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Chicago's Top Chefs at the Screening of <i>The Hundred-Foot Journey</i>

Tue, 2014-07-29 16:20
"Food is memories," states characters Hassan, played by Manish Dayal, and Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon, early in the new romantic foodie movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey. We all intrinsically know that food is memories - just think of your favorite childhood candy to let a rush of physical and mental sensations come running back - and this is why the audience was so swept away by the film during a private screening last week in Chicago. Beautiful shots of food markets and in-kitchen culinary feats, not to mention the ever-lovely images of Southern France, made this movie an endearing and tender story, and a joy to watch.

Based on the award-winning book by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey is about an Indian family that moves to Southern France to a less than warm welcome, particularly from a local restaurateur, Madame Mallory, played by Helen Mirren. When she learns that they are opening an Indian restaurant opposite her Michelin Star establishment, she becomes particularly outraged. However, over time, the common love of food and the gifted culinary sensibilities of Hassan, one of the elder sons, melts the icy war and cultural barriers, and more than one romance ensues.

The success of the movie, produced by Steven Spielberg, Juliet Blake and Oprah Winfrey, is that it serves to remind us of the joy of eating together and the connection that food can bring to families, communities and love affairs. The movie allows all these relationships to flourish, and, in addition, fosters a different kind of love altogether: the one between the audience and the movie, which reminds us what it means to be present in daily life and our natural surroundings.

Many of Chicago's best chefs attended the screening in support of the film and the co-sponsoring charities of the screening: The Trotter Project, Common Threads and Pilot Light. Chef Bill Kim, of restaurants Urban Belly and Belly Q and who was in attendance, knows all about bridging the cultural gap through food. "It comes with my marriage to a Puerto Rican woman and trying to bridge Asian and Latin together. People always thought that it is difficult.... but we live it every single day."

Chicago, recognized as a city of neighborhoods with restaurants that celebrate and heighten cuisines from around the globe, has been an important city for making cross-cultural connections over food. Chef Matthias Merges of Yusho, A10 Hyde Park and Billy Sunday restaurants and Board President of Pilot Light was also in attendance. He certainly knows all about melting hearts with food. "There are a few tangible examples in our lives today which bridge the cultural gap more directly and effectively than food and sharing in the pleasures of the table. Preparing food in a kitchen then serving at a table with others - be it with family or friends - creates an intimate opportunity to slow down and reconnect with the joys of life."

Perhaps famed Chef Art Smith, co-founder of Common Threads and in attendance at the screening, said it best. "Food is peace. Food is love. Food is something that we call can agree upon. We all love to eat. My life has been as a chef for very important people, as well as cooking for multitudes of people in our restaurants across the county. A little food goes a long way. It is important to realize, when all else fails, feed them. I have a favorite saying, 'When you want people to come, feed them. When you want them to stay, feed them more. You want to change bills or you want to change people's minds, feed 'em a lot!' "

The Hundred-Foot Journey opens in theaters August 8th and is truly a gem for the whole family.

Six of the Coolest Illinois Roadside Attractions

Tue, 2014-07-29 15:25
Summer is the perfect time to go on a road trip in Illinois, which is home to many parks, historical sites, and for those who are brave enough, creepy roads. Illinois not only has cool destinations, but also some awesome roadside attractions. We're bringing you a list of Illinois roadside attractions that were ranked as "Major Fun," courtesy of, so you have an excuse to get out and stretch your legs on your next Illinois road-trip.

Dungeons & Dragons Park
After the death of his nineteen year-old son Jeremy "Boo" Rochman, Barrett Rochman bought 3.5 acres of land near his home to build a memorial Dungeons & Dragons themed park in honor of his son, and avid D&D player. The park opened in 2005 and contains an extensive castle, sculptures of fantastic creatures and gardens.

