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Chef Kevin Hickey Gives Bridgeport Some Foodie Love with The Duck Inn

Tue, 2015-01-06 16:48
I have been watching the career of Chef Kevin Hickey for a while. At first I was surprised when I learned that he was leaving The Four Seasons hotel restaurant, The Allium, to start the low-key, belly-up-to-the bar joint, Bottlefork. Then I visited Bottlefork--packed to the gills on a week night at 9 p.m.--and realized he wasn't crazy. He was crazy like a fox.

"You want to do something that is accessible, something that can reach as many people as possible, " Hickey told me.

Chef Hickey isn't the only one to bring small farm-focused plates and gourmand combinations to a bar-type setting. Gastropubs and upscale, foodie bar food is increasingly common. But Hickey's culinary voice in this arena has been large and profound, offering things you've had before like you've never had them before. Take Octopus and Housemade Spam ($21) with Brussels Sprout "Kim Chee" and Sugar Snap Peas or Warm Pumpkin Cheesecake--more like warm soft-serve pudding--as examples of many.

And Hickey is serious about bringing accessible, high quality, creative food to as many people as possible. As Director of Food and Beverage for Rockit Ranch Productions, he just opened The Duck Inn, something near and dear to his heart, in Bridgeport. Hickey is from Bridgeport, and God knows Bridgeport is a food desert in desperate need of some foodie love.

At The Duck Inn, Hickey has, of course, duck dishes, like his award-winning Duck Hot Dog. However, he also has items like Braised Brisket from grass-fed Tallgrass Beef, intent on educating people from all over the city, not just downtown in posh hotels, about the kinds of foods we eat and how they are grown, raised and sourced.

In an interesting dialogue caught below on camera for the upcoming January 12th Dinner Party, Hickey speaks with Tallgrass Beef Rancher and Anchorman Bill Kurtis about the difference between corn-fed beef and grass-fed beef and the omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients that come from grass-fed beef. Who knew? Hickey has more than just great food up his sleeve.

Enjoy the videos below of Chef Kevin Hickey in his kitchen only days after the opening of The Duck Inn in Bridgeport. He makes Clam Stew with homemade Oyster Crackers and Braised Brisket from Tallgrass Beef in preparation for January 12.

This Is What Your Cat Is Thinking When It's Doing All That Cat Stuff

Tue, 2015-01-06 16:33
Nothing crazy cat people didn't already know, right?

Some cat owners believe their feline companion has evil plans, some believe it's completely clueless, and still other owners think their cat simply doesn't care and please stop bothering it. Well, you're all correct.

Actress and comedian Elyse Brandau took it upon herself to write this wonderful sketch to let us all know exactly what cats think when they're doing all those weird cat things.

Ben Affleck as the new Batman? Cats do care.

A Nuclear Power Plant Leaked Oil Into Lake Michigan For Up To 2 Months Straight

Tue, 2015-01-06 14:41
A leak at a nuclear power plant went undetected for weeks, allowing up to 2,000 gallons of oil to flow into Lake Michigan.

Staff at the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman, Michigan first began actively looking for the leak December 17 after discovering that the oil level had declined in one of the facility's turbine lube oil reservoirs. The turbine lube oil system contains about 25,000 gallons of hot, non-radioactive oil that runs across tubes and is cooled by the water of Lake Michigan. The leak allowed oil to run into one or more of the tubes and mix with the cooling water, ultimately washing into the lake.

By December 20, the cooler in question had been isolated and deactivated, though as of Tuesday, workers were still developing a repair plan and working to find the exact location of the leak.

“We regret that this happened,” Bill Schalk, communications manager for the plant's owner, American Electric Power, told The Huffington Post. “We’re working to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Staff are not sure exactly when the leaking began, but determined through maintenance records that the earliest it could have started was October 25. Cook officials believe oil leaked at about 0.04 gallons per minute, compared to a total water discharge of 1.5 million gallons per minute.

Schalk said that environmental impact was a priority, but no cleanup was possible because the oil had dispersed by the time the leak was discovered.

Andrew Maynard, director of the University of Michigan's Risk Science Center, said that because the oil leaked slowly over time, it may not have had as great an impact than if it had occurred in the same volume over a shorter period.

“Two thousand gallons is a lot of oil -- around 47 barrels -- but in this case it was released into a large body of water over a relatively long period, and therefore most likely dispersed pretty effectively,” Maynard wrote in an email to HuffPost. “This doesn’t mean that there are no environmental concerns, just that the impact will be significantly lower than if the oil had been released all at once.”

The plant said it has notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as county and state officials, about the oil leak.

Indiana Michigan Power, a division of American Electric Power, runs the Cook Nuclear Plant. Unit 2, where the leak occurred, is licensed to operate through 2037.

H/T Detroit Free Press.

How One Mom (And Her Cupcakes) Could Improve Diversity In Tech

Tue, 2015-01-06 13:36
When Chicago-based web designer and developer Jen Myers was first learning to code, it was difficult to feel that she belonged in the male-dominated field.

Myers was frequently the lone woman in her computer science classes, creating a sometimes uncomfortable dynamic. And as she began her career, she had few role models of a similar background to whom she could turn.

More than a decade later, however, Myers not only makes her living at coding but is creating new opportunities for other women — and their daughters — to get a taste of the field through her unique Code and Cupcakes workshop.

The inaugural Code and Cupcakes workshop in October was born out of Myers’ experience teaching other women to code through the group Girl Develop It, in addition to instructing her own 9-year-old daughter, who was eager to learn HTML code herself after sitting in on some of her mother’s classes. And the cupcakes? Well, why not?

