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Ferguson in Context

Thu, 2014-11-20 12:11
The Grand Jury will soon announce whether Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted in the killing of Michael Brown. The announcement is widely expected to be that Wilson will not be indicted, leading to further protests on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri and around the country. Central to this story are black millennial protesters who have been seeking justice for over 100 days. These young people -- organized in groups such as Lost Voices, Millennial Activists United, Hands Up United, the Don't Shoot Coalition, and others -- have been protesting every day against systemic racism in law enforcement that is exemplified in the killing of Mike Brown. These young activists have employed nonviolent strategies of civil disobedience in the face of a militarized police force and the National Guard. In the coming days, the threats to their safety will likely increase, as local citizens are reportedly stockpiling weapons and the Ku Klux Klan has issued threats. To begin to make sense of this situation, it must be set in historical context.

On August 9, a Ferguson police officer named Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, who had been stopped for jaywalking. The entire encounter lasted 90 seconds and there are conflicting accounts of exactly what happened. Several eyewitnesses assert that Brown had his hands up when he was fatally wounded. After Michael Brown was shot, his body was left uncovered on the street for four hours and thirty-two minutes, as neighbors watched in disbelief and outrage. Following this incident, some community members, grieving and demanding justice, took to the street where Brown was killed. The police responded with unwarranted force. In the weeks following Brown's death, West Florissant Avenue was patrolled by hundreds of officers in riot gear, armed with military-grade weaponry, along with SWAT teams and members of the National Guard. Reporters were arrested and a no-fly zone was established to keep media away from the scene. Protestors were tear-gassed nightly, shot with rubber bullets, and threatened. They were arrested for such crimes as stepping off the sidewalk and pausing for more than five seconds as they walked down the street. Many media commentators portrayed them as dangerous thugs and criminals, painting the extreme show of police force as a necessary response to threat.

The persistence of these protesters has drawn national and international attention to the events in Ferguson. The infamous five-second-rule, which was used to arrest peaceful protesters, has been ruled unconstitutional. The ACLU questioned the degree to which the First Amendment was "suspended in Ferguson" and Amnesty International released a report stating that the police actions in Ferguson included human rights abuses. Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., spoke to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in November, seeking justice from an international community.

External criticism does not appear to have altered the basic strategy of law enforcement in Ferguson. On November 11, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon gave a press conference in anticipation of the Grand Jury announcement. While there was some mention of First Amendment rights, the larger message was that "violence will not be tolerated." In what sounded like a thinly veiled threat, Gov. Nixon stated that 1,000 officers were ready to respond to any unrest. In another conference, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar defended the response of law enforcement during the protests and remarked, with no obvious sense of irony, that "We were fortunate not to have a loss of life." Law enforcement in Ferguson has been stockpiling the same type of riot gear that they used against protesters in August, including pepper spray and rubber bullets. On November 17, Gov. Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and activated the National Guard.

During the initial protests in August, law enforcement first employed undue force against a grieving community. This elevated the situation and helped it become one in which there were limited instances of property damage and threatening behavior. The police then stepped in with a ridiculously disproportionate response, exaggerating accounts of danger to falsely justify their own violence. It appears the same cycle is in play now. Before any hint of danger from the protesters, law enforcement is bringing in an extreme show of force. While the rhetoric is about violence and unrest from the protesters, in reality the violence has been initiated and escalated by law enforcement.

In recent weeks, protesters have prepared for the Grand Jury announcement by stockpiling warm clothes and makeshift gasmasks. Hundreds of people have been trained in nonviolent civil disobedience. Local religious communities have offered steady support and sanctuary. The different approaches to preparation between law enforcement and protesters speaks volumes.

For the protesters and the religious communities that support them, the incidents in Ferguson must be understood within an even larger historical context, that of slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching. The racism inscribed in slavery continues to function in different ways within American culture. The humiliating rules of the Jim Crow South, used to regulate black bodies and reinforce white supremacy, find current echoes in racial profiling, which is often referred to euphemistically as "stop-and-frisk" or "broken windows" policing. It can also be seen in recent voter suppression tactics. Perhaps even more shocking, however, are the echoes of lynching in this case. From 1882-1968, thousands of black men, women, and children were lynched. Their killers were rarely brought to trial. Lynching was used as a form of intimidation to terrorize black people into compliance with white rule. Key to this was the public display of lynched bodies. When a black person was lynched, his or her body was publicly displayed for the community to inspire fear and squelch dissent. The clear message was that this could happen to any black person who stepped out of line, at any time, with no repercussions for the perpetrators. This history is the context of Michael Brown's death.

The Grand Jury has been presented an unusual amount of evidence and testimony regarding what happened in the 90 seconds of interaction between Darren Wilson and Michael Brown. The community in Ferguson already knows that Michael Brown's bloody corpse lay uncovered in the street for four hours and thirty-two minutes. Whether or not Darren Wilson is indicted for his behavior in those 90 seconds, American society as a whole bears indictment for those four hours and thirty-two minutes. That level of disregard for black life cannot be attributed to the actions of one police officer. It is a societal, structural disregard that reveals a culture of racism with deep historical roots and tremendous power in the present.

The protesters in Ferguson are calling all of us to reject the racism that made this possible. We must affirm that black lives matter. Many religious communities -- including Christians, Jews, and Muslims -- have been answering this call and joining the black millennials in protest. When the Grand Jury announcement is made, there will be nonviolent gatherings around the country, to protest the 90 seconds that ended Michael Brown's life, the four hours and thirty-two minutes that his body lay on the street, and the centuries of racism that continue to shape American society.

Tammy Duckworth Gives Birth To Daughter Abigail

Thu, 2014-11-20 10:49
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is now a mother.

The congresswoman, who was recently elected to a second term in the House, gave birth Tuesday to a daughter, Abigail O'kalani Bowlsbey.

Duckworth's office offered a statement:

My husband Bryan and I are thrilled to announce that we are the proud parents of a baby girl. Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey was born on November 18. Bryan and I were deeply honored that Senator Akaka acted as Hawaiian elder and selected her middle name. We are grateful for the love and support of our family and friends. We also appreciate the respect for our privacy during this important moment in our lives.

Duckworth, who lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm while serving in the Iraq War, announced her pregnancy in a September appearance on NBC's "Today" show.

Earlier this month, Duckworth was denied her request to vote by proxy during the Democratic caucus' leadership election. (Duckworth was under doctor's orders not to travel during the late stage of her pregnancy.) A number of colleagues came to her defense, but party leaders like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted that allowing her to vote by proxy was against the rules, and could create a slippery slope situation for future exceptions.

Stop Rushing To Put On Your Condoms

Thu, 2014-11-20 10:31

By Andrew M. Seaman

(Reuters Health) - Rushing to put on a condom may lead to problems that raise the risk of sexually transmitted infections, according to a new study.

Survey responders, almost 60 percent of them women, were more likely to report condom breaks, leaks and slips when it was put on in a hurry, researchers found. Couples who rushed were also more likely to report not using a condom for the entire sex act.

"The message is take your time," said Dr. Lydia Shrier. "If you're going to be using the condom, use it correctly so you avoid the type of problems we reported on."

Previous research into condom problems were limited by having asked mostly men about their last sexual experiences, said Shrier, of Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the study's senior author.

The new study used data collected from 2007 through 2011 from 512 men and women who sought treatment at five U.S. health clinics with reputations for diagnosing and treating sexually transmitted infections.

The participants, whose ages ranged from 15 through 65, recorded their sexual encounters in an online diary for up to 180 days. In total, the data covered 8,856 instances of vaginal sex between men and women that included condoms.

In about 7 percent of those sexual encounters, the participants reported being rushed while putting on the condoms.

Overall, the condom broke, slipped off and leaked about 5 percent of the time when people rushed to put it on, compared to about 2 to 3 percent of times when they didn't rush.

Additionally, 22 percent of people who were rushed while putting on a condom reported not using the condom throughout sex, compared to about 14 percent of people who were not rushed.

"I think that this study demonstrates that being rushed when putting a condom on can produce a whole range of problems with a condom," Shrier said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that consistent and correct use of condoms reduces the risk of infections such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea that are transmitted by sexual fluids. It also reduces the risk of ulcer conditions, such as herpes.