Address: 31 Homewood Drive, Carbondale, IL
Hours: 8 AM- dusk
Admission: free, donations welcome

World's Largest Cross
Standing at 198 feet tall, 113 feet wide and made with over 180 tons of steel, this cross not only can withstand winds up to 145 miles an hour, it is two feet taller than the famed Groom Cross. The cross itself is surrounded by interactive monuments of the Ten Commandments, in addition to church music. There is a small theater at the Effingham Cross Welcome Center that documents the construction of the cross.

Address: 1900 Pike Ave, Effingham, IL

Super Museum
The Super Museum, located in Metropolis, the home of Superman himself, houses Jim Hambrick's Superman collection, which he claims is the world's largest. Hambrick started his collection in 1959 and the museum houses everything from Reeves' original Clark Kent eyeglasses and the phone booth used by Kirk Alyn, the first film star to portray Superman. Superman spin-offs, such as Superboy and Supergirl, even have their own galleries.

Address: 517 Market St., Metropolis, IL
Hours: 9 AM - 5 PM daily
Admission: Adults $5

Superman Statue
Also located in Metropolis, home of Superman, this 12-foot-tall, projectile-proof bronze Superman Statue was funded by the town after plans for a $50 million Superman-themed park and 200-foot statue were shut down over two decades earlier. The current statue replaces a 7-foot-tall fiberglass statue that was placed in the town square in 1986.

Address: Superman Square, Metropolis, IL

Leaning Tower of Niles
Built in 1934 by businessman Bob Ilg, The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-sized replica of The Leaning Tower of Piza (94 feet tall and 7-foot-4-inch tilt versus 177 feet tall and a 13-foot tilt). The building was originally designed as a utility tower designed to hide water filtration tanks. The plaza surrounding the tower was renovated in the 1990s to include a fountain and a reflecting pool, in addition to other amenities.

Address: 6300 Touhy Ave., Niles, IL

Miniature Golf in a Funeral Home
This nine-hole mini golf course is located in the basement of Ahlgrim Acres, a family-owed funeral service. The course has been operating informally since the 1960s and includes headstones and coffins as obstacles and screams and spooky music for ambiance. The course is offered as part of the funeral package at Ahlgrim's, but outside organizations also use the course regularly.

Address: 201 N. Northwest Hwy., Palatine, IL
Hours: 9 AM- 9 PM, Daily
Admission: Free

Check out six more roadside attractions at Reboot Illinois, including a tug-of-war on a scale of epic proportions.

NEXT ARTICLE: 31 Must-See Historic Sites in Illinois
Top 10 Creepiest Roads in Illinois
15 Illinois inventions that changed the world
25 Fun Facts about Illinois
What is the most popular tourist attraction in Illinois?
12 fun places to take the family in Illinois

9 Inspiring Quotes About Wisdom That Will Change The Way You See Your Life

Tue, 2014-07-29 15:21
We get it. Life can be hard.

One moment, you can feel the profoundness of your own life's purpose in every aching atom of your body. Then, suddenly, you're at a loss for just about everything: words, identity, creativity, inspiration. It leaves you feeling confused, alone and like there's nowhere left to go. But we're here to tell you, and we hope you take this to heart: Life, with all its challenges, setbacks, absurdities and tragedies, can still be beautiful and fulfilling.

And if you won't take our word for it, we know a few people who might be a little more convincing. Below, inspire yourself with nine quotes from the world's wisest leaders and change the way you look at your life:

This Is Your Brain on Legal Drugs: Let's End the Drug War With a Minimum of Casualties by Following the Science

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:44
Human beings sometimes have a troubling inability to hold two thoughts in mind at the same time. This is true not only when the two thoughts contradict each other but even when they simply appear to be in conflict with each other but actually aren't. And nowhere is there a greater need for us to get past this tendency than when discussing the ongoing war on drugs and the growing movement for the decriminalization of marijuana. It should be possible to say both that:

1) The drug war is an all-out disaster that has inflicted an untold amount of unnecessary human suffering. Therefore, as a first step toward ending this failed war, we should continue with the movement toward the decriminalization of pot.

And that:

2) There is scientific evidence of the dangers of pot on the development of adolescent brains, and for users of any age who end up abusing the drug. So, as we decriminalize, we should take every step possible to minimize the harm.

