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Photographer Captures Former Inmates' Dreams, Fundraises For Group That Rehabilitated Them

Mon, 2015-02-23 09:19
It’s not every day that Chicago photographer Sandro Miller — whose John Malkovich photo series received widespread media acclaim — receives a handwritten letter in the mail.

But one day in early 2014, Miller opened his mailbox and found a message from advertising copywriter Brandon Crockett, who proposed an idea for a project that was close to his heart.

The contents of that letter set into motion “Finding Freedom,” a captivating art book that's currently in the works. It features Miller's photographs alongside poetry written by residents at St. Leonard's Ministry, a halfway house on Chicago’s near west side where Crockett began teaching a monthly poetry class seven years ago.

(Story continues below.)

Miguel, one of the residents in Crockett's poetry class, is pictured (right), next to his poetry (left) in this mockup of how the book.

In 2008, then a recent college graduate who had just moved to Chicago, Crockett discovered St. Leonard’s through a volunteer organization called Chicago Cares. He began attending a monthly discussion at the halfway house, and through that event, he developed an interest in its residents. Having taken up writing poetry on the side, he spoke to the halfway house’s volunteer coordinator and asked whether he could teach the residents how to write poetry. She said yes.

“Luckily she didn't ask for any qualifications because I have absolutely none,” Crockett told HuffPost via email.

The classes follow a simple structure that hasn’t changed much since Crockett started volunteering. He begins each one-hour class with an icebreaker to help get residents to loosen up, followed by a discussion on a poem or two concerning a certain topic, such as friendship or dreams. After that, he encourages the residents to write their own poems, which are finally shared out loud.

It wasn’t long after the classes got underway that Crockett felt he had something truly special on his hands.

He began to visualize putting it all together in a book, with each poem placed directly next to its author’s photograph, but he ran into roadblocks in his early attempts to get the project off the ground. After he discovered Miller's photo book spotlighting actors at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, however, something clicked.

Another of Crockett's students.

Miller responded to Crockett immediately after reading his letter, and the two met shortly thereafter to discuss the project. Soon, they began to photograph the residents taking part in Crockett’s poetry classes.

Crockett said it was a marvel to watch Miller photograph the residents.

“He would compliment the men telling them how powerful, courageous and inspiring they looked,” Crockett told HuffPost. “And when they walked away from their photo session, they were walking in the clouds. I didn't ask any of them, but there was a feeling in the room that he was treating them better than they possibly have ever been treated before.”

The process clearly touched Miller, as well.

“Several times I was moved to tears as in front of my camera sat a person, with heart, feelings and an undeniable need for understanding,” Sandro wrote in a statement. “I wanted to save them, hold them and listen to them. Instead they saved me with their words of life, broken dreams, new dreams, uplifting dreams and dreams of a new beginning.”

That new beginning now is “Finding Freedom,” which Crockett is attempting to finance via a Kickstarter fundraising campaign launched Thursday. Any donations beyond the book’s production costs will be donated to benefit St. Leonard’s, which provides housing and a range of programs — including education, employment training, exercise, addiction recovery and life skills — to help low-level offenders transition from prison to newly independent living.

In addition to raising awareness of the important work done at St. Leonard’s, Crockett said he hopes the book will help everyday people understand that the core hopes, dreams, fears and desires of the formerly incarcerated aren’t all that different from anyone else’s -- that they, too, are deserving of compassion and understanding. Should the Kickstarter be successful, proceeds from the book will also benefit St. Leonard's.

“The people at St. Leonard's are people. And that's about it,” Crockett said. “I came in there thinking the guys would be hard or put on fronts, or whatever it may be and I'd be one who could break through. And it wasn't about that. The guys were just like anyone else you'd meet on the street.”

Take a look at more of Miller's photographs accompanying Crockett's students' writing below:

16 Reasons Why Fostering A Shelter Pet Is Basically The Best Thing In The World

Mon, 2015-02-23 08:15
Want to make the world a better place in one easy step? Take home a foster pet from a local shelter or rescue group.

Fostering means bringing in a cat or dog -- or parrot, or baby pig, or any other homeless pet -- with the goal of nurturing them for a while until they can be dispatched to a permanent home with a family who'll love them forever.

It's a crucial part of the animal rescue world. It's also amazing, for you and for the animals. Here's why:

I Saw Roger Ebert at the Oscars -- Did You?

Mon, 2015-02-23 08:04
When I went to see the Oscar-nominated Selma directed by Ava DuVernay, I wondered what Roger Ebert would think of it.

What kind of review would he write? How would he write it? What personal experiences would he bring to it? It's these types of questions I always ask myself when I go to the movies. Every time I go see something in a theater, I never really go in alone, but Roger Ebert comes with me, as with questions of what Roger would write.

These are questions that will never be answered.

We will never know what Ebert thought about Selma or Boyhood. We will never know what criticism or nugget of wisdom he would give us about Birdman or The Theory of Everything. We are unknowing, because Ebert is no longer with us.

In death, Ebert's silence is deafening. I miss his presence deeply, and I read his past reviews in hopes of somehow grasping an idea of how he could write reviews that were so humble, human and full of empathy and compassion.

Ebert, as a critic, transcended film criticism.

His influence on movies is tremendous, which is why when the Oscar nominations for "Best Documentary Feature" went up, I -- as long with many others -- was heartbroken and livid that Steve James' documentary about Pulitzer prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert's life, Life Itself was not among the nominees. I was in disbelief.

Life Itself, directed by Steve James, was a documentary film about a writer who changed the way we view movies today. James carefully assembled a history of Ebert's life, detailing his early start in journalism as a student journalist at the Illini, his rise at the Chicago Sun-Times, his fame as a television film critic, his alcoholism, his sobriety, his women, his love for movies, his rivalry and friendship with Gene Siskel. Within the film, we saw rare footage of Ebert in his last days, full of humor to the end.

Through the film, we saw Ebert the good, Ebert the bad and Ebert the funny.

Life Itself detailed a flawed man, but as imperfect as he was, above everything, we saw his love for the cinema and his unparalleled talent, writing reviews that were critical, yet human.

However, what's most important about Life Itself isn't about how Roger came to be, or his history, or even his writing. It was about the multitudes of film makers, writers, reporters and creative minds whose lives were touched and changed forever because of Roger's words.

And that's what I saw at the Oscars.

I didn't see the harrowing absence of Life Itself in the nominations category, but the living presence of Ebert in every filmmaker there. He lives in DuVernay's Selma. He's alive in Birdman. And, he thrives in Boyhood.

There was one particular face I recognized from Life Itself at the Oscars, and that was Ava DuVernay, who directed Selma. She is the first black female director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

In Life Itself, DuVernay detailed an anecdote from her childhood in which her aunt took her to an Oscars' rehearsal where she met Roger Ebert for the first time. DuVernay recalled, with an enthusiasm that matched her own when she was a child, reaching out to Ebert yelling, "Thumbs up! Thumbs up!"

Duvernay came out with her first film in 2011, titled I Will Follow. The film followed the death of a beloved aunt, and detailed the harrowing nature of the death of a close one. It was in Life Itself that DuVernay revealed that "It was Ebert's review that really got to the heart of what I was trying to articulate."

DuVernay wrote a heartfelt email to Ebert with a childhood picture of her and Ebert together. In response, she got a touching blog post noting his own beloved aunt who introduced him to the movies.

