way of creating new stars and exposing old ones, and the one can't-miss guy of 2014 is Toronto's DeMar DeRozan. First off, he is an immense talent. Secondly, at 24 years old, he is just now grasping how good he can become. And thirdly -- and this is the most important one -- he is growing accustomed to being "the guy" without Rudy Gay, who was traded. A relentless attacker who attempts nearly eight free-throws per game, DeRozan constantly puts pressure on defenses to help and rotate. One of the premier athletes in the league, he finishes at the rim and has developed a solid, if not yet dominant, mid-range game. The Raptors have a favorable first-round matchup with Brooklyn and head coach Dwane Casey has raved to me about DeRozan's ability, meaning we can expect a limitless amount of offensive opportunities for one of the game's budding superstars.

The Up-And-Comers

Golden State, Portland and Houston: All three are Western Conference teams with superstars that don't get enough respect. The Warriors will be without Andrew Bogut because of a fractured rib, but nevertheless remain dangerous with a shooting proficiency that would make even the great James Naismith proud. The backcourt combination of Klay Thompson (49 percent from 3 in April) and Curry (47 percent) might just be the greatest shooting combination in league history.

The Blazers meanwhile, after a meandering stretch in the second half, are the NBA's hottest team and winners of nine of ten. Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge create a devastating pick-and-roll duo, and Portland's unique ability to spread you out -- no team scores more points -- with Terry Stott's "flow" offense is special. Aldridge recently told The Huffington Post: "I think this year I've definitely gotten out of my box ... to try take on [more leadership]. ... I knew that if this team had a chance to go somewhere, I had to try to be elite in both areas, as far as scoring and rebounding." And how can we sleep on Houston? The Dwight Howard experiment has gone about as well as Rockets fans could have hoped, and despite the injury to point guard Patrick Beverley, a vastly improved defense (sixth-best in opponent field goal percentage) gives Kevin McHale's bunch hope.

Old Faithful

It's only fitting that we haven't even mentioned the San Antonio Spurs yet, and as easy as it is to forget about them, here is some advice: Don't do it. Not only did the Spurs not suffer a hangover after last June's devastating Finals defeat to the Heat, they won a league-best 62 games! Love him or hate him, Gregg Popovich is one of the true coaching masterminds in any professional sport today. He has given complete control of his offense to Tony Parker while simultaneously keeping the ageless Tim Duncan (15 points, 10 rebounds and fifth in blocks in just 29 minutes per game) as efficient as possible. Since 1997, the Spurs have won nearly 71 percent of their regular season games. Per usual, this year's club is remarkably deep, equally unselfish and highly capable of winning a fifth title under Pop.

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

These 3D Panoramas Of Tiny 'Worlds' Are The Coolest Thing On Instagram

Fri, 2014-04-18 08:33
German photographer Jonas Ginter employs quite the method for capturing the most stunning and unique panoramas you've ever seen: He uses six, yes six, GoPro cameras and a 3D mount for his custom camera that snap pictures that together resemble tiny worlds as seen from space.

In late March, Ginter released a video incorporating the aforementioned process he claimed to have been working on and refining for years. The brilliant photographer coins his technique as the "spherical panorama."

Here are a few of his incredible shots:

"Snow World in Baqueira-Beret"

"2,000 years of history, stone by stone in Pont del Diablo"

"Serrallejant in Plaça dels Tinglados"

"Platja del Miracle"

"Another day at the Lake Garlate"

"El Serrallo"

"Parc Francolí"

"On time in Rellotge del port"

"Escales Mecàniques"

"Skeleton in Passeig De Sant Antoni"

Follow Jonas Ginter on Instagram and check out some other photographers you should be following!

All images property of Jonas Ginter

WATCH: Does Penis Size Matter? Here's One Answer From The Animal Kingdom

Fri, 2014-04-18 08:31
From a sea creature's detachable, swimming penis to violent bedbug sex, this is a tour of the animal kingdom as you've never seen it before. What can we learn about a species from how it has sex? Let's get it on.