Code and Cupcakes was initially envisioned as a one-off, low-key weekend event for moms and daughters to learn beginner-level coding together in a supportive space for women. But the workshop -- just $35 per mother-daughter pair -- was met with such enthusiasm that all 40 spots the space could hold were quickly booked. That response came as a big surprise to Myers, who works full-time overseeing online training content and runs her workshops on the side.

“The idea of learning how to code is becoming so much bigger than it ever was — it’s not an out-of-the-way thing anymore,” Myers told The Huffington Post. “People are thinking about how to make the websites we use every day, and I came at the right time to hit some of these things. I really do feel there are a lot of people interested in doing these things who don’t know where to start.”

Myers teaches at the inaugural October 2014 Code and Cupcakes workshop.

Due to the popularity of the first workshop, Myers has schedule the next Code and Cupcakes workshop for Jan. 24 at The Living Room in Chicago, as well as a third event at a to-be-determined venue in February. She has also been approached about bringing her workshop to other cities, a possibility she may explore in 2015 while also working to make her resources available to others who want to replicate her model elsewhere.

And Myers is set on making sure her workshops remain accessible to as many people as possible. Though she asked the women to bring their own laptops, or arranged for them to borrow one from the volunteer teaching assistants, she launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to buy laptops that can be used by participants.

As of Tuesday, the fundraising campaign has exceeded its $4,500 goal, covering the cost of 20 new Acer C720 Chromebooks. Additional funds raised by the campaign, which continues through Friday, will go toward a scholarship fund to provide free tickets to needy participants.

One of the young workshop participants enjoys a cupcake break.

In the future, Myers plans to offer an advanced coding skills workshop, and also hopes to incorporate a yoga break into the session so participants can enjoy a brief respite from screen time. She also wants to provide an opportunity for the volunteers who help her teach to talk about their own experiences in the field.

“It’s about creating a space specifically for girls and women that takes away some of the pressure to figure out, ‘What will they think of me?’ or ‘Should I be asking this?’” Myers explained. “I don’t want anyone to feel like anything is out of their hands, that they can’t do this because it’s too difficult or too hard to understand.”

While she acknowledges that the tech industry still has a lot of work to do when it comes to issues of diversity, Myers says she hopes to focus on the little victories that come out of workshops like hers, building blocks to empowering individuals to make changes and have more opportunities in their lives and careers.

“I want them feel included and that they belong, that you don’t have to naturally be a genius to learn how to program some things.”

One of the 20 mother-daughter pairs learning basic coding skills at the Chicago workshop.

Baseball Hall Of Fame Welcomes Four Players In 2015

Tue, 2015-01-06 13:09
The Hall calls have been made.

Former Major League Baseball stars Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio have been elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame by The Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The crowded 2015 Hall of Fame ballot featured 34 retired players, including 17 newcomers to the ballot and 17 holdovers from previous elections. The trio of Cy Young Award-winning pitchers who earned enshrinement in Cooperstown were on the ballot for the first time. Biggio, making his third appearance on the ballot, was the lone holdover to be elected. He came up two votes short in 2014.

Welcome to immortality. The #HOF2015 electees: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.

— MLB (@MLB) January 6, 2015


Lake Erie 'Dead Zones' Influenced By Weather, Scientists Report

Tue, 2015-01-06 13:05

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A newly released study says cutting phosphorus levels is important for Lake Erie but isn't a cure-all for one of its biggest environmental hazards: "dead zones" where fish can't survive.

The report by researchers with the Carnegie Institution for Science says the lake's biggest dead zone on record formed in the summer of 2012. Phosphorus runoff from farms was partly responsible. But drought and low flows from tributary rivers were even bigger factors.

Lead researcher Anna Michalak says the findings suggest that policymakers working on plans for preventing dead zones and harmful algae blooms should consider weather trends as well as agricultural practices — especially as climate change brings about more extreme conditions.

Lake Erie is the smallest of the five Great Lakes but produces more fish than the others.

Rauner announces comptroller appointment while Quinn calls special session to discuss his own appointment

Tue, 2015-01-06 12:56
Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has announced he will appoint former Helene Curtis/Unilever executive Leslie Munger to replace the state's late comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka. This announcement comes even as Gov. Pat Quinn is about to embark on a Jan. 8 special session of the General Assembly to discuss his own appointee.

Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek shared her thoughts on the issue:

In Munger, he chose a well-credentialed woman who just lost a race for state representative by 1,349 votes to Democratic incumbent Carol Sente of Vernon Hills. Munger is from Lincolnshire and the popular Topinka, of course, was from Riverside.

Despite her recent run and election loss, Munger said she isn't interested in a political career. She joined Rauner in voicing support, in a release issued by his transition office, in combining the statewide offices of comptroller and treasurer. The comptroller issues state checks, while the treasurer's office oversees revenue investments.

Putting a fine point on the political optics of the move, Rauner and Munger repeatedly referred to the idea of merging the two offices as "Judy's amendment." Merging the offices was an idea Topinka supported and campaigned on before she died of complications from a stroke after her November victory last month.

Read more about how lawmakers feel about the possible merge and what it would mean for state politics at Reboot Illinois.

In another corner of state government, the Better Government Association is concerned about the transparency levels at the Illinois Department of Transportation--literally and figuritively. The agency has faced questions about patronage hirings in the past and now is seeing questions raised about the tinted windows on the agency's vehicles. Find out what this is all about at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois 2014 political recap

Chicago High School Basketball Coach Drives Success On And Off The Court

Tue, 2015-01-06 12:03
CHICAGO (AP) -- The coach leans forward, her hands pressed on a table in a band room off the gymnasium, where a basketball game is about to start. She is silent for a minute or two. Her players shift uncomfortably.