In response to reading Ebert's blog post, DuVernay remembered breaking down crying. She stated that as a black woman, in a film world dominated by white males, she feared her work would be misread or misunderstood. However, with Ebert, she felt safe. She stated:

It's dangerous as a black woman to give something that you've made from your point of view, that's very steeped in your identity and your personhood, to a white man whose gaze is usually the exact opposite. To say 'you're the carrier of this film to the public; you're the one who's going to dictate whether or not if it has value.' You had a lot less fears with that with Roger, because you knew he was someone who was going to take it seriously and come with some sort of historical context, some sort of cultural nuance.

And she was right.

Ebert, in reviewing her film, emphasized that the film was about the grief about losing the one you love, and the void that is left because of it. Race, as what most critics would have focused on, was the last thing that Ebert noticed in it. He stated, "Why do I mention race? I wasn't going to. This is a universal story about universal emotions. Maybe I mention it because this is the kind of film black filmmakers are rarely able to get made these days, offering roles for actors who remind us here of their gifts."

In Selma, Ebert would be so proud of DuVernay.

And as we saw Oscar night, DuVernay stood proudly as the first black female director ever nominated for Best Picture with Selma. I looked back on her scene in Life Itself and instantly knew Ebert would be proud of her.

Roger once said, "The purpose of civilization and growth is to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us."

Selma does just that, and more.

DuVernay created a work of art that not only detailed the accurate history of the black civil rights movement of American past, but a work of empathy in a relevant time where injustices against African-Americans are at an all-time high. In a time of too many Michael Browns, Tamir Rices and Trayvon Martins, empathy and compassion is desperately needed. There is immediacy to this empathy that can be sensed through Selma.

As someone who used to roll his eyes at the Ferguson protests, I can say that watching Selma has changed my perspective forever. In seeing how long these injustices run, I am no longer indifferent. This is the power of cinema, as testified by Ebert.

DuVemay is one of many new, young filmmakers whose careers were given life to because of Ebert's reviews. Ebert was always one to give life to new and varied voices who reflected the diversity and different shades of the American narrative. His reviews jump-started new, diverse voices such as Martin Scorsese, Errol Morris, Gregory Nava, Ramin Bahrani and even Steve James, whose films would have fallen under obscurity unless Roger Ebert hadn't brought perspective to it.

Ebert's writing made careers, and it allowed filmmakers like DuVernay the future to create masterpieces such as Selma and break barriers previously erected against black females in the film industry. Ebert's legacy lives on in DuVernay's work.

As I watched the Oscars on Sunday night, I noticed that Ebert hadn't left us at all. He didn't die. He was alive. He didn't lose. He was the biggest winner of all.

As much as I would have loved to see Life Itself win an Oscar -- or hell, even get nominated -- I don't think it would have done Ebert's legacy justice.

Ebert didn't need an Oscar to speak for him.

Ebert's voice and power lives on in DuVernay's Selma. Ebert is alive in Boyhood. He is alive in Birdman. He is alive and loud where movies exist and persist to make the world a better place.

The last sentence of his last blog post before he died said, "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."

And, see him I did.

On Oscar night, I gave him two thumbs up.

13 Million Illinois Citizens Named Bruce

Mon, 2015-02-23 06:34

The billionaire Republican Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, injected himself into ceremonies in Chicago last week presided over by the city’s Democratic mayor and the nation’s Democratic president.

Rauner insisted on attending because he wrongheadedly thought the Democrats were honoring his idol, kingpin George Pullman, the guy who invented the luxury railroad sleeper car, oppressed his workers and suppressed their union.

Rauner, and other kowtow-to-the-rich Republican governors, adhere to the Pullman philosophy that rich people are better than everyone else and that gives them the right to control the lives of everyone else. They don’t comprehend the dreams and desires of the middle class and working poor. So Rauner couldn’t conceive that the ceremony in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood named Pullman by Pullman for his personal self-aggrandizement was not about placing the mogul on a pedestal but really about recognizing the people who ultimately prevailed despite his exploitation.

This 1943 image taken at Union Station in Chicago, Ill., by photographer Jack Delano of a sleeping car porter employed by the Pullman Company is from the U.S. Library of Congress. 

At ceremonies designating the Pullman Historic District as a national monument, President Obama’s speech served as both a rebuke and history lesson for Rauner. The president told the tale of Pullman from the workers’ point of view.

Pullman constructed his first sleeper car three years after the Civil War ended and nine years later employed his first black porters for an expanded service. These black men and women were hired at low wages to work long hours to wait on wealthy white customers hand and foot. This was a Southern plantation travelling America on rails.

Porters, who had to pay for their own uniforms and equipment such as shoe shine boxes, depended on tips for much of their income. As a result, most kept silent as white passengers referred to them all by Pullman’s first name, “George.” This demeaning treatment inspired the 2002 Robert Townsend film 10,000 Black Men Named George.

The community Pullman built around his factory was a company town in all the worst ways. Pullman owned everything, the homes, the hospital, the shops, the hotel named for his daughter Florence, and, of course, the source of all income – the jobs.

Pullman believed he should decide what was best for all the residents. The town contained no taverns because he felt residents were better off without alcohol. He refused to allow workers to own their homes because he feared “the risk of seeing families settle who are not sufficiently accustomed to the habits I wish to develop in the inhabitants of Pullman City."

During the recession of 1893 and 1894, Pullman slashed wages for workers, but not his own pay. He refused to ease rents and grocery costs, which would have reduced his profits, even as his workers and their children suffered. His row house inhabitants, barely surviving on soup kitchen handouts from Chicago charities, sent a delegation to negotiate with him. He wouldn’t relent, contending, as if he were a benevolent parent and not a insensitive tyrant, that they were “all his children.” 

Not willing to subsist as helpless inhabitants of a rich man’s dollhouse, the community’s workers, who believed in America’s promise of self-determination, organized a strike. It eventually spread across the country as the porters joined in. Pullman got the President to send in federal troops who fixed bayonets on the populace and killed more than 30 workers.

The workers returned to their jobs, but they’d experienced the power of collective action. And that couldn’t be repressed. The workers cheered in 1898 when the state Supreme Court ordered the company town sold. It would take decades longer, but the workers eventually secured their goal of collective action on the job.

In 1925, the porters established a labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and chose civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph to lead it. At that meeting, Randolph explained why workers’ concerted action was essential: “What this is about is making you master of your economic fate.” 

Pullman refused to recognize the union and tried to squelch it, firing as many members of the brotherhood as his spies could find. It took the workers 12 years, but finally after passage of the National Labor Relations Act, which provided a clear legal path to unionization, Pullman was forced to acknowledge and negotiate with the brotherhood.

Standing in the Pullman Historic District Thursday, President Obama said, “So this site is at the heart of what would become America’s labor movement — and as a consequence, at the heart of what would become America’s middle class.”

"As Americans we believe workers' rights are civil rights. That dignity and opportunity aren’t just gifts to be handed down by a generous government or by a generous employer; they are rights given by God, as undeniable and worth protecting as the Grand Canyon or the Great Smoky Mountains.” President Obama said.

That, however, is not what Republicans like Bruce Rauner believe. They think, just as Pullman did, that workers’ rights should be circumvented, slighted and squashed for the benefit of the rich. 

And they’re striving to accomplish that. In one of his first acts as governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker slashed the rights, pay and benefits of public sector union members. Republicans in Indiana and Michigan passed laws to ensure their citizens could work for less than what a labor union could bargain for them, and several other Republican-dominated states including Wisconsin, Nevada and West Virginia are considering measures to constrain the ability of workers to collectively seek better wages and working conditions.