This talk describes explicit and aggressive sexual content.

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today's most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email to learn about future weekend's ideas to contribute as a writer.
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These States Are Most Likely To Legalize Weed Next. Will You Have A Happier 4/20 In 2015?

Fri, 2014-04-18 08:08
A version of this story first appeared in January.

For the first 4/20 ever, people will gather in Colorado this weekend to show support for fully legal marijuana. Just months after the state opened its doors to recreational pot, crowds will head to events on Sunday like the sold-out Cannabis Cup, all to celebrate a plant that brought Colorado $14 million in taxed sales in January alone. Colorado's example has served as a promising sign that legal marijuana can be a strong source of income for other states interested in scaling back harsh anti-pot laws and listening to voters, who have increasingly shown support for legalizing marijuana.

(Scroll down to see if your state is likely to be one of the next to legalize.)

Taxed and regulated marijuana is coming soon to Washington state, which along with Colorado passed a legalization measure at the polls during the 2012 general election. And with Attorney General Eric Holder now willing to admit that he is at least "cautiously optimistic" about the groundbreaking laws, marijuana policy reformers in other states are looking more intently at the best way to proceed.

The momentum is on marijuana's side. It has the forces of capitalism behind it -- one study has predicted that the industry could do as much as $8 billion in annual sales by 2018, and there are some signs that the federal government may be ready to help normalize the marijuana business. Legalization is also becoming widely accepted as a social justice issue. Advocates have become increasingly vocal, arguing that it makes no sense to continue treating pot as a Schedule I substance, considered by federal authorities alongside heroin and LSD. In a drug war-obsessed nation that already incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other in the world, around 750,000 people are arrested for marijuana each year, with more than 650,000 of them for possession alone.

For opponents who believe marijuana is damaging to the mind and body, these stats appear to be of less importance. And while supporters of marijuana continually cite the comparative effects of weed and alcohol, or counter anti-pot studies with emerging research that has supported the drug's therapeutic qualities, one thing remains certain: Objective, conclusive scientific research into the effects of marijuana will continue to remain discouraged until the federal ban on the substance is lifted or relaxed.

While debates on marijuana's health effects should and will continue even beyond the next wave of legalizations, it's clear that the floodgates have already been broken. More states will legalize marijuana, and some will do it relatively soon. In states around the nation, pro-pot legislators bolstered by public opinion and the examples set by Colorado and Washington are putting the once-taboo issue before their colleagues, hoping to become the first state to legalize legislatively. Activists are also making the push, working to get the issue before voters in 2014 and beyond.

Here's the likely road ahead for legal marijuana:


Alaskans will have the first chance to make their state the third to legalize pot. A ballot measure to tax, regulate and legalize weed for adult recreational use will appear on the primary election ballot on Aug. 19, the earliest date of any states. Anti-marijuana groups are hoping to keep it from passing.

Pot has already been decriminalized and legalized for medical use in Alaska. A survey of Alaska voters taken earlier this year by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found that 55 percent supported legalizing marijuana.


While hopes for a successful push on legal weed in 2014 may be dwindling, pro-pot organizers have expressed optimism that they'll have a strong campaign for the state ready ahead of 2016. Efforts are underway to gather the required 259,213 signatures needed by July in order to get the legalization issue on the 2014 ballot -- but without serious financial backing, it's looking unlikely. Activists with the influential Marijuana Policy Project have said they're on board with a forthcoming ballot initiative to fully legalize the drug in 2016, when more voters will likely turn out for the general election. The group has also said that by then, they'll have had enough time to figure out which aspects of previous efforts have been successful in other states.

Cannabis was legalized in the state for medical use in 2010 by ballot initiative. A poll taken earlier this year found that 51 percent of Arizonans supported legalizing recreational marijuana sales.


