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Can We Have More Than Silly Sniping From Our U.S. Senate Contenders?

Tue, 2016-08-16 09:54
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

I had such high hopes for the U.S. Senate race in Illinois with Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, taking on incumbent Mark Kirk, R-Wilmette. Here we have two respected, disabled military veterans, both of whom are more moderate than extreme.

We could have a meaningful discussion about the struggles of Illinoisans. We could have a detailed discussion of the U.S. military's role in the world, of foreign affairs and our policies in Afghanistan and Iran and Syria. We could have a real-world conversation about health care or our state's heroin epidemic; about violence in Chicago's gang-plagued neighborhoods and about the lack of opportunity as our state's debts mount. We could have a thoughtful discussion about how to get Washington working for all Americans again. The campaign even could be an antidote to what seems the most bizarre presidential campaign ever.

Enlightening civic events? None so far. Civil discourse? Not here. Duckworth campaign strategists spent the first several months trying everything they could think of to tie Kirk to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, though back in June, Kirk disavowed Trump after he suggested he could not get a fair trial from a judge of Mexican heritage. Granted, Kirk did not help himself in the least by first telling reporters he would instead write in David Petraeus, a retired four-star general who had to resign as CIA director after it was revealed he had shared classified information with his mistress-biographer. Kirk followed that by saying he could not support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton because she supported President Obama's Iran deal and would instead write in Colin Powell. Alas, Powell also supports Obama's Iran deal.

Meanwhile, the Kirk camp spent months trying to tie Duckworth to convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich because she worked in his administration running the veterans' affairs department. Earlier this summer, a whistleblower lawsuit against her by two former veterans' department staffers who said they were victims of workplace retaliation was settled for $26,000, with no finding of wrongdoing. The Kirk camp suggested the settlement might collapse at one point, but that didn't happen.

Already in the muck, two true heroes -- the Army helicopter pilot who nearly died and sacrificed her legs in a U.S. military operation overseas and the former Naval Reserves officer who fought his way back from massive strokes -- can't seem to find a way to pull themselves out of it to get to dignified discourse.

When what follows landed in my inbox, what remained of my hope faded away:





I'd include more of that email, but I won't repeat claims that might be false. Suffice it to say there were more memes and the suggestion that I go check out a new Tumblr account the Democratic Party of Illinois started, called "$#*% my Senator Says."

This is our race for the esteemed United States Senate? Believe me, I know as well as anyone how incredibly difficult it is to get people's attention in Illinois. They're so sick of corruption and budget fights that far too many of them just tune out. And I do appreciate trying new things to wake people up. Heck, I even get a chuckle out of a lot of the memes we use at Reboot Illinois to lighten things up.

But this meme, the one that came after it and a social media account called "$#*% my Senator Says?" Well, maybe it's just me? Maybe this is a smart way to reach young voters?

It's possible. After all, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, working to help Kirk, is at it, too:



It's not like attaching candidates to others is a new trick. And certainly, Duckworth's management of her department and Kirk's misstatements should be weighed by voters. But so should so many other things. I thought I should see if I was alone in my distaste for the tenor and the use of these gimmicks in what is the top U.S. Senate race in the nation.

John Frendreis, a political scientist at Loyola University, noted in an email exchange that Kirk is in a difficult position.

"He cannot possibly win if he embraces Trump, who will lose Illinois by a large margin, but he cannot afford to push away any Republican voters.  So his Clinton-Iran position is not credible, but it gives him something to say.

"... As far as her comments about Kirk," he continued, "this race is off to a dismal start of negative campaigning, and there is little reason to think it is going to change. She would be better off spending her time using Kirk's record as part of the Republican Senate caucus to show that he has worked against many things that the people of Illinois would like to see done. His involvement in blocking Obama's agenda will play reasonably well in a state where Obama is still popular."

And David Yepsen, the former Des Moines Register political writer who runs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in Carbondale, said in an email, "The dialogue in the Senate race - and many other races - leaves a lot to be desired these days. We've come a long way since Paul Simon and Everett Dirksen set the tone for political discourse."

Isn't that the truth?

"One reason this happens is people have such little respect for politicians these days that the best way to win is not to talk about your positives or your ideas," Yepsen continued, "but do things to drive up your opponent's negatives.

"... Another reason is social media and coarseness that come with it.  Attention spans are shorter.  F-Bombs are used by presidential candidates. We debate and argue in 140 characters and call each other names in ALL CAPS!

"And in Illinois it comes against a state facing a perfect storm of state budget deficits, Chicago budgets deficits and street violence," he said. "It's little wonder people tune it out.  Not only is this stuff coarse and often silly, but it's also irrelevant to the daily lives of hard-working people."

They nailed it. We have a long way to go to Nov. 8, so let's keep hope alive. Kirk just left on a bus tour of Illinois, so maybe some of those hard-working people will get him talking about how he can help bring better jobs back to Illinois. And Duckworth recently announced she'll join Kirk in participating in three debates and two joint editorial board endorsement sessions.

I'm going to count on the campaigns and my colleagues in journalism to set aside the coarse memes and tweets and tumblr silliness and put us back on track toward a Senate race discourse worthy of a state that faces a lot of challenges.

We're in dire need of a U.S. senator who can rise above gimmicks and offer detailed discussion about our problems and solutions. We need a campaign worthy of the two heroic, disabled military veterans running.

Next article: Landmark sex crime law deals with rape test backlog

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Stunning Photos Show Chicago's Lollapalooza Festival Through The Years

Fri, 2016-08-12 16:51

Chicago’s iconic Lollapalooza festival was created in 1991 ― and after 25 years the eclectic four-day concert has only gotten better. 


Created by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza is set in the heart of Chicago’s Grant Park. Over the years, the festival has brought in some of the biggest names in music, including Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest, Smashing Pumpkins, Florence and the Machine and many, many more. The festival is a nonstop dance party where everyone and anyone can find their favorite genre. 


Between 1991–1997 the festival ran annually and toured around the U.S. and Canada. Due to low ticket sales, the festival was canceled. In 2005, Lolla was revived and now boasts over 160,000 attendees each year. The festival also has annual international destinations including Berlin, Santiago, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires.


To celebrate Lolla’s 25th anniversary, we’ve rounded up 38 photos of artists performing at the festival over the years. Scroll below to see how the music festival has transformed from 1991 to 2016. 


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On the 81st Anniversary of Social Security, Let's Commit to Protecting and Expanding Social Security Benefits

Fri, 2016-08-12 13:14
This August 14, Americans celebrate the 81st anniversary of Social Security. As the former executive director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens and the current co-chair of the Seniors Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives, I know how important Social Security is for older Americans. Their earned benefits allow older Americans to live with dignity and independence and keep 15 million retirees out of poverty.

Social Security is more than a guaranteed source of retirement security - although that is how it began in 1935.

Today, Social Security provides benefits to 9 million disabled workers and, as a recent study (Overlooked but Not Forgotten: Social Security Lifts Millions More Children out of Poverty) points out, it is an important source of income for 6.4 million children.

Social Security is better today because Congress acted over the years to build on its initial foundation. It was improved in 1939 to include children, spouses and survivors. It was expanded in 1956 to include disabled workers. And, in 1972, an annual, automatic cost-of-living adjustment was added.

Today, it is once again time for improvements. The average retiree benefit is just $1,303 a month -- $15,636 a year. Benefits for older women - who are paid less and spend more time out of the workforce caring for family members - are even lower. Disabled workers receive just $1166 a month on average. That is why I introduced H.Res. 393 calling for policies to protect and expand Social Security's modest benefits.

The expansion campaign is growing in strength. President Obama this summer echoed the call in Elkhart, Indiana, saying: "It is time we finally made Social Security more generous and increase its benefits so that today's retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they have earned. And we can start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more."

It certainly is time for the more "generous" benefit that President Obama mentioned. Retirees who rely on Social Security for the majority - and sometimes all - of their income are finding it harder and harder to meet basic expenses. Prescription drug costs are rising. Medicare doesn't cover critical benefits like vision, dental and hearing services. And Social Security's cost-of-living adjustment desperately needs reform so that it accurately reflects the inflationary pressures seniors are feeling.

Support for expansion has not happened overnight - it involves thoughtful policy work and lots of work by national advocates and persistent grassroots organizing in cities and towns across the country.

In Chicago, Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC) and ONE North Side are working to preserve and strengthen Social Security, both defending against those who want to cut benefits, raise the eligibility age or privatize and promoting a positive agenda for expanded benefits.

Ann Marie Cunningham, a JASC member struggling to make ends meet on her monthly Social Security check, is helping to lead the charge. She is working with a national network of grassroots leaders organized through the Center for Community Change Action to shift the debate away from cuts and towards expansion. They are working with volunteers across the country to help grassroots leaders connect their lived experiences to policy proposals for Social Security expansion. I have seen this in social media, in opinion media, and in the persistent education and outreach activities that are changing the vision of what is possible. Their efforts are bearing fruit: the Democratic Platform calls for Social Security protection and expansion and for a Democratic White House and a Democratic Congress to act on that policy.

Grassroots organizations like Jane Addams Senior Caucus and ONE Northside are working hard to pass benefit improvements and pay for them. The Seniors and Veterans Emergency SAVE) Benefits Act, introduced by Representative Tammy Duckworth and Senator Elizabeth Warren, would provide a one-time Social Security benefit payment of $580 to seniors, veterans and the disabled to offset a lower than appropriate COLA. It would be funded by closing the loophole that allows corporations to write off executive bonuses as a business expense. Passage of this bill would reduce financial burdens on Social Security recipients, while giving us time to pass more comprehensive, permanent solutions.

If our country could afford Social Security back in 1935 during the Great Depression, we certainly can afford to improve it now. Today, at the richest time in our history, we must not allow the naysayers to block the progress that millions of Americans need us to make.

I know the leaders in the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, ONE Northside and other grassroots organizations will continue to organize with others here in Illinois and at the national level to make sure that Social Security Expansion is in the forefront of Congressional deliberations. I am proud to join them in that fight.

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Climate Change Is Turning The Water Around Us Into A Threat

Wed, 2016-08-10 16:28

We grasp the connection now between our changing climate and the quantity of water around us. Scientists say that climate change means both more frequent and severe droughts and a heightened risk of flooding.


What about the quality of our water? Crises as disparate as Florida’s “guacamole-thick” algal blooms and the record number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease are linked to the effects of climate change on water safety ― or so a paper published last month in the journal Nature argues.


And problems like these appear to be getting worse.


But the extent to which climate change is working with other factors to muddy the water isn’t clear, said Anna Michalak, a faculty member in global ecology at the Carnegie Institute of Science and author of the paper.


“We tend to think of water quality issues as local phenomena controlled by what people are doing at a relatively local-to-regional scale,” Michalak told The Huffington Post.


The reality, she said, is that water quality depends on the interaction between human behaviors and “things that have to do with weather and meteorology — and they themselves are changing as a result of the climate.”



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For instance, when changing climate and weather patterns combine with the excessive use of fertilizer on farmland — which contributes to nitrogen runoff into waterways — the results can be extreme. In the Gulf of Mexico, the toxic algal blooms have created a Connecticut-sized “dead zone” wreaking havoc on both the ecosystem and the local economy.


And algal blooms are just one example of this costly relationship. Here are some others:


Strained water infrastructure

Climate change overall means a greater demand for water amid a decreased supply, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This will strain our nation’s already compromised water infrastructure. The EPA estimates that just the current infrastructure needs would take more than $600 billion to fix.