Consistent and correct use is also effective at reducing the risk of acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the CDC. It may also reduce the risk of human papillomavirus (HPV), which may cause genital warts and cervical cancer.

"It works really well to prevent sexually transmitted infections when it's used correctly and consistently," Shrier said.

She said people should be taught to take time and focus while putting on condoms to prevent the types of errors they found in this study.

"Until we overcome all of those hurdles, condoms can't really work to prevent disease," Shrier said.

SOURCE: Sexually Transmitted Infections, online November 12, 2014.

The Sun Does Come out in This Delightful <i>Annie</i> Tour

Thu, 2014-11-20 10:14
Kids and animals onstage in a daffy and heartwarming musical comedy? Depending on whom you talk to, this could either be a horror show or a holiday delight.

Typically, I lean toward the latter -- one can only take so much sweetness in one sitting. However, Annie, especially this unashamedly endearing new tour directed by one of the musical's originators Martin Charnin, relentlessly reminds you that you're never fully dressed without a smile.

And smile you do - my face literally hurt by the jubilant curtain call.

And, quite ironically (at least, in my case), it's all about the kids and the dog that carries this first-rate production. Charnin goes back to the basics -- having directed more than a dozen productions of this beloved musical over the past 35 years, he knows exactly what strings to pull to make the show zip right into the heart. This isn't some revisionist, modern Annie (that version is hitting movie theaters in December). This is a full-scale production of the Annie we all grew up with.

Despite some treacly bits of business she's clearly been directed to do (including a few annoying line readings), the clear-voiced Issie Swickle finds Annie's strength and heart. Clearly the audience, including the rows of young theatergoers, bought into the orphan's rise to success story. The rest of the orphans also delight, including a scene-stealing Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly (she'll make an exceptional Annie one day).

As the quintessential villain-we-love-to-hate Miss Hannigan, Lynn Andrews manages to find a fresh and perfectly pitched take on the iconic role. Where most Hannigans could easily default to downtrodden and defeated, Andrews' Hannigan is more an over-caffeinated, tightly wound creature with swift comedic timing. Her clear and bellowing belt adds the necessary force.

As the final key player in this simple and unexpected love story, Gilgamesh Taggett makes for a properly curmudgeonly Daddy Warbucks whose gruff exterior melts away when Annie disrupts his billion-dollar world.

Featuring a sizable orchestra in the put (including a tuba!), Charles Strouse and Charnin's score twinkles with vintage charm. Beowulf Boritt's set adheres to tradition, but also features some eye-popping backdrops.

And - the dog is SUPER CUTE.

"Annie" plays through November 30 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. More info here >

Getting Beyond Ferguson

Thu, 2014-11-20 09:31
Recently, the United States Department of Justice announced a groundbreaking undertaking to take on, squarely and directly, one of the most damaging social problems facing the nation. The National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice is designed to make real and rapid progress on the strained and often broken relationship between many communities -- especially, alienated communities of color -- and law enforcement. It is time, and past time. The National Initiative was not prompted by Ferguson and the seething anger and unrest that has followed on Michael Brown's killing -- as I write this, the governor of Missouri is standing up the National Guard in advance of whatever decision the grand jury may make -- but Ferguson has, in one of those rare national moments, given name and shape to a long-standing, deeply serious, and so far deeply resistant tear in the national fabric.

In the world of crime and violence, and in the American neighborhoods -- especially the poor black neighborhoods -- where crime and violence remain issues of serious, daily concern, there is seeming reason to celebrate. Crime is down: New York City is edging down toward western European levels of violence and is on track for fewer than 300 homicides this year, something nobody could have imagined in 1990, when the count neared 2300. Cities like New Orleans, Oakland, and Chicago -- long poster children for out-of-control violence -- are all moving in the right direction. The virulent urban drug markets that defined the crack epidemic are gone or in decline; new drug problems, like meth and resurgent heroin, are thankfully not bringing with them the same levels of violence and chaos. A new politics of crime may even be emerging, with voices on both right and left finding common ground on the propositions that the nation is locking too many people up -- America has five percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of its prisoners -- at far too much human and financial cost, and for far too little public safety return.

But the neighborhoods -- especially those same poor black neighborhoods -- are not celebrating. For much of the last decade, black male homicide victimization was going up, not down. As the nation's homicide rate comes down toward 4:100,000 each year, young black men in hard-hit neighborhoods are dying at over 500:100,000 annually. Those same neighborhoods have borne the brunt of the incarceration glut: nationally, a young black man who does not finish high school has a nearly 70 percent chance of going to prison. Many of them have also borne the brunt of increasingly intrusive policing, characterized by ever-higher levels of stop and frisk and other aggressive tactics. Whatever the intent of this policing, many in the neighborhoods experience it as hostile and deeply offensive. "I think the police don't like black people," one young black man told Rutgers ethnographer Rod Brunson. "You know like all the crooked cops always be in the ghettos, where all the black people at and they try to get as many black people off the street as they can." In many of these neighborhoods, there is a simmering anger that leads to "stop snitching," and a conviction -- deeply rooted America's vile history of slavery, the black codes, "separate but equal," and all the rest, and captured in Michelle Alexander's breakthrough bestseller The New Jim Crow -- that the current American criminal justice system represents a malicious, deliberate attack on African-Americans by a conspiratorial government. And there are, most awfully and most starkly, the unarmed young men shot by the police. It is difficult for those not immersed in these issues to realize the depth of the anger and alienation felt by many in these communities; one said to me not long ago, "Why should we work with the police when they kill us any time they want, and nothing ever happens?" As I make my way across these neighborhoods nationally, and work with their citizens and those who police them, there is one thing I hear in every single place: we could be Ferguson, today, this afternoon, tomorrow.

The usual explanation for all this is simple: racism. Most of our attempts to deal with it have presumed that to eradicate it we must eradicate racism. That hasn't gotten us very far. In fact, as new ways of thinking and acting have emerged, it begins to seem possible that branding the problem as racism is in some large part why we haven't gotten very far. While nobody with any sense would deny the reality of racism, it is increasingly clear that people and institutions can act in ways that look, smell, and taste like racism; play into narratives and understandings framed by racism; and produce results that might just as well have been produced by racism: all without actually being racist. And since that's true, there may be easier and more direct ways to get at that behavior and those outcomes. The DOJ National Initiative is designed to build on and expand three of the most well-grounded and promising of these new understandings.

Procedural justice is the idea that what matters most to people in their encounters with the criminal justice system and its agents is not simply whether they act legally but, in a nutshell, whether they act respectfully, and how those encounters feel on the receiving end. The officer who stops you and pats you down may have the legal grounding to do so: but if he swears at you while doing it, doesn't bother to explain that he's looking for the guns that are wreaking such havoc in the neighborhood, and plays into your conviction that "the police don't like black people," then you're going to leave more alienated than you arrived. High levels of procedural justice are linked with what scholars call "legitimacy" -- the perception in the eyes of the public that the authorities are acting fairly and with good intentions. As legitimacy goes up, compliance with the law goes up; as it goes down, compliance goes down, and crime goes up. In the most stressed neighborhoods, low levels of legitimacy are clearly linked to high levels of violence. We're used to saying that such neighborhoods are dangerous and that they don't trust the police, but it's increasingly clear that we should be saying that they're dangerous in part because they don't trust the police: people take care of problems themselves when they should be calling 911. And procedural justice can be taught: in police academies, in in-service workshops, to judges and prosecutors. Immediate behavioral changes, with real impact, can result. One Chicago Police Department course, developed with the support of Yale professors and National Initiative partners Tom Tyler and Tracey Meares, asks seasoned officers what already angry residents see when they look across the yellow tape at homicide scenes. "They see us laughing," the suddenly chastened officers say. That's what first responders -- police officers, firefighters, EMTs, ER docs -- do on the front lines; it's a way of dealing with the horror and trauma the job brings. But in the crucible that is police work in alienated neighborhoods, the message is clear: stop laughing.