A statewide initiative to legalize recreational marijuana failed in California in 2010, but reformers have expressed hope at finding success in 2014 and beyond. Activists gave up on a major petition effort earlier this year that would have put the issue of legalization to voters in November. There have also been efforts to gather support for the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, though they lack the financial support other proposals had. While the momentum is certainly in favor of legalization in California, some prominent figures have urged organizers to wait until 2016, when demographics and voter turnout will be even more in their favor.

Cannabis has already been decriminalized and legalized for medical use in California. Multiple polls taken last year found a majority of Californians in favor of legalizing pot, with one longstanding poll showing such support for the first time in 45 years of surveying the issue.


Delaware only recently took steps to begin implementing a system for medical marijuana, but activists with MPP believe the state Legislature could push forward on a broader legalization bill. Delaware also doesn't have citizen ballot initiatives, so any such effort will need to come from state lawmakers.

A recent poll showed that a majority of the state's residents would support such a move.


Lawmakers in Hawaii have considered a number of bills to both decriminalize and legalize marijuana this year -- and killed them before allowing them to reach a full vote. Activists don't have a citizen ballot initiative process to allow them to pursue legalization, so they're hoping the pro-pot momentum will carry over to lawmakers in the Aloha State this year and beyond.

Hawaii has already legalized cannabis for medical use, and lawmakers recently passed legislation to improve the system. A poll taken earlier this year showed that 66 percent of Hawaiians supported legalization.


Bolstered by a November vote to legalize marijuana in Portland, Maine, pro-pot activists have announced the state as one of the top targets for legalization in upcoming election cycles. While initiatives to legalize through legislation have repeatedly failed votes in the state Legislature, MPP has announced plans to help coordinate a grassroots campaign to get a legalization measure on the ballot, though probably not until 2016. In the meantime, more communities appear ready to take legalization into their own hands.

Cannabis has been decriminalized and approved for medical use across Maine. According to a PPP poll released last year, 48 percent of registered voters in Maine believe pot should be legal for recreational use.


Maryland recently decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana following efforts by state lawmakers, and while some see legalization as the next step, it won't happen this year. A Democratic candidate for the state's upcoming gubernatorial election was a big proponent of the decriminalization push, and has supported legalization as well. Maryland's system only allows for referenda on already-passed legislation, so the state will have to rely on state lawmakers for action on marijuana.

Maryland has also passed legislation legalizing cannabis for medical use. A poll taken this year showed that 50 percent of Maryland voters support legalizing marijuana.


The deep-blue New England state is being eyed as a prime opportunity for legalization, with marijuana reform advocates pointing to high margins of support for previous pro-pot initiatives. Advocates with marijuana reform group Bay State Repeal have already begun laying the initial groundwork in order to begin coordinating a campaign to legalize pot via ballot initiative in 2016. A bill to legalize has also been submitted in the state Legislature, and is scheduled to have a hearing later this month.

Massachusetts has decriminalized cannabis, and just last November passed a ballot measure legalizing it for medical use. Recent polls have support for legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis hovering around 50 percent.


Montana has had a checkered history with marijuana laws. Voters passed an initiative legalizing cannabis for medical use in 2004, but opponents have since taken various steps to amend the measure or repeal it altogether. Reform advocates remain hopeful that voters will support full legalization, with MPP announcing plans to support a statewide effort to legalize at the ballot in 2016. Pot reformers wasted no time following the 2012 election, filing a ballot question aiming to put the issue before voters in 2014. They later dropped the effort for this cycle.

There are no recent statewide surveys to gauge current support for pot legalization in Montana, though previous polls have showed a majority of Montana voters supporting the decriminalization of marijuana.


Marijuana advocates in Nevada are organizing an effort to force a vote on legalization as early as 2015. If that isn't successful, most organizers in the state and at the national level see 2016 as the best chance for a push. The liberal bent of the state makes it a popular target for reformers.