Many water systems across the country are nearing the end of their useful lives, the American Water Works Association reports. When extreme flooding hits such a system, water main breaks are more common, which can lead to contaminants entering the water supply. Advisories to boil before you drink will help in only some of those situations.


Greater risk of contamination

Increased flooding associated with climate change can exacerbate the runoff of all sorts of pollutants from farms and residential lawns ― including environmentally harmful nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, trash and animal waste ― the EPA points out. Extreme flooding can also overwhelm sewage systems, releasing more untreated sewage into waterways. And that means greater contamination risk and higher treatment costs for water systems.


Waterborne disease outbreaks

Climate change leads to warmer water temperatures, which creates better growing conditions for the viruses, bacteria and protozoa that cause waterborne diseases like Legionnaires’. As the nonprofit Physicians for Social Responsibility points out, the effects of these illnesses range from diarrhea to death.


Legionnaires’ disease is already on the rise, according to recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cases of this form of pneumonia have quadrupled over the last 15 years.


Rising salinity of freshwater

Scientists say climate change is contributing to rising sea levels, which drive more saltwater into the freshwater supply. This, too, increases costs as water systems need to desalinate the water or find another freshwater source, according to the EPA.


What do we do? Michalak calls for more research to assess which combinations of weather, climate, land use and management practices put water quality most at risk. Once the interaction of these factors is better understood, we can figure out how to manage water supplies in a more sustainable, climate change-resistant way.


Meanwhile, we shouldn’t jump to overly simple explanations of extreme situations, like the algal blooms growing in Florida, Colorado and elsewhere.


“It’s not just about climate or land use or agriculture,” Michalak said, “but this intersection between what humans are doing locally and what we’re doing globally is what’s coming back to bite us.”


―― 


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

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

As Chipotle Tries Not To Make People Sick, It's Silent On One Important Issue

Tue, 2016-08-09 06:25

Six months have passed since Chipotle Mexican Grill halted outbreaks of illnesses linked to its food, but massive damage to the company’s sales and its brand continues.


The burrito chain’s sales for the first half of the year fell 20 percent from the year earlier, according to the Denver-based company’s latest earnings report. Same-store sales dropped 26.5 percent.


Chipotle blamed much of its lackluster second-quarter earnings on food costs, which it said have increased with new food-safety procedures. The company also said that the cost of food waste has gone up, per its quarterly statement filed last month with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Does this mean Chipotle is wasting more food as it works to win back customers? And might other fast-food companies looking to avoid a food-safety crisis like Chipotle’s adopt these kinds of wasteful practices?


It’s hard to say. Chipotle’s earnings report provides no details on the increased food-waste costs. Spokesman Chris Arnold did not respond to The Huffington Post’s multiple requests for clarification.


Chipotle was laid low by a series of illness outbreaks last year ― including E. coli, salmonella and norovirus ― that turned away customers, ruined sales and carved billions from its valuation.


Chipotle board member Kimbal Musk described the food-safety crisis as a “speed bump” that he largely attributed to the chain’s heavy reliance on fresh foods, something unusual for a fast-food chain its size.


“We had to come across this at some point, where you’re dealing with fresh food at this scale, which is needed and which we need more of, we simply have to learn,” Musk said. “We’ve learned from it, solved that problem and moved on.”



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Industry experts said increased food waste is not an inevitable result of heightened efforts to improve food safety.


“I don’t see the cause and effect on this,” Bob Goldin, an executive vice president at Technomic, a food-service industry research firm, told HuffPost. “Restaurants are really good about food-waste control. They really just don’t throw much away in general. Restaurants know how to handle this.”


Bill Marler, a nationally recognized food-safety advocate who is an attorney, said restaurant food waste typically has little to do with whether a food is actually unsafe to eat.


“A lot of time when food is thrown out, it’s really not anything to do with food safety per se,” said Marler, who represents Chipotle customers in several outbreak-related lawsuits against the chain. “It has more to do with how the product looks. Everyone in a restaurant or store wants things that look brand new and fresh.”


Among primary drivers of restaurant food waste identified in a 1997 U.S. Department of Agriculture report was over-preparation of menu items, expanded menu choices, and unanticipated fluctuations in food sales due to factors like weather. Plate waste, from customers who don’t finish their meal, also contributes. 


Some degree of food waste — plate waste, for example — is unavoidable, of course. If food spoils due to improper preparation or storage, it cannot be served to customers. And there will always be some loss from prepping meats and vegetables for cooking.


To address unavoidable waste, most restaurants follow strategies outlined by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection’s food recovery hierarchy — prevention or reduction of waste, donating surplus prepared foods to food banks, and sending scraps to farms for livestock feed.



.@AngelaWeikel @Reuters Best way to do it is by using @EPA food waste hierarchy -good food should go to people 1st! pic.twitter.com/djpurTpxOf

— FoodToDonate (@FoodToDonate) July 1, 2015


Prevention is the heart of strategies most restaurants are already using.


Karl Deily is the global president of the food care division of Sealed Air, which works with companies to create more efficient food packaging while reducing waste and keeping food safe. Deily’s group worked with Panera Bread to adjust how the chain’s soups were prepared to reduce waste and maintain quality. 


This meant that Panera soups would be prepared at a central location and packaged in a material that allowed easy reheating in restaurants in pre-portioned quantities. Each location no longer prepares a large vat of soup that may exceed demand for a given day.


Such a strategy also helps address consumer fears that the food they are being served may not be fresh.


“These are the types of interventions where you can minimize food waste and not set a perception that you’re carrying food over from one day to another to use it, even if it might be close to being spoiled,” Deily said.


The second step — donating surplus food to charity — is popular with many restaurants, including some of the industry’s biggest players. The Food Donation Connection, a partner of the National Restaurant Association, connects restaurants to charities throughout North America and the U.K.


The organization coordinated donations from more than 17,000 restaurants last year, connecting them to some 9,000 charities, according to Jim Larson, Food Donaltion Connection program coordinator. All told, some 50 million pounds of prepared surplus food was distributed through the group.



The program serves a purpose beyond feeding hungry people. Larson said many restaurants have adjusted their production after participating.


Donating food is “a visual reminder when, instead of going to the trash, it’s going into the freezer,” Larson said. “And they’re realizing maybe they don’t have to make so much in the first place.”


Visual reminders are also a key factor in reducing waste for Andrew Shakman, co-founding CEO of LeanPath, a Portland, Oregon-based company that helps restaurants measure their food waste and use that data to change habits.


LeanPath, founded in 2004, has seen a surge of interest in its food waste-reduction technology in recent years, Shakman said. The Chipotle crisis has not dimmed that enthusiasm, he said. 


Still, Shakman argued that the restaurant industry needs a cultural shift on food waste. He said waste happens in restaurants where running out of a popular dish is perceived as cheaper than disappointing a customer.


Many restaurants, Shakman said, don’t fully consider the true cost of waste. That’s what he’s trying to change. 


“They are viewing [food waste] as free when, in fact, it’s very expensive,” Shakman said. “Not just financially, but environmentally and socially. But people are waking up.”


―-


Alexander Kaufman contributed reporting.


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


More stories like this:


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Bernie Mac's Widow Remembers The First Thing He Ever Said To Her

Mon, 2016-08-08 07:38

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In 1974, Rhonda McCullough first crossed paths with the man who would become her husband, the late comedian Bernie Mac. The two were still in high school, and though Rhonda had seen Bernie in the hallways before, she tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” that she wasn’t drawn to him until their first face-to-face meeting.


“I remember all the young girls, they were just crazy about him. I often looked, like, ‘Why do they like him so much? What is it about him?’” Rhonda says.


Once the two met and Bernie began talking, however, Rhonda’s feelings shifted.


“I started seeing him differently,” she says. “I remember the first thing he said to me. He was like, ‘You ain’t never seen nobody black and pretty as me.’ And he was rubbing his face! I started laughing. I was like, ‘You right, I’ve never seen anybody like you.’”


Three years later, Rhonda and Bernie got married. Six months later, they had their first child.


As young parents, life was difficult.


“We were on public aid, food stamps to try to make ends meet,” Rhonda says. “[Bernie] used to always tell me, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to be rich.’”


While Bernie worked the Chicago comedy circuit, Rhonda worked as a nurse to support the family. Then, in 1992, Bernie got his big break with HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.” Suddenly, he was in the national spotlight, and his comedy career really took off.


Through it all, Rhonda remained by his side, up until his tragic death in 2008. As she said later in her “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” interview, losing the love of her life left her reeling and openly questioning her own purpose. Today, Rhonda channels her energy into The Bernie Mac Foundation, an organization her late husband started in 2007 to promote awareness of sarcoidosis, a disease from which he suffered.


“The foundation is to me everything that Bernard was and that he wanted,” she says. “What better way to have his legacy live on?”


Another Bernie Mac memory:


Bernie Mac talking about his comedy philosophy will make you miss him even more

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The Media Is Saying And Doing A Bunch Of Sexist Stuff During The Olympics

Mon, 2016-08-08 06:00

Some of the media covering the 2016 Rio Games is proving that sexism is, lamentably, still a thing.


The Olympics only began on Friday, but there’s already been a series of incidents involving NBC and the Chicago Tribune.


NBC sportscaster Dan Hicks was the first to spark outrage when he appeared to credit Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu’s husband, Shane Tusup, for her world record-breaking win in the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday. As the cameras panned over to Tusup, who was also Hosszu’s coach, the commentator said, “And there’s the man responsible.” 


Twitter users were furious:



I get that Tusip is Hosszu's coach, but you can make the connection without using the word RESPONSIBLE. You can't throw that word around.

— Maggie Hendricks (@maggiehendricks) August 7, 2016



.@DanHicksNBC thinks women aren't responsible for their own gold medals, credits husbands. #everydaysexism https://t.co/JAV5rX2uhb

— Rachel Clement (@RachelEClement) August 7, 2016



Anyone else uncomfortable with the amount of time Dan Hicks spent congratulating Hosszu's husband for HER amazing accomplishment?

— Hayley Collins (@hayley_mo77) August 7, 2016



"There's the man responsible for turning his wife into an entirely new swimmer..." REALLY, NBC?

— Charlotte Wilder (@TheWilderThings) August 7, 2016



After a woman just won a gold medal, announcer literally said, "And there's the man responsible," as camera showed her husband/coach.

— Elizabeth Picciuto (@epicciuto) August 7, 2016



OK, so Hosszú (swimmer) shatters a world record by 2 seconds, and NBC's broadcaster gives the credit to her husband and coach. WTF? #Sexism

— Tim Gibson (@timgibson) August 7, 2016


Hicks attempted to clarify his comment on Sunday, telling The Associated Press there were often times in live television “when you look back and wished you had said things differently.”


“It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do,” Hicks added.


The Chicago Tribune also came under fire for an article and tweet about Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s bronze medal-winning performance in the women’s trap shooting event. The tweet focused more on the career of her NFL player husband Mitch Unrein than her own achievement.



Wife of a Bears' lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics https://t.co/kwZoGY0xAX pic.twitter.com/VZrjOvr80h

— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) August 7, 2016


As Jezebel pointed out, the Tribune’s article wasn’t much better. The headline ― “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio” ― only referred to her achievement, but didn’t say in which sport. Nor did the story mention the fact that it was the second medal she’d won at a Games and her third time competing at the Olympics.


The newspaper article later went off on a tangent about her husband, saying the defensive end was in his second season with the Chicago Bears but “was unable to get away from training camp to join her in Rio.”