Implicit bias is the psychological phenomenon that results from the mental shortcuts and associations life tattoos into all of our psyches. Spend a good part of your day dealing with angry young black men, go home and watch TV shows that feature angry young black men, and spend your working life with fellow officers who think all the young black men in the neighborhood are angry: and on the day that you face a young black man on the street and it's the terrible, irretrievable shoot/don't shoot moment, odds are you'll react differently than if you hadn't done those things. But implicit biases can be revealed through testing and simulations; once identified can be countered through education, training, and other simulations; and the unbalanced behavior they foster can be brought back into balance. UCLA professor and National Initiative principal Phillip Atiba Goff, through his Center for Policing Equity, has made a mission of bringing the idea and treatment of implicit bias into the mainstream of policing. He has lined up scores of police departments nationally that have embraced the idea that they are inevitably driven by implicit bias and are determined to figure out how to undo it. He's working both through training, as in shooting situations, and on policy: for example, that one protection against tragic mistakes is that whoever is most energized and thus vulnerable to bias-driven errors, such as the person leading a pursuit, should not be the person making any use-of-force decisions. And he's making fascinating -- and actionable -- discoveries, such as that a tendency toward bad shootings seems to be driven a lot less by racism than by a vulnerability to perceived threats to officers' manhood.

Finally, reconciliation is a recognition that however toxic today's relationships may be, and however vile and irrational the other side's behavior may seem, there is almost always some real kernel of reason and rationality behind it. Police may be inexpressibly offended when communities call them racist, but the fact is that for hundreds of years black Americans were policed under a legal system that was formally, frankly racist, and since then frequently haven't been treated all that well. Communities may be inexpressibly offended when police treat them as if they're complicit in crime and violence, but when "stop snitching" norms dominate and nobody will out the killer everybody knows, it's understandable that police should view that as tolerance rather than as anger and fear. It can be very powerful to foster a process in which each side can say to the other, we have made mistakes and we are part of what has gone wrong, but we reject that now and would like to go forward together. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy is modeling it for his peers nationally. "I understand the historical divide between police and communities of color -- it's rooted in the history of this country," he says.

The most visible arm of government is a police force, and the institutionalized governmental programs that promoted racist policies that were enforced by police departments in this country are part of the African-American history in this country. And we have to recognize it because recognition is the first step towards finding a cure towards what is ailing us.

My work in community violence and drug market prevention has modeled this process on the neighborhood level, and has found a remarkable willingness on the part of both authorities and communities to face past facts, admit error, commit to working together in a different way going forward, and then make real progress. Figuring out how to take that work to scale -- across neighborhoods, across a city, across cities -- is the next challenge.

The DOJ's National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice is designed to catalyze exactly that kind of potentially transformative development. It will gather existing wisdom and interventions in procedural justice, implicit bias, and reconciliation; drive the development of new practice; focus applied work in five yet-to-be-named cities across the country; evaluate impact; and make the underlying ideas and interventions available publicly and to anybody who wants them. The focus will be on a range of constituencies that need and deserve better relationships with law enforcement, including Latino communities; victims of crime, including domestic violence and sexual assault; youth; and the LGBQTI community. The express hope is that these concepts can drive real, tangible progress. We believe they can. That is partly because of the power of these ideas, which we have seen play out in practice. But it is also because, in our work across the nation, we see readiness: on the part of both law enforcement and communities. Both sides know something has to change. Both are tired -- not just of crime and violence, but of being stuck in old, tired, fractious relationships. There is a will to do better, and now there may be a way.

David M. Kennedy is a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the director of the National Network for Safe Communities ( He will direct, in partnership with the Department of Justice and colleagues at UCLA, Yale, and the Urban Institute, the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. His most recent book is Don't Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America. The views expressed here are his own.

The 4 Airports You Should Avoid At All Costs This Winter

Thu, 2014-11-20 07:00
Holiday travel: those two words alone are enough to make our toes tingle... and not in a jolly holiday way.

While we have zero control over nasty holiday flight delays, we do have control over choosing the airports where they're least likely to happen.

Just a hint: Chicago O'Hare is NOT one of those airports.

At ORD, 42 percent of all flights were delayed during winter 2013. That's more than two out of every five flights! Other terrible performers included:

Fort Lauderdale International -- 38 percent of all flights were delayed
Newark Liberty International -- 37 percent of all flights were delayed
Denver International -- 37 percent of all flights were delayed

These results come via travel website Hopper, which analyzed government flight data from December through March 2013. Their map charts 20 of the nation's most popular airports -- the larger the circle, the more popular the airport. And the redder the circle's color, the more frequently it saw winter flight delays.

So which airports should you frequent to avoid delays?

Honolulu International ranked the best in Hopper's analysis -- a mere 14 percent of its flights were delayed during winter 2013. Florida is generally a tough place for delays in winter, Hopper points out, but if you must fly through the state, Miami International is your best bet.

When the whole year is considered, Salt Lake City International was the most punctual airport in terms of delays -- this bodes well for its performance during the 2014 holiday season.

And on the West Coast, LAX is a surprisingly solid bet, too: it performed significantly better than other big-name airports in another recent analysis from Decision Science News.

You know what this means, travelers: grab your ticket now, pick the right airport, and never fear a loss of holiday cheer!

25 Of The Most Incredible Breakfasts To Make The Day After Thanksgiving

Thu, 2014-11-20 06:34
The party is over. The fat lady has sung her turkey-tuned song. The refrigerator is overflowing with tupperware galore, not to mention extra ingredients you bought In Case Of Emergencies.

It's the morning after Thanksgiving and, against all odds, you and everyone in your household is feeling hungry again. Yes, y'all could hover around the open refrigerator with forks in hand and attack, or you could whip up something really impressive and breakfast appropriate.

Go with the latter. Make a Thanksgiving-inspired breakfast and show the world what you're made of. Think stuffing waffles, turkey and egg concoctions, pie parfaits and much, much more.

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Mike Nichols, Oscar-Winning Director Of 'The Graduate,' Dies At 83

Thu, 2014-11-20 06:21
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Nichols, the director of matchless versatility who brought fierce wit, caustic social commentary and wicked absurdity to such film, TV and stage hits as "The Graduate," ''Angels in America" and "Monty Python's Spamalot," has died. He was 83.

The death was confirmed by ABC News President James Goldston on Thursday. Nichols died Wednesday evening. The family will hold a private service this week; a memorial will be held at a later date, Goldston said.

During a career spanning more than 50 years, Nichols, who was married to ABC's Diane Sawyer, managed to be both an insider and outsider, an occasional White House guest and friend to countless celebrities who was as likely to satirize the elite as he was to mingle with them. A former stand-up performer who began his career in a groundbreaking comedy duo with Elaine May and whose work brought him an Academy Award, a Grammy and multiple Tony and Emmy honors, Nichols had a remarkable gift for mixing edgy humor and dusky drama.

"No one was more passionate than Mike," Goldston wrote in an email announcing Nichols' death.

His 1966 film directing debut "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" unforgettably captured the vicious yet sparkling and sly dialogue of Edward Albee's play, as a couple (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) torment each other over deep-seated guilt and resentment.

"Angels in America," the 2003 TV miniseries adapted from the stage sensation, blended rich pathos and whimsy in its portrait of people coping with AIDS and looking to the heavens for compassion they found lacking in Ronald Reagan's 1980s America.

Similarly, Nichols' 2001 TV adaptation of the play "Wit" packed biting levity within the stark story of a college professor dying of ovarian cancer.

Nichols, who won directing Emmys for both "Angels in America" and "Wit," said he liked stories about the real lives of real people and that humor inevitably pervades even the bleakest of such tales.

"I have never understood people dividing things into dramas and comedies," Nichols said in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press. "There are more laughs in 'Hamlet' than many Broadway comedies."

He was a wealthy, educated man who often mocked those just like him, never more memorably than in "The Graduate," which shot Dustin Hoffman to fame in the 1967 story of an earnest young man rebelling against his elders' expectations. Nichols himself would say that he identified with Hoffman's awkward, perpetually flustered Benjamin Braddock.

Mixing farce and Oedipal drama, Nichols managed to capture a generation's discontent without ever mentioning Vietnam, civil rights or any other issues of the time. But young people laughed hard when a family friend advised Benjamin that the road to success was paved with "plastics" or at Benjamin's lament that he felt like life was "some kind of game, but the rules don't make any sense to me. They're being made up by all the wrong people. I mean no one makes them up. They seem to make themselves up."

At the time, Nichols was "just trying to make a nice little movie," he recalled in 2005 at a retrospective screening of "The Graduate." ''It wasn't until when I saw it all put together that I realized this was something remarkable."