Those two positions are not actually contradictory, but in the polarized, zero-sum world that passes for policy debate right now, many act as if they are.

For the last 15 years I have been writing and speaking about the imperative of ending the disastrous war on drugs. In fact, in 2000, when I organized shadow political conventions to spotlight the major issues that neither political party was seriously addressing, the failed war on drugs was one of the three issues that we chose (growing inequality and the need for campaign-finance reform being the other two).

So it is definitely cause for celebration that the drug war, at least when it comes to pot, is finally deescalating. And after years of slow progress, the issue is gathering momentum. On Sunday The New York Times, in the first installment of a six-part interactive editorial, called for an end to prohibition. "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana," the editorial states. "We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times's Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws."

It's about time, as the drug war has been one of the worst domestic-policy catastrophes in American history. The human toll has been staggering. Drug offenders make up fully half of our massive inmate population. Of those, nearly 28 percent are locked up for marijuana-related offenses. In 2012 some 658,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, and fighting marijuana use alone costs federal and state governments $20 billion a year. And the targets of the war on drugs have disproportionately been people of color. African Americans, for instance, make up 14 percent of habitual drug users yet constitute 37 percent of those arrested on drug charges.

So while we fight to change our drug laws, let's do so with a full understanding of the science. The effects of marijuana are not easy to study; people don't use it in the clean ways it's studied in labs. But we do know that in addition to marijuana providing relief to people undergoing chemotherapy and those suffering from glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and AIDS, among other conditions, there is clear evidence of the harmful effects on adolescent brains and on those who become addicted to it.

So let us not make the mistake -- the same one that climate-change denialists have been making -- of ignoring the science that we are afraid will weaken our position. Indeed, as we move toward legalization, let's put the science front and center. One of the worst things about the drug war is the way its proponents ignore the facts in favor of dogma. Let's not make the same mistake as we move toward legalization.

While we can't be certain about what lies ahead, we can take what we know now -- from the science on marijuana, from the market forces already in play and from our past experience with how marketing and market forces played out with tobacco and alcohol -- and at least try to create a system that anticipates and minimizes the inevitable downsides.

Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA and a co-author (along with Jonathan Caulkins, Angela Hawken and Beau Kilmer) of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, is worried that in our haste to get out from under the ills of a horrible drug war, we're not really thinking about what comes next.

"At the moment," he told me, "we're stumbling toward a commercial system, which I think of as the second-worst option, with only continued prohibition having worse likely outcomes."

To begin to understand this point, let's look at some of the recent scientific findings, the most notable of which has centered on the effects of marijuana on young people. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience in April, conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, showed how smoking marijuana, even occasionally, physically changes the young user's brain structure. "The results of this study indicate that in young, recreational marijuana users, structural abnormalities in gray matter density, volume, and shape of the nucleus accumbens and amygdala can be observed," write the authors.

Dr. Anne Blood, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and one of the senior authors of the study, provided some context on the region of the brain where these abnormalities occurred. "These are core, fundamental structures of the brain," she said. "They form the basis for how you assess positive and negative features about things in the environment and make decisions about them."

Dr. Staci Gruber, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who has also conducted studies on what marijuana does to the brain but was not involved in this particular study, had this advice for young people:

Don't do it early -- prior to age 16. That's what our data suggests, that regular use of marijuana prior to age 16 is associated with greater difficulty of tasks requiring judgment, planning and inhibitory function as well as changes in brain function and white matter microstructure relative to those who start later.

These findings are particularly worrisome because, as a 2013 study led by Gruber points out, "[m]arijuana use continues to rise, and as the perceived risk of [marijuana] approaches an all-time historic low, initiation of [marijuana] use is occurring at even younger ages."

There have also been at least two studies showing how marijuana use can impair working memory, one published in Schizophrenia Bulletin in 2013, and another in 2012. "Impairment of working memory is one of the most important deleterious effects of marijuana intoxication in humans, but its underlying mechanisms are presently unknown," wrote the authors of the latter study, published in the journal Cell, which also noted that "long-term depression is associated with impairment of spatial working memory."