Nevada has legalized medical cannabis, and last year the state passed a measure establishing a dispensary system to help increase access for sick citizens. According to a recent poll, 56 percent of Nevadans would favor legalizing cannabis for recreational use if the money raised went to fund education.

New York

Marijuana advocates have expressed hope that New York could become the third state to legalize marijuana, and perhaps the first to do it through legislation, though support for such measures has so far been minimal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently came out in favor of efforts to loosen marijuana laws, though he has been hesitant to show support for a popular medical marijuana bill moving through the state Legislature. The governor has also announced a set of executive actions to give seriously ill patients access to marijuana. New York has no system for citizen ballot initiatives.

New York has already decriminalized cannabis possession, though harsh penalties still exist for anybody found using it in a public place or showing it in public view -- a loophole that pot reformers claim has been abused by law enforcement. A 2013 poll showed 82 percent of New Yorkers in support of medical marijuana statewide, and one taken earlier this year showed 57 percent in support of legalization.


Marijuana legalization advocates in Oregon began by approaching the issue from two sides, both pushing for a ballot initiative and lobbying state lawmakers for legislative action. The latter route appears to have failed for now. An earlier legalization effort, which was poorly coordinated and widely mocked inside the state, failed in 2012. Organizers knew there was plenty of room for improvement, and they believe they've found it with New Approach Oregon, a group supported by high-profile national donors that is seeking to see their legalization measure put into law and recently began collecting signatures. Two more legalization initiatives are also being pushed by Paul Stanford, a prominent marijuana business owner. Read more about the specifics here.

Oregon has already decriminalized cannabis and legalized it for medical use. According to a poll taken last year, 57 percent of likely voters in Oregon support a proposal to tax, regulate and legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Rhode Island

Marijuana advocates had high hopes that Rhode Island would be one of the first in the next round of states to legalize. Because it has no citizen-initiated ballot process, Rob Kampia, the executive director of MPP, said last year that lawmakers in the state could undertake the effort. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) has appeared somewhat open to the idea, and pot reformers were confident that a push this year would be different than the last. Earlier this month, however, lawmakers killed a set of bills before they could get out of committee.

Rhode Island recently decriminalized marijuana and passed legalized medical cannabis around 2007. A PPP poll taken in January found that 52 percent of voters in the state support legalizing pot for recreational use.

Washington, D.C.

Yes, we know that D.C. isn't a state. It's already taxed without representation, so it certainly doesn't need your snark about it. But either way, the District is set to decriminalize marijuana, pending approval from a congressional panel on a recently passed bill. Marijuana activists have also gotten the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures to get a legalization initiative on the November ballot.

D.C. has already legalized cannabis for medical use and is expected to approve a bill to decriminalize the substance. A survey taken earlier this year found that 63 percent of the District's residents supported legalizing marijuana.


Vermont has made strides to scale back marijuana prohibition over the past few years, with a successful measure to decriminalize and a separate bill to establish a system of dispensaries for the state's medical cannabis patients. Observers have seen the state's strong support for the reelection of Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), an advocate for marijuana reform, but not outright legalization, as a sign that voters could be ready to legalize. Another Northeastern state without a citizen-initiated ballot process, Vermont will have to rely on this push coming from state lawmakers. Legalization bills have been submitted, though some preliminary efforts are currently being bogged down by disagreements in the legislature.

Polls have consistently shown Vermonters to be supportive of efforts to scale back prohibition of marijuana, but split on the issue of legalization itself.

Lawmakers Want To Change How You Wash Your Face And Brush Your Teeth

Fri, 2014-04-18 07:55
Lawmakers around the country are looking to tell popular soap, scrub and even toothpaste manufacturers to slough off.

Commonly found in popular personal health care products, tiny plastic particles known as microbeads have triggered concerns over contamination, with a growing number of states looking to ban the bead.