Nichols won the best-director Oscar for "The Graduate," which co-starred Anne Bancroft as an aging temptress pursuing Hoffman, whose character responds with the celebrated line, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me."

Divorced three times, Nichols married TV journalist Diane Sawyer in 1988. He admitted in 2013 that many of his film and stage projects explored a familiar, naughty theme.

"I keep coming back to it, over and over -- adultery and cheating," he says. "It's the most interesting problem in the theater. How else do you get Oedipus? That's the first cheating in the theater."

Not just actors, but great actors, clamored to work with Nichols, who studied acting with Lee Strasberg and had an empathy that helped bring out the best from the talent he put in front of the camera.

Nichols often collaborated with Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson. Other stars who worked with Nichols included Al Pacino ("Angels in America"), Gene Hackman and Robin Williams ("The Birdcage"), Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver ("Working Girl") and Julia Roberts ("Closer"). In 2007, Nichols brought out "Charlie Wilson's War," starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Just as he moved easily among stage, screen and television, Nichols fearlessly switched from genre to genre. Onstage, he tackled comedy ("The Odd Couple"), classics ("Uncle Vanya") and musicals ("The Apple Tree," ''Spamalot," the latter winning him his sixth Tony for directing).

On Broadway, he won nine Tonys, for directing the plays "Barefoot in the Park" (1964), "Luv" and "The Odd Couple" (1965), "Plaza Suite" (1968), "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1972), "The Real Thing" (1984), and Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" (2012). He has also won in other categories, for directing the musical "Monty Python's Spamalot" (2005), and for producing "Annie" (1977) and "The Real Thing" (1984).

"I think a director can make a play happen before your eyes so that you are part of it and it is part of you," he said. "If you can get it right, there's no mystery. It's not about mystery. It's not even mysterious. It's about our lives."

Though known for films with a comic edge, Nichols branched into thrillers with "Day of the Dolphin," horror with "Wolf" and real-life drama with "Silkwood." Along with directing for television, he was an executive producer for the 1970s TV series "Family."

Nichols' golden touch failed him on occasion with such duds as the anti-war satire "Catch-22," with Alan Arkin in an adaptation of Joseph Heller's best-seller and "What Planet Are You From?", an unusually tame comedy for Nichols that starred Garry Shandling and Annette Bening.

Born Michael Igor Peschkowsky on Nov. 6, 1931, in Berlin, Nichols fled Nazi Germany for America at age 7 with his family. He recalled to the AP in 1996 that at the time, he could say only two things in English: "I don't speak English" and "Please don't kiss me."

He said he fell in love with the power of the stage at age 15 when the mother of his then-girlfriend gave them theater tickets to the second night of the debut of "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring Marlon Brando in 1947.

"We were poleaxed, stunned. We didn't speak to each other. We just sat like two half-unconscious people. It was so shocking. It was so alive. It was so real," he said. "I'm amazed about our bladders because we never went to the bathroom and it was about 3 1/2 or 4 hours long."

Nichols attended the University of Chicago but left to study acting in New York. He returned to Chicago, where he began working with May in the Compass Players, a comedy troupe that later became the Second City.

May and Nichols developed their great improvisational rapport into a saucy, sophisticated stage show that took on sex, marriage, family and other subjects in a frank manner that titillated and startled audiences of the late 1950s and early '60s.

"People always thought we were making fun of other people when we were in fact making fun of ourselves," Nichols told the AP in 1997. "We did teenagers in the back seat of the car and people committing adultery. Of course, you're making fun of yourself. You're making jokes about yourself. Who can you better observe?"

Their Broadway show, "An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May," earned them a Grammy for best comedy recording in 1961.

The two split up soon after, though they reunited in the 1990s, with May writing screenplays for Nichols' "Primary Colors" and "The Birdcage," adapted from the French farce "La Cage aux Folles."

After the break with May, Nichols found his true calling as a director, his early stage work highlighted by "Barefoot in the Park," ''The Odd Couple," ''Plaza Suite" and "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," each of which earned him Tonys.

Other honors included Oscar nominations for directing "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "Silkwood" and "Working Girl," a best-picture nomination for producing "The Remains of the Day," and a lifetime-achievement award from the Directors Guild of America in 2004.

Never one to analyze his career and look for common themes, Nichols would shrug off questions that sought to link his far-flung body of work.

"What I sort of think about is what Orson Welles told me, which is: Leave it to the other guys, the people whose whole job it is to do that, to make patterns and say what the thread is through your work and where you stand," Nichols told the AP in 1996. "Let somebody else worry about what it means."


AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.



25 Of The Most Incredible Breakfasts To Make The Day After Thanksgiving

Thu, 2014-11-20 06:00
The party is over. The fat lady has sung her turkey-tuned song. The refrigerator is overflowing with Tupperware galore, not to mention extra ingredients you bought in case of emergencies.

It's the morning after Thanksgiving and, against all odds, you and everyone in your household is feeling hungry again. Yes, y'all could hover around the open refrigerator with forks in hand and attack, or you could whip up something really impressive and breakfast appropriate.

Go with the latter. Make a Thanksgiving-inspired breakfast and show the world what you're made of. Think stuffing waffles, turkey and egg concoctions, pie parfaits and much, much more.

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

10 Alternative Thanksgiving Dinners That Will Break Tradition

Thu, 2014-11-20 06:00
You know the Thanksgiving drill: Grab some turkey, smother it in gravy, add a scoop of mashed potatoes, another scoop of stuffing, and maybe drop a few green beans on your plate.

There's no doubt Thanksgiving is delicious, but the routine can start to become somewhat of a snooze year, after year, after year (which is why we created our own Thanksgiving Sides Cake).

If you live in New York City and are feeling particularly bored with the usual Turkey Day meal, you could head to Talde in Brooklyn and try the "Turkey Ramen." It's a bowl filled with noodles, creamed-spinach dumplings, roast turkey slices and topped with gravy that has cranberries mixed in.

Working on our #Thanksgiving #ramen for the season. #ThanksgivingInABowl #TaldeBrooklyn

A photo posted by Dale Talde (@daletalde) on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:34am PST

For those of you who don't live in New York and are still bored, fear not. We've found 10 unique versions of Thanksgiving dinner that are so exciting you probably won't even feel the tryptophan this year.

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

10 Alternative Thanksgiving Dinners That Will Break Tradition

Thu, 2014-11-20 06:00
You know the Thanksgiving drill: Grab some turkey, smother it in gravy, add a scoop of mashed potatoes, another scoop of stuffing, and maybe drop a few green beans on your plate.

There's no doubt Thanksgiving is delicious, but the routine can start to become somewhat of a snooze year, after year, after year (which is why we created our own Thanksgiving Sides Cake).

If you live in New York City and are feeling particularly bored with the usual Turkey Day meal, you could head to Talde in Brooklyn and try the "Turkey Ramen." It's a bowl filled with noodles, creamed-spinach dumplings, roast turkey slices and topped with gravy that has cranberries mixed in.

Working on our #Thanksgiving #ramen for the season. #ThanksgivingInABowl #TaldeBrooklyn

A photo posted by Dale Talde (@daletalde) on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:34am PST

For those of you who don't live in New York and are still bored, fear not. We've found 10 unique versions of Thanksgiving dinner that are so exciting you probably won't even feel the tryptophan this year.

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

<i>Yassou</i> From Athens: Introducing HuffPost Greece

Thu, 2014-11-20 04:01
ATHENS -- As The Huffington Post has expanded around the world, I have used this space to introduce each of our new international editions. But none of the announcements I've made has had as much significance for me personally as what I have to share today: the launch of The Huffington Post in my native Greece. If I veer into some emotional territory (and spoiler alert: I will -- it's in my genes), it's because even now, surrounded by our wonderful team of editors in our office with a stunning view of the Parthenon, I'm overwhelmed by gratitude.

For me, this is the ultimate homecoming, not only because this is where I and my accent were born but because HuffPost is very firmly rooted in a Greek tradition of bringing people together and facilitating interesting conversations. When we began our international expansion more than three years ago, I knew that one day HuffPost's own odyssey (to borrow from one of my compatriots) would lead us to Greece. And I couldn't be happier that that day has finally come.