A 2014 study led by Dr. Rajiv Radhakrishnan of the Yale University School of Medicine concluded that while "it should be remembered that the majority of individuals who consume cannabis do not experience any kind of psychosis," acute exposure can "produce a full range of transient symptoms, cognitive deficits, and psychophysiological abnormalities that bear a striking resemblance to some of the features of schizophrenia." Adolescent marijuana users, the study found, face an increased risk of developing such outcomes later in life. And for those suffering from existing psychotic disorders, marijuana use was found to "exacerbate symptoms, trigger relapse, and have negative consequences on the course of the illness."

There have also been studies showing direct links to depression. One from 2011 by researchers in the Netherlands found that for young people who are genetically predisposed to the condition, "smoking cannabis leads to an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms."

And a 2012 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that "the most persistent adolescent-onset cannabis users evidenced an average 8-point IQ decline from childhood to adulthood." The same effects were not found for users who began later in life. And more worrisome was that, for those who had started early, the negative effects continued even after they stopped using. "Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents," the study states. Or, as study researcher Madeline Meier, of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, told CBS, "Parents should understand that their adolescents are particularly vulnerable."

Co-author Dr. Richie Poulton, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, summed it up: "For some it's a legal issue, but for me it's a health issue."

As it should be for us all. Treating it as a legal issue has caused devastating harm. But ignoring marijuana's health risks will lead to young people using pot without being fully informed and educated about the risks of lifelong damage.

But the public's understandable eagerness to end the drug war has outpaced awareness of potential problems to come. According to a Pew Research Center poll from last year, while for the first time a majority of all Americans want marijuana legalized, for millennials the number is 65 percent. And the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 60 percent of high-school seniors don't see the harm in routine marijuana use, and over a third said they'd smoked it in the prior 12 months. In 1993 only 2.4 percent of high-school seniors said they used marijuana daily; by 2013 the number was up to 6.5 percent. And over 12 percent of eighth graders said they'd tried it. As use has gone up, so has the concentration of THC found in most marijuana. "Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And in recent years 97 percent of new marijuana users have been 24 years old or younger. Clearly, young people are going to be the primary market for a legal pot industry.

Most of them won't abuse the drug when it's decriminalized, but some will. How many? Well, there's been research on this too. Kleiman and his co-authors write that, right now, about 4.4 million people meet the clinical definitions for either marijuana dependence or marijuana abuse. They also report on the work of epidemiologist James Anthony, who estimates the "capture rate" (the rate of people ending up dependent on a drug after trying it) for marijuana to be around 9 percent, compared with 15 percent for alcohol and 16 percent for cocaine. But when Anthony and his colleagues looked at those who began using marijuana before turning 25, the rate jumped to 15 percent. And an Australian longitudinal study with nearly 2,000 participants found that 20 percent of those who began using marijuana in their teens showed signs of dependence at 24.

And the fact that from 2013 to 2014 -- after marijuana was decriminalized in Colorado -- applications to the University of Colorado-Boulder increased by 33 percent, compared with a 2-percent increase the previous year, suggests that legal weed can have a magnetic pull on young people (even if some of the increase is due, as administrators claim, to the adoption of the Common Application).

Marijuana, according to Kleiman, was involved in 350,000 drug-treatment admissions in 2009, a number that has quintupled since 1992. And the majority of those were teenagers and young adults, with those below 21 accounting for nearly half of the admissions.

So the big challenge, as we go forward into a commercial marijuana market, is how to protect the most vulnerable: adolescents, young people and those of any age who are likely to end up abusing marijuana. And that's the problem with the current, laissez-faire way in which decriminalization is happening: There's a perverse incentive by those marketing marijuana -- already a multibillion-dollar industry -- to get people hooked. As Marijuana Legalization puts it:

The more-than-weekly users account for more than 90 percent of marijuana demand. That has a frightening implication: if we create a licit industry to grow and sell marijuana, the resulting businesses will have a strong profit incentive to create and sustain frequent and abusive consumption patterns, because the heaviest users consume so much of the product. So if we create a licit market, we should expect the industry's product design, pricing, and marketing to be devoted to creating as much addiction as possible.