Again, Twitter users expressed their fury:



Her name is Corey Cogdell. Shove your no-so-subtle sexism where the sun don't shine @chicagotribune @CoreyCogdell https://t.co/D84qbtdxMc

— Peter-Martin (PM) (@petermartindk) August 8, 2016



Husband of Olympic medal winner Corey Cogdell plays football for the Chicago Bears #FixedIt #Sexism https://t.co/HPlYjH4CYD

— It's All Bad (@SaltPotatoes) August 8, 2016



God forbid you use her name for what SHE achieved. Corey Cogdell-Unrein. No excuse for that disrespect. #sexism https://t.co/TCYm14Ehvm

— Laura Jo Crabtree (@laurajocrabtree) August 8, 2016



1. Her name is Corey Cogdell

2. Sexism in the article is gross

3. November 8 is going to be a fun day for bros pic.twitter.com/3PbGB5X2Op

— Nerdy Wonka (@NerdyWonka) August 8, 2016



Everyday sexism at work. Congratulations Corey Cogdell. https://t.co/ShTaZMfvu0

— Ed Skipper (@EdSkipper) August 8, 2016



Corey Cogdell wins medal in Rio, press announces only using her husband's NFL info. Gee, is there sexism in Hillary's media coverage, too?

— Fifth House Sun (@FifthHouseSun) August 8, 2016



Corey Cogdell. Her name is Corey Cogdell @chicagotribune. She won an Olympic bronze medal for trap shooting. #sexism https://t.co/ofHPfmDjYl

— Renee Bracey Sherman (@RBraceySherman) August 7, 2016


Some people defended the newspaper for simply trying to localize the story. Without the Bears connection, the Tribune probably wouldn’t have covered Cogdell-Unrein’s achievement at the Olympics.



It's the Chicago Tribune. Localize news to your audience. #journalism101 https://t.co/PLMga1yUw5

— Bojack Horseman (@ElChivoJefe) August 7, 2016



The headline writer at the Chicago Tribune was probably trying their best to localize a story. That didn't go well. pic.twitter.com/QQ2nnFSDhR

— Joe Buettner (@Joe_Buettner) August 7, 2016



@WillMcAvoyACN Probably could have/should have localized it with "Chicago resident," assuming she lives there.

— Allison Carter (@AllisonLCarter) August 7, 2016


NBC was again accused of sexism during its coverage of women’s gymnastics on Sunday, when an as yet unidentified commentator said Team USA members looked like they “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall” after they were caught on camera laughing and talking following their utter annihilation of the competition during the qualifying round.



No, NBC anchor, those female gymnasts do not look like "they might as well be standing in the middle of a mall." They are at the Olympics.

— Natalie DiBlasio (@ndiblasio) August 7, 2016



"They might as well be in a mall"- NBC commentator on the USA gymnasts' group talk after literal world domination #yoursexismisshowing

— Megan Lasher (@MeganLasher) August 7, 2016



.@NBCOlympics guy hears #TeamUSA gymnasts talking, says they "might as well be at the mall--Cause that's the only place girls could be? #Bye

— Maddie Sweeney (@madswee) August 7, 2016



"They could be standing in a mall"
...you wouldn't be talking about male gymnasts like that. #TeamUSA #ArtisticGymnastics #Rio2016

— Wicked Ginny (@GinnyLurcock) August 7, 2016



UGHH. "They might as well be standing in the middle of a mall," male @NBCOlympics commentator says about chatty U.S. gymnasts. #Rio2016

— Jessica Weiss (@jessweiss1) August 7, 2016


NBC has not commented on that incident, which came just days after a study by the Cambridge University Press found that in the media’s coverage of sports, men were three times more likely to be mentioned in a sporting context than women -- who, meanwhile, were routinely described with regards to non-sporting issues, such as their age, marital status and appearance.

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Reimagining Home: MLK In Chicago, 50 Years Later

Fri, 2016-08-05 10:09

Caption/credit: Jesse Jackson and Albert Raby at Chicago Freedom Movement rally (left). Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd (center). Mob and police during Chicago Freedom Movement march in Marquette Park in 1966 (right). Courtesy of Bernard Kleina

Tired? Go home!

It was among other offensive signs being held that August 1966 day in Marquette Park on Chicago's Southwest Side. Over 5,000 people -- grandmothers, young children and teenagers --gathered together by their rage against the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and close to 700 other peaceful counter-protesters walking through "their" neighborhood.

(Picture taken by civil rights activist and photographer Bernard Kleina in Marquette Park on August 5, 1966)

Yes, indeed many of the marchers were tired. In fact, as Fannie Lou Hammer famously said, they were "sick and tired of being sick and tired." They were tired of the bigotry, racism and hatred that unscrupulous realtors and others were manipulating to induce fear and violence against blacks if they dared try and purchase property anywhere near "their homes."

This was Chicago in 1966. Around the country and world, the global movement for human dignity was ever present. Julian Bond was denied a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives and there was strong backlash to African Americans in urban and rural communities, seeking access to the ballot box. The state of Mississippi, the ancestral home of over 50 percent of Chicago Bronzeville natives, witnessed the bombing and eventual assassination of activists Vernon Dahmer in the city of Hattiesburg, MS. Cleveland, OH erupted in urban disturbance and riots as a result of repressive police and political practices pushed by the openly xenophobic Mayor Richard Locher. On the West coast, the Black Panther party was being formed by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton -- a direct response to the lack of police protection in black communities.

Internationally in Lagos, Nigeria, African activists and heads of state gathered to condemn the racist regime of Rhodesia and South Africa.

Chicago in 1966 was joining the global zeitgeist mural of freedom and dignity.

And so they marched. They fearlessly marched into the heart of hatred -- dodging rocks, bottles and nasty insults from the mouths of angry Marquette Park residents.

The marchers were organizers and everyday folks from around Chicago and the larger region. They were people who understood that the lingering evils of racism and violent segregation knew no boundaries and had to be confronted if we were ever going to live in an America we all could call home.

Fifty years later the project of radically reimagining "home" is ever so urgent. It's urgent because the political rhetoric of this last year has reminded us how alive and well the message of "Go Home" in America still is. It's urgent because "home" for so many of our communities in urban centers across America continues to be a woefully segregated and bifurcated tale of two cities -- two very different and profoundly uneven realities.

Reimagining the idea of "home" as a safe, healthy and thriving space for all of our communities must be at the center of our spiritual, political and social calls to action.

It's why over forty institutions, grassroot organizations, churches, mosques and synagogues from across the Chicagoland area have worked around the clock for two years to build the first memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement in "Chi-Town." It's why we selected to celebrate and honor the struggle and sacrifice of those marchers in the summer of 1966 and of those who have followed in their footsteps and spirit in the years and decades that followed. We do all of this fully aware that the journey to justice continues on so many levels. In the words of Dr. King, we must have a "real action plan" to rip down the triple walls of "poverty, racism and human misery" within which disproportionately large numbers of black and brown youth are being killed by one another and the police.

While in Chicago fifty years ago Dr. King reminded the city and country that in spite of all our pain and righteous anger our path forward is together as one people, "we are all tied in a single garment of destiny. We need each other." Our prayer is that the project of memorializing Dr. King and the Chicago Freedom Movement in Marquette Park will inspire us to prioritize and pursue policies and projects that can make the notion of "home" more equitable, just and peaceful for all who reside here.

Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director
Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) - Chicago
http://www.imancentral.org/arts-culture/takin-it-to-streets/


Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III
Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ - Chicago
https://trinitychicago.org/

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Communities Abused By Police Demand That DOJ Literally Hear Their Voices

Fri, 2016-08-05 03:08

WASHINGTON — When the U.S. Department of Justice investigates a local police department accused of unconstitutional abuses, one of the most important aspects of its work is to simply listen.


The residents of these cities are often frustrated with a law enforcement system that has ignored their complaints. Public forums with the DOJ investigators give them the chance, finally, to share their painful and sometime brutal stories ― and to know that the world has heard them.


“You’ve got to understand that there is no accountability. Where are people supposed to go? Who are folks supposed to tell their stories to?” said Pamela Cytrynbaum, executive director of the Chicago Innocence Center.


The Chicago Police Department along with those in Baltimore and a half-dozen other cities are currently undergoing “pattern or practice” investigations by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Under President Barack Obama, DOJ has made it a priority to look into police forces accused of widespread misconduct and unconstitutional behavior, including excessive use of force and illegal searches. That’s in sharp contrast to the Bush administration, during which such probes slowed to a halt


“Every American expects and deserves the protection of law enforcement that is effective, that is responsive, that is respectful and most importantly constitutional,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in announcing the Chicago investigation eight months ago.





For citizens harmed by law enforcement, internal police department reviews and citizen oversight boards seem to offer little to no recourse ― at least in the cities being investigated. Last year, the Invisible Institute, a civic journalism organization, released over 28,000 citizen complaints of misconduct by Chicago police, covering both verbal and physical abuse, that were filed between 2011 and 2015. Sixty-one percent of those complaints were filed by black Americans, but less than 2 percent of those were sustained.


In Baltimore, police union contracts allow “peer” officers to serve on the hearing board for citizen complaints. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland argues that practice impedes accountability since officers have an interest in protecting their colleagues from discipline.


Three summers ago, Tawanda Jones received a call that turned her world on its head: Her 44-year-old brother, Tyrone West, was dead after an altercation with Baltimore police. Though the official autopsy report states that West died because of a pre-existing cardiac condition, Jones believes that her brother died as a result of police abuse, and a second autopsy from an independent medical examiner found his cause of death to be positional asphyxia. 


Seeking justice, Jones turned to community activism and led demonstrations in her brother’s name. But, as is often the case with police-involved deaths, no charges were brought against the officers involved. 


“If it wasn’t for me and my family pushing so hard, no one would even know about Tyrone West,” Jones told The Huffington Post.


Unlike more recent incidents of police brutality, West’s death was not captured on video. Jones believes the lack of footage has made justice much more difficult to attain.


But with the Justice Department in town, the opportunity to tell her brother’s story to the federal lawyers has been cathartic.


“We’ve been crying our tears, and our cries have fallen on deaf ears for decades,” Jones said, referring to the long history of police violence against the black community in Baltimore. “So when you see people of any kind, whether it be the DOJ or the U.N., and we hear that they’re going to be here at this specific spot on this specific day, we feel obligated to talk to them.”


The probe of the Baltimore Police Department, a relatively large force of over 3,000 officers, has lasted more than a year ― twice as long as the Ferguson, Missouri, investigation, which focused on a tiny police department with less than 100 employees. Jones has attended many of the DOJ’s public forums in Baltimore and said she has found their team to be very responsive, even accepting her invitations to attend community meetings.


“It meant a lot for me to see the guy from the DOJ when he came and sat down with me, took down my information and attended several forums. And then when we were hosting our community meeting, the police commissioner didn’t show up but the Department of Justice guy did,” she said.


That sentiment is echoed by Ken Jiretsu, a board member of Baltimore’s Transgender Alliance. The group invited DOJ to their community meetings in an effort to make sure investigators heard the voices of trans people. At one such gathering, Jiretsu, a transgender man, shared his own difficult experience dealing with Baltimore police.


“I called to ask for officers to escort [my son] to the hospital. When they arrived, one of the officers that was with them had misgendered me, so I had to correct her. She had said, ‘Miss,’ and I told her, ‘It’s sir,’ and she was like, ‘Oh, OK, how was I supposed to know?’ Then she said, ‘So, man, sir, whatever you want to be called,’” Jiretsu said.


“Her colleagues that were with her were also laughing,” said Jiretsu, “and it ended up becoming a triggering situation for me.” The fact that his children were witnesses to the encounter in his own home made it even more upsetting.