I'm also delighted that we are launching HuffPost Greece in collaboration with 24MEDIA, Greece's largest digital media publisher. And the realization of this dream would not be possible without the support of our partners Eugenia Chandris (who has been a dear friend and like a third sister to me for 40 years), Marianna Latsis, Dimitris Maris and Petros Pappas. I would also like to thank the CEO of 24MEDIA, Stavros Drakoularakos, for his great collaboration, and the president of the board of the Acropolis Museum, Dimitrios Pandermalis, for his steadfast support.

Launching HuffPost in Greece is, in many ways, about coming full circle. My father was a serial journalism entrepreneur who launched a succession of small newspaper ventures -- all of which failed. (It's no accident HuffPost is not in print!)

After my parents broke up when I was 11, I lived with my mother and my sister Agapi in a one-bedroom apartment in Athens. My mother was amazingly committed to making sure my sister and I had the best childhood possible. She would preside over long sessions in our small kitchen, guiding us through our daily problems by discussing Greek philosophy. And, of course, she was always cooking, clearly believing that if you didn't eat something every 20 minutes, something terrible would happen to you.

This was a time when Greek women still needed dowries to get married. So my mother would always say to me, "Your education will be your dowry." And to make that happen, she sold everything she had, including her last pair of gold earrings. That started me on a journey: college at Cambridge, a career as an author, marriage, motherhood, divorce, launching HuffPost. But Greece is where my story began.

Now HuffPost Greece will be telling the stories that matter most in Greece and, just as important, helping Greeks tell their stories themselves. The Huffington Post is both a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism enterprise with investigative reporters all around the world and a platform where people both known and unknown with something interesting to say can say it. And I'm so grateful to be able to bring The Huffington Post to Greece at this very challenging moment in the country's history.

As HuffPost has grown, I have returned over and over in my mind to the traditions and wisdom of my home country. For my Greek ancestors, philosophy was anything but an academic exercise. Asking the question "What is a good life?" was a daily practice in the art of living. This question had to lie at the root of HuffPost's mission to redefine success beyond the first two metrics of money and power to include a third metric, consisting of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Still, like in many other countries, in Greece today the good life, by any definition, is up against steep challenges. Unemployment was at 26 percent in July, with youth unemployment at a staggering 49 percent. Austerity measures have crippled Greece's economy, while suicide, drug use and overdoses have risen dramatically. The vicious cycle of budget cuts has reduced Greece's ability to help its own most vulnerable citizens, even as their number has multiplied.

But Greece is moving forward. I've witnessed that Greek resilience firsthand many times in my life. In the summer of 2011, I spent many nights in Syntagma Square, directly across from the Greek parliament. The protesting crowd was mixed, full of young people and old, the self-employed, the unemployed, activists and pensioners, demanding the opportunity to live out their own versions of a good life.

That desire is stronger than ever, and the central mission of HuffPost Greece will be to open up the conversation about the ways we can tap into the inner resources we all have. Large-scale institutional changes are of course incredibly important, and we'll be covering those too, but we don't have to wait for them before we initiate change in our own lives right now.

To the Stoics, the most secure kind of happiness could therefore be found in the only thing that we are in sole control of: our inner world. Everything outside us can be taken away, as too many in Greece know full well, so how can we entrust our future happiness and well-being to it? Once we realize that, we can bring about a sense of imperturbability (or ataraxia, as the Greeks called it), and from that place, we can much more effectively and powerfully bring about change in our lives and the world around us.

And now from the Greek Stoic philosophers to our fabulous Greek team. Our editorial director Sophia Papaioannou is a highly respected journalist who brings decades of experience and expertise to her new role. She hosts the weekly show 360 Degrees on ALPHA TV and formerly co-hosted the popular investigative TV program Fakeloi (which translates to "Dossiers"), for which she traveled the world. Her passion for Greece and its history is beautifully captured in her book Hidden in the Aegean, which unravels a true-life mystery about the disappearance of a young Greek man in the 1940s.

Editor-in-chief Nikos Agouros comes to HuffPost Greece from the monthly magazine VimaMen, where he served for six years as editor-in-chief. He has lived in Tel Aviv and London (where he studied global media at the London School of Economics and Political Science), has a passion for modern Greek and Middle Eastern history and recharges by hiking in some of Greece's smallest and most remote islands. Pavlos Tsimas, a renowned political journalist with a 35-year career in print and broadcast media, will be editor-at-large. Despina Trivoli is overseeing lifestyle and culture. Anita Stefanou is the site's general manager, and Tassos Argyros is its sales director. In fact, our site begins with Cosmote, AIG, Neff, Glenfiddich and Honda as our launch sponsors.

HuffPost Greece kicks off with an interview with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

At the same time that we will be covering relentlessly all the economic problems that Greece is facing, we will also, just as relentlessly, put the spotlight on its new entrepreneurial fervor for creating jobs, spurring growth and forging new connections. As we launch, we'll be highlighting a series of Greek startups, starting with DoctorAnytime, a medical database that helps patients find, compare and review doctors; Skroutz, an Amazon-like online marketplace that helps shoppers compare prices; and Spitogatos, the Craigslist of Greece, with apartment-rental listings and other items for sale. We also ask if Greek startups are fully taking advantage of what has traditionally been one of the key drivers of the country's economy -- tourism -- and look at several new startups that are experimenting in that realm, including Dopios, which connects tourists with local residents who can serve as tour guides, and TripinView, which provides virtual tours of Greece's wonderful beaches.

As HuffPost Greece will also be a place to explore the intersection between modern science and the ancient Greek wisdom about living life with greater health and fulfillment and less stress and burnout, we are delighted to be covering, for our launch, a remarkable exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art showcasing health in ancient Greece. We will also be considering the many things Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, can teach us about well-being today, including the benefits of homeopathic medicine. We are also spotlighting the growing number of yoga retreats in the Greek islands, which are attracting people from all over the world, and looking at how austerity is fueling burnout, along with expert advice on how Greeks can reduce stress.

And while HuffPost Greece will be reporting relentlessly on the impact of austerity and all that is dysfunctional and not working, we'll also be telling the stories of what is working. To start with, we are spotlighting three organizations throughout Greece that embody the Greek spirit of hospitality, giving and looking out for one another. There's Boroume (which means "we can" in Greek), a nonprofit food bank working to reduce food waste by connecting those with food to give with those who don't have enough to eat. We have a story on O Anthropos, a mobile community kitchen serving the poor and homeless. O Anthropos exemplifies the Greek spirit of hospitality, not only serving food but inviting people in for conversation and connection. Kostas Polychronopoulos founded it at age 52 after he lost his job in advertising, which he'd had for 25 years. He was inspired to start a community kitchen while he was walking through the laiki (a local farmers' market) and saw two children fighting over a bag of rotten food. And there's the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which, since 1996, has been committed to improving thousands of lives in Greece with initiatives addressing issues ranging from homelessness and pediatric health to prison education and youth unemployment.

We kick off with blog posts from EU Commissioner and former Greek Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, from the New Democracy Party, on the importance of European cohesion and solidarity; Rena Dourou, Governor of Attica and SYRIZA member, on the geopolitical challenges in the Middle East; Olga Kefalogianni, Greek Minister of Tourism, on fighting unemployment through tourism and relying on Greece's cultural legacy as a model for entrepreneurship; Konstantin Kakanias, an artist from Los Angeles, on growing up gay in Greece during the '70s and '80s; Panagiotis Vlahos, a young activist, on his NGO Vouliwatch, which is dedicated to promoting transparency in the Greek parliament; Nadina Christopoulou on Melissa, the organization she co-founded to take care of women refugees in Greece; and Yiolina Brousali, a mother and blogger, on why kids shouldn't worry about success. Yiolina's post first appeared on her own blog, (Not) Just Mums, an example of cross-posting that allows bloggers like Yiolina, who are already writing and publishing, to reach an even wider audience on HuffPost.

Growing up, my favorite poem was "Ithaka" by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy. Agapi and I had memorized the poem long before we could actually understand what it means. It opens, "As you set out for Ithaka hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery." And so it has been. I'm so grateful to the many, many people, both now and through the years, who have helped bring us to this moment and the launch of HuffPost Greece. If I had a plate, I'd smash it. Please join me in welcoming Greece to the HuffPost family. Opa!