This could lead, as Kleiman put it, to "a cannabis industry whose commercial interest is precisely opposite to the public interest" the way, over decades, we have had a tobacco industry and an alcohol industry whose commercial interests have been precisely opposite to the public interest.

Kleiman continues:

So from the perspective of cannabis vendors, drug abuse isn't the problem; it's the target demographic. Since we can expect the legal cannabis industry to be financially dependent on dependent consumers, we can also expect that the industry's marketing practices and lobbying agenda will be dedicated to creating and sustaining problem drug use patterns. The trick to legalizing marijuana, then, is to keep at bay the logic of the market -- its tendency to create and exploit people with substance abuse disorders. So far, the state-by-state, initiative-driven process doesn't seem up to that challenge.

So getting rid of horrible drug laws (a good thing) doesn't mean we shouldn't replace them with rules and regulations to minimize a new and different set of harms. The key is to do it now and not wait for a few decades -- and a lot of suffering -- to pass before we fix problems that could have been avoided. For example, take the story of the tobacco industry. In 1960 the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act was enacted, allowing the FDA to regulate hazardous substances, but tobacco wasn't considered a hazardous substance at the time. So it wasn't until the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 that warning labels were required. And it wasn't until 1971 that broadcast advertising for tobacco was prohibited. Now there are regulations of all kinds aimed at limiting the tobacco industry's ability to target young people. For instance, tobacco companies can't, with their brand name, sponsor musical or sporting events, nor can they sell T-shirts and hats with cigarette brands on them.

But at least in the case of tobacco, the delay in setting up a framework to minimize harm was partially because it took a while for the science to come in. With marijuana the science is here. It's complex, and there will always be skeptics (as there still are in climate science and even tobacco, until recently) challenging the results, but we need to start including, in both our policy discussions and our reporting, the scientific findings we already have, especially because there are ways to limit the potential downside, including keeping the price of pot high, undercutting the political leverage of the burgeoning marijuana industry, protecting young people from marketing techniques we know they're susceptible to and educating the public about not just the medical benefits of marijuana but the possible negative consequences.

After many years of a horribly destructive and wasteful war on drugs, we are finally poised to bring an end to this shameful chapter in our country's history. But, as we look ahead to the next chapter, it's our collective responsibility to keep the science at the forefront of how we roll out legalization. We can learn a lot from the long history of trying to mitigate the harm of tobacco and alcohol. We don't need to make the same painful mistakes again.

Working Out From Your Office Desk Is About To Get A Whole Lot Simpler

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:29
By now, the research on the subject has made itself painfully clear: Sitting all day at a desk job is not at all good for you.

While many have used this knowledge to pursue a number of options -- including standing desks, treadmill desks and other setups -- to try and solve this health issue, many of the possible solutions come with a high price tag or take up too much space, not to mention office managers often need to be on board with an alternative desk arrangement.

Twenty-three-year-old Arnav Dalmia knows the obstacles well. After he graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in economics, he moved on to an office job. It was there where he noticed his health was declining -- he was frequently tired and felt lethargic -- despite no other change in his diet or exercise routine. He realized then that sitting all day at the office was taking its toll.

The result of his dilemma is Cubii, a unique under-desk elliptical trainer that Dalmia has developed along with two former U of C classmates, Ryota Sekine and Shivani Jain.

On Monday, a Kickstarter campaign for the Cubii ended after raising almost $294,000 from over 1,000 backers -- more than three times its initial fundraising goal. The campaign marks Kickstarter's most-funded Chicago design project of the year so far.

While other products -- like the DeskCycle -- have also attempted to offer under-desk exercise solutions for the office, Cubii is different from its competitors. For one, Dalmia says their product has been designed to offer a range of motion that is less distracting to users and others nearby and won't result in banged-up knees from hitting the underside of the desktop. The product -- which will weigh about 25 pounds -- also comes with a handle, making it easily movable but still sturdy.