The Republican governor of Ohio tried to restrict the rights of public sector workers to collectively bargain, but citizens overwhelmingly reversed him in a referendum.

In the weeks before the ceremony in Chicago, Rauner attempted by executive fiat to financially hobble labor unions representing state workers and urged the state’s cities and counties to ignore state and federal labor laws by creating zones where employees would have the right to work for less than the amount labor unions could negotiate for them. 

Similarly, he proposed in the budget he offered last week that the middle class and working poor take all of the hits to mend the state’s finances. He plans, for example, to cut Medicaid for the poor and elderly, health insurance and pensions for government workers, mass transit used by the working poor to get to jobs, and services to vulnerable former foster kids.

In the meantime, he had the state hire a $100,000-a-year assistant for his wife and plans to renovate the governor’s Civil War-era mansion.

Like Pullman, “Daddy” Rauner is intent on controlling Illinois’ “children.”  He said as he issued his budget, “Instilling discipline is not easy, saying ‘no’ is not popular.” That is a budget requiring no discipline for billionaire private equity CEOs like Rauner. His aides said he never even considered new taxes on his country club buddies. Only workers are to endure austerity in Rauner’s Illinois.

Rauner is making a bid for a new film set in Chicago. This one will be called 13 Million Illinois Citizens Named Bruce. Already it’s a flop with the populace.  

The 10 American Cities Most Obsessed With Eating Organic Food

Mon, 2015-02-23 06:00
Stereotypically, organic leafy greens washed down with a recycled jar of kombucha might be considered a typical meal for those hippie Californians. But those earthy West Coasters aren't the only ones interested in eating organic anymore.

A new study commissioned by Campbell Soup Company and Sperling’s Best Places analyzed the most organic-eating cities in America, narrowing the list down to a top 10.

As it turns out, eating organic food is growing as a priority nationwide. As reported in a 2014 Gallup study, 45 percent of Americans actively seek out organic foods. This same study found that city-dwellers (as opposed to those who report living in a rural area) and West Coasters are more likely to include organic food in their diets.

According to Campbell Soup Company and Sperling’s Best Places study, these are the 10 most organic cities in America:

  1. Portland, OR

  2. San Francisco, CA

  3. Providence, RI

  4. Sacramento, CA

  5. Minneapolis, MN

  6. Boston, MA

  7. Seattle, WA

  8. Austin, TX

  9. Philadelphia, PA

  10. Washington, D.C.

Investigators combined the findings of original research and existing related research and data on this topic to find the most popular cities for organic eating. The data was based on metrics related to consumers' preferences for organic foods. A poll conducted on Sperling’s Best Places website, which yielded 6,500 responses from participants across the U.S. in three days, was included, as well as Yelp results for "Organic Grocery Stores" and "Organic Restaurants," local farmers' markets and community supported agriculture groups (CSAs), and consumers' buying habits at the grocery store.

So what exactly does "organic" mean, besides more expensive? The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as food that is "produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations." One hundred percent organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products are produced from animals that are fed no growth hormones or antibiotics. Organic produce is grown without using conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients.

While the term organic is often subjected to the health halo effect, there are cases when organic may be better. For example, a recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that people who eat organic fruits and vegetables may have lower levels of certain pesticides in their bodies compared to those who eat conventionally grown produce.

Before a product is labeled "organic," it has to be reviewed by a USDA National Organic certifying agent, who inspects the farm from where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is abiding by the required rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.

The market certainly reflects Americans' increasing interest in eating organic: In 2013, mega-retailer Target launched its "Simply Balanced" grocery wellness brand, in which 40 percent of its products are organic. Campbell's recently put out a line of organic soups and even American dogs have the option to eat pesticide free.

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

The 10 American Cities Most Obsessed With Eating Organic Food

Mon, 2015-02-23 06:00
Stereotypically, organic leafy greens washed down with a recycled jar of kombucha might be considered a typical meal for those hippie Californians. But those earthy West Coasters aren't the only ones interested in eating organic anymore.

A new study commissioned by Campbell Soup Company and Sperling’s Best Places analyzed the most organic-eating cities in America, narrowing the list down to a top 10.

As it turns out, eating organic food is growing as a priority nationwide. As reported in a 2014 Gallup study, 45 percent of Americans actively seek out organic foods. This same study found that city-dwellers (as opposed to those who report living in a rural area) and West Coasters are more likely to include organic food in their diets.

According to Campbell Soup Company and Sperling’s Best Places study, these are the 10 most organic cities in America:

  1. Portland, OR

  2. San Francisco, CA

  3. Providence, RI

  4. Sacramento, CA

  5. Minneapolis, MN

  6. Boston, MA

  7. Seattle, WA

  8. Austin, TX

  9. Philadelphia, PA

  10. Washington, D.C.

Investigators combined the findings of original research and existing related research and data on this topic to find the most popular cities for organic eating. The data was based on metrics related to consumers' preferences for organic foods. A poll conducted on Sperling’s Best Places website, which yielded 6,500 responses from participants across the U.S. in three days, was included, as well as Yelp results for "Organic Grocery Stores" and "Organic Restaurants," local farmers' markets and community supported agriculture groups (CSAs), and consumers' buying habits at the grocery store.

So what exactly does "organic" mean, besides more expensive? The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as food that is "produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations." One hundred percent organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products are produced from animals that are fed no growth hormones or antibiotics. Organic produce is grown without using conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients.

While the term organic is often subjected to the health halo effect, there are cases when organic may be better. For example, a recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that people who eat organic fruits and vegetables may have lower levels of certain pesticides in their bodies compared to those who eat conventionally grown produce.

Before a product is labeled "organic," it has to be reviewed by a USDA National Organic certifying agent, who inspects the farm from where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is abiding by the required rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.

The market certainly reflects Americans' increasing interest in eating organic: In 2013, mega-retailer Target launched its "Simply Balanced" grocery wellness brand, in which 40 percent of its products are organic. Campbell's recently put out a line of organic soups and even American dogs have the option to eat pesticide free.

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

Hacker Extorts Bitcoin Ransom From Illinois Police Department

Sun, 2015-02-22 09:17
MIDLOTHIAN, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago police department paid a hacker a $500 ransom to restore access to data on a police computer that the hacker had disabled through the use of an increasingly popular type of virus.

The police department in Midlothian, a village southwest of Chicago, was hit in January by a form of the Cryptoware virus, which encrypted some files on a department computer, leaving them inaccessible without the encryption key, the Chicago Tribune reported ( ). Midlothian Police Chief Harold Kaufman confirmed the department had been hacked, but declined further comment. A Tribune open records request turned up a village invoice listing the payment with the heading "MPD virus."

An unknown hacker said that if the department wanted to unencrypt the files, it had to pay a ransom in bitcoin, a digital currency that is virtually untraceable, said Calvin Harden Jr., an IT vendor who works with the village.

The village had to make a tough decision, Harden said, and chose to make the payment because going after the hacker might have been more trouble than it was worth.

"Because the backups were also infected, the option was to pay the hacker and get the files unencrypted, which is what we decided to do," he told the newspaper.

The problem of hackers demanding ransoms from law enforcement and government agencies around the country has been spreading over the past year or two, said Fred Hayes, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. The city of Detroit and a sheriff's office in Tennessee recently suffered Cryptoware attacks by ransom-seekers, the Tribune reported.

Hayes said his advice to departments is to back up their data.