Chicago Health Disparities Persist But Can Be Stopped

Wed, 2014-11-19 19:56
The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care reported recently that blacks with diabetes in Chicago had 1.7 times the rate of limb amputations than whites with diabetes (3.4 per 1,000 vs. 2.0 per 1,000).

Losing a leg from diabetes isn't a given, nor are racial differences in this health outcome. We know how to prevent diabetes-related complications such as limb amputations, blindness, and kidney failure. Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol can significantly reduce the risk of complications and improve quality of life.

The problem is that lifestyle changes to control diabetes (e.g., healthy eating, regular physical activity, taking medications, and regular visits to the doctor) are often a challenge, particularly in low-income minority communities where resources are limited.

People with diabetes are supposed to do 150 minutes of physical activity every week and eat vegetables as 50 percent of their meals. Concerns about crime have driven many indoors, and food deserts make purchasing fresh produce difficult.

We need more communities where making the "healthy choice" is the easy choice -- that is, safe places to exercise, affordable, healthy food, "walkable" neighborhoods with safe sidewalks and bike paths, and much more.

Chicago is leading the nation in creating healthy communities, but we still have a long way to go.

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) launched Healthy Chicago in 2011, the city's first comprehensive public health agenda providing more than 200 actionable strategies to improve health, including efforts to reduce obesity and heart disease. We have taken more than 2.4 million trips on the City's new bike-sharing program, more than 26,000 children and family members joined us during this summer's PlayStreets events and we continue to open new grocery stores and fresh food carts in neighborhoods across the City.

And the numbers show we are making progress. Life expectancy -- in every single neighborhood -- is climbing up.

But there is still more work to do.

CDPH hopes to identify critical health disparities and actionable, measurable solutions. We are working now to identify new ways we can improve the health of our residents. Everyone from politicians and city planners to health departments and school systems has a role to play in improving the health of all Chicagoans and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

Fortunately, efforts are already underway in Chicago to do just that.

CDPH has been collaborating with organizations, such as the Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research (CCDTR) at the University of Chicago, to improve the city's health. For example, CDPH and CCDTR are identifying community "hot spots" of preventable diabetes-related hospitalizations that can inform potential efforts at community-based health promotion, diabetes prevention and population health management.

The South Side Diabetes Project, supported by the University of Chicago's CCDTR, the Merck Foundation's Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), aims to reduce diabetes disparities by involving multiple stakeholders -- CDPH, clinicians and health systems, patients, advocacy organizations, Chicago Park District, businesses and community organizations.

For example, the South Side Diabetes Project provides "Food Rx" for healthy food (redeemable at participating Walgreens and a local farmer's market) and "exercise prescriptions" for six months of free access to exercise facilities at city parks. The project conducts weekly tours at low-cost grocer Save-A-Lot to help residents learn how to shop healthy on limited budgets.

The South Side Diabetes Project provides a real-world example of how to leverage local assets to improve community health and reduce disparities.

This fall, CDPH will launch a comprehensive community assessment that includes phone surveys among residents, roundtables with health leaders and a webpage where residents provide suggestions about making the city healthier.

Get involved and make your voice heard. Join an upcoming CDPH roundtable or register your thoughts for a healthier Chicago by clicking here.

Together, we can make a difference.

Monica E. Peek, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Associate Director, Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research
The University of Chicago

Bechara Choucair, MD, MS
Chicago Department of Public Health

Marshall H. Chin, MD, MPH
Richard Parrillo Family Professor of Healthcare Ethics
Director, Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research
The University of Chicago

All The Progress Made On Marijuana Legalization Could Vanish With A New President

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:14
The movement to end marijuana prohibition has made significant progress recently, but it could all be undone when the next president takes office in 2017.

Harvard economist Jeff Miron, a vocal supporter of marijuana policy reform, highlighted the precarious nature of state marijuana laws in a Wednesday op-ed for CNN on why Congress needs to act now on federal marijuana policy.

"Despite the compelling case for legalization, and progress toward legalization at the state level, ultimate success is not assured," Miron wrote. "Federal law still prohibits marijuana, and existing jurisprudence (Gonzales v. Raich 2005) holds that federal law trumps state law when it comes to marijuana prohibition. So far, the federal government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to state medicalizations and legalizations, but in January 2017, the country will have a new president. That person could order the attorney general to enforce federal prohibition regardless of state law."

With marijuana legalization supported by a majority of Americans, and with states continuing to pass legalization laws -- about a dozen more may do so by 2016 -- it seems unlikely that the federal government would push back against the popular movement. But it's not impossible.

That's because the regulation of marijuana -- as seen in programs currently in place in Colorado and Washington state, as well as those that will soon go into effect in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. -- remains illegal under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. The states that have legalized marijuana have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations. That guidance could be reversed when a new administration enters the White House.

“Both Miron’s analysis and conclusion are spot on," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told The Huffington Post. "The federal government needs to end the failed prohibition of marijuana by rescheduling or removing it from the list of controlled substances. Too many lives are ruined and futures cut short by these outdated and wasteful policies.”

Blumenauer is just one of a number of lawmakers from both parties who have worked toward that end. About a dozen bills were introduced in 2013, several by Blumenauer himself, aimed at limiting the federal government's ability to interfere with states' legal marijuana programs. Last year, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would direct the U.S. Attorney General to issue an order that removes marijuana in any form from all schedules of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. If passed, Polis' measure would effectively end the federal government's prohibition of marijuana.

And while Congress has failed to pass any of those bills, attitudes are still changing rapidly on marijuana policy. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said he remains cautiously optimistic about marijuana legalization being here to stay, despite Congress' tendency to move slowly on controversial social issues like this.

"It’s all political," Nadelmann told HuffPost in an email. "Of course it’s possible that the next president could decide to crack down on the states that have legalized marijuana but that prospect becomes ever less likely with every passing day."

"Diverse sectors of society are developing a stake in marijuana remaining legal," he continued. "Taxpayers and tax collectors enjoy the revenue. Cost cutters appreciate the savings from no longer arresting so many people for marijuana. Unions welcome the new legal jobs. Businessmen, including many who vote Republican, relish the actual and potential profits."

In a similar vein, Blumenauer himself has predicted that before the end of the decade, the federal government will legalize weed. Federal authorities have already allowed Colorado's and Washington's historic marijuana laws to take effect, and earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed the 2014 farm bill, which legalized industrial hemp production for research purposes in the states that permit it. The first hemp crops in U.S. soil in decades are already growing.

Moreover, in May, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed bipartisan measures aimed at limiting Drug Enforcement Administration crackdowns on state-legal medical marijuana shops, and at preventing the agency from interfering in states' legal hemp programs.

Even in gridlocked Washington, the Democratic White House and the Republican-heavy Congress have been able to see eye-to-eye over how criminal justice and drug policy reform will be implemented in the next two years.

So what do some of the likely 2016 presidential candidates say about marijuana? On the Republican side, according to HuffPost's Pollster model, the front-runners are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Paul has been supportive of D.C.'s new recreational marijuana law, and he's also introduced legislation aimed at protecting state-legal medical marijuana operations from federal intervention.

Huckabee, meanwhile, is opposed to both medical and recreational marijuana, and Bush came out against Florida's recent medical marijuana bill. At the same time, Bush has made generally supportive comments about keeping the federal government out of state marijuana laws.

On the Democratic side, the current front-runners are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). While Clinton hasn't offered a full-throated endorsement of marijuana legalization, she has left the door open, saying she supports medical marijuana "for people who are in extreme medical conditions." She's also said she wants to "wait and see" how recreational pot works out in Colorado and Washington state.

Biden has called legalization a "mistake" in the past, but he's also said that cracking down on marijuana users is a "waste of our resources." Warren has offered some support for medical marijuana legalization, but is opposed to recreational legalization.

"For 77 years, the United States has outlawed marijuana, with tragic repercussions and unintended consequences," Miron wrote Wednesday. "The public and their state governments are on track to rectify this terrible policy. Here's hoping Congress catches up."

Read Miron's entire editorial here.

Lawmakers Call For Investigation Of Rahm Emanuel Over Possibly Illegal Campaign Donations

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:12
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) is under scrutiny for accepting what potentially could be considered illegal campaign cash from financial firms that manage the city’s pension funds.