When Dorothy Gaters finally speaks, her message is familiar and firm and, as usual, about fundamentals: "Move your big feet." "Box out." "No fouls."

If they don't do that, she doesn't hesitate to take it up a notch on the court. "You're embarrassing yourselves!" she tells them -- even when they're winning handily.

Gaters later explains: "Sloppy play is never enjoyable. Sometimes I'll be like, 'I hope this game is over soon. I can go home and watch some real basketball.'"

That candor might be hard for the members of the girls' basketball team at John Marshall Metropolitan High School to hear.

But always, they listen. They know this is a woman who can take them places.

For 40 years, Gaters has brought respect and pride to a West Side Chicago neighborhood that has seen more than its share of hard times. They understand this and also how much Gaters cares about them and their futures, whether they end up playing basketball after high school or not.

"Just do something, so that you can be self-supportive, help your family, and set an example for those who are going to follow you," the coach tells her players, who call her Ms. Gaters or often just "G."

This current crop of players helped Gaters reach her 1,000th career win in November -- placing her among an elite group of coaches at any level of basketball.

After the game, team members smiled and laughed as they watched her dance, with one arm raised, as she held her great-grandson and hugged and posed for photos with well-wishers, including about 30 former players who came to watch the historic win.

"I'm so glad it's over," Gaters said later, acknowledging that she had lost some sleep the night before the game because she didn't know as much as she'd like about the opponent.

Her Lady Commandos, as they are known, ended up winning 84-22.

That worry, her attention to detail, her competitiveness -- all of it has led her teams to eight Illinois state titles and 23 city titles.

A few of her players have gone on to play professionally, including Cappie Pondexter, a WNBA All Star and Olympic gold medalist.

"She's the first coach who really taught me the game of basketball," says Pondexter, whom Gaters first saw play in a YMCA recreational league and then helped hone her raw talent. "I credit it all to her, my humble beginnings."

Pondexter starred at Rutgers University, but she is far from the only one Gaters helped get to college -- and that is among the coach's proudest accomplishments.

In fact, her players must regularly bring in academic progress reports or report cards for her to check.

"School before basketball," says Tineesha Coleman, a junior center who hopes to play in college.

When asked what Gaters is like, former player Rhonda Greyer, now 33, ponders the question.

"She's a sweetie pie," Greyer says, quickly adding, "Off the court. OFF the court!"

She laughs, as does Pondexter when recalling the seemingly endless laps her team ran on the track above Marshall practice Gym 12, which has since been named for Gaters.

"I wasn't a troubled kid. My problem was focusing on basketball so much," Pondexter says, remembering how Gaters would call her mother if Pondexter skipped class. In her case, the punishment would be to lose gym time.

But though Gaters is tough, it is a tough love, her former players say. They recall a coach who occasionally took them to movies or out for burgers and fries.

They note how Gaters has quietly provided a coat, clothing or shoes for a player who needs them. She and her staff recently helped find housing for the family of a player who was living in an apartment with no heat.

"The relationship and the bond you have with her is forever," says Greyer, who now helps out with her own daughter's high school team. "It will carry you throughout the rest of your life."

Gaters' current players say the same.

"She treats us like we're her own," says Temya Russell, a sophomore point guard.

Gaters also teaches them how to dream. Juliunn Redmond, a 16-year-old sophomore, for instance, didn't play much basketball until eighth grade. Now a starter, she has set her sights on playing for the University of Kentucky or Louisville.

Gaters, who started coaching in 1975, understands how one can learn and succeed, in big ways. The Mississippi native who grew up in Chicago says she took on the Marshall girls' team as a young teacher, fresh out of DePaul University, because "no one else wanted to do it."

Gaters liked basketball, even played a bit herself. But she didn't know much about coaching - so she watched the boys' coaches carefully and took in any games she could find.

She won her first state championship in 1982.

Now, tucked amid the memorabilia in her office is a photo of Gaters shaking the hand of then President Bill Clinton at the White House, where she was honored for her work with young people in 1998. Another photo shows her being inducted into Women's Basketball Hall of Fame with Pat Summitt, the longtime women's basketball coach at Tennessee, at her side. In 2009, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame recognized Gaters with one of its lifetime achievement awards for high school coaches.

The 68-year-old coach says she thinks about retiring, some day, and handing off her team to the former players who are her assistants. But some are doubtful she'll leave anytime soon.

Assistant coach Gwen Howard, who played on some of Gaters' first teams, smiles and rolls her eyes playfully at the thought of the beloved coach retiring. "Please! I think this lady would do this forever if she could."

Indeed, Gaters' latest team -- a young group, mostly sophomores and freshmen -- has the coach's full attention. She can't help but see the potential, and maybe, just maybe, a shot at one more state championship.

'Serial' Turns Into A Rom-Com If You Remix It The Right Way

Tue, 2015-01-06 11:59
If the season 1 finale of "Serial" wasn't the Hollywood ending you were looking for, this parody will give it to you in the best way.

Although the crime explored in Season 1 of "Serial" is no laughing matter, this well-executed rom-com trailer made entirely of dialogue between Sarah Koenig and Adnan Syed is surprisingly funny.

Anyone who has gotten hooked on "Serial" knows that Koenig's fascination with Syed -- and their dynamic prison phone calls -- is a big part of what drives the story along, but this parody reveals how flirty things got between the two.

Watch the video from comedian Honora Talbott and add "Will they or won't they?" to your list of unanswered questions about the podcast.