Just last week, Illinois moved one step closer to becoming the first state to enact a microbead ban. The state Senate unanimously approved legislation that would end the production and manufacture of microbeads by 2017, with a state-wide ban on selling products containing microbeads by 2018.

States like California, Minnesota, New York and Ohio are also considering legislation to ban microbeads from store shelves.

The plastic pellets -- which are not biodegradable -- are so small they slip through sewer and water treatment filters and end up in the water supply, where environmental advocates say they can absorb toxins and harm fish and other wildlife.

Tests have already shown the presence of microbeads in the Great Lakes, the Los Angeles River and waterways in the New York City region.

“Microbeads and microplastics can have a significant effect on wildlife,” Aislinn Gauchay, manager of the Shedd Aquarium's Great Lakes and Sustainability programs, told CBS Chicago.

The Santa Monica-based 5 Gyres Institute, which studies marine plastic debris and advocates for microbead bans, analyzed different facial cleansers and found a single container can contain more than 300,000 microbeads.

Photo courtesy 5 Gyres.

Microbead-banning legislation currently under consideration in New York and California has a more aggressive timeline for phasing out the particles, which some in the personal care products industry have argued is unrealistic. Though Illinois' longer timeline comes as a dismay to environmentalists, the Personal Care Products Council is more receptive.

“We believe that the 2017 deadline is one that we can meet with little marketplace disruptions for consumers,” a PCCC spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune.

The Illinois Senate's bill now moves on the House, where it has the support of industry groups like the PCCC and advocates like the Alliance for the Great Lakes, according to Al Jazeera America.

What Not To Do On Facebook Once You Friend Your Boss

Fri, 2014-04-18 07:31
So, you've made the unfortunate decision of friending your boss on Facebook. First things first, check out your Facebook history and make sure you don't have any embarrassing photos or statuses. All clear? Now, make sure you do none of the following.

Talk about creeping on your co-workers

Keep it in your pants, ya perv.


Or discuss your illegal drugs habits

Probably not the best thing to talk about in public.


Admit you're just screwing around at work

We're assuming this guy wanted to get caught.


Tell the world you were late because of 'Candy Crush'

I don't know, maybe lie instead?


Offer proof you've been speeding in the company car

Speeding is dangerous. Stop bragging.


Announce you made up an illness to skip work

If you don't want someone to Google it, don't tell them not to Google it.


Publicly rip your boss

Keep your feelings private, or don't friend your boss.


And your job

Get over yourself.


Rant about company drug tests

Suspicious much?


Wait, you're ripping your boss again?


Broadcast your love for playing video games at work

No one thinks you are cool.


Publicize your thievery

If you're going to lie, make it plausible.


Wait, again with the boss-ripping?

You're going to regret this.


Be an idiot

Employee Of The Year, here.


Some Countries Realize You Have A Life Outside Work. The U.S. Isn't One Of Them.

Fri, 2014-04-18 06:59
Working in the U.S. ain't what it used to be.

While other countries are coming up with new ways to promote work-life balance, such as France's latest move to limit after-hours email, the U.S. seems to be falling behind. It's been some time since the nation once responsible for creating weekends and the 40-hour work week made any sweeping changes to improve the working lives of its greatest living resource: people.

And it's not just because Americans are workaholics. Instead, it might have to with what has been called the productivity squeeze or speedup. High unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession has enabled companies to squeeze more out of fewer workers, all while paying them roughly the same amount. It's great for corporate profits -- which hit a record high last year -- but not so much for workers.

But the consequences may be beginning to show. A 2012 poll found that less than half of American workers are totally satisfied with their jobs. Meanwhile, protests over wages and working conditions for low-wage employees have spread throughout the U.S. since 2012.

Here are eight ways U.S. workers have it rough compared to other countries:

1. We have full-time jobs that don't pay a living wage.

In Australia, the minimum wage is around $15.30 (in U.S. dollars). Despite this, both the country's poverty and unemployment rates are lower than in the U.S.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to a proposed $10.10 still faces opposition from multiple high-profile members of Congress, as well as corporations. Such a hike would would pull around 5 million people out of poverty, according to a recent study. Even so, Walmart has said that it isn't even “considering” raising the minimum wage for its workers.