On Tuesday, three city councilmen (one of whom is challenging Emanuel for re-election next February) called for the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Emanuel’s campaign dollars. Their letter follows an International Business Times report published Nov. 13 that stated investment firms executives with direct ties to Chicago's pension funds have "since 2011 poured more than $600,000 in contributions into Mayor Rahm Emanuel's campaign operation and political action committees.”

Current 2nd Ward Alderman and mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti, along with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Ald. John Arena (45th Ward), also sent similar letters to the Chicago inspector general and the city comptroller’s office calling for an investigation.

“We believe that the pay to play actions have violated the public trust and are a breach of fiduciary duty,” the aldermen wrote.

According to the IBT, at least 31 executives from firms that draw fees for managing city pension funds have contributed to Emanuel's personal campaign and pro-Emanuel PACs. Such arrangements might be in violation the spirit -- if not the letter -- of SEC and other rules, including an executive ethics order Emanuel signed back in 2011 that, as the IBT puts it, prohibits "city contractors and subcontractors from making campaign donations to city officials."

IBT also reported recently that fees paid to the John Buck Co. -- a real estate investment firm among those managing city pension monies -- spiked after Emanuel became mayor. John Buck Co. executives are "collectively among Emanuel's top campaign contributors," IBT noted.

The mayor’s office deferred to Emanuel’s mayoral campaign for comment.

"The donations are fully compliant with the law and the higher standards the mayor voluntarily imposes on himself per his executive order. In fact, since taking office Mayor Emanuel has strengthened city ethics and campaign finance rules, including mandating unprecedented restrictions on mayoral fundraising,” Steve Mayberry, a spokesman for Emanuel’s re-election campaign, told The Huffington Post via email.

As of Wednesday afternoon the SEC and others had yet to respond to the letters, according to Michael Kolenc, a Democratic strategist with Fioretti’s mayoral campaign. Kolenc was hopeful that the SEC letter in particular would gain traction, given SEC Director of Enforcement Andrew Ceresney’s recent vow to get tough on the very abuses outlined in the IBT article.

Just one day before the IBT's Nov. 13 report was published, the SEC’s top cop said during a panel that municipal markets can expect tougher crackdowns on pension fund abuses, pay to play violations and undisclosed conflicts of interest, according to trade publication Bond Buyer.

The increased scrutiny comes as Emanuel’s approval ratings have slid from 50 percent in August of 2013 to just 35 percent this past summer, according an August poll by the Chicago Tribune.

Still, what Emanuel lacks in approval ratings, he makes up for in cash: The mayor's re-election war chest is approaching $10 million, easily making him the most well-funded candidate. And he's already put some of that money to work, launching a series of new re-election campaign ads on Tuesday night.

Kolenc told The Huffington Post he views the new run of TV ads as the mayor “effectively stepping on the gas” and forcing his competitors to keep up with him on ad spending -- something Kolenc acknowledges not all of them will be able to sustain for long.

Nevertheless, says Dick Simpson, a political science professor for the University of Illinois at Chicago, the allegations against the well-funded incumbent have the potential to cast a longer shadow over his campaign.

Simpson told The Huffington Post that Emanuel's fortunes may shift if his opponents decide to make the campaign cash allegations a bigger issue. First, however, Emanuel's opponents have to make the problem crystal clear to voters.

"The campaign cash [issue] is still too arcane for most voters," Simpson said. "But it does have some legs. It has the potential for percolating."

Letters to SEC Calling for Investigation Into Emanuel Campaign Funds by bellware

Cubs' Rizzo Baseball Humanitarian of the Year

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:03
Every year at this time, Major League Baseball hands out a ton of awards for on-field performance during the prior season. It's certainly interesting to see who wins these awards. Witnessing and acknowledging outstanding athletic achievements is one of the reasons we're all drawn to sports.

However, the award announcement I look forward to the most each offseason is the Branch Rickey Award.

The Branch Rickey Award is named after the long-time Major League Baseball executive who was selected the most influential person in sports during the 20th century by ESPN's Sports Century panel.

Not only did Rickey break the color barrier in baseball by signing African-American Jackie Robinson, he also was a pioneer in signing players from Latin America. In fact, he signed the first Latin American player to make the Hall of Fame, Roberto Clemente. In addition, he spearheaded the development of the "Knot Hole Gang," which offered kids who couldn't afford a ticket a chance to attend Major League games. Rickey also created the minor league farm system in baseball and introduced statistical analysis to the game -- long before Billy Beane and Moneyball came along.

Foremost, however, Rickey was a humanitarian.

"The thing about him was that he was always doing something for someone else," said Jackie Robinson.

The Branch Rickey Award, created by the Rotary Club of Denver, honors the baseball humanitarian of the year. It's consistent with the Rotary motto of "Service Above Self." This past Friday, the 2014 Rickey Award winner, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs was honored.

Rizzo was drafted out of high school by the Boston Red Sox in 2007. He got off to a good start in the minor leagues but in May of 2008 he was hit with the shocking news that he had Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer originating in the white blood cells.

He fought through six months of chemotherapy and then received the good news that his cancer was in remission. After months of building his body back up, he continued his quest to reach the major leagues.

A couple years ago, he debuted in a National League game while with the San Diego Padres. He was later traded to the Chicago Cubs. This past season, Rizzo received 8,800,000 votes from fans across the country to earn a spot on the National League All-Star team. He finished the season with 32 home runs and signed a seven-year contract with the Cubs.

In 2012, Rizzo and his family started the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and to support children and families fighting the disease. Rizzo is a frequent visitor to children's hospitals to talk with pediatric cancer patients. He also reaches out to young cancer patients by phone. His primary message is if he was able to beat cancer, then they can too.

"When I was still going through the chemotherapy, I was talking with my mom, dad and older brother and I just said after this we could build a foundation and do something special," says Rizzo. "To be able to touch anyone and positively impact their lives is priceless, it really is."

Rizzo's foundation held its third "Walk Off for Cancer" on Sunday. The foundation has also held two "Cook Off for Cancer" events. Together, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation has raised close to $700,000 for cancer research and patient support programs in just two years.

"I grew up in a service-oriented family," says Rizzo. "My parents, grandparents, and older brother were always doing things for others. Always, always, always. The message was always 'Help other people.'"

Rizzo is not only excited about the future of his foundation, he's bullish on the future of the Chicago Cubs.

"We're all very young," says Rizzo. "We're going to learn together. We're going to win together. We're going to lose together. We're going to get in trouble together. And eventually, we're going to have success together."

But ultimately, Rizzo realizes it's the impact he has on other people, not his on-field accomplishments, that will truly last.

"In baseball you're going to be who you are," says Rizzo. "Your performance will be what it is. But when you're done playing, you're done playing.

"If a guy wasn't a good player, but he was a great teammate, a great clubhouse guy, everyone will remember him. If a guy was a great player but he wasn't a great teammate or clubhouse guy, no one will remember him. He just kind of fades away.

"You always want to be a good person, and basically that's what my family has taught me."

As Branch Rickey once said, "It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind."

Anthony Rizzo is all-in with that sentiment.

There Are Serious Deals On Home Goods At Kohl's This Black Friday

Wed, 2014-11-19 16:57
The store: Kohl's

The time: Kohl's is one of the stores starting its Black Friday sales early, both in stores and online. Sales begin at 6 p.m. nationwide in Kohl's stores on Thanksgiving Day. Online, the deals start on Monday, November 24 through Black Friday at 3 p.m. Central Standard Time.

The standout deals: Kohl's is offering shoppers:
  • $15 in "Kohl's Cash" for every $50 spent from Monday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, Nov. 30.

  • Customers can sign up for "Yes2You Rewards," a new program that allows customers to earn one point for every dollar they spend and receive a $5 rewards for every 100 points.

  • Select toys will be 50 percent off.

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Tips for Inviting a Chef and His Family Over for Dinner

Wed, 2014-11-19 16:55
I would love to know how many chefs and their families get invited over to other people's houses for dinner.



Neither do we.

I will admit that there is a chance that we don't get invited over for dinner because no one wants to hang out with us. That could be the case. Maybe we are truly obnoxious and no one wants to be around us and everyone is just too nice to tell us they can't stand us.