After hearing his story, Jiretsu said, the DOJ took his information and promised to follow up.


“I think a lot of them are sincere,” he said. “They were sincere in listening to what we had to say. The two that I personally spoke to seemed very interested in what we had to say.”



I’m sorry if you feel like if you’ve heard one account of a police officer holding a gun to a 3-year-old’s head, then you’ve heard them all. We must have an accounting of what’s going on.
Pamela Cytrynbaum of the Chicago Innocence Center


The DOJ’s efforts to engage with local communities during these investigations aren’t really geared, however, toward capturing and resolving individual complaints against officers. The Civil Rights Division’s efforts concentrate more on broad reforms and remedies ― which means the federal team isn’t there to hear everyone’s tale. For some residents, that has been the most frustrating aspect of these investigations. 


Turnout for the public forums in Baltimore has been rather high. One event had to be moved from a location that could hold only 80 people to one that could accommodate over 300. 


The DOJ teams try to hold forums “throughout the investigation and target different parts of the community so we can hear not only from the greatest volume, but a wide variety of folks so we can get a better sense of the breadth,” a Justice Department spokesperson told The Huffington Post. Three to four events are typically held near the start, which gives the team an opportunity to explain to the community how the investigation will be conducted while also soliciting citizen testimony.


In Chicago, the DOJ has hosted four public forums so far, all on weeknights ― a schedule that some have criticized for shutting out people who don’t work 9 to 5. After hearing from friends that the first forum had a turnout of fewer than 40 people, Frances McDonald, a student at the University of Chicago, said she felt compelled to show up at the next one. 


“Some people were screaming and yelling. Some people went past their allotted time to speak because they were so angry, and there were some people in the crowd crying,” McDonald said. “Some parents of children with mental disabilities spoke of their children’s experiences with the police.”


McDonald wasn’t there to tell yet another story, but to witness what members of her community had to say. And she came away convinced of at least one thing.


“I definitely think there should be a few more forums. I’d say at least 10 more,” said McDonald.


The Chicago police force is the largest department the DOJ is investigating. The probe was prompted by the October 2014 death of Laquan McDonald and the subsequent coverup. A video of the shooting was finally released more than a year later, and those images spurred protests around the city. But Chicago’s history of police abuse extends further back. From the secretive interrogation facility at Homan Square to the tortured confessions elicited by former police commander Jon Burge, the city’s black and Latino residents have complained of police violence for over 40 years.


“Given what communities have suffered under in this town for so long, it is appalling to me that there are not more opportunities for the public to tell their stories,” Cytrynbaum of the Chicago Innocence Center said. “Even if they need to rent out a stadium, they need to hear this. It needs to be on the record.”


The Justice Department spokesperson told HuffPost that they plan to host more forums in Chicago, including one or two on the weekends.


“We had already planned to do more. We were just hammering out details,” the spokesperson said.


This doesn’t necessarily mean that the DOJ is aiming for a very high turnout. “If 10,000 people show up, it won’t really be an effective way to engage with folks,” the spokesperson pointed out. “It won’t be a fruitful or engaging conversation, and we won’t be able to hear from the vast majority of people who come. So I think it’s a balance.”


Still, Cytrynbaum insists that the DOJ needs to listen to as many tales as community members want to share.


“I’m sorry if it’s tiring for people to listen to these stories. I’m sorry if you feel like if you’ve heard one account of a police officer holding a gun to a 3-year-old’s head, then you’ve heard them all,” she said. “We must have an accounting of what’s going on, and the only way to do that is to make sure all of these stories get told and get counted.”


As for Jones, the impending end of the Baltimore investigation triggers new worries. She sees the DOJ team as the watchdog Baltimoreans have been pleading for.


“These people that hold some type of power and can enlighten our situation need to be around constantly. Because at the end of the day, I feel like nobody oversees these police officers. They get to do whatever they want to do,” she said.

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Driving Growth Through Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Thu, 2016-08-04 07:34

This week we recognize August 4th as Startup Day Across America, a time to celebrate entrepreneurs and the jobs they create. It's also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that our entrepreneurs face and explore solutions to allow the best and brightest minds to succeed.




Our country's entrepreneurial spirit and innovative minds are the lifeblood of the American economy.

Our country's entrepreneurial spirit and innovative minds are the lifeblood of the American economy. America's startups are the driving force behind new job creation in the United States. In fact, companies less than one year old have created an average of 1.5 million jobs per year over the past three decades, fueling both local and national economic growth. From Uber to ZocDoc, startups are behind the technologies and services now a part of the daily lives of many Americans. And these companies no longer exist solely within Silicon Valley -- in fact, Texas ranks fifth highest on the Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship.



While the United States continues to provide exceptional opportunities for private organizations to innovate, more can be done to ensure all entrepreneurs, especially immigrant founders, are set up to succeed in America. Representing the public and private sectors, we see this need firsthand. Congressman Castro's San Antonio is one of the top 10 U.S. cities in overall startup activity, and Unshackled Ventures works within our current system, investing in 16 teams with founders born in six different continents.




More can be done to ensure all entrepreneurs, especially immigrant founders, are set up to succeed in America.


Without the necessary support, too many innovators will give up, and too many brilliant ideas will remain unexplored.



As a starting point, we must encourage an inclusive, collaborative entrepreneurship pipeline, so that all aspiring innovators across the country have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and compete with larger corporations. When the playing field is level, the best ideas will win.



We must also connect aspiring innovators with the tools and resources they need to build a startup. In some cases, the resources are already there, and it is simply a matter of linking entrepreneurs to the right network.



Unfortunately, some of the country's most promising entrepreneurs are still struggling to break through. This is particularly true for the U.S. immigrant population. In addition to the challenges of the entrepreneurial journey -- including securing funding and accessing a support network to help them bring their ideas to life -- immigrant entrepreneurs must contend with obstacles such as uncertainty around their ability to stay in the United States long enough to see their idea take hold.




Immigrant entrepreneurs must contend with obstacles such as uncertainty around their ability to stay in the United States long enough to see their idea take hold.


On a larger scale, we cannot exclude or handicap immigrants who are seeking funding for new ventures. To eliminate what can be the biggest barrier to entry, we need to build an immigration system that is designed for individual contributors, not just large businesses. Without a framework that allows us to train and retain the talented thinkers who want to be a part of our country's economy, we will fall behind in the global marketplace.

There is huge opportunity to unlock entrepreneurial potential if we do a better job of ensuring that all entrepreneurs are set up to succeed in America. Empowering every entrepreneur, including those who come from other nations, to participate in America's innovation economy is key to recognizing our country's full economic potential. We've seen the tremendous success that's possible; some of America's most iconic companies were created by immigrants -- Google, AT&T, and Procter & Gamble, for example -- and immigrants and their children founded 40 percent of the companies in the Fortune 500.

The promise of America is what draws the world's dreamers and doers to put their talents and ideas into action here. Allowing immigrants' entrepreneurial energy to take flight isn't just the American way, it's in our nation's best economic interests, spurring the creation of new jobs for American workers and new products for American manufacturers to assemble. Startup Day Across America is a time to celebrate immigrant contributions and recognize the importance of opening avenues of opportunity and innovation to all who call our nation home.



Congressman Joaquin Castro represents Texas' 20th District in the House of Representatives. Manan Mehta and Nitin Pachisia are founding partners of Unshackled Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund that was created in 2014 to support foreign-born entrepreneurs turning their innovative ideas into reality.

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Why Portland Is Good For The Body And Soul

Wed, 2016-08-03 16:42

Over Fourth of July weekend I was lucky enough to take a quick trip to Portland, Oregon. I never really spent time in the Pacific Northwest, aside from a wedding in Vancouver last summer, so I went in with an open mind.

Of course, I was told the typical tales of how every resident wants to secretly be a farmer. While I didn’t speak to enough people to confirm that rumor, what I do know is that the way of life there is made for healthy and happy living (my goal in life if you haven’t noticed).

Aside from the creepy man who followed me for blocks insisting I put my hand in his brown paper bag... overall Portland is what a holistic health coach’s dreams are made of.

Here’s why:


1. The food is da bomb.



Portland in a delicious nutshell. #portland #pdx #eeeeeats #yum #foodporn #travel

A photo posted by Well Traveler (@welltraveler) on Jul 3, 2016 at 10:50am PDT




Sure, you can have donuts for multiple meals (which I may or may not have done), but the fresh ingredients and flavors make eating a salad a religious experience. “In Portland, we’re surrounded by small farms that are capable of producing customized ingredients for chefs who only know how to cook seasonally,” Marcus Hibdon, Travel Portland’s senior media relations and PR manager told me. Joshua McFadden, executive chef and partner at Ava Gene’s added, “The access to real food is amazing. The raw products here are some of the best in the world.”

There are so many healthy options, like vegan ramen for example, that it’s not hard to stick to eating whole foods and lots of greens. It makes all of the indulgences (Salt & Straw ice cream anyone?) available that much less resisting, but also that much more satisfying when you can, well, indulge in them.

 2. It’s easy to be active.



Catch the brand new Columbia River Gorge Express to Multnomah Falls! The shuttle service runs 12 times daily on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the Gateway Transit Center. Happy exploring, everyone! #PDX #PDXNOW #OMHT #ColumbiaRiverGorge #TravelPortland #TravelOregon (Amazing shot, @katecordova!)

A photo posted by Travel Portland (@travelportland) on May 31, 2016 at 6:34pm PDT




It seems like everyone in the city would prefer to use two wheels instead of four making it easy to join in on the bike culture. This constantly active mindset is one that I always try to instill in my clients. Just move every day. Then there’s great outdoors to be explored nearby and it seems like that’s what everyone is doing every weekend. Mount Hood and Multnomah Falls are within and hour of downtown and the drive there is just as stunning. Who needs late night bar hopping on a Saturday when you can go natural wonder hopping?

3. Creativity is encouraged.



Books for days. #pdx #travel #wanderlust #travelwriter #travelphotography #books #bookstagram

A photo posted by Well Traveler (@welltraveler) on Jul 1, 2016 at 10:58am PDT





Unfortunately, so many of us fall into the trap of working 9 to 5’s and feeling like a cog in the machine. By the time you get home, you’re exhausted and have no energy to pursue outside interests if you have any. In Portland, the whole community encourages you to turn your side passion into a full time business if you want. There are literally entire stores dedicated to promoting local craftsman and many restaurants are owned by locals.

Having a place that inspires you to open your mind to possibilities and tap into that inner childhood dream is ok in my book. It’s one of the things I feel we as a society are missing the most. Want to create hand-stitched leather saddlebagfor bikes? Go for it!

4. People genuinely care.



Portland microfashion. #PDX #PDXNOW #TravelPortland #TravelOregon #Portlandia #Portland (Love this shot, @mckenzielawson!)

A photo posted by Travel Portland (@travelportland) on May 20, 2016 at 2:50pm PDT




Ever get asked by a stranger how your day is going? Well, in Portland they mean it. And there will follow-ups. Yes, there is the stereotype of how everyone is super nice, but it’s true. The cab driver was so excited it was our first trip to the city, the woman at hotel check in took the time to point out her favorite bars on a map and every store I walked into took time to compliment me (without pushing a sale).

As a New Yorker it took me a little while to settle into this friendliness, but after a couple of days it was nice to feel like I could let my guard down and relax. I heard so many interesting stories from different people and felt genuinely considered everywhere I went. Living in a place like this can certainly make it easier to live a happier life. It’s contagious right?