Connecting Muslim-Americans to Health Insurance

Tue, 2015-01-06 11:57
-co-authored by Khadija Gurnah and Tasmiha Khan from AMHP

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, over 40 million Americans lacked health insurance. Although various provisions have gone a long way towards reducing that number, some populations are at a higher risk of being uninsured. One of those populations is Muslim Americans.

Indeed, many Muslim-Americans lack employer-sponsored health insurance (one of the most common avenues of insurance coverage), as roughly 20 percent are self-employed, 29 percent are under-employed and 17 percent are unemployed. Also, Muslim-Americans are a heavily immigrant population: 63 percent of Muslims over 18 years of age were born abroad, and 25 percent of American Muslim adults have arrived in the U.S. since 2000. As a result, many may not be aware of their options for health insurance coverage, and are at an increased risk for severe financial hardship if a medical emergency arises.

American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) is one of many organizations that works to address these health disparities. AMHP is a nonprofit organization that, over the last 10 years, has provided outlets for Muslim-Americans who work in the healthcare sector to network and collaborate on issues that operationalize their faith by serving the community. AMHP has begun a campaign to help Muslim-Americans obtain health insurance coverage through the open enrollment period of the ACA which concludes for this year on February 15, 2015.

The organization has hired a team of on-the-ground organizers independently working in their respective states to identify local mosques and community-based organizations where they have hosted enrollment and outreach events. The AMHP staff members are chosen based on their expertise in public health and community organizing, and their ability to act as culturally-competent ambassadors in American Muslim communities.

This project is an opportunity for Muslims passionate about social justice to create their own narratives on what it means to be Muslim and American. This work follows in the tradition of organizations such as the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). IMAN has worked on providing critical services to Chicago's inner city communities, and has provided opportunities for Muslims to translate their faith into social justice work that benefits the community.

The grassroots approach taken by AMHP's campaign has been critical to reaching the uninsured American Muslims. Muslims in the United States come from vastly diverse communities in terms of income, education, language, and country of origin. Community health workers trained by AMHP have connected with a wider variety of Muslim communities, and have facilitated increased health insurance enrollments in demographics that were previously hard to reach. Families struggling to make ends meet openly discuss the difficulty in prioritizing significant monthly insurance premiums over other important day-to-day expenses. Comparing health insurance plans and signing up for coverage using the health insurance marketplace was a daunting and confusing process for those facing language barriers or lack of familiarity with the Internet.

The story of Mr. K illustrates how frustrating this process can be. Mr. K, a beneficiary of Medicare Part B, moved to Chicago in 2013 from Atlanta, Georgia. Unknown to Mr. K, Medicare requires periodic reevaluation to determine eligibility and sends letters to inform enrollees to submit revaluation documentation. Due to Mr. K's change of address, that letter might have been misplaced in the mail or sent to the wrong address, and Mr. Kabani failed to submit the documents. Due to his non-response, his health insurance was suspended. At an enrollment in Illinois, navigators worked with Mr. Kabani to submit all the forms and documents needed to regain eligibility and he is on the way to once again being insured.

It is reported that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said, "The believers, in their mutual mercy, love and compassion, are like a (single) body; if one part of it feels pain, the rest of the body will join it in suffering" (Sahih Bukhari). For this reason, I believe that as American Muslims, we have a moral obligation to address the health needs of our communities. As a small community in America (Muslims are roughly 1% of the U.S. population), it hurts us all when even a single brother or sister faces hardship.

Mr. K's situation described above is like one of the hundreds of people that AMHP has helped in securing health insurance coverage through partnerships with other organizations such as Hamdard Center and Mosque Foundation. AMHP, IMAN, and other organizations committed to improving health outcomes continue to seek partners to reach new Muslim communities across the nation. AMHP, as a national organization, can be contacted to help anyone connect to resources or coverage in their state. Contact

(Note: Mr. K's name has been changed to preserve anonymity)

'Downton Abbey With My Bros' Is The Sunday Night Anthem You Weren't Expecting

Tue, 2015-01-06 11:39
Anyone fancy a game of tea pong?

We all got a little crazy in college. Maybe you pledged a fraternity or sorority, and if you got in, it was one insane party after another. And it didn't get much better on a Sunday night than nestling in the old frat house with a few candles, your butler preparing the fresh game from your earlier foxhunt, and settling in for some sweet, sweet "Downton Abbey" action, AMIRITE?? UP TOP, BRO!

Philadelphia-based comedy duo Dave and Brian present a new music video where they just want to hang out with their brothers and watch the newest season of PBS' "Downton Abbey." If they could rename their chapter Crawley House, they would.

"Downton Abbey" airs Sundays at 9/8C on PBS.

This Is What Happens When A Woman 'Manspreads' On The Subway

Tue, 2015-01-06 11:35
Apparently, taking up too much space on the subway (a.k.a. "manspreading") is only socially acceptable when men do it.

Mic editors Liz Plank and Nick Baker took to the New York City subways to see how people reacted when a woman manspreads. They found that people were not too comfortable with a woman manspreading, but seemed very accustomed to a man taking up multiple seats with his wide-legged stance.

While manspreading, Plank received numerous stares, and a random dude even snapped a picture of her splayed legs with his phone. There was little reaction to Baker, who had his legs and briefcase spread authoritatively across three seats. (Though towards the end of the video, a few women politely asked him to move his bag.)

The experiment was created in light of a petition written by men's rights activists claiming that men need to take up more space due to the "testicles between [their] legs" and that anti-manspreading campaigns are "male-bashing." This is just one of a long list of bizarre and sexist arguments MRAs often use against feminist efforts.