"This is something that quite a few people recently ... have been experiencing," he said.


Information from: Chicago Tribune,

How To Stop A Jealous Thought In Its Tracks

Sun, 2015-02-22 08:48
We've all been there. We see our partner (most likely harmlessly) flirting with the waitress or hear about our co-worker getting the promotion we really wanted. The knowledge of these events can launch us from content to seething in a matter of moments.

Jealousy and envy both have a tendency to bubble up unexpectedly -- one little observation can have a huge impact on our emotions. But how we handle them is what truly matters.

We all get a visit from the green-eyed monster from time to time, but that doesn't mean we have to let him rent space in our minds. Below are a few tips to help you manage jealousy or envy -- without losing control.

Voice your concerns.

The simplest way to deal with these emotions is to plainly discuss them, Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, told The Huffington Post. This shouldn't be a rage-filled conversation, but rather an opportunity to explore what's really going on and open the lines of communication. "Bring up your feelings, but not in an accusatory way," he said. "Use it as a way to talk about what's going on and what behavior you're seeing that is causing these emotions."

Take differing opinions into account.
What you may view as a cause for jealousy could mean something different for your partner or friend. Make sure to have open communication within your relationships so you're better able to process these emotions if they arise.

Take some time to figure out what is causing you to feel this way.

Have there been discrepancies with this person in the past? Are you upset over a lack of communication? Do you feel that you're just not being appreciated enough? Ask yourself questions that may help you reframe your perspective on the situation and your uncertainties, Humphreys advised. There might be an underlying issue at play, which you can then address head on.

Consider jealousy as a cue for change.
"Jealousy can sometimes be a spur for us to do something productive," he said. If you're feeling jealous, consider it as a prompt for reasonable action -- whether that's within yourself or within the context of your relationships.

This could be as simple as clearing the air with your friends or partner, or it could lead to a bigger conversation that, quite honestly, you may have been avoiding. "It isn't pleasant, but at least you have a way to respond to these emotions," Humphreys said. Negative emotions aren't worth staying bottled up and unresolved.

Accept that the only behavior you can control is your own.

"You do not have the power to make the person you love do everything you want them to do -- and in a way, that can feel frightening," Humphreys said. "Accepting that is part of growing, even though we may not like it. It shows how vulnerable we are."

The sooner we acknowledge this truth, the sooner we can let go of unhealthy, jealous habits. "You won't do a lot of behaviors designed to control or monitor your partner or friend," he said. "Those reactions can be really destructive" -- to others and yourself.

Remind yourself that envy isn't going to benefit you.
What excessive jealousy is to relationships is what envy is to ourselves: Toxic. Someone's success isn't your failure. "Envy and being angry at ourselves for something we don't have is completely unproductive and endless," Humphreys said. "It doesn't contribute anything meaningful to our lives."

Ultimately remember you're not looking at the whole picture.

Don't underestimate what someone is going through or dealing with in their own lives, Humphreys cautions. Everyone has their hardships and we often forget that when we're seeing green. "When we're envying people, we're often filling in a whole life for them that is way better than it actually is," he said. "No one's life is perfect, so don't beat yourself up with a fantasy."

Meet The 12 Youngest Legislators In America (That We Could Find)

Sun, 2015-02-22 08:12
The average age of a state legislator nationwide is 56, but that didn't stop these folks from running for office. With differing political ideologies and representing a range of states, they share one uncommon characteristic: their youth. The youngest one was elected at 18, and even the oldest is only 23. Meet the 12 youngest state legislators in the country, as far as we could tell.

If you know a legislator who belongs on this list, please email us here.

Photos By Vivian Maier, Focus Of Oscar-Nominated Documentary, In Legal Limbo

Sat, 2015-02-21 11:43
CHICAGO (AP) -- A messy legal fight over copyrights to streetscape photos shot by a Chicago nanny whose life is chronicled in "Finding Vivian Maier," which is nominated for an Oscar on Sunday, threatens to slow or even stop new releases of her once-unknown work that has become a sensation only after her death.

The enigmatic Maier died penniless five years ago with no will, no obvious heirs and no inkling that the more than 150,000 photographs she snapped in her spare time in Chicago and New York from the 1950s onward would become so prized. Now, two men she never knew are tussling over who holds the rights to print, sell and display the images she created.

Maier's intimate and often-gritty photography, which she made no attempt to sell commercially in her lifetime, focused on everyday people, rich and poor, and captures the flavor of a bygone era. Since interest in her work exploded, prints of her photographs have sold for thousands of dollars.

Center stage in the dispute is John Maloof, a 33-year-old former Chicago real estate agent who features in and co-directs the documentary. He bought a box full of Maier's negatives at auction for $400 from a repossessed storage locker in 2007. He now owns the vast majority of her work, more than 100,000 images that are mostly in negatives or undeveloped film. He traced Maier's whereabouts in the Chicago area in 2009, just days after she died at age 83.

Maloof defends his project - now his full-time job - of managing his Maier collection. Years going through negatives, and paying for professional restorers and printers has cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Until recently, he either lost money or just broke even, he said.

"My life is 100 percent on this project," he said. "It is a blessing and a curse."

It was Virginia-based David Deal, a longtime commercial photographer who read about Maier as he completed a law degree, who sparked the legal fight by filing a notice in a Chicago probate court last summer. Deal's filing identifies a relative of Maier's in France, retired bureaucrat Francis Baille, as Maier's closest relative - a first cousin once removed. Deal says that makes him Maier's rightful heir.

Deal insists his motivation for intervening isn't monetary. As a former professional photographer himself, he said, he is sensitive to copyright violations and stepped in to ensure the conundrum posed by Maier's photos is properly dealt with.

Illinois law is straightforward: The closest living relative is the heir, period. Whether Maier disliked a relative or didn't know the person existed is no factor, said Patty Gerstenblith, a DePaul University law professor.

Baille, said Deal, had never heard of Maier.

No one disputes Maloof rightly owns the negatives. But ownership doesn't confer copyrights, like owning a music CD doesn't give someone rights to reproduce and sell it.

Maloof believes he has copyrights, though he concedes that issue isn't settled. His basis is a different Frenchman he contends is Maier's closest relative, Sylvain Jaussaud, also described as a first cousin once removed. Jaussaud, who did know Maier and appears in the film, signed over copyrights to Maloof, he said.

Deal argues that Maloof should have launched probate proceedings himself years earlier to establish who Maier's heirs were, and says it's Maloof's own fault Maier's growing ranks of fans could be deprived of much of her work.

"We wouldn't be in this position today if he'd not cut legal corners," Deal said.

"That's garbage," responds Maloof. He did exhaustive genealogy research and knew of Baille, he said. But he ruled him out after a French judge determined he wasn't as close a relative as Deal asserts.

Maloof says a probate filing wasn't required. But once Deal took that step, it set off a drawn-out legal process. It also means the players now include Cook County, which by law represents Maier's estate in the interim.

To avoid the legal headache, an owner of a far smaller collection of Maier's photography sold it all to a Canadian gallery. Maloof has no intention of doing that.

The county could cut a deal right away with Maloof, possibly letting him reproduce her work with some profits going into escrow until the heir question is resolved. Maloof said Thursday a recent meeting with county lawyers left him more optimistic. Officials, he said, understand the intense interest in Maier.

"They don't want to shut us down," Maloof said. "I am confident something can be worked out."

Latino Actors Weren't Snubbed At The Oscars -- But That's Not A Good Thing

Fri, 2015-02-20 19:46
It's been 14 years since a U.S. Latino actor last took home an Academy Award. No one knows when that will happen again, but it certainly won't be this Sunday.