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Tears for Zack: Saying Good-Bye to your Pet

Wed, 2016-08-03 13:47
I never thought I'd cry while slicing cucumbers.
I never thought I'd cry while sweeping the crumbs off the breakfast room floor.
I never thought I'd cry while I turned off my bedroom lights.




Two weeks ago, I said good-bye to my best friend and companion, Zack. He was a lovable, thirteen year-old golden retriever who suffered from the long term effects of hip and elbow dysplasia (arthritis), degenerative myelopathy (inability to recognize the position of his back legs), inflammatory bowel disease and laryngeal paralysis. I tried everything to make his life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for so many years, but in his final few days it was not enough.

I knew within months of adopting him that he had severe hip dysplasia. I exercised him regularly, kept his body weight lean, and gave him nutraceutical products to help slow down the rate of his degenerative joint disease decline. As a pet owner and a veterinarian, I tired to help him live a long, happy and comfortable life.

Zack had a great life. My family and I loved him. Daily, my two boys played tug of war, wrestled and hugged him. He spent many summer days chasing his ball on the beach and swimming in Lake Michigan. For me, I loved watching him run on the beach wagging his tail. He was so happy!

I do not work at my office on Wednesdays and it was a day that I spent with Zack. He was my shadow and my buddy. As I did my chores, he followed me around our home. Every Wednesday, I bet he went up and down the stairs over two dozen times. Then, he would settle down beneath my desk as I worked on my home computer. Later, while I prepared my family's meal, he would anxiously await for vegetables to fall onto the floor for him to voraciously snatch. To this date, I don't know why he never learned that he competed with no one for these fallen treats. I don't remember a time in the last 13 years where I had to pick up a piece of fallen food. Fondly, Wednesdays were our time together.


As he aged, I gave him over a dozen pills each day to make him more comfortable. I disguised his medication in peanut butter, cream cheese or marshmallows to minimize the bitter taste of the medication and make his medication time more enjoyable. He had a hip replacement when he was around seven years of age. Unfortunately, it was not as successful as we had all hoped for. I took him to an acupuncturist, but he was so nervous and distressed that he failed to experience the benefit of this treatment modality. I took him to many orthopedic specialists for advice, but in the end, they all felt he was not a great surgical candidate.

Years ago, I wrote a previous Huffington Post blog about saying good-bye to a pet. While writing this piece, I remember I created a list of 5 activities for Zack that I believed were essential for a good quality life.

• Happy to be with his family.

I was his best friend. I believed his display of excitement to see me - wagging his tail, jumping up and down, wanting to be kissed or hugged by me - confirmed he enjoyed life. Despite his difficulties getting up and walking, he happily greeted me each day until the last two-weeks of his life. At first, I wasn't 100% sure why he wasn't greeting me at the door when I came home. I was secretly hoping it was because he was sound asleep and couldn't hear me come in, but in the end I knew it was because it was too difficult to rise. During his final two weeks, I would go and greet him. He would wag his tail and smile with his eyes when I approached him, but this stopped on our last day together.

• Enjoy eating.

Zack loved to eat and ate well until he died. The last 2 weeks, I did notice that his appetite started to wane a bit. He didn't rapidly eat his breakfast like he had done his entire life and more recently; he sometimes ate his breakfast at noon. In the beginning, I thought he was bored with his food or maybe I bought a bad bag of food. I tried to convince myself that Zack's appetite was not down, but that there were other reasons for his disinterest in his food. The last two days of his life, I fed him canned food only - which was his favorite.

• Enjoy walks

I told myself years ago, if he stopped wanting to go for walks, then, he definitely was not happy. For the last 6 months, Zack would get excited to see me pull his leash off our mudroom wall hook and attach it to his collar, but the distance of our walks gradually got shorter. Just 2 years ago, we would go on 30-minute walks. In the last few months, we would just go to the corner of our block, which was not very far since we lived on the corner of our street. It's sad how you start re-negotiating with yourself what is okay - that he is still happy despite not going on long walks. But, in the last few hours of his life, he did not walk.

• Eliminate outside on own.

Zack was able to take himself outside to go to the bathroom until the final day. On his last day, I knew it was time when I discovered that Zack could no longer rise from a sitting position and he fell over when he tried. On his final day, even with our physical support, he collapsed while defecating.

• Enjoy life.

Lastly, Zack must want to live. I always tell my clients that, for most pet owners, there will be a day when their pet tells them that they no longer wish to live. On Zack's final two days of life, he lost the spark in his eyes. In fact, he did not maintain any eye contact with me on his final day. He just looked away from me. Although he enjoyed licking the tasty bowl of vanilla ice cream while I gave him the final sedative, I knew he was ready to die.

It took me over a week to tell many people that I said goodbye to Zack. It was so painful and personal; I just didn't want to discuss it with others. But, that's me. Everyone deals with loss differently. Some people want hugs, some want to talk about it, and some people want to be alone. My advice to people comforting those who have just lost a loved one, just give the grieving person the space that they desire. Say you're sorry for their loss and let them take the lead if they would like to share more with you.

The other night I was watching the Democratic National Convention and heard a quote from Vice President Joe Biden that really connected to me. He said something like "One day, when you think of him, a smile will come to your face before a tear comes to your eye." That day is not today for me, but I look forward to that day in the future.

Writing for me can be cathartic. I hope my writing can also be a way to connect with others facing this final decision for their ailing pet. Remember, it's our responsibility to our beloved pet to care for them, love them and guide them through life. Try not to make excuses for their "bad day" - that tomorrow will be better even though you know it will not be. Don't let them live another day for you if you believe that their quality of life is poor and they are suffering. Please recognize that you have a loving obligation to end their suffering in a humane and compassionate way. Although this was an extremely difficult and emotionally exhausting decision that I made as a pet owner, it simultaneously was tragically simple. I knew intellectually and in my heart, that on Friday, July 15, 2016 I had to say good-bye to Zack. He was not enjoying life.

Dr. Donna Solomon is a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center of Chicago and invites you to email her questions or future topic ideas to doctors@animalmedicalcenterofchicago.com.

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Dentist Allegedly Lost Sharp Tool Down Patient's Throat During Surgery

Wed, 2016-08-03 12:15

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Does the idea of a trained dentist dropping a tool down a patient’s throat during a root canal seem hard to swallow?


Well, imagine if you were the patient.


Two years ago, Chicago-area resident Janus Pawlowicz went to his long-time dentist for routine dental surgery.


Afterwards, he says he ended up with problems that were much, much worse, according to CBS Chicago.


During the surgery, the dentist, Dr. Beata Kozar-Warchalowska, noticed she was missing a particular tool needed for the procedure, and looked all around the room for it.


“The dentist, on the day of the procedure, knew that she dropped a tool but didn’t know what happened to it. She looked around the room and couldn’t find it,” Pawlowicz’s attorney, Rob Kohen, told ABC Chicago.


Pawlowicz said when she couldn’t find it, she sent him home without saying a word.


“She told me when she found it, she will be calling me,” Pawlowicz told the station.


Four days later, Pawlowicz started suffering severe stomach pains and went to the hospital.


An X-ray showed that he had swallowed a dental file known as a barbed breach and it was now lodged in his stomach, according to WGN TV.



Surgeons removed the tool, but Pawlowicz said he still has lingering problems because of the tool.


He sued his dentist and her firm, Gentle Dental of Des Plaines, Illinois, and received a $675,000 settlement earlier this week.


Kohen said that the dentist should have used a dental dam during the surgery to prevent the accidental ingestion.


“It’s rare that I’ve heard about, personally, but really what it comes down to is that this was completely preventable,” Kohen told CBS Chicago.


WGN TV reports that Dr. Kozar-Warchalowska has not been disciplined by the state for the error.


HuffPost reached out to Gentle Dental, but calls were not returned.

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Advancing Policies Over Politics

Tue, 2016-08-02 21:29
Popular political rhetoric often suggests an "up from the bootstraps" approach to economic security. When it comes to the real issues affecting our communities, though, individual hard work is not enough to solve inequality.

Where are the policy proposals around true economic security for all groups? Where is the acknowledgement of the gaps in our safety nets? Where is the commitment to African-Americans and other communities of color, which face the most dire intersections of economic and social disinvestment we've seen in generations? Where is the recognition that investing in women improves outcomes for entire communities?

The health of our city - and our nation - depends on us answering these questions and making real investments, instead of getting lost in that political rhetoric.

These are not Democratic or Republican issues. These are human issues.

We must recognize that our institutions have systematically, and viciously diminished opportunities for African-American communities in particular. Poverty breeds the conditions for violence - and that includes state violence.

Recent, tragic killings of black men by police are perhaps the most dramatic examples, but the disproportionate incarceration rates these men face is an ongoing form of violence in itself.

And black women and children feel the effects of that violence. (See University of Texas at Austin Asst. Prof. Christien A. Smith's insightful piece published earlier this month, "Slow Death: is the trauma of police violence killing black women?")

How can children dealing with this level of trauma excel in school? How can women ensure their own economic security if their families are constantly under siege?

The United Nations reports that increasing women and girls' education contributes to higher economic growth, accounting for half of the economic growth in OECD countries over the past 50 years. More than half that growth stems directly from girls having access to higher levels of education and narrowing the education gap between men and women.

Women are more likely than men to work in vulnerable, low-paid, or undervalued jobs. But this is bad for business: Companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational effectiveness.

Many of our grantee organizations understand the need to address these critical issues.

Demoiselle 2 Femme equips black girls with the math, science and engineering skills they need to pursue careers in the growing STEM sector. In addition to community organizing and direct action work focused on improving outcomes for African-American communities, Assata's Daughters empowers black girls, providing them with leadership opportunities. EverThrive Illinois works throughout the state to increase families' access to health services and healthy lifestyle options, focusing much of its resources on assisting black families on the city's South and West sides. And UCAN's Phenomenal Woman program helps boost the self-esteem of young black women in and around North Lawndale, which has one of the highest incarceration rates in Illinois.

These organizations serve as examples to all of us in offering solutions to our city's most critical challenges.

So instead of getting lost in the rhetoric, let's stay focused on the issues that truly matter, and on the communities that most need our investment.

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The People Said No: On The Convention And Beyond

Tue, 2016-08-02 15:57


Thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters and delegates from across the nation converged last week inside and outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia for 5 days, at times marching under 90-100 degree temperatures.

Refusing to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, they aimed to show the nation and the world their dissatisfaction with the outcome of this year's Democratic primary.

Some supporters, convention demonstrators, and one national delegate for Bernie Sanders from Ohio I interviewed say they see Clinton's nomination as not merely a victory for an opposing candidate, but a larger statement of gross injustice to American voters.

Many I spoke to say the backlash against the existing two-party system of politics in the U.S. is a very strong movement with mass appeal to varied interest groups from Black Lives Matter, to the environmental movement, workers rights, single payer health care, and many others, and is a movement which will continue for quite some time.

Several denied the prevailing sentiment that they are willingly leaving the Democratic Party, even as some have joined the mass #DemExit action or by outright refusal to vote for Clinton in November.

When in fact, they say they have been essentially forced out through the actions of the Democratic party leadership, including Clinton herself. Until then, party unity, it seems, will remain just a figment of anyone's imagination.

Meg Mass, 44, is assistant director at The University of Chicago Writing Program and an environmental educator. She believes the Clinton nomination undermines the ideals of feminism because it sets the example that a woman would not be able to attain Clinton's level of political success in a legitimate manner, free of cheating, media collusion, party manipulation, and deception, as evidenced by the recent DNC email leaks.