I will also admit that with my chef/husband's crazy and ever changing hours, it could be difficult to find a time to have us over. However, if someone really, really, REALLY wanted to, we could make it work. Sure we might have to reschedule a few times, and they would have to listen to me apologize a million times about rescheduling, but eventually it would happen.

However, I think it's far more likely that people are TOTALLY FREAKED OUT AND SCARED to cook for a chef. (At least that's what I'm told by others.)

Is that really true? Is my chef/husband really that scary and intimidating?

If so, have you read this article about what so many chefs are eating after they come home after a long day?

My chef/husband eats Top Ramen more than he eats anything else. And he's not alone . . .

How scary could it really be to cook for someone that loves Top Ramen?

Apparently pretty scary.

So scary in fact, that we once showed up at a friend's house at the same time as the pizza delivery guy. My friend didn't want to cook for my husband (who was a line cook at the time), so she ordered pizza and we laughed about it all night!

In the past six years, two, yes TWO families have invited us over for dinner (besides our family.) The meals were wonderful. We loved sharing the food with them around the table and talking and getting to know them. And I have good news!! My two sweet friends who cooked for my husband and our family lived to tell about it! CRAZY!!

I say this jokingly, but this is the reality of being married to a chef.

Now in all fairness, a few others have bravely cooked meals for us and brought them over when my chef/husband was in a car accident and broke his back (gotta love the long hours of a chef and how tired they are after work . . . NOT!!) They saw a need and either didn't care he was a chef at the moment or freaked out a bit and cooked anyways. I will be forever grateful for these ladies that fed our family when we were not able to!

So why are people (even very close friends and family) afraid to cook for chefs? They worry he won't like it or that he'll critique it? They worry that he'll say he loves it but then bash it when he gets in the car to go home?

Sure, he critiques food when we go out to eat (all chefs do, even if they do it silently in their head). But those are professionals cooking in a restaurant. Unless you are trying to get a job in his kitchen, don't worry about it. It's not a job interview. It's just dinner. Everyone has to eat!

I cook for my chef/husband all the time. He's used to eating "normal" food prepared by a home cook. I'm not an amazing cook. I cook to feed my family. Yes, I have access to more recipes and cookbooks than I know what to do with. But really, we eat just like you do the majority of the time. Nothing fancy.

So now that I've made you all feel guilty and you are trying to think about when you can invite us over for dinner (just kidding), here are a few tips for when you invite your favorite chef and his/her family over for dinner.

  1. Don't make a new recipe. Prepare something you've made before that you enjoy. If you like it, chances are we will too.

  2. Don't spend too much time preparing the meal days and days before we are scheduled to come. My chef/husband's schedule changes often and unexpectedly and there is a chance I will have to reschedule. Please don't take this personally. We still like you. But we also like having a paycheck that pays our bills and when you run a restaurant, sometimes things come up that are out of your control and you have to take care of them. Sorry if that is hard to understand, but that is our life as a chef's family.

  3. Don't cater to our kids. They eat what we eat.

  4. Please don't make Top Ramen. (Sorry . . . I couldn't resist throwing that one in. Although if you did, we would laugh hysterically and it would be a great new blog post for me.)

  5. Be confident and relax. Your family eats your food all the time and they have lived to tell about it. So will we and I'm sure we will enjoy it.

Just a few tips, nothing life changing. It's really not a big deal. I promise! Take a chance. Pick up the phone. Send a quick text. Send an email. Invite your favorite chef and his/her family over. I'm sure you'll do great!

You can read more about combining restaurant and family life over on Jennifer's blog, You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Fire At Shuttered Chicago School Leaves Behind A Stunning Ice Palace In Its Wake

Wed, 2014-11-19 15:42
An extra-alarm fire at a former Chicago elementary school early Tuesday morning gutted the building -- and seriously disrupted the morning commute for thousands of train passengers -- but something eerily beautiful arose after the flames.

After firefighters used water to put out the blaze, the exterior of the former Mulligan School building was left covered in ice due to record-breaking cold weather in Chicago. The stunning images that resulted recall the photographs of the Harris Marcus Group building, which turned into a giant “ice cube” after Chicago fire crews tackled that blaze last winter.

No injuries were reported at the shuttered school, which was in the process of being converted into an apartment building and was granted city landmark status last year, but the fire did temporarily halt rail service on three of the city’s rail lines after water hit the nearby train tracks and froze, DNAinfo Chicago reported.

As the Chicago Tribune reported last year, firefighting in cold weather presents unique challenges for fire crews, as fire hydrants are sometimes found encased in ice and the already unstable buildings themselves are made even more unsafe for firefighters once they are covered in heavy ice.

Below are shots from the scene of Tuesday's fire, taken by Chicago-based photographer Joshua Mellin.

Illinois' Smoking Laws Aren't Stopping Lung Cancer as Well as They Could

Wed, 2014-11-19 15:03
Illinois has the 22nd-highest rate of lung cancer in the country, according to a new study by WalletHub. The state was also ranked as only the 14th-highest in its efforts to combat lung cancer, despite Illinois' number-one-in-the-nation strict smoking laws.

WalletHub points out that it is in the interest of every Illinoisan to decrease the prevalence of lung cancer in our population. Not only is it an individual health risk as one of the deadliest cancers in the U.S. every year (it is more common than colon, breast and pancreatic cancer combined and has a survival rate of about 17 percent), it is also extremely monetarily expensive at a societal level (and second-hand smoke is a public health risk).

From WalletHub:

According to the most recent National Institutes of Health estimates, the disease accounted for $12.1 billion of total cancer care costs in 2010. Five years earlier, premature deaths from lung cancer among adults aged 20 and older resulted in $36.1 billion in lost productivity.

And, one person's smoking habit could cost them up to almost $60,000 on cigarettes over 10 years.

The study ranked several metrics to find which states were doing the most to combat lung cancer.

Hawaii is doing the most to combat lung cancer out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, says WalletHub, while Missouri comes in 51st place.

In every metric, WalletHub rated Illinois as above average in its efforts to fight lung cancer. Beyond enacting far-reaching smoking bans, the state is also doing well on offering free services to help smokers quit and high-rated cancer hospitals.

From WalletHub's Communications Manager Raz Daraban:

Combating Lung Cancer in Illinois (1=Best; 25=Avg.)

  • 15th - Number of Adult Tobacco Users per Capita

  • 16th - Cigarette Taxes

  • 22nd - Death Rate from Lung Cancer

  • 14th - % of Smokers Who Attempted to Quit

  • 24th - Estimate of New Lung Cancer Cases per Capita

  • 2nd - Number of Available Cost-Free Services to Quit Tobacco Use

  • 6th - "Top-Rated Hospitals for Cancer" Score

  • 1st - Smoking Ban

  • 16th - Price of a Cigarette Pack

Utah ranked as the best state for fewest number of new lung cancer cases, lung cancer death rates and the number of adult tobacco users per capita. Alaska, New York, Colorado, California and the District of Columbia also did well.

Jon T. Macy, from the University of Indiana's School of Public Health, told WalletHub that strict smoking rules, high cigarette taxes and offering public treatment options can help reduce the number of smokers in a state, especially among young people. Illinois has already implemented all three of these measures.

Illinois' smoking laws are governed by (410 ILCS 82/) Smoke Free Illinois Act.

Since Jan. 1, 2008, the following areas in Illinois have been smoke-free by law, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health: Bars, taverns, nightclubs, cocktail lounges, adult entertainment facilities and cabarets, and restaurants, including coffee shops, cafeterias, sandwich stands, and private and public school cafeterias. That ban has the highest threshold of any state anti-smoking act in the country.

The IDPH outlines these penalties for breaking the smoking ban laws:

A person who smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited can fined between $100 and $250. A person who owns, operates or otherwise controls a public place or place of employment who violates the act can be fined not less than $250 for the first violation, not less than $500 for the second violation within one year after the first violation and not less than $2,500 for each additional violation within one year after the first violation.

According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, the state's cigarette tax is $1.98 for every package of 20 cigarettes. Individuals must also pay a separate sales tax on cigarette packs and cigarette distributors and cigarette machine operators are subjected to taxes.

Illinois also offers a free quit-smoking hotline, called the Illinois Tobacco Quitline, which can be reached at 1-866-QUIT-YES. The website also offers online chat help.

Check out Reboot Illinois for an interactive map that ranks every state's efforts to quell lung cancer diagnoses.

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