After the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced its all-white slate of nominees for the acting categories in January, Twitter users expressed their discontent with hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite. Their focus was mostly on the film “Selma,” whose cast and director were all passed over for nominations. Few people brought up the issue of snubbed Latino actors.

That’s probably because, according to statistics and Latino advocates, the real issue for Latinos isn’t a lack of nominations but a lack of roles in the first place.

“The problem is there are [few] roles that are available to Latino actors, and they are generally not central to the narrative,” Felix Sanchez, co-founder and chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, told The Huffington Post. “They are a pivot point for the main storyline. That’s the case in ‘Boyhood’ and that happens repeatedly in films. So we’re left to create our own independent films, which do not really get the audience. And often the money is not there to really produce a film that will win awards.”

An overview of the history of Latino actors at the Academy Awards is revealing. When you include international Latin American and Spanish stars in the tally, Latinos have won an Oscar 9 times out of a total of 29 nominations. Only one Latino has ever won the Best Actor award -- José Ferrer, for 1950's "Cyrano de Bergerac" -- and no Latina has ever been named Best Actress.

The academy has received plenty of criticism over its lack of diversity, particularly after the Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that academy voters were 94 percent white, 2 percent black and less than 2 percent Latino.

When controversy concerning diversity resurfaced this year, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the academy’s president, spoke up.

“We are committed to do our part to ensure diversity in the industry,” Boone Isaacs, who became organization’s first black president in 2013, told The New York Times in January. “We are making great strides, and I personally wish it was moving quicker, but I think the commitment is there and we will continue to make progress.”

The Huffington Post repeatedly reached out to the academy seeking comment for this article, but received no response.

Even in films that don't get nominated for Oscars, Latinos don't have much of a presence. In the 100 top-grossing films of 2013, only 4.9 percent of roles went to Latino actors and actresses, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school. Meanwhile, Latinos make up 17 percent of the nation’s total population. That’s more than 54 million people, a number that the Census Bureau expects will double by 2050.

“The Latino Media Gap,” a report released in June by Columbia University, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, found similarly bleak results for Latino actors, even showing a trend toward less participation over time rather than more. For each year between 2000 and 2013, researchers looked at the 10 films with the highest domestic gross. They found that Latino lead role appearances -- that is, all leading roles filled by a Latino actor or actress -- went from 2.8 percent of all leading roles in the 2000s to 1.4 percent in the 2010s.

Frances Negrón-Muntaner, a Puerto Rican filmmaker and scholar, was the principal investigator on the study, which focused overall on the state of Latinos in media.

“One way of visualizing the situation is to consider that at the current rate of change, it will take 60 years for Latinos to fill 17 percent of lead roles,” Negrón-Muntaner wrote in the report. “By then, however, the Latino population is expected to double.”

Sanchez told HuffPost that there are many facets to Hollywood’s diversity problem. One, he said, is that not only are Latino actors overlooked for leading roles, but when they get supporting roles, the script tends to position them as subservient to the white characters.

"It’s appalling that in the 50 years between the two films we still haven’t understood who Latinos are."

Sanchez said this problem was visible in one of the year’s most nominated films, Richard Linklater's “Boyhood.” In the film, a Latino yard worker (Roland Ruiz) crosses paths with the main character’s mother (Patricia Arquette), who advises the young man to go back to school. During a second encounter years later, Ruiz's character, whose life is now very different, thanks Arquette's character for putting him on a new course.

Despite the widespread critical acclaim for "Boyhood," Sanchez argued that a movie like George Stevens' 1956 drama "Giant," also set in Texas, does a better a job of portraying the Latino experience than Linklater’s film.

“It’s appalling that in the 50 years between the two films we still haven’t understood who Latinos are,” Sanchez said. “‘Giant’ was almost more correct at talking about the Latino condition, because it showed all the biases that people had and the fears they had about intermarriage -- but once there was a child, it melted away that anger and that inability to conceive what this would be like... And then you compare that to 'Boyhood,' and we’re still in this ‘we need a white character to save us' mode.”

Latino typecasting is a actually a big part of the problem. The stereotype of the sexy Latina vixen, for example, remains alive and well. Of the Latina actresses who appeared in the 100 top-grossing films of 2013, nearly 38 percent were partially or fully naked on screen at some point, according to the University of Southern California’s study. For white actresses, that figure was 32 percent; for black actresses, 24 percent; and for Asian actresses, 18 percent.

Equally unnerving is that 69 percent of "the most iconic TV and movie maids" since 1996 have been played by Latina actresses, according to the “Latino Media Gap” report. The study also found that from 2012 to 2013, nearly 18 percent of Latino film characters were linked to crime. All in all, opportunities for emotionally complex leading roles are thin on the ground for Latino actors and actresses, which in turn means they tend not to be recognized at awards season.

In response to being pitched roles that perpetuate stereotypes, some of the industry's biggest Latino stars have developed their own projects. John Leguizamo began his career as the son of a drug lord on “Miami Vice,” but for several years now the actor has been creating films and one-man shows, like the hit “Ghetto Klown,” as a way to fight back.

“I had to,” Leguizamo told The Hollywood Reporter at Sundance earlier this year. “It was an antidote to the system, to the Hollywouldn’t-ness of it all. You know? And it was that, because I didn’t want to be a drug dealer or a murderer for the rest of my life. That’s not me, that’s not my people.”

Spanish actor Javier Bardem accepts the Oscar for best supporting actor in 2007. The star was recognized for his work in "No Country for Old Men."

To complicate things further, media coverage and researchers often lump together Spaniards, Latin American-born actors and U.S. Latinos into one category, which can create the impression that the U.S. film industry is more inclusive of Latinos than it really is. If you exclude actors who began their careers abroad, or who identify as other nationalities (as in the case of Mexican-born Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o), just 12 U.S. Latino actors and actresses have been nominated for an Academy Award in 87 years of Oscar history. Only five have won.

To put that in perspective, in the past 20 years only one Latino actor raised within the 50 states has been nominated for an Academy Award -- Benicio Del Toro, once for 2000's "Traffic," which he won, and once for 2003's "21 Grams," which he did not.

“When Hollywood looks at casting, they think, ‘Well, let’s get a real Latino’ who is more likely born outside the borders of the United States,” said Sanchez. “They don’t validate or recognize U.S. Latinos as proper subjects of an American film. They misunderstand the immigration issue... The multi-generational aspect of our existence in the United States is a very different story that needs to be told.”

The "Latino Media Gap" researchers also found that professionals who began their careers in Latin America or Spain were more likely to come from "privileged socio-economic backgrounds" and less likely in general to face prejudice than many U.S. Latinos.

Even if you include international Latino actors in the Oscar statistics, Del Toro’s 2000 win still came a full nine years after Mercedes Ruehl took home Best Supporting Actress for “The Fisher King.” And Ruehl's win, in turn, came 30 years after the previous win by a Latino actor -- Rita Moreno, for 1961's "West Side Story."

The general under-representation of Latinos in Hollywood is a bit baffling when you think of how much money the studios could be making. The "Latino Media Gap" report projected that by 2015, Latino buying power is expected to reach $1.6 trillion.

“To put this figure in perspective: if U.S. Latinos were to found a nation, that economy would be the 14th greatest in the world,” wrote Negrón-Muntaner.

This makes Latinos the group with the fastest-growing buying power in the country. They’re also growing faster than anybody else within the key 18-to-34 marketing demographic.