Cubii's range of motion should result in fewer bruised knees than other under-desk fitness options.

Another thing setting Cubii apart is Bluetooth technology that allows users to sync up their at-work exercising with fitness-monitoring apps, as well as a "green wellness" element that allows users to charge their cell phones using the energy derived from the workout. The Cubii team estimates users will be able to burn about 120 calories an hour using the adjustable-resistance device.

The enthusiastic response to the Cubii Kickstarter came as a surprise to Dalmia, considering his team is relatively green when it comes to the product world.

"None of us on the team are engineers or designers, we're all fairly young and we had set out to make this physical product right out of college," Dalmia told HuffPost. "That was our biggest challenge."

The Cubii will retail for $349, though it is currently being offered for a $299 Kickstarter pre-order price. Dalmia is aiming to have them available for purchase by next January.

Study Finds Historically Gay Neighborhoods Straightening

Tue, 2014-07-29 12:26
There goes the gayborhood?

New research from University of British Columbia sociologist Amin Ghazian has found that historically gay neighborhoods in the U.S. are becoming increasingly less queer.

Specifically, the study found that the number of gay men living in traditionally queer areas has dropped eight percent, while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 percent.

These areas reportedly include Chicago's Boystown, San Francisco’s Castro district, New York's Greenwich Village and Atlanta's Midtown, just to name a few.

According to Ghazian, there are a number of intersecting factors for this shift, including gentrification, changing attitudes among queers and the gradual folding of gays and lesbians into the mainstream.

"The study also identifies new demographic trends, including unexpected clusters of same-sex parents around desirable schools in traditionally straight [neighborhoods] and the emergence of districts for LGBT people of [color]," UBC News reports. "The findings also show that same-sex households exist in a record-high 93 per cent of U.S. counties."

What do you think about this shift? Is it necessarily good or bad? Let us know in the comments below.

Drivers Got High On Federal Weed For A Stoned Driving Study

Tue, 2014-07-29 11:44
For several months in 2013 and 2014, federal researchers administered free marijuana and alcohol to a group of people and set them loose in a driving simulator -- all in the name of science.

In what may be the most comprehensive study yet of cannabis' effects on drivers, around 20 volunteers, all between the ages of 21 and 55, got high on weed grown at the University of Mississippi, home of the federal government's only sanctioned marijuana farm. On some occasions, the volunteers were also given small amounts of alcohol. Once sufficiently high and/or buzzed, the subjects then performed a series of tests in the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa as researchers looked on.

"It's a very big, complex study and the very first ever of an illicit drug affecting driving in the world's most advanced driving simulator," Marilyn Huestis, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a research arm of the National Institute of Health, told The Huffington Post.

Subjects in the simulator sat in a complete car and "drove" as a 360-degree realistic world was projected on the domed walls around them. Researchers at the NADS had previously developed programs to test the distractive effects of texting and cell phone use, and the sedative effects of alcohol, but Huestis and University of Iowa engineers had to specifically design environments for the cannabis driving test, since it was the first of its kind.

"There were six different driving sessions in this huge simulator," said Huestis. "We designed many different situations, including an urban portion with crowds and lights, a highway section and a rural section -- all with a lot of divided attention tasks. There are issues of deer coming out on the roadway, people coming out on the crosswalk, directions telling drivers to turn at certain locations, as well as cars approaching and passing."

Throughout the study, Huestis and her team collected blood and saliva from the drivers to determine their level of intoxication.

Because the University of Iowa is a smoke-free campus, researchers were forced to vaporize the cannabis for the test subjects to inhale. All of the participants were given the same amount of cannabis -- approximately one joint's worth -- and all of the cannabis was of the same mid-level potency. The subjects in the study were all "occasional" marijuana users who had used cannabis at least once a month, and no more than three days a week, during the three months prior to the beginning of the study.