2. We force fired or unemployed workers to race against the clock.

In Denmark, workers who lose their job are guaranteed 90 percent of their original salary for two years, provided they participate in programs to demonstrate "labor market availability."

About 1,500 people seeking employment wait in line to enter a job fair March 28, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., an estimated 2.3 million people have now lost unemployment benefits after an extension for the long-term unemployed was allowed to expire in December. While the Senate has voted to renew the extension, efforts to enact the law have been stymied by political bargaining from House Republicans. Long-term unemployment has been linked to increased risk of chronic health conditions and even death.

3. We may never get the chance to retire.

In India, formal employers with more than 20 workers are required to give employees with at least five years at the company a retirement gratuity equal to 15 days of wages for each year worked.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., many workers have little or no money saved for retirement. While such a gratuity may be less preferable than employer matched saving plans like 401(k)s, only about half of U.S. workers were employed by companies that sponsored them in 2011, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Instead, 37 percent of workers say they plan on working until they get too sick or die, a 2012 survey found.

4. We barely take any time off, in part because we aren't given any.

In Portugal and Austria, workers are guaranteed 35 days off a year by law, including holidays and voluntary vacation time.

A crowded beach in Praia da Rocha, Portugal

Meanwhile, the U.S. is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time by law. While every country in the European Union guarantees at least four weeks off per year, a full-time American worker with 25 years experience gets just 15.7 paid vacation days each year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What's more, Americans left an average of 9.2 unused vacation days on the table in 2012, Harris Interactive found.

Taking such a small amount of vacation time is so engrained in the American work ethic that a recent Cadillac ad even celebrated it:

5. Work is such an important part of life that Americans are expected to choose it over their children.

In Sweden, parents are allowed to take up to 480 days of at least partially paid leave to spend with their kids until they turn eight.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., even taking a mere three days of paternity leave might get you publicly shamed. That's what happened recently to professional baseball player Daniel Murphy. After taking the MLB's three guaranteed days of paternity leave, announcers Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa suggested that Murphy should have chosen work over being there for the birth of his child. Paternity leave helps the economy by enabling women to stay involved in the workforce. Meanwhile, maternity leave has been linked to healthier children and lower rates of depression in mothers.

Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was criticized by some for missing two games in order to be with his wife after she gave birth.

6. We don't take enough time to unplug.

In France, a "right of disconnecting" agreement was recently made, limiting tech workers' hours so they don't have to check email off the clock.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., 83 percent of smartphone users said they check work email after work hours, according to a 2011 study. Doing so can have a number of negative effects, including added stress.

7. And we don't even really break for lunch.

In Spain, lunch breaks can last up to 3 hours, for some, including a mid-day siesta.

Meanwhile, in the U.S, over a quarter of Americans say they rarely take lunch breaks, according to a 2012 study by Right Management. Of those who do, 39 percent said they eat at their desks. While even Spain may be cutting back on full-on siestas, experts agree that a designated lunch break can help boost worker productivity and reduce stress.

8. And we're only making the archetypal "starving artist" even hungrier.

In Germany, funding for artists comes out to roughly $20 per person, while those with art degrees can continue to receive government support so long as they continue to seek out grants.

A general view shows sculptures made of waste material titled 'Trash People ' by German artist HA Schult.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., funding for the arts comes out to just 41 cents per person. Still, the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides government grants to artists, faces repeated attacks, including from former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Last year, money distributed to art projects via NEA grants declined by 5 percent.

Here Are The Answers To Every Question You've Never Asked About Marshmallow Peeps

Fri, 2014-04-18 06:00
The iconic, beady-eyed Marshmallow Peep is a beloved confection. It perches on shelves all year long in some flavor or design, but come Easter, the little bird makes an extra special appearance, when celebratory baskets are filled with the classic, saccharine nibble.