“To put this figure in perspective: if U.S. Latinos were to found a nation, that economy would be the 14th greatest in the world."

And these numbers definitely translate to cold hard cash for studios. The Motion Picture Association of America found that 25 percent of movie tickets sold in 2013 went to Latinos, a greater share than what any other minority group bought.

In the past, Latinos have been known to turn films like “The Lego Movie” and the “Fast and the Furious” franchise into box office hits. More recently, Deadline has noted the success of Jennifer Lopez’s $4 million thriller “The Boy Next Door,” which opened in January with a $15 million box office. The same weekend, Johnny Depp’s $60 million production “Mortdecai” opened with just $4 million in sales.

“We are starting to show our muscle because we can actually show a rate of return for the investment and an audience willing to participate with Latino content,” Sanchez told HuffPost. “That is the window into the future. But it is such an uphill climb.”

One industry player that took early note of the demographic shift was Lions Gate Entertainment, which in 2010 teamed with Mexico’s Grupo Televisa to launch Pantelion Films, the first major Latino Hollywood studio. Since then, Pantelion has released Spanish-language, English-language and bilingual films, including “From Prada To Nada” and “Girl In Progress” -- films that starred notable Latino actors like Wilmer Valderrama, Alexa PenaVega and Eva Mendes.

“We know that we need to provide something in these films that the Latino viewer wouldn’t be able to get from the big Hollywood films,” Edward Allen, chief operating officer of Pantelion, told HuffPost. “And a big part of that is the story, the setting and the cast.”

The studio’s breakout film came in 2013 with "Instructions Not Included," directed by the Mexican actor-director Eugenio Derbez. "Instructions" -- which had a 95 percent Latino audience, according to Allen -- stunned at the Labor Day weekend box office and became the most successful Spanish-language film in the history of the United States.

“I think one thing that is evident from the success of that movie is that the Latino audience, just like any other audience, responds to authenticity,” Allen told HuffPost.

Lately, he said, larger studios seem to have started getting the message.

“I think there is a better understanding of the authenticity that the Latino audience wants to see, as opposed to cliche and caricature,” said Allen, noting also the success of television series like The CW's "Jane the Virgin."

In addition to Pantelion's films, 20th Century Fox recently released "The Book of Life," an animated feature based on Mexico's Day of the Dead, and Disney just released "McFarland USA," which stars Kevin Costner and focuses on the uplifting true story of an all-Latino cross-country team in California.

Sanchez told HuffPost that studio executives who ignore the demographic realities do so at their own peril.

“Look, there’s a demographic shift," he said. "Either you plan for it or somebody else will.”

Chicago Voters Can Strike Blow Against Big Money in Politics

Fri, 2015-02-20 16:08
Co-written with Abraham Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG

Our democracy is built on the core principle of a government of the people, by the people and for the people, where all of us get an equal say over who gets elected and the government decisions that affect our lives. But the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision has put that core principle at risk, and has made it even easier for a few mega-donors and corporations to influence who runs for office, what issues make it on to their agenda, and far too often, who wins our elections.

The role of big money in elections has been a hot topic in Illinois in recent months. On the heels of the most expensive Governor's race in history, where Bruce Rauner contributed $28 million to his own campaign, we now have the Chicago mayoral election, where Rahm Emanuel's breathtaking hauls - 89 percent of which comes from donors giving more than $1,000 - easily dwarf his competitors combined fundraising totals.

What's most dangerous about this flood of big money is that much of it comes from just a tiny number of large donors, who are able to drown out the voices of the rest of us. We've seen evidence of this on the federal level, where in 2012 just 32 mega-donors - giving $9 million each on average - contributed as much money to Super PACs supporting Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the nearly 4 million small donors gave to their campaigns combined.

In Illinois, where campaign contribution limits were lifted in both the gubernatorial and Chicago mayoral elections, mega-donors don't even have to funnel their money into Super PACs to have an outsized influence on our elections.

According to an Illinois PIRG analysis of fundraising reports of individual contributions to candidates through December (the end of the last full reporting period), just 1.7 percent of money contributed to all mayoral candidates combined has come from individuals giving less than $150. In contrast, 86 percent of money raised has come from individuals giving more than $1,000.

While those figures are skewed by Rahm Emanuel's fundraising, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of the money raised in the race, the figures do not improve much when you pull his fundraising out. Counting only contributions to the other four candidates, 9 percent of the money contributed came from small donors, while 57 percent came from donors giving more than $1,000.

Fortunately, there is a strong and growing movement to overturn the Citizens United decision and reverse the wrong-headed ruling that money is speech and corporations are people. Already 16 states - including Illinois - and over 600 communities have gone on the record calling for a constitutional amendment to do exactly that.

There are also proven policies to amplify the voices of ordinary citizens. Tuesday, voters in Chicago have the opportunity to weigh in on an advisory question that asks whether we should reduce the influence of big donors by adopting small donor matching programs to finance elections. As members of Fair Elections Illinois, we encourage all voters to vote yes for a small donor democracy.

Programs to empower small donors with tax credits and matching funds have proven successful. New York City has such a program for its city council campaigns, and in 2013, small donors were responsible for 61 percent of participating candidates' contributions, when funds from the matching program are included. Compare that to less than 2 percent this year in Chicago. All but two winning candidates participated in New York City's small donor program, showing that candidates are able to raise the money they need to win without looking outside their districts for large-dollar contributions.

New York City has shown that the program can work, and after Montgomery County, Maryland, voted to adopt a similar program this fall, there is momentum for change. Many communities in Illinois and around the country are now actively considering adopting these programs and a bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to adopt similar policies for congressional races. Senator Durbin also introduced a similar bill in the last Congress.

The need for solutions is clear, just ask any of the increasing number of citizens turned off by a democracy that appears unresponsive to their needs and interests. Thankfully, we have solutions if we choose to use them. Chicago voters should seize this opportunity by voting yes for a small donor democracy.

6 Spending Cuts Proposed for Illinois by Gov. Bruce Rauner

Fri, 2015-02-20 15:52
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered his first budget address to the General Assembly Feb . 18, outlining his plans for getting the state's finances back on track. He decried the "sleight of hand budgeting" and "financial recklessness" that has besmirched the state's fiscal condition with its more than $6 billion budget deficit and $111 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. He made it clear that he wanted to diverge from the state's current spending practices and forge an "honest path forward" toward a more stable financial situation for the state.

One of the best ways to do that, said Rauner, is to cut spending where it is wasteful, unhelpful or redundant. He outlined several ways in which Illinois could its reduce its spending burden in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Here is a cultivated list of spending cut details Rauner is proposing for next year's budget, based state general funds from FY 2015 enacted appropriations and the governor's FY 2016 proposed appropriation. Here are some budget cut highlights:

Find out what other cuts Rauner proposed at Reboot Illinois, including how much he wants to slash from spending at the Department of Military Affairs and the Department of Natural Resources.

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NEXT ARTICLE: Will Rauner union order blow up U.S. labor law?

How Many Union Members Are in Illinois?

Fri, 2015-02-20 15:52
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has made his criticism of public unions clear, signing an executive order to stop mandatory "fair share" fees and expressing support for local "right-to-work zones" throughout the state.

Rauner's rhetoric quickly turned into action following his Feb. 9 executive order, which blocks government unions from withholding "fair share" fees from the paychecks of non-union state employees who work under union-negotiated contracts but do not pay union dues.