By trotting out her victory in this year's primary while refusing to condemn the now public dealings of the Democratic party staff, and bringing the denounced former party chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz into her campaign as "honorary chair", Clinton effectively places her stamp of approval on a highly manipulative and underhanded primary election.



"I came from a strongly Democrat family, " Mass explains. She said she has always voted Democrat, with the exception of local races when there are Green Party candidates on the ballot. Mass said she votes not so much by following the endorsements of organizations, but more so on the individual candidate's positions.

Mass says it is precisely Clinton's intelligence and political connections that make her "even more dangerous" because she operates "without a moral compass", and certain political actions under a Hillary Clinton presidency could have longer range consequences far more difficult to identify and prevent.

"I really don't see how I could vote for her," Mass explains. "Clearly trying to keep Trump out of the presidency is a goal...on the other hand who am I to support so many things that are unconscionable? There's a very good chance that I'll vote for Jill Stein.

With Trump we will know the damage right away, there will be people to stop him before he gets very far. So it can be undone. With her, we may never know the damage that she does to our country, to other countries,...that is even more terrifying."

The issues facing the political climate in the U.S. are larger than Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and all-encompassing, according to Mass.

"We can't go back and we can't continue on this path, because it's just gotten us more and more off-kilter. Now we're being patted on the head...'now you need to smile and play nice.' We don't have to get along.

"[Clinton] is a neoliberal and that trumps gender. I don't think that any window dressing can change what you think if you support neoliberal policies.

This is a referendum on neoliberalism. The people said 'no.' Neoliberalism said: 'sorry you don't have a choice.'"

Puja Dutta, 28, from Columbus, Ohio works in the financial industry and has been a lifelong registered Democrat. She attended the convention as a National Delegate for Bernie Sanders from Ohio. This primary was the first time Dutta canvassed and phone banked for a political candidate.

"I canvassed in 4 different states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky" she says. "I've probably made over a 1,000 phone calls. It's been exhausting, but also very rewarding."

She describes the scene from within the convention center and the strained interactions between the Sanders delegates and the Clinton delegates:

"All of us Bernie delegates arrived. We have a close-knit organization here in Ohio, it's sort of grown from the Bernie delegates in Columbus. We went into it having our community, but wanting to expand it. We were very excited to build relationships, network, but it was like we all had a light in us that was extinguished by the Clinton campaign. Most of the people that we spoke to (the Clinton delegates and their guests}, didn't want to interact with us.

They would look at me, roll their eyes and walk away. They wouldn't even speak to us. They were curt. The level of condescension...it was very clear that this was their thing, their party, and we were the intruders. It was very exhausting and very demoralizing.

If [the Sanders delegates] hadn't had each other, we wouldn't have had anyone. The reality is this is the governing of our country. We want to see our country prosper.

For us, we're activists, most of us are activists, there doesn't seem to be a place in the Democratic Party for us. Most of us want to unite with [the Clinton supporters and delegates]. We want the Democratic Party to go back to the FDR roots.

"For [the Democratic Party] to turn on us and basically attack us like this, especially with the DNC and the WikiLeaks emails, ....it's hard to understand why the Democratic Party is treating us like we're the enemy. We did make up something like 46 percent of the vote."

Dutta thinks the misconception that there is a typical "Bernie voter" is based on controlling and suppressing the progressive movement.

"It really bothers me that the whole Bernie Bro (myth) exists, ...I'm a millennial, I'm Indian, I'm a female, and I'm educated.

They are terrified of us. We have awakened a movement. That's why you're seeing supporters get attacked this way: ignoring the fact that older men and women and people of color even exist in this movement.

There's a class division, more than anything else. For someone who's comfortable in the system, that's terrifying. For a lot of people the system is broke, it's very broke. When you're afraid to go to the doctor, because you can't afford it. That is broke."

Some voters appear to see feminism as "a construct of the gender that you are born with," Dutta believes. She says this is an oversimplification of feminism and could explain the distaste many women voters, including herself, have regarding Clinton's nomination.

"How am I supposed to be proud of this situation..as a feminist? Being a feminist is not about getting one over on anyone, on being in charge of anyone, it seems to me that a lot of the Clinton-era feminists believe that. I don't think they've evolved beyond that. Is this what we wanted? We wanted a woman with active FBI investigations? That's not what feminism is to me. Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Nina Turner, those are the kind of women who have integrity."

If we're so reliant on identity politics, that we ignore policy,..then we are never going to get where we want in this country."

Dutta went to the convention with an open mind about supporting the eventual nominee, but her experiences there changed her mind. She said she is now leaning toward the Green Party choice.

"[Clinton supporters] are hoping that if they can shame us and demoralize us enough, that we will just vote for her and fall in line. I think they are hoping that the same thing that happened in the Obama presidency will happen to the progressive movement. I'm not angry at anybody. There's a lot of anger in our movement as well. The most important thing is that we don't allow ourselves to be splintered.

They [Democratic Party] don't want us. The Democratic Party has shown us that they don't have room, we're not leaving..they're kicking us out. They don't even want to hear what we have to say. We're not a cult. Democracy is not about being a cult."



Brian Riley, 49, works in economic development in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign and canvassed and phone banked for Sanders during the Democratic Primary.

"I did not know about Bernie before the campaign. I found out about him in 2015. The more I found out, the more I was inspired. I had never done any political work before. I'm generally a Democrat voter, but I'm starting to question what that means," Riley says.

Riley admits he is not optimistic about a Stein 3rd party victory in the general election. This view colors his focus on actions beyond November. He is working on plans to organize brainstorming sessions with other similarly engaged voters in various cities. He said he has a goal to have talks occur in a dozen cities over Labor Day weekend.

His objective is to "create space for that conversation" on how voters can identify issues closest to them and be moved to take action on these issues locally. Riley is interested in growing the circle of the existing 13 million or so voters who backed Bernie Sanders.

"People need a little time to process what it means to them. Figure out what they really care about. How to be active, how to plug in...it's not even about the next election," he explains.

I think people need the space to become more aware of how to make this part of your civic life. The problems aren't going to go away because of who we elect in one election.

There's a sustained effort by the right-wing think tanks...they've gotten us to know what the right stands for. We all know: smaller government, less taxes, this rolls off the tip of our tongues. It's even more complicated on the left. We have to do the business of democracy...This is much more complicated than election tactics. We're not going to beat them....this is long game. I think of democracy as a verb.

I worked in 9 cities in my last job, I've seen Bernie signs in every city. I have seen 4 Hillary signs to date. There are a lot of people who are energized, more so than ever in my lifetime."

Riley attended the convention demonstrations for 3 days last week. He said the protest marches, were in a way, disempowering, but there will always be a role for public demonstrations.

"Everybody else knows what to expect from these types of activism. The photographer knows that they can show a certain [photo]. All of this is saying to me, yeah there's some stuff we've got to do, but yeah, we've gotta have new tactics.

We've got to continually evolve to be the most effective. We've got to keep getting more people. I think there's a role for protests, but it's a diminishing one. In the end, it's a meme.

Meg Welch, from Evanston, Illinois, works for the federal government. She says she did not have preconceived ideas about what to expect in Philly. Welch was hoping the convention would be contested. She believes Sanders' endorsement of Clinton prior to the convention took the life out of the movement, at least temporarily.

"I think there would have been many, many more people [at the convention protests] had he not endorsed her. It wasn't massive as it could have been," she says. "I had sort of hoped that [Bernie] might walk out and start his own party. I knew it was probably unlikely."

Welch says she has followed the Sanders campaign since July 2015. She phone banked and later canvassed for Bernie Sanders in Indiana before that state's primary. In previous elections, she voted for Barack Obama twice, and for Bill Clinton twice.

"I'm not doing that anymore." she says, in reference to her Clinton vote.

She credits the Sanders' campaign with galvanizing various activist groups to convene: single payer healthcare, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, Fight for $15. But, she says most were in Philadelphia to "protest the election." Welch stayed in Philadelphia for 3 days during the convention.

"Sunday I was disappointed by the turnout, ...but then Monday, it was a much bigger crowd as it wore on. [The firefighters] opened the fire hydrants for us. There were musicians playing, it made it more of a .. it did something for the morale.

We saw no tensions or interactions with police. Tuesday night, I was on a plane coming home late, that's when people stormed the wall and there were a few arrests.

I was a little apprehensive, to tell you the truth, because of all that had been happening with the police. The Philly police, for the most part, stayed calm."

She continues to have ambivalent feelings toward Bernie Sanders and wonders why he did not fight for California, when votes were still being counted. She has decided to vote for Stein in November.

"I do not believe [Sanders] lost California," Welch says.

"I know it's perfectly routine for a candidate to endorse the nominee, but this was different. It was a strong endorsement..I didn't believe he believed a word he was saying. I thought he would never even use the 'e-word'. You're just doing a 180.

When [Bernie] started out, he didn't know Donald Trump was going to be the Republican candidate. I really do think that he is apoplectic at the thought of Donald Trump being president."

Welch, like many Sanders supporters, has taken verbal abuse from some Clinton supporters with opposing viewpoints online. But, now she feels it has gotten out of control.

"I think about this, and I feel bad about this. I've unfriended 2 people [online]. What I'm finding..and I don't want to say this, but is it's one sided. I'm finding that people are being very aggressive. I have never online or in person, given them my reasons why they should be voting how I'm voting. It's not reciprocated. They feel very entitled.

They just dismiss it, that you're being irrational. But, look I have reasons. But they're not even interested in hearing reasons. When you start responding...I get this vitriol. I'm pretty restrained..but if someone makes a claim, I'll make a counter claim. I just find it not based on issues."

Welch says many supporters of Clinton and the mainstream media continue to gloss over the DNC emails.

"The kind of message that this sends is that you can do all of this and no one even bats an eyelash. It's not even incumbent on [Clinton] to at least disavow this kind of behavior. Win however you can, if you have to cheat do whatever you can."

Jessica Reed, 33, is a former tax accountant from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She traveled to the convention on her own and stayed with two Ohio delegates for Sanders from Sunday until Wednesday evening.

Reed says she was "crazy involved" in following the Sanders campaign online. She donated early on, often in response to a major event or call to action from the campaign. When it got closer to Pennsylvania's primary, she canvassed in her state and phone banked. While canvassing, she befriended two delegates.

"I always voted Democrat, Reed says. "My parents always told me, they're the party of the working people."

Most recently, however, Reed switched her party registration along with the many other Sanders' voters during the planned "#DemExit" action last week. But she does not intend to sit out the general election and "abhors" Donald Trump.

"I will absolutely be voting. I am 98 percent sure at this point that I will be voting for Jill Stein. I have put it out there (for my Hillary supporter friends) if you can convince me otherwise.."

I was excited to find out that [Stein] will be on the Pennsylvania ballot. I do think Jill Stein made a concerted effort to be a part of groups, and coordinate, she did a good job of tapping into the different groups."

Reed says she saw Stein speak at a rally toward the end of a march during the convention, and on Tuesday, she saw Stein out in the streets marching with the protesters, in "activist mode."

"I liked it because she was tapping into my feelings..I like activism. But, I worry about the broader appeal..I think the narrative could easily be written that she doesn't have much substance...I just worry about what the media narrative could be. I felt like she was showing that she is with us."



Reed reserves her greater admiration however, for the Sanders delegates at the convention who refused to give up their protests while facing condemnation and intimidation from Clinton supporters and convention staff.

"The delegates, to me, are the new American heroes. They showed immense integrity. I kept telling the delegates: I know it feels bad inside, but it feels really good to know that you guys are not folding. It was heartening to see that those people were standing their ground.