The manspreading phenomenon has been discussed at length in projects such as "Move The Fuck Over, Bro" and "Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train," prompting the NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority to launch a campaign encouraging everyone to be more courteous on the subways.

Plank explains in the video how collectively standing up to manspreading can empower us all. So, to all you manspreaders out there: Some manners and a little self-awareness goes a long way.

Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015 Expected To Include Three Aces

Tue, 2015-01-06 11:06
NEW YORK (AP) — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz appear to be shoo-ins for election to the Hall of Fame in what is shaping up as the baseball writers' biggest class of inductees in 60 years.

When the Hall of Fame reveals the results Tuesday at 2 p.m. on the MLB Network, holdover Craig Biggio and perhaps Mike Piazza could join those three first-ballot pitchers who were utterly dominant in a hitters' era of artificially bulging statistics. Here are some things to know about the balloting, conducted again in a period when who's elected is as intriguing as whose names were not checked by Baseball Writers' Association of America voters:


Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz stand out among the 17 newcomers to the ballot.

The reed-thin, scraggly-haired Johnson is a five-time Cy Young Award winner — four in a row from 1999-2002 — with 303 wins and 4,875 strikeouts. The Big Unit came up big in the postseason, too, sharing MVP honors in the 2001 World Series with Arizona Diamondbacks teammate Curt Schilling.

Martinez's antics off the field were nearly as enthralling as an ever-elusive changeup that helped him to three Cy Youngs — two AL, one NL — and a 2.93 ERA in 18 years. He helped bring the Boston Red Sox their first World Series championship in 86 years.

Smoltz was a steady presence on the Atlanta Braves' staff for 20 seasons — including 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 — winning the 1996 NL Cy Young. A career starter, Smoltz smoothly moved into the closer role for three full seasons and earned 154 saves. He should join former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, last year's inductees along with Frank Thomas.

The induction ceremony in Cooperstown will take place July 26.


Not since 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance all gained entrance into the Hall, have four players received the necessary 75 percent of the vote from the BBWAA.

Five were elected at the same time on just one occasion, and that was the initial Hall class of 1936.

With the ballot jammed by big names from the Steroids Era, the BBWAA has recommended to the Hall's board of directors that it increase the number of players each voter can select from 10 to 12. That change could come as soon as 2016.


Suspected and admitted users of performance-enhancing drugs have been on the ballot since Mark McGwire was a first-timer in 2007. But the real debate over PEDs and players' credentials heated up when otherwise certain locks Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens became eligible three years ago. Both glamour stars severely tarnished by steroid use accusations received about 35 percent of the vote last year, a slight dip from their first ballots.

Piazza, who received 62.2 percent in his second year on the ballot, and Jeff Bagwell (54.3 percent) are two players who have fallen under suspicion of use but were never caught up in any investigation. Will one more year on the ballot help them get closer to the threshold? Perhaps an enhanced ballot of up to 12 votes per writer next year will give them the nudge they need if they fail this year.


Biggio, the Houston Astros second baseman-outfielder with 3,060 hits, fell two votes shy of election last year. Piazza, who has more homers than any other catcher in big league history, went up about 5 percent from the previous year. According to research by Baseball Think Factory, Biggio was up to 82.9 percent of the vote on 158 public ballots sourced by the website — that's about 27.7 percent of the vote, based on last year's totals. Piazza was at 76.6 percent late Monday afternoon.

Several others on the ballot of 34 candidates are hoping to get a better look. Tim Raines (46.1 percent last year), hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage in a 23-year career for six teams. The prototypical leadoff hitter scored 1,571 runs and stole 808 bases. Career designated hitter Edgar Martinez received 35.9 percent, Curt Schilling got 29.2 and Mike Mussina 20.3 percent in 2014.

These players get only 10 years on the BBWAA ballot, recently reduced from 15 years maximum.


Next year's ballot should open up some after the election of this year's expected jumbo class and the amended voting rules. There is one sure thing in the 2016 group: Ken Griffey, Jr. He will be joined by Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner and Jim Edmonds as the chief newcomers.

10 of the Most Diverse Colleges in Illinois

Tue, 2015-01-06 10:44
One of the most important parts of college -- beyond getting an academic education -- is learning about people who are different from yourself. That kind of learning can be done in a classroom, living around, and working with different kinds of people is an effective way to inject some diversity into a college student's life.

Diversity has been a symbol of pride for the U.S., as it is for many of the nation's colleges, which are increasingly recognized for having an ethnically, culturally, religiously and socio-economically diverse student body and faculty. ranked a total of 936 colleges that are considered to be the most diverse, 36 of which are located in Illinois. Seven statistics, as well as student surveys, were used to determine the rankings.

Here's more on the group's methodology:

The Most Diverse Campus ranking provides a comprehensive assessment of the diversity at traditional four-year colleges and universities in the United States. It uses data sourced from various government and public data sets, Niche's own proprietary data, and 777,115 opinion-based survey responses about campus diversity from 99,714 current students and recent alumni.

A high ranking in diversity generally indicates that:

  • Students report that the campus is extremely diverse and fosters a community that accepts and promotes a diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses;

  • Enrolled students come from all over the United States and the world, representing various backgrounds and ethnicities;

  • The college employs a diverse faculty, both in terms of gender and ethnicity.

Check out 10 of the most diverse colleges in Illinois.

Finish off the list and see the 26 most diverse colleges in Illinois at Reboot Illinois.

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Incoming Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Faces Big Challenges

Tue, 2015-01-06 10:24
CHICAGO (AP) -- Bruce Rauner became a Republican rock star when he unseated a Democratic governor in left-leaning Illinois, pledging to run Barack Obama's home state in the mold of GOP darlings Scott Walker and Mitch Daniels. But as he takes office this month, many are wondering: Can he deliver on the hype?