States that have laws regulating the use of marijuana often administer THC-blood tests to determine a driver's level of impairment. Generally, drivers found to have THC in their bloodstream at a level of five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood are considered "under the influence" and may be subject to penalty.

In Colorado, which permits the use of both medical and recreational marijuana, a driver is presumed to be too impaired to drive if his or her THC-blood level is higher than five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood, although the driver can rebut that charge and possibly overturn it in court. In Washington, where medical and adult-use marijuana are also legal, a driver found with a THC-blood level of five nanograms or more is automatically charged with being too impaired to drive.

But unlike blood-alcohol level, which is directly correlated with one's inability to drive, THC-blood levels don't necessarily indicate a clear level of impairment.

In one recent study, six of 25 participants who had consumed marijuana still tested positive for active levels of THC seven days later -- long after they had stopped feeling the effects of the cannabis.

In 2011, Denver marijuana reporter William Breathes memorably demonstrated THC's unpredictable effect on the body. After a night of sleep and not smoking pot for 15 hours, a sober Breathes still tested nearly three times higher than the proposed legal limit.

To add confusion to the matter, in 2013 the Washington state television station KIRO assembled a group of volunteers, had them smoke pot and set them loose on a driving test course to try and answer the question: How high is too high to drive?

Unfortunately, the less-than-scientific results, while entertaining, didn't yield much clarity. One regular smoker of marijuana tested above the legal limit to begin with, yet drove without much of a problem. Two other casual smokers also navigated the course without incident. However, after smoking more marijuana, some of the participants quickly grew less adept behind the wheel.

Huestis said it's important to take into account how often a person consumes marijuana, and that five nanograms per milliliter may actually be too permissive a standard.

"Many occasional users who are not chronic, frequent users can be very intoxicated at one nanogram per milliliter of blood and should not be driving," Huestis said. "Washington state chose five nanograms per milliliter because we showed in our work in chronic, frequent cannabis users -- people who use daily and multiple doses per day -- were less than five nanograms within 24 hours. In Sweden, they have published that if they had used five nanograms per milliliter they would have missed 90 percent of their impaired driving cases. So it's very difficult to say with certainty."

Huestis said that researchers have more than 200 parameters to evaluate from the study and will be examining their findings for more than a year before they announce any conclusions.

The 14 Best Colleges You Can Get Into, According To Money Magazine

Tue, 2014-07-29 11:19
It might be tough to get into the Ivy League, but that doesn't mean you can't get into a good school.

Money magazine's new list released Monday ranks the best schools where students who might not be at the top of their class can get accepted

Each of these schools accept "at least 50 percent of applicants," and the typical admitted student had a high school GPA between 3.0 and 3.4.

Check out the list below to see the top 14 "best colleges that you can actually get into," or head to Money for the full run down.

Here's Proof That Beautiful Art Is Hiding In The Most Mundane Of Places, Even Your Laundry

Tue, 2014-07-29 10:02
Artist Yvette Meltzer is probably not the first person to become hypnotized by the revolving wonder of a packed washing machine. The spinning colors and blurred forms can quickly transform into faces, figures and landscapes, if you stare at the clothes long enough. Any urban dweller cursed with frequenting laundromats can tell you that.

But Meltzer just might be one of the only photographers to turn the turning machinery into a two-year long photographic adventure. Titled "Revolutions," the series is part documentary, part abstract experimentation, capturing a banal moment that stands on its own as hidden piece of art.

The project began one chilly winter in Chicago, when Meltzer decided laundromats might be a great place to search for portrait subjects. According to Slate, the "Revolutions" she caught in motion took her by surprise -- it wasn't until she arrived at her computer post-shoot that she realized how "Rorshach"-esque her passing photos of moving washers and dryers were.

"I enjoy the convergence of color, light, and form whether in the form of a person, place or object," Meltzer writes on her website. "I find that looking through the lens I see images that escape my naked eye."

"Even as a child I wanted to share my vision, asking my family member to 'look at this' or 'to look at that,'" Meltzer explained to The Huffington Post. "Now with a camera I am able to illustrate what it is I see and to share it with others."