Despite the welcomed nostalgia we experience, year after year we feel a bit unfulfilled after indulging in our fair share of Peeps. The bird leaves behind neon streaks on our tongues and buzzing questions in our heads. What's the right way to eat a Peep? Can I relieve stress by annihilating the candy? This year will, undoubtedly, be different. Those burning Peep questions have been answered at last. All Peeps inquiries, as you'll find below, have been put to rest.

How are Peeps born? Are they immaculately conceived, or perhaps resurrected?
The former, sort of. The world's first born Peep took 27 hours to create, hand-squeezed by a pastry piper (talk about labor-intensive). Peep production has since been whittled down to a six-minute science: The bird materializes from a combination of sugar, gelatin and air at the Just Born Inc. factory in Bethlehem, Pa. It's a good thing Peeps-makers have figured out a way to cut down the birthing time: Approximately 5 million Peeps products are popped out a day, and every year, enough Peeps candies are manufactured to circle the earth twice (which means two billion Peeps candies are produced annually).

Why don't Peeps have wings?
Good question. The original bird once had a wider wing span, but the style was short lived. In 1955, just two years after their introduction to the market, Just Born Inc. nixed the Peeps' wings to "give them a sleek, modern look."

It's not clear as to why the wings had to go, but the flightless look paid off. The now-classic chick is considered to be the most favored Peep of them all, according to 2013's Peeps survey.

Photo: Flickr/TBoard

Is there a proper way to eat a Peep?
Nope, you can't go wrong. Some like to bite off the heads first. Others like to pop a few in at once (Harmon Leon holds the record for most Peeps fit in open mouth. His number is 10.)

Matthew Pye, the vice president of Trade Relations and Corporate Affairs for Just Born Inc., tells HuffPost that the younger the Peep, the better it tastes. "I like to eat them fresh off the line -- you'll never have them like that."

And you probably will not: Tours of the world's only Peeps factory are not open to the public, so we'll have to trust Pye's word. "They're warm, fluffy and gooey."

Pye shares another way to savor Peeps that is more accessible, if a bit dangerous. He appreciates roasting the pastel puff on an open fire. "The sugar is flammable, so be careful," he warns. "The Peep gets coated in a black, glassy shell -- it gets caramelized, and inside is a gooey marshmallow." He'll eat the toasted Peep straight from the stick, or sandwich it between two graham crackers.


Peeps'mores certainly make for a pretty treat.

Get the Campfire-Free Peeps S'mores by Sally's Baking Addiction

Am I the only one who likes my Peeps a little on the old and crunchy side?
Hardly. "Everyone thinks they're the only ones who like stale Peeps," Pye says. He prefers to reference this strain of Peep as "aged" -- "like a fine wine" -- rather than "stale." "Seventy to 75 percent of our consumers like it fresh," he estimates, but a fair amount happen to like their birds on the harder side.

Despite a sizable love for a harder bird, Just Born, Inc. has no intention of selling their quintessential candy as anything less than fresh. "If we were to produce a stale Peep, we couldn't satisfy what the people want," Pye says, as hardness preference depends on the individual snacker. "We let the consumer do it themselves." For some, reaching the desired bite means poking a hole in the plastic package and letting the birds and bunnies get some air for a couple of days. Others go so far as putting Peeps in the refrigerator (hopefully, far from the eggs).

If you fall into the aged-Peep camp, you probably know how to get the firmness you desire. If you're still in the dark, here's a simple, step-by-step tutorial.)

How can I make Peeps part of my everyday diet?
In more ways than one. Peeps a la s'more may be delicious, but they are in no way the most innovative Peep recipe to date. Consider topping some Peeps on your pizza pie (Peepza). Or, better yet, enjoy some Asian fusion with Peep-inspired sushi (Peepshi). Or squeeze some marshmallow into your serving of fruit with strawberry-grape-Peep kebabs.