There are reasons to believe the answer is no, and that Rauner's victories may have ended on Election Day. Unlike Walker in Wisconsin and Daniels in Indiana - governors Rauner has called his role models - he inherits a state with deep financial problems and a Legislature that's overwhelmingly Democratic. That could make achieving his top priorities, such as closing the state's multibillion-dollar budget hole and switching public employees to a 401k-style retirement system, far more difficult.

But Rauner and others insist that Illinois' first divided government in more than a decade won't mean four years of gridlock, but rather produce the kind of chemistry needed to end years of legislative near-paralysis.

If so, Illinois could be a notable outlier in an increasingly polarized nation of red and blue states, and could also help Republicans solve the mystery of how to become relevant again in a place that's been trending strongly Democratic.

"People have cherry picked (businesses) from us and laughed at us for many years," said Republican state Sen. Bill Brady. "I think now people are looking at us with a cautious but also optimistic eye."

Heightening Rauner's predicament is Illinois' history of putting off major issues that other states tackled during the recession. Thus, the state now has the nation's worst-funded public pension system, slower-than-average job growth, billions in unpaid bills and the worst credit rating.

The political dynamic is now changed, either for better or worse.

With a Republican in the governor's office, GOP lawmakers will at least have an incentive - some would say mandate - to put "yes" votes on major initiatives rather than just uniformly opposing, and Democrats may have to compromise more.

"I think they'll be very productive," said former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady.

But first, Rauner has fences to mend. The multimillionaire private equity investor spent the year-long campaign ripping Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and the powerful leaders of the Illinois House and Senate, calling them "career politicians" who drove the state into a "death spiral."

Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton made nice during a two-hour meeting shortly after Election Day. Rauner also been calling every member of the Legislature, saying he wants to get to know each one personally.

Many are skeptical. Among them are labor leaders, several of whom Rauner singled out by name during the campaign as contributing to the state's financial ruin. The unions are gearing up for a fight should Rauner move to weaken their bargaining power, as Daniels and Walker did in Indiana and Wisconsin.

"Bruce Rauner has made it very clear he's very hostile to organized labor," said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1.

Yet Balanoff, who was one of those Rauner accused of "owning" state government and the Democratic Party, said his union has worked with GOP governors in the past.

Rauner himself has seemed to be lowering expectations. After telling voters during the campaign he had a plan to simultaneously lower taxes and increase spending for education, he now says the state's finances are far worse than he was led to believe. It could be a way to give himself some wiggle room while pinning blame for unkept promises on the Democrats who preceded him.

Kirk Dillard, a former top GOP state senator, said Rauner could also benefit from his friendship with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a relationship nurtured during Emanuel's pre-mayoral days as an investment banker.

The state's biggest city controls "a huge block of (Democratic) votes" in the General Assembly, noted Dillard, who added that Quinn and his Democratic predecessor, now-imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, had rockier relationships with City Hall.

"That's a huge plus" for Rauner, Dillard said.

And while both Democrats and Republicans wonder if Rauner will be in over his head because he's never held public office before, supporters say he's navigated state and local government in pushing education reform, working sometimes with Emanuel on the issue. After a recent governors' session at the White House, Rauner noted that it wasn't his first visit, telling reporters he's "known a number of presidents."

Dillard says he is realistic about what Rauner can accomplish.

"Gov. Rauner needs to keep his commitments to voters," Dillard said. "And if he can't deliver on all of them, he needs to make it clear that it's the Democrats that are preventing him from doing so."

Snow Expected From Midwest To Northeast, Then Bitter Cold

Tue, 2015-01-06 02:21

CHICAGO (AP) — A winter weather system expected to dump more than a foot of snow in some places has begun its trek east, with a separate blast of arctic air right on its heels.

Here are some things to know about this latest round of weather and its expected impact:


The Alberta clipper-like system that has already dumped snow in parts of the upper Plains and Midwest was expected to leave as much as 5 to 7 inches in the Chicago area early Tuesday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Enderlen.

As the storm moves east across the Ohio Valley and Northeast, most areas will see accumulation of between 2 to 5 inches, she said. But some locations will be hit with heavier snow bands, including lake-effect snow, and could see accumulations up to 15 inches.

The system is likely to weaken as it nears the East Coast, but a couple of inches are possible Tuesday in mid-Atlantic states, according to the Weather Service.

After the clipper, a high-pressure system over Canada is expected to move toward the Plains Wednesday and then slide east, bringing unusually frigid temperatures to the eastern two-thirds of the United States, Enderlen said.

Parts of Georgia could see low temperatures Wednesday in the teens, and northern Florida is expected to be at or below freezing. From the Dakotas, across the Midwest and into the Ohio Valley, temperatures are likely to be below zero.

Come Thursday, New York City will "will be lucky if it hits 20" with lows near 10 degrees, according to Michael Musher with the Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center.


The Weather Service warns that snow-covered roads and reduced visibility will create poor travel conditions in many areas Tuesday, especially during the morning commute. Even after most snowfall has ended, increasing winds Tuesday could result in drifting snow.

At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Monday night, airlines were reporting delays of 30 minutes for incoming and outbound flights and had canceled more than 230 flights, according to the city's Aviation Department. At Midway International Airport, about three dozen flights were delayed an average of 45 minutes.

Mike Gillispie, a weather service meteorologist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said local road conditions "are going to be deteriorating very rapidly.

"If you don't have to be out and about, it's a good time to stay indoors," he said.


Officials in the coldest areas are urging residents to bundle up to guard against hypothermia and exercise caution while driving.