"A major reason why government unions are so dominant in Illinois is the decision to institute card check, forced unionizing in state government which had the effect of bullying and intimidating many state employees into joining the union," Rauner said. "Despite this, right now, over 6,500 employees of the state government are being forced to pay union dues even though they said they don't want to support them."

However, the fate of Rauner's executive order is uncertain. An opinion from Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Comptroller Leslie Munger, who was appointed by Rauner, is prohibited from enforcing the governor's mandate since executive orders can not change the conduct of other constitutional officers.

"After discussing this matter with all parties, Comptroller Munger will defer to the guidance of the Attorney General as it relates to what actions are within the scope of her legal authority."

For now, Rauner's order will apply only to employees in agencies under the governor's control.

New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show total public and private membership in Illinois fell from 15.8 percent in 2013 to 15.1 percent in 2014. However, when you isolate public union membership, it rose by more than 10,000 members during the same time period.

Check out these charts for an overview of Illinois public union membership since 2000, according to data from Non-union employees who work under union-negotiated contracts are classified as "covered."

See more detailed information with interactive infographics at Reboot Illinois, including a look at public union membership by every state in the country.

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NEXT ARTICLE: Will Rauner union order blow up U.S. labor law?

Two House Bills Would End Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

Fri, 2015-02-20 15:27
Two congressmen filed separate House bills on Friday that together would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana at the federal level, effectively ending the U.S. government's decadeslong prohibition of the plant.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act's schedules, transfer oversight of the substance from the Drug Enforcement Administration over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and regulate marijuana in a way similar to how alcohol is currently regulated in the U.S.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, which would set up a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana.

The bills would not force states to legalize marijuana, but a federal regulatory framework would be in place for those states that do decide to legalize it. To date, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana (however, D.C.'s model continues to ban sales), 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and 11 other states have legalized the limited use of low-THC forms of marijuana for medical use.

"While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration -- or this one -- could reverse course and turn them into criminals," Polis said in a statement Friday. "It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don't want, to have legal marijuana within their borders."

Despite the programs currently in place in Colorado and Washington state -- as well as those that will soon go into effect in Oregon, Alaska and D.C. -- the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana all remain illegal under federal law. The states that have legalized marijuana or softened penalties for possession have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

With marijuana legalization supported by a majority of Americans, and a new wave of states considering loosening their marijuana laws over the next several years, it seems unlikely that the federal government would push back against the popular movement. But it's not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Harvard economist Jeff Miron, a vocal supporter of marijuana policy reform, highlighted the precarious nature of state marijuana laws in a recent 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."

On Friday, Blumenauer called the federal prohibition of marijuana "a failure" that has wasted tax dollars and ruined lives. He also said it's time for the government to forge a new path ahead for the plant.

"As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done," Blumenauer said, "it's imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework."

Bad Lieutenant: American Police Brutality, Exported From Chicago To Guantánamo

Fri, 2015-02-20 12:30
When the Chicago detective Richard Zuley arrived at Guantánamo Bay late in 2002, US military commanders touted him as the hero they had been looking for.

Here was a Navy reserve lieutenant who had spent the last 25 years as a distinguished detective on the mean streets of Chicago, closing case after case – often due to his knack for getting confessions.

Police Brutality Exposed

Fri, 2015-02-20 12:17

Incidents of police brutality and the use of excessive force continue to grab the headline news across the nation. This is totally shocking considering all of the outrage from the Michael Brown and Eric Garner incidents.

Do some police officers really care about the lives of people of color across the United States? The issue of police brutality is real and the people have scars that tell their stories. Recently, two Philadelphia cops allegedly beat a young man and filled out a report that did not represent what actually occurred. Police officers in Pasco, Washington shot and killed an unarmed man.

Will police brutality ever end in America? When incidents of police brutality or excessive force take place, some police officials brace themselves for protest and then suddenly the protests go away.

What will it take to end police brutality or at least reduce incidents of police brutality by fifty percent across the United States? Specific laws should exist in order to help deter acts of blatant police misconduct. This particular post is not about bashing all police. The majority of police officers are law abiding citizens that really care about people no matter the race, creed, or color. However, when you read stories of how the police in Miami were using photos of African American males for target practice then one would wonder why so many police appear to have no discretion in regards to taking the life of an African American male. There are so many problems and threats going on all across the world. Hopefully the fight to end police brutality will not get lost in transition because more attention is being placed on achieving world peace.

President Obama is in a unique position to help lead the way in regards to introducing solid policies that help to reduce police brutality and the use of excessive force by making this issue a national priority. This would be the only way that certain police jurisdictions will take this issue seriously. The numbers are staggering and it's time to put an end to this barbaric behavior before another person is harmed or killed.

There are so many mothers crying and people dying by the hands of police and gang violence. We must take a stand to be part of the solution and not the problem. By organizing group sessions with police officials and young people across the United States, this could serve as a starting point to help establish better relationship with police and community. We could save lives on both fronts. If police officials were to admit that problems exist with the current policing strategies in communities of color, then this would be the best dialogue in the world. Every positive movement for change starts with the admission of a problem. The entire world is watching how the United States will work on solving this age old problem. Let's come together to the roundtable of peace and set the stage for ending all forms of violence.

10 Best American Cuisine Restaurants

Fri, 2015-02-20 11:25

Americans often get a bad rap for introducing the world to drive-thru restaurants, TV dinners and deep-fried everything. However, homegrown chefs from West Hollywood to Washington, DC are changing perceptions of our native cuisine with inventive fare that takes an haute approach to the family recipe book. Drawing inspiration from market-fresh local ingredients such as mountain huckleberries and Louisiana crawfish, these creative cooks imbue their menus with a unique energy and strong sense of identity. Take a look at GAYOT's 10 Best American Cuisine Restaurants to find the places that stir our patriotic pride.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Tarrytown, NY

Experience Dan Barber's dynamic tasting menus in an elegant restaurant uniquely situated on a working farm that grows most of the kitchen's ingredients.

Read a complete review of Blue Hill at Stone Barns

The Church Key

West Hollywood, CA

Michael Mina protégé chef Steven Fretz pushes boundaries in L.A. with playful Modern American cuisine that can range from pig ear "Cheetos" to chicken liver parfait served on rolling dim sum-style carts.

Read a complete review of The Church Key


New York City, NY

Chef John Fraser's creative, market-fresh American cuisine is artfully presented amidst intimate, posh Upper West Side surroundings.

Read a complete review of Dovetail


Dallas, TX

It may be The Ritz-Carlton, but chef Dean Fearing's bold flavors are putting on a Texas twang in deluxe dishes such as maple-black peppercorn buffalo tenderloin.

Read a complete review of Fearing's

Girl & The Goat

Chicago, IL

Expect the unexpected at this fun and funky West Loop restaurant showcasing the cooking of Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. Try to get a seat near the kitchen line to take in the action.

Read a complete review of Girl & The Goat

K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen

New Orleans, LA

Superb Cajun-Creole cuisine, including gumbo and crawfish, is found in this Big Easy establishment by the legendary chef Paul Prudhomme.

Read a complete review of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen


Seattle, WA

Chef/owner William Belickis attracts chic gourmands for casual lounge grazing or more serious fine dining at one of Seattle's premier destinations.

Read a complete review of MistralKitchen

One Market

San Francisco, CA

Bradley Ogden founded this festive Embarcadero eatery more than two decades ago, but today chef Mark Dommen helms the stoves. He turns out sophisticated farm-to-table dishes that celebrate fresh Bay Area produce and seafood.