I did meet a lot of like-minded people who weren't going to take no for an answer for a long time. We know we have big numbers. I think there's a lot of hope. We're not feeling defeated. They want us to feel defeated, but we're not."

photos: Brian Riley

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Former Olympian Says He's Actually 'Glad' He Botched The National Anthem 23 Years Ago

Tue, 2016-08-02 09:50

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Some people know Carl Lewis as the track and field legend who competed in four Olympics, brought home nine gold medals and once held the title of fastest man in the world. Others know him as a guy who memorably botched the National Anthem during the NBA Finals in 1993.


It’s been more than two decades since Lewis’ admittedly cringeworthy performance, but it’s one that continues to top the lists rounding up the worst National Anthem renditions of our time. Lewis knows he didn’t do the song justice, and recently reflected on the experience during an interview for “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”


“I was actually under the weather and did not want to do it,” he says of singing that day. “But then, you can’t back out.”


Lewis’ voice cracked, his notes were off-key, and he tossed out an “uh oh” mid-song.  





 Yet, despite its faults, Lewis doesn’t regret the ordeal.


“I’m actually glad it happened,” he says. “It’s part of [my] journey.”


In some ways, Lewis says, all the attention surrounding that performance has helped him connect with younger fans who would otherwise be unfamiliar with him and his career.


“The great thing about it [is] kids who come up and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I saw your anthem, but, boy, I didn’t realize you were that fast,’” he points out. “Some other people are going to say, ‘Ha, ha, ha, isn’t that funny?’ I say, ‘Well, if that’s how you want to define me, that’s your business.’”



That's what you want to define me as? Well, then, that's more on you than me.



That doesn’t mean Lewis is unprepared to fire back at his critics every now and again.


“I’ve been on interviews and they’ll ... just laugh it up. I’ll say, ‘Isn’t it funny? My anthem 25 years ago has been seen by more people than your show, OK?’” he says.


Besides, Lewis adds, if people choose to define him by that one musical mishap, that says more about them than him.


“I’ve been a UN ambassador, I coach high school, I have an age-group club where I work with kids, I’m on the board of Best Buddies which works with kids with intellectual disabilities,” Lewis says. “[But] that’s what you want to define me as? Well, then, that’s more on you than me.”


Lewis says he's never tried to be anything other than his authentic self.


“The one thing I wanted to always be is Carl Lewis,” he says. “I’ve made it 55 years, so I’m the lucky one here. That’s it.”


Another reflection from the athlete:


The widely criticized Lewis explains how his “arrogance” was part of a calculated strategy

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Why White Actors Should Not Be Cast In Latinx Roles -- On Broadway Or Off

Sat, 2016-07-30 11:13

Once upon a time, years before “Hamilton” ever blew our minds, the gifted soul that is Lin-Manuel Miranda created and starred in a little (Tony-winning) musical called “In the Heights.”


The musical follows protagonist Usnavi, a bodega owner who dreams of winning the lottery and wooing the girl of his dreams, for three days in his New York neighborhood. 


Like “Hamilton,” the show is known for its inclusion of contemporary musical styles not usually found on the Broadway stage, including salsa and rap. It also, taking place in the predominately Dominican community of Washington Heights, featured a wonderfully diverse cast, starring, of course, LMM himself (and later, “sexy” Alexander Hamilton, Javier Muñoz). 


One of Miranda’s great gifts to the theater community has been the creation of bold and intricate roles for actors of color. It’s in part due to him that this year’s Tony Awards was by far the most diverse in its history.


However, this month, a Chicago production of “In the Heights” failed to continue Miranda’s legacy of diversity on stage. The Porchlight Music Theatre received widespread criticism after announcing that Jack DeCesare, a white actor of Italian descent, would play the lead role.


In piece titled “Porchlight’s ‘In the Heights’ names its authentic cast,” the show’s artistic director Michael Weber published a strangely self-congratulatory statement introducing the cast.



“After an exhaustive audition process, during which we saw hundreds of the Chicago-area’s diverse music theater talent—both established and new—and even reached out to our city’s vast hip-hop dance community, we are excited to introduce the cast…We have made every effort to present a company that reflects the true spirit of this story of community…”



It didn’t take people long to say, quite appropriately, “Wait, huh?” 


Could the casting team really have made, as they put it, every effort to find a cast that represents the stories unfurling on the stage, when people of Latinx descent make up over 20 percent of the Chicago population?


Even if so, if the efforts didn’t pan out as planned, maybe it would have been better to think of a Plan B? As scholar Trevor Boffone put it: “If you can’t field a majority Latin@ cast and hire a predominately Latin@ creative team, then perhaps do a different show.



These roles were written by Latin@s for Latin@ actors. The Latin@ community wants their stories told, but in an ethical way that speaks with the community in question. To gentrify In the Heights is to completely miss the point of the musical.



The casting decision raises important questions about diversity and representation on the stage. When there already exist so few roles for Latinx performers, what does it say when the few roles that do exist go to white actors? In a musical that deals explicitly with the issue of gentrification as a theme, the casting seems especially mishandled.








In an interview with American Theatre, playwright and composer Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for “In the Heights,” expressed her disappointment, describing how one of the main motivations behind the musical was to create complex, dynamic roles for Latinx actors when hardly any exist. “For decades, the vast majority of Latino roles were maids, gangbangers, etc,” she said. “It’s demoralizing, obnoxious, and reductive of an entire people. It’s a lie about who we are, how complicated our dreams and individuality are.”


Following the controversy, Porchlight released a statement expressing their commitment to genuine casting and diverse, thoughtful representation. They cast DeCesare, Weber explained, without explicitly knowing his ethnic background. Only after his exceptional audition and landing of the role did the production team realize his heritage was Italian. 


The crew has no plans to replace DeCesare, though they expressed understanding at the dissatisfaction expressed vocally by the Chicago community. “We absolutely stand by the cast and creative team that has been hired for this production,” Weber wrote, “but we recognize that more must be done to assure a truthful dramatic representation of this work, as well as how we at Porchlight approach diverse and representative casting in the future.”


Demonstrating his commitment to the ideals the musical is based on, Weber expressed his plans to reach out to cultural groups like the Chicago Inclusion Project, the Latina and Latino studies department of Northwestern University, and the Latin American and Latino studies department at DePaul University for suggestions to add Lantinx voices to the creative team.


He also invited the many individuals who reached out online and through social media expressing their disappointment with the casting decision to participate in post-performance discussions on the topic, pushing the dialogue forward. 


Such voices would likely include Tommy Rivera-Vega, who posted a stunning note detailing his disappointment with the casting choice on Facebook. 



Being Latinx is not just putting an accent, getting a cool haircut, the prominent beard, lot of hair, shuffling your feet so it looks like you can salsa. It is about who we are as people. It is about growing up and trying to understand the reason why we have to work harder than everyone else. Asking our parent(s) why all the Latinxs that we see on tv are drug dealers, or criminals, or picking fights, never successful. We rap because it is the only way we will be heard. It is about understanding that no matter how well you are doing in life, you still go back to your community to spread that love and success.



Looking forward, theaters need to understand that creating a diverse cast and crew may not be easy, but it is necessary. Not trying hard enough is no longer an excuse. 


Hudes elaborated on simple ways to prioritize diversity in casting. It might take more time, more money, and way more work, but that’s the task at hand. “You cannot just put out a casting call and hope people come and then shrug if they don’t show up,” she said.


“You may need to add extra casting calls (I do this all the time), go do outreach in communities you haven’t worked with before. You may need to reach out to the Latino theatres and artists and build partnerships to share resources and information. You may need to fly in actors from out of town if you’ve exhausted local avenues, and house them during the run.”


In other words, you must, to quote LMM’s other musical, “work!” Casting directors of the world, let’s not make this mistake again. 

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This Lawsuit Has Put Big Ag On The Defensive In A Major Way

Sat, 2016-07-30 07:12

Earlier this month, the Iowa Soybean Association had a big announcement to make.


The group, which represents some 11,000 growers of the state’s second-most-lucrative crop, pledged $150,000 in support for three highly agricultural counties — Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac — named in a controversial lawsuit brought by the Des Moines Water Works.  


The lawsuit, which was filed in 2015, claims that nitrogen-rich water flowing off the area’s farms pollutes the Raccoon River, which, along with the Des Moines River, provides drinking water for half a million people. The water authority wants the counties to pick up the dramatically higher treatment costs for the water. The counties, who want the case dismissed, counter that there’s no proof that agriculture is directly responsible for the nitrates.


The case has thus far been upheld, though it won’t be brought to trial until next June. Meanwhile, both sides are digging in for a pivotal Iowa Supreme Court hearing on the matter set for September. 


If the water utility wins the suit, it would mark the first time in the U.S. that agribusiness is forced to pay for water pollution, potentially setting a precedent with nationwide ramifications.


The ISA, which previously contributed $65,000 for the counties’ legal expenses, considers the case a “must win.” Meanwhile, it says, the lawsuit is an “unfortunate distraction” from the voluntary approaches to solving the state’s nutrient runoff issues that it has been touting. 


ISA CEO Kirk Leeds said the suit is affecting the progress the state has made over the past 15 years in encouraging farmers to implement practices to mitigate runoff, like putting cover crops and conservation tillage in their fields.


“The lawsuit does not identify one tangible tactic or strategy that would actually improve water quality,” Leeds told The Huffington Post in a statement. “Without the lawsuit, labor and financial resources could be focused on deploying more practices across the state to improve soil and water resources.”


The ISA pointed to the over 970,000 acres Iowa farmers have enrolled in the federal conservation reserve program — more than any other state — as further signs the state’s industry is on the right track toward addressing the problem. (The program removes environmentally sensitive lands from agricultural production, which helps improve water quality and wildlife habitat.)



But the ISA’s efforts are “nothing more than greenwash” to Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe. 


“They’re sprinkling money and acting like they have some kind of environmental awareness when, in fact, they’re undermining public health and environmental protections,” Stowe told HuffPost. 


The ISA isn’t the only group supporting the defending counties in the lawsuit, but it’s hard to know who’s been paying the rest of the bill. As the Des Moines Register has reported, the donors picking up 90 percent of the counties’ $1.1 million legal tab are anonymous and likely to remain that way, thanks to a state law regulating private foundation contributions to government groups.


Stowe’s utility has been spending a lot of money, too — seven figures’ worth of extra treatment costs to ensure the drinking water he delivers to their customers is safe, he said.


The DMWW is home to what he calls the “world’s largest” nitrate removal facility. The plant is in need of repairs and expansion, he said, thanks to the historically high amount of nitrates they’ve had to remove from the drinking water they provide to their customers.


Excessive nitrate exposure is most dangerous for infants and pregnant women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infants who are exposed can develop what’s called blue baby syndrome, which can be fatal if left untreated. For these reasons, the EPA sets a maximum contaminant level for nitrates of 10 milligrams per liter. Anything higher needs to be removed by water providers. 


In 2013, when nitrate levels in the source water reached a record high, the utility’s tab for additional treatment costs and lost revenue totaled $900,000, DMWW said. Last year, it spent $1.5 million on denitrification efforts.



Stowe argues that tile drainage systems used by the upstream farms to reduce crop flooding should be identified as “point sources” of pollution under the federal Clean Water Act, from which they traditionally have been exempt.


The Iowa lawsuit could drastically change how the Clean Water Act can be used to remedy nutrient pollution, which is having a severe impact on communities throughout the U.S. 