In Detroit and across Illinois, warming centers have opened to provide temporary relief from the cold.


Temperatures are expected to be lower than normal for days but could rise a bit by the end of the week.

"We have cold temperatures, but it's not like it never happened before," said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center. "It's typical for an Arctic outbreak."


Associated Press writers Sarah Rankin in Chicago and Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, North Dakota, contributed to this report.

Medical Marijuana Has Been Legal In Illinois For A Year, But A Single Patient Has Yet To Benefit

Mon, 2015-01-05 18:23
Medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois for more than 365 days, but the number of patients that have actually been able to get relief from the drug remains a big fat zero.

While 600 local patients have already been approved for a medical marijuana card, there's no place to actually buy the stuff. And after the state recently blew its self-imposed deadline to award business licenses to medical marijuana growers and dispensaries by the end of 2014, not a single business can even plant pot seeds.

“Illinois is the worst at anything having to do [with] medicine -- or alternative [treatment],” Claire Mooney, a 39-year-old acupuncturist in Chicago, told The Huffington Post. Mooney applied in November for a medical marijuana card, hoping to ease muscle rigidity, pain and other symptoms caused by her multiple sclerosis.

Though she's frustrated by the state's timing, she said she's also not surprised by it. “It goes on the timeline I thought it would be on, given the bureaucracy of Illinois.”

Despite the growing frustration among would-be medical marijuana patients like Mooney, it might not be time to lose heart entirely -- so says Ali Nagib, the assistant director for the Illinois arm of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a nonprofit advocacy group.

“Other than the fact that for many patients, any delay is too long, it’s not an unexpected delay for people who have been following it,” Nagib said. “If you go back and listen to floor debates in 2013, they were anticipating -- even at that time -- a year of rulemaking. In that sense, it’s not unexpected [the licensing has] taken that long."

But with a gubernatorial administration hand-off less than a week away, continued delays to the business licensing could see new variables emerge in an already complex landscape.

Outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn, considered a medical marijuana advocate, on Sunday told the Chicago Sun-Times of the state's licensing delay: "It is a complicated law and we're working on it as best we can. There's a lot of research to be done, and it has to be done right."

In less than a week, Quinn's term ends, and the licensing falls under the purview of Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, who criticized the law in the past.

“We don’t expect any major changes to the rules under [Rauner]," Nagib noted. "We simply don’t know how he’s going to implement this law. There are a lot of ways he could obstruct it if he chooses, and there are a lot of ways he could expedite it, too.”

Neither Quinn nor Rauner's office immediately replied when reached for comment.

Regardless of which administration issues the business licenses, Nagib said Illinois' medical marijuana patients are effectively "all dressed up, with no place to go."

Katelyn Harper, a 23-year-old Chicagoan who suffers from Crohn’s disease, told HuffPost she's not surprised by the long wait for medical marijuana access but remains hopeful that policy makers will avoid unnecessary delays.

“We are real people who have real lives, real jobs, friends, family," Harper said of her fellow patients who suffer from chronic illness. "[Medical marijuana] will not just benefit patients, it’ll benefit all of those people, too."

On the spectrum of states handling weed legislation, those like California and Colorado -- which legalized medical marijuana but have fewer regulations on the substance than Illinois does -- moved fastest from legalization to actual access, according to Nagib. At the other end of the spectrum is Massachusetts, still waiting on access to medical marijuana despite voters overwhelmingly approving it on a ballot measure more than two years ago.

"One criticism was that [Illinois' law] doesn’t allow for home cultivation," Nagib said. "If that provision had been in this bill, patients could have access already.”

Mooney said the dearth of licensed marijuana businesses in Illinois means patients are being denied not only access to the drug, but guidance as to which strains will best help certain conditions.

“For my multiple sclerosis, I’ve found [specific types of marijuana] very helpful,” Mooney said, noting that without licensed dispensaries, finding and using the best strain is a challenge. “I just have to scour the streets for my Maui Waui," she added, referring to the name of a strain of marijuana.

Nagib said most advocates and lawmakers are anticipating that patients will have medical marijuana access sometime between late spring and early fall of this year.

“I think this next week is going to be very telling," he said. "We’ll see if things move or not. If we get to 2015 and there’s still no patient access, I’d consider that to be a significant failure.”

Uber Adds 'Safe Ride Checklist' For Users In Boston And Chicago After Rape Allegations

Mon, 2015-01-05 17:28
Uber has released a "safe ride checklist" for app users in Boston and Chicago, following allegations that drivers in those cities sexually assaulted female passengers.

“We are being responsive,” Uber Chicago general manager Chris Taylor told The Chicago Sun-Times. “Given there have been some accusations... we want to make sure everyone knows how to use the platform in the safest way possible.”

The checklist, which Galen Moore tweeted a screenshot of on Jan. 2, includes three bulleted points:

Uber should roll out these checklists in cities where its customers haven't been raped yet.

— Galen Moore (@galenmoore) January 2, 2015

The checklist comes in the form of an in-app pop-up screen, encouraging riders to make sure that they get into the correct vehicle with the correct driver. Anna Merlan at Jezebel pointed out that, while the guidelines themselves are sensible, the checklist does not address the existing issue of registered Uber drivers assaulting passengers:
Certainly no one can argue with "make sure you're getting in the right car." But the issue has never been that women are getting in the car with someone pretending to be an Uber driver. In virtually every incident we've heard about, the women are getting into cars with actual Uber drivers, who then assault them.