Read a complete review of One Market


Washington, DC

Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio spotlights seasonal Chesapeake ingredients from farm and sea at his sprawling, high-end, Washington, DC restaurant.

Read a complete review of Range

Restaurant Eugene

Atlanta, GA

Restaurant Eugene's luxe New American cuisine has a decidedly Southern sensibility, with dishes ranging from foie gras with chanterelle mushrooms and country ham broth to short ribs with grits and white truffle.

Read a complete review of Restaurant Eugene

Read more about the 10 Best American Cuisine Restaurants


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Watch: What Does Gov. Rauner's Budget Proposal Mean for Illinois?

Fri, 2015-02-20 10:56
Gov. Bruce Rauner didn't just deliver his Budget Address on Wednesday. He detonated a bomb over state budgeting practices and philosophy that have guided Illinois government finances for at least 12 years.

It was only a year ago, after all, that Gov. Pat Quinn delivered a budget speech in which he urged lawmakers to make permanent his 2011 income tax increase as "the responsible thing to do."

Rauner on Wednesday said precisely the opposite: "This huge deficit is the result of years of bad decisions, sleight-of-hand budgeting and giveaways we couldn't afford. It is not the result of decreasing tax rates. Some in the General Assembly are eager to discuss new revenue. But before revenue can be discussed, reform is essential."

Watch Reboot Illinois' Chief Operating Officer Madeleine Doubek, Diana Rickert of the Illinois Policy Institute and Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability discuss the speech and what it means for the state on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."

Following the governor's speech, reactions from politicians, business organizations and nonprofits varied. Some loved the ideas espoused in the address: Ty Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago, called it "courageous." Others were not so pleased: the Illinois Education Association released a statement calling the proposal "unacceptable." See other reactions, including from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and mayoral candidate and Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Devils Advocate: When will legal marijuana come to Illinois?

NBA Trade Deadline Winners And Losers

Fri, 2015-02-20 10:38
The famed NBA trade deadline has come and gone. Overall, 37 players were moved in 11 trades, including some marquee names and double-digit draft picks. For the most part, top teams (see Golden State and Atlanta) kept awfully quiet, while others tried to make a playoff push or clear a salary cap and build toward the future. Let's take a look at the winners and losers in this year's trade.


Miami Heat

Yet another brilliant roster move by Pat Riley, albeit a late one by most deadline standards. Goran Dragic, for those who do not know, is one of the premier guards -- not just point guards -- in the league. He is a fantastic player who is still just 28 years old. He can score, he creates opportunities for everyone on the floor, he can really shoot it and he's left-handed. Maybe most importantly, Goran's brother is named Zoran, and he's another player who was in the trade with Phoenix. You can't beat that! We knew Miami would be in rebuilding mode following the departure of LeBron James. But what we didn't know was that Chris Bosh would once again become an All-NBA power forward or that the Heat would find its point guard of the future at the deadline. Dragic has great size, and because he's such a natural scorer and creative playmaker, he gives Erik Spoelstra the flexibility to play him off the ball, while keeping rookie Shabazz Napier -- a first-round pick -- on it.

Utah Jazz

As I previously reported, the Jazz got precisely what it wanted: a first-round draft choice and an expiring contract. Keep in mind that the earliest potential draft pick won't come until 2017. In other words, this is how you go from the lottery to the playoffs in a short period of time. GM Dennis Lindsey was able to add 21-year-old power forward Grant Jarrett, a guy who can really shoot the ball and comes at a serious discount -- he is still on a rookie contract. There is also the matter of 7-foot-1 Tibor Pleiss, a former 2010 draft pick and a guy I've long been intrigued by. Look for him to make his debut next season for the Jazz. The key here was extracting value on Kanter, who will become a restricted free agent after this season and had reportedly made little progress in contract negotiations with the Jazz.


Philly gets rid of the cancerous Michael Carter-Williams (see more below) and gives itself a chance to land a record six top-11 picks in three years. Lose now, lose some more, and then win later? We shall see, but I have loved GM Sam Hinkie's strategy for a while now.

Amar'e Stoudemire

A dream scenario for Stoudemire, and perhaps one that remains a little under the radar. Stoudemire not only gets bought out by James Dolan, but he also goes to Dallas to play with the greatest stretch four of the modern era in Dirk Nowitzki, and a coach in Rick Carlisle who will figure out how to maximize 15-18 minutes a game from him come playoff time.

Kevin Garnett

Garnett gets to finish his career where it all started. The only thing left to do? Get Stephon Marbury on the phone and out of China!


I previously reported that the Blazers wanted to add depth at wing. In the 29-year-old Arron Afflalo, they got a veteran two-way guy who really defends and can score when needed. In essence, he will lift the burden from second-year combo guard C.J. McCollum, and give coach Terry Stotts an additional wing defender alongside Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. It wasn't the biggest deal, but the Blazers did get better.


It was a tricky deadline for GM Ryan McDonough, who was facing an impending disaster: letting Dragic walk in free agency. By getting Brandon Knight (see more below), McDonough acquires an efficient point guard who is a good enough shooter to play off the ball alongside Eric Bledsoe. We can assume that the Suns have a better than 60-40 chance to re-sign Knight after this season, which would finally provide some roster stability as well. The downside was surrendering his Lakers lottery pick, but he more than made up for it by acquiring three first-round picks in the deals with both the Celtics and Heat.


Oklahoma City

The Thunder surrendered a first-round pick in the Enes Kanter deal, which is a lot to give up for a team that has built through the draft under GM Sam Presti. Kanter, to be fair, brings a skill set on the block that head coach Scott Brooks has simply not had with this team. He can really score, and at times will command a double-team. Playing alongside Serge Ibaka -- who is a primarily a face-up four-man -- Kanter can add value. He should also benefit in the lineup with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the league's most devastating 1-2 scoring punch. The real negative with the deal is more the long-term than anything else. The Thunder traded a 1 in the Dion Waiters deal just last month, absorbed an additional $6 million in salary from D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler, and now have to try and re-sign Kanter after the season. This makes the luxury tax a serious possibility next season and sacrifices the future in a big way.

Milwaukee Bucks

If anyone can realistically explain to me what the Bucks are doing, I would appreciate it. To trade Brandon Knight, a young, highly efficient lead guard, for Michael Carter-Williams, another point who can't shoot, is baffling. Knight is a 41 percent 3-point shooter who has gotten better every year since coming into the league. He played very well alongside Jabari Parker before Parker was lost for the season. MCW meanwhile, has regressed and appears to be an above-average playmaker who can't spread the floor a lick. He also ranks in the top five in turnovers. Milwaukee is completely rudderless -- and don't forget about the Larry Sanders disaster either.

Whoever Has To Play Miami In the First Round

Someone tell me what's going on please help

— Joel-Hans Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) February 19, 2015

Toronto maybe? Chicago? Who knows, but the addition of Dragic (50 percent shooter) as a pick-and-roll/pop partner with Bosh instantly gives Dwyane Wade an uptick and Bosh a steady hand to create quality looks. Now, Wade can play off the ball more. I don't know if the Heat has enough to beat Toronto or Chicago in a prolong series, but throw in Hassan Whiteside in the front court with Bosh (assuming Bosh is healthy), and that's suddenly a pretty scary roster capable of pulling an upset.

Billy King

How this guy still has a front-office NBA job is like solving the Rubik's Cube. It will take hours upon hours and then, when you finally do solve it, you somehow feel worse. But hey, I do love me some Thad Young!

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