For this reason, the suit carries national significance. John Rumpler, senior attorney at Environment America, a Boston-based nonprofit, called it a “huge, precedent-setting” matter.


Rumpler authored a report last month linking nutrient runoff from agribusiness to the growth of algal blooms and dead zones that have devastated ecosystems and damaged local economies in places like Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The EPA has also linked nutrient runoff to acid rain and air pollution.


He sees what is happening in Iowa as one example of runoff issues bubbling up nationwide, like South Florida’s “guacamole-thick” algal blooms that prompted Gov. Rick Scott (R) to declare a state of emergency earlier this summer. Environmentalists have largely blamed agriculture, and particularly the powerful sugar industry, for the pollution.


“The overriding story here is that the corporations that are producing our food in an industrializing fashion are now threatening our water,” Rumpler said. “America should not have to choose between healthy food and safe water.”



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Some Iowa farmers have already changed their ways ― before the lawsuit was even filed.


One of them is 62-year-old Tim Smith. Smith has been farming his whole life and currently grows 800 acres of corn and soybeans in Eagle Grove, Iowa, not far from the three counties named in the suit. 


Five years ago, Smith signed up through a USDA program to start planting cover crops on some of his fields, as well as installing a woodchip bioreactor with the aim of reducing the nitrogen runoff from his farm.


It wasn’t long before he observed, through sampling, that the amount of nitrates flowing off his farm had been cut in half. Seeing the results made him acknowledge he’d had a runoff problem we wasn’t aware of.


“I thought I was doing everything right on my farm prior to this,” Smith told HuffPost.


Still, Iowa’s estimated 470,000 acres of cover crops planted as of 2015 pale in comparison to the 26 million acres of statewide cropland. Though the Iowa Farm Bureau notes, accurately, that this is a 35 percent increase over the previous year, that number still represents less than 2 percent of the state’s overall cropland. 


This is evidence, Smith believes, that many farmers in the state don’t realize they are contributing to the problem. He anticipates that, with time, more of his colleagues will come around to the idea of conservation and see that the practices accomplish what they are designed to do.


But the lawsuit, he says, could hinder that progress.


“It’s kind of a slap in the face to agriculture. It does throw a little insult,” Smith said. “If they lose or the case is thrown out, farmers are going to say, well, you’ve already sued me, so what’s the big deal? I’m going to keep doing things the way I used to do them. There’s a danger in that.”


For his part, Stowe is confident the utility will win, but he’s not limiting that to mean a win in the courtroom. He believes the suit, regardless of its outcome, challenges the state’s political status quo, which he says has favored agricultural interests for too long.


“If we were to lose and continue to pass on this cost to our consumers, there will be a political impact,” Stowe said. “Our customer base will more clearly understand why they are paying more, so we think we win anyway. We will be the long-term winners no matter what happens in our legal case.”

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Muslim Religious Leaders Must Step Up In The Fight Against Radical Islam

Fri, 2016-07-29 13:06
After the despicable attack in Nice, it can no longer be business as usual. As the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said recently, the Nice attack shows that we are facing a new type of terrorism in the homeland. In this new form of terrorism, the timeline for radicalization, planning and execution of an attack is now very short. What this means is that the US and the rest of the free world must rethink their different approaches to combating this virus.

It's time American Muslim religious leaders are enlisted to take on a more proactive role in the fight against home-grown radical Islamic terrorism. This fight must begin with combating the toxin of radical Islamic doctrine being spread among young Muslims in the West through groups like ISIS.

Muslim leaders know their communities and know how best to combat the poison of radical Islamic terrorism which many young American Muslims drink from the slick recruitment videos of ISIS. These disaffected young Muslims often inhabit marginalized cultural and economic ghettoes. Many of these young American Muslims may have the same negative sentiments toward society as some of the French and Belgian radical Jihadists.

They do not have any connection to the cultural diversity of mainstream America. They have no loyalty to the US, and loath the values and ideals of the American nation and nurse deep hatred for the citizens and institutions of the US. This is why they are all too willing and passionate to fight for ISIS in the Middle East and embrace its call to kill Westerners and the so called infidels through any means here in the homeland.

Muslim religious leaders in Bangladesh offer a good example. Following the recent terrorist attacks in Bangladesh, they came out with a deradicalization message targeted at young Muslim youth in the country through the state-run Islamic Foundation. The weekend following the attacks, a deradicalization homily was delivered in all 300,000 mosques in the country.

These homilies were delivered as the official khutba during Friday prayers throughout the country. They had a clear message that the unjust killing of any human being--Muslim or non-Muslim is against the teaching of Islam. Such messages delivered in mosques have far reaching impact on young vulnerable minds than cryptic messages of condemnation and press release after terrorist attacks.

A similar approach was undertaken proactively in Canada through the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada in response to ISIS' recruitment message. Last year, its founder Imam Syed Soharwardy and 37 other Muslim leaders from across the country issued an Islamic edict called a fatwa against ISIS. The Imams declared through this edict that those who support ISIS and any form of radical Islam are violating Muslim law and were effectively excommunicated from the Canadian Muslim community. They also committed themselves to working with Muslim youth in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary in order to prevent them from falling into the trap of ISIS's extremist messages through the speeches, songs and literature available on the Internet or on social media.

Muslim religious leaders like Imam Mohammed Hagmagid of Northern Virginia through the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), has been very active in deradicalizing young Muslim Americans. However, there is need for a more coordinated and comprehensive community-based deradicalization program in the Muslim Ummah here in the US.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) should become more proactive in developing grassroots deradicalization programs among diverse Muslim communities in the US through its extensive network. Such programs should be in the public domain and be properly aligned with the priority and strategies of the Department for Home Land Security and other agencies tasked with the responsibility of keeping us safe.

What is obvious today is that the present global and national anti-terrorist measures are proving so ineffective against ISIS whose cup of horror has reached saturation point. Like a malignant cancer, ISIS and its affiliates continue to display a frightening range and randomness in their hateful and destructive operations. All the attacks by ISIS in the past one year in Paris, Brussels, Dhaka, Baghdad, Egypt etc have been different in scope, type, and settings, all aimed at eluding security and inflicting maximum carnage and destruction on soft targets. What happened in Nice could have happened anywhere in the free world. No one is safe anywhere these days and no place is sacred for the evil machinations of these extremists!


Many people have proposed that it is exigent for US national security to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, while degrading its communication and propaganda machinery on social network. In addition, key targets to be pursued according to many analysts are immigration and border control, and the declaration of a no-fly zone over Syria. As wonderful as these proposals may be, they do not offer a strategy for deradicalizing and identifying the lone wolves in our neighborhoods here in the homeland.

My contention is that the new war on homegrown terrorism goes beyond defeating this self-proclaimed caliphate. It is a battle for the mind of young Muslims in the West and for the soul of Islam. It will be a marathon rather than a sprint and will require patience, and a multi-pronged approach. We need to enlist the co-operation of US Muslim religious and community leaders in this new war on terror. This is an aspect of this fight which is often neglected by our feuding politicians.

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Music Is The Motivation We Need In Times Of Despair

Thu, 2016-07-28 14:08

Late last week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a dark and fearful speech that was less “morning in America” and closer to “a minute to midnight on the Doomsday clock.”


As ominous as Trump’s speech was, it tapped into a certain mood that has prevailed throughout 2016 — a year studded (at a seemingly biweekly rate) with deadly terror attacks, mass shootings, killings of unarmed civilians by police and ambush attacks on officers themselves.  


Those events did not let up even into the warmer months, standing last week in especially stark contrast to the modern tradition of the summer music festival. At the mid-July Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park, considered to be among the more easygoing of summer gatherings, rapid-fire text messages with friends about which band to see next commingled with push alerts about the deadly coup in Turkey.


It’s enough to make anyone — and particularly tragic-news-weary journalists who can’t responsibly tune it out — grow cynical about something as seemingly frothy as a music fest. Is it appropriate to indulge in a weekend of frolicking from stage to stage while elsewhere people are losing their lives? Is it even worth it to go?


The answer is all but certainly “yes.” 


Sure, there’s a lot of science behind the fact that listening to music carries with it all sorts of health benefits — improving mood, reducing anxiety and depression and even lessening pain. But, generalities aside, there were many moments from the Pitchfork, now in its 11th year, that served as evidence for the very specific ways that live music settings can help us cope with the seemingly endless onslaught of bad news. 


As hard as it is to reconcile heavy events with light ones, the latter can serve as unifying response to the former.  



Each performance provided a different antidote.


Canadian pop princess Carly Rae Jepsen’s Friday night set became a much-needed burst of joy. You’re probably grimacing at the thought of Jepsen’s once-ubiquitous “Call Me Maybe” hit, but, in light of recent headlines, dancing and singing along to slice after slice of pop perfection felt downright therapeutic.


Saturday brought catharsis in a different form thanks to London post-punks Savages, who tore through an exhilarating set amid blazing afternoon sun. Songs like the set-ending “Fuckers” ― which centers on lead singer Jehnny Beth’s repeated refrain “Don’t let the fuckers get you down” ― were the perfect vehicle for channeling some anger and a nod to keep your head up. 


Other moments in the weekend spoke more to feelings of vulnerability. These came via British artist Blood Orange’s, aka Dev Hynes, emotionally raw Saturday evening set, which largely showcased songs off Hynes’ latest release, “Freetown Sound.”


Hynes has described the album as being written “for everyone told they’re not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way, the underappreciated,” and that sentiment could not be more timely. Songs like his duet “Better Than Me,” sung with Jepsen, effortlessly spun feelings of fear and uncertainty into something both comforting and affirming.


Eventually, in any grieving process, there comes the period of acceptance. At Pitchfork on Sunday, Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper made a surprise appearance during his friend and collaborator Jeremih’s mid-afternoon set.


As soon as the crowd knew what was happening, hundreds of people ran toward the stage so they could get a closer look at their city’s rising star. As Chance sang highlights from “No Problem” and “Angels,” the pure euphoria was, again, palpable. 


The rapper’s appearance was particularly significant given his status as a hometown-kid-made-good who uses his fame to draw attention ― and action ― to some of the city’s most dire problems, like gun violence, and support of the young black community. 


But perhaps no moment over the weekend captured the conflict of getting into a party mood among the gloom and doom than R&B star Miguel’s Sunday performance. After a thrilling start, the energetic singer, clad all in white, halted his dance-laden, energetic set to silence. He then addressed the recent killings directly, saying he was “tired of human lives turned into hashtags” and calling for action, not just prayers, before he launched into the powerful protest song “How Many.”


Before returning to form, he urged festivalgoers to raise their fists in the air in solidarity as a promise to do better. Together, the crowd raised their fists in a silent pledge to do just that.


It was another reminder that attending an event like a festival serves an important function of getting oneself out into the world. Whether you’re reading about the latest tragedy or writing about it, gathering in a public place that’s underpinned by a certain sense of community is a crucial counterbalance. 


For one of us, the Pitchfork experience came just days after returning from an anguished week in St. Paul, where the community was grieving the death of Philando Castile, a man killed by police in a traffic stop.


The week before, protesters shut down I-94 for hours amid angry and anguished protests. To cut the tension and lift the mood, a pickup truck carrying loudspeakers amplified music from Marvin Gaye, Kendrick Lamar and Prince. 


A dancer from an indigenous Mexican tribe joined the crowd on the freeway to drum and offer a “fire dance.” 


Asked why the group opted to dance and sing for a crowd calling for an end to police brutality, the dancer said, “We need to keep feeding the passion, the motion. Especially when we’re feeling hopeless and [feeling] despair.”

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