Incidents involving Uber -- such as the alleged kidnapping and rape of a young female passenger on Dec. 6. -- are not limited to Chicago and Boston. In October, a Los Angeles woman claimed that an Uber driver kidnapped her and took her to an empty parking lot. The ridesharing app was banned in New Delhi after a driver there allegedly raped a female passenger. And in December 2013, law enforcement declined to prosecute an Uber driver accused of raping a 20-year-old woman after driving her home in Washington, D.C..

When asked if the checklist was directly related to the sexual assault allegations, a representative for Uber told The Huffington Post: "Uber is committed to developing new technology tools that improve safety and communication. The Safety Checklist was developed to ensure that safety features built into the app are being fully utilized."

Abigail Tracy at Vocativ called the checklist "disappointing," writing that it puts the responsibility on the customer not to get assaulted. "Here’s the bottom line: A company probably shouldn’t have to advise its customers on how not to get sexually assaulted by its employees," she wrote. "And if it does, a 'How Not to Get Raped' FAQ is a pretty lame response."

Learn more about Uber's new safety initiatives here.

17 Kiss Cam Moments That Went Wonderfully Wrong Or Terrifically Right

Mon, 2015-01-05 17:01
It's one of the staples of modern sports arenas: force people sitting next to one another and kiss.

Are some of the these kiss cam moments staged? Probably. But that just adds to the fun and spontaneous excitement of them. Kiss cam videos have been flooding the Internet over the last few days, hitting not just reddit and normal web watering holes, but the local news as well. So we thought we would compile some of the best ones right here.

Warning: Some of these end not in kisses, but embarrassment.

Sometimes, the kiss cam is about acknowledging who or what is most important to you.

Via Reddit

Even if that "who" is also sitting right there.

Via Reddit

Having a lot of options isn't a bad thing, but it can be exhausting.

Via Reddit

The key to the kiss cam is not to overdo it.

Via Reddit

And never assume.

Via Reddit

Even if you're a movie star.

Via Reddit

Be mindful of people around you.

Via Reddit

And also the person you've got your eye on. You may lose that eye.

Via Reddit

That's why it's important to choose the person you sit next to very carefully.

Via Reddit

Though, it's tough if you're on the team.

Via Reddit

Or calling the game from the broadcast booth.

Via Reddit

True fans don't let the kiss cam get in the way of their team allegiance.

Via Reddit

But even if you're the president, you must respect the power of the kiss cam.

Via Youtube

If you're a guy, be respectful of her space. Like a cobra, if you surprise someone on kiss cam, they might strike!

Via Reddit

And if you're a girl, try to gross him out all you want, he still wants the kiss.

Via Giphy

Above all though, don't hesitate, because you may miss your chance.

Via Gifbay

And then someone else will walk off with your sweetheart.

Via Youtube

Can Illinois Learn From New York's Victory Against Fracking?

Mon, 2015-01-05 16:41
Illinois environmentalists are cheering the spectacular success of the movement to ban fracking in New York. The victory is justifiably spurring reflection on how it was done. What happened in New York that Illinois environmentalists can learn from?

  • Environmental and public health groups made an unambiguous, united push for a ban or moratorium, not regulation.

  • They kept constant, aggressive grassroots pressure on Governor Cuomo and other politicians, especially during election season.

  • State government conducted a thorough study on potential public health impacts before fracking began.

  • They took the fight to small towns and potentially impacted rural areas, not just New York City.

  • As Mark Ruffalo wrote, "The fact that we didn't let the big greens come in and make back room deals was also important to note."

  • They engaged in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, including over 90 arrests near Seneca Lake since October.

Essentially, New York fractivists took the opposite approach of most big green groups active in the Illinois statehouse.

Illinois greens started with a basic chemical disclosure bill several years ago rather than organizing the passionate grassroots desire for a ban. Although there were efforts to ask legislators to pass a moratorium, statehouse green groups remained focused on various regulatory bills. Some of them eventually won a seat at the negotiating table with industry lobbyists to write a regulatory law by ignoring the loud and frequent objection of environmentalists in impacted areas who said regulation cannot make fracking safe.

During the past year, pro-regulation groups joined Governor Pat Quinn in remaining silent about his unpopular support for fracking. Sierra Club even issued a greenwash endorsement of Quinn as a "climate leader" despite his horrible record on fossil fuel extraction.

Several groups continued to engage in the regulatory process without meaningful buy-in or communication with the downstate anti-fracking movement. They tell environmental audiences they prefer a ban, but told legislators they'll settle for regulation. The result is a deeply divided movement that's less effective on all energy issues.

What's next for Illinois?

More fractivists are focusing on county government, like a victory lead by Illinois People's Action to stop a proposed oil drill in McLean county. Union county is forming a group to study the impacts of fracking and conventional drilling at the urging of the Shawnee Sentinels. There's a good reason why Illinois law doesn't allow counties to ban fracking. Some of them would actually do it.

In southern Illinois, lifelong residents and grandmothers are training to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to stop fracking operations. Additionally, momentum is building to form a coalition similar to New York that will coordinate statewide action between groups.

Illinoisans made their opposition to fracking clear through unprecedented participation in the public hearing process and by choosing not to show up for Pat Quinn on election day. But the industry's farcical campaign to marginalize fractivists as a tiny fringe continues to have lingering influence among legislators and reporters in the statehouse. One result is inadequate coverage given to the anti-fracking movement. Fractivists can't rely on regional news outlets traditionally sympathetic to fossil fuel interests to get our message out.

What the movement does next year won't make the impact it should if most of the public and politicians don't hear about it. That's why the movement needs it's own source for accurate, full coverage of how extraction industries are impacting the state.

Illinois environmentalists had discouraging setbacks in 2014. Resolving to follow New York's example will bring more success in 2015.