If you're feeling gluttonous, prepare your Peep deep-fried. Add some healthy fats to your meal by squeezing your Peep between a peanut butter sandwich. Just got your wisdom teeth out? You don't have to give up Peeps. Blend them into a milkshake. Calcium!

Great! Should I go ahead then, and make Peeps part of my everyday diet?
Inconclusive. Peeps are by no means a gut-buster. Each classic, chick-shaped candy contains 28 calories per bird (that's 140 calories for a pack of five), which is paltry in comparison to other traditional Easter candies.

Despite its wee calorie count, a single Peep requires 16 ingredients to come to life -- namely gelatin, liquid sugar, corn syrup and more sugar. The most natural thing about a Peep may be the air that gets pumped into the sugar mixture to give the bird its fluff factor. So, it's up to you if you want to put that kind of stuff into your body every day. The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of about 25 grams of sugar per day for an average-sized adult. A five-pack of Peeps will set you back 34 grams of sugar, so you could theoretically eat a couple individual Peeps a day and stay within the guidelines.

Do bunny-shaped Peeps taste gamier than the chicks?

No. The original Peeps bunnies and chicks have the same, sugary taste no matter their shape or color. Marshmallow Peeps do come in several fancy flavors, however, including chocolate mousse, chocolate-covered and even "party cake."

Am I the only one who thinks Drew Carey looks like a Peep?

Funny you should ask. In 2003, for the product's 50th anniversary, Just Born Inc. published a Peeps survey as a barometer for the "current reading of the 2003-Peeps climate." The 515 people interviewed were asked which public person or celebrity most resembled a Peep (either in physical build, personality or both.) According to the published report, "TV personality Drew Carey drew 26.8 percent of responses, while movie star Drew Barrymore and TV anchor Al Roker received 8.1 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively."

OK, but what if other celebs come to mind when I think about Peeps?
Just Born Inc. has continued to ask consumers what celebrities they associate with their marshmallow product. Stars like Will Ferrell, Jessica Simpson, Elton John and Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion) have all earned the honor.

I wish I wasn't reading this. I hate Peeps. Everything about them. Anyone else?
You could start a gang if you wanted. In a 2012 blog on the Guardian, writer Brian Moylan published his disdain for the candy in a piece entitled, "Sorry, But Peeps Are Disgusting." Moylan doesn't just criticize the product for taste, which he diminishes to "slime," but also slams the Peep for its color, design and the nostalgia often associated with it. Flavor, still, is Moylan's biggest hang-up.
Can we just stop fooling ourselves that marshmallow is a flavor? Well, it's a flavor, but, like the last syllable of the word, it's mellow. It's nothing to write home about. It's just gooey and sticky and kind of like biting into a really soft pencil eraser.

If you don't have the time to pen a scathing review, but want the world to know where you stand, you could join the "I Hate Marshmallow Peeps" page on Facebook. That'll show 'em.

You've misunderstood. I detest Peeps. I'd kill them if I could. Can I?
Yes. And you've got a lot of options. There is sadistic subculture that exists within Peeps' fandom (or hatred). On the website "100 Ways To Kill A Peep" users can submit methods of Peep massacre, and select favorites through a 5-star rating system. The site hosts pages of submissions, with carnage that ranges from electrocution to samurai seppuku to hanging.

If you really want to seem them suffer, you could pit two Peeps against each other in a jousting competition. Place two Peeps on a plate and insert a tooth pick (the weapon) into the tummy of each.

Then, set the Peeps in the microwave for face-off. As the Peeps heat up, their bellies expand and the toothpicks move forward. The winning Peep is the Peep who pokes his or her opponent first.

The Peep on the right is this battle's champion, but ultimately, both Peeps (and perhaps you) lose.

Is there anything cuter than a plump little Peep?
Just this combination.


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