Scroll through Meltzer's surprisingly poignant portraits of laundry below and let us know your thoughts on the series in the comments.

Women's Innermost Thoughts About Food Reveal A Culture-Wide Problem

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:38
Chances are, many of the women you know have a turbulent relationship with food.

We are constantly inundated with messages about dieting, and expected to attach moral value to "good" or "bad" foods. Salads are great, and an apparent delight to consume, but things like pasta and desserts are considered an "indulgence."

Women eating in public are subject to commentary from total strangers. In a July 23 feature, HuffPost Women Senior Editor Emma Gray shared her own experience being food-shamed and wrote about the larger implications of publicly policing women's food:
People should be able to walk down the street eating without worrying about comment or harassment from strangers. That seems like common sense. But the sad reality is that for women, eating in public can be fraught with unwanted commentary, sexual innuendo and judgment. Doing so can turn a pleasant evening into an exercise in maintaining a semblance of self-esteem.

While women's food choices are apparently up for public discussion, few women openly discuss their tense relationships with eating.

On secret-sharing app Whisper, women have shared their struggles with food-shaming, calorie-counting and eating-related guilt. These confessions are somewhat disturbing and reveal the complex -- and often negative -- relationship many women have with the food they consume on a daily basis. Yet acknowledging that we have a culture-wide problem is the first step toward finding a solution.

(The images below contain language and graphic descriptions that may be triggering for those who struggle with disordered eating.)

Here are 14 things shared on Whisper that prove no woman is alone if she struggles with food:

Need help? Call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

11 Things You Should Know Before Planning Your Next Trip To The Zoo

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:35
If you're like most Americans, chances are you've visited a zoo. Maybe you've only gone to one on a school field trip, or maybe it's one of your favorite places to go, but whatever the case, zoos are popular in this country. As of March, there were 224 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos in the United States.

As prominent fixtures of American life, zoos are also serious targets of criticism and speculation due to the perceived moral and ethical dilemmas of keeping animals in cages or enclosures under the care of humans. Granted, sometimes zoos actually save animals' lives and help turn around the health of an endangered species. But for all the good, there are still plenty of questionable things that happen at zoos. So before planning a trip to see the newest exhibit at a zoo near you, here are 11 things you need to know.

1. Many zoos claim they are conserving animals, but often times, aren't doing so at all.

Many of the AZA-accredited zoos are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program, which hopes to foster endangered species and promote breeding. However, these efforts rarely prove successful, and sometimes aren't happening at all. David Hancocks, a former zoo director with 30 years of experience, told National Geographic that he thinks less than three percent of a zoo's budget goes towards conservation efforts, with the remaining percent going towards "hi-tech exhibits and marketing efforts to lure visitors."

While some zoos simply don't devote a significant enough of their resources to conservation, the efforts of some of those that claim to be committed to conservation are undermined by disturbing findings about the animals in their own facilities. The Seattle Times conducted an investigation in 2013 that looked at the success rate of "saving" and breeding elephants in 390 U.S. facilities over 50 years. They found that "most of the elephants died from injury or disease linked to conditions of their captivity," such as foot problems from having to stand on concrete surfaces and musculoskeletal disorders from not getting enough exercise. The investigation came to the sobering conclusion that the overall infant-mortality rate for elephants in zoos falls at 40 percent. In public, however, the AZA frequently avoids mention of the health of their captive elephants, instead choosing to tout their broader conservation efforts for the species.

2. On the topic of elephants, 40 percent of all African elephants in U.S. zoos are obese.

And it negatively affects their rate of reproduction. Since a high body mass index in elephants is strongly related to "abnormal ovarian cycles," this issue deeply threatens the initiative to breed more African elephants in captivity. A 2011 report by researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago states that the total elephant population at U.S. zoos needs to average about six births a year to remain stable. However, they currently average just three births a year. Daniella Chusyd, a doctoral student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Nutrition Sciences, speculates that "zoos will need to rethink how they house and feed elephants to reduce the incidence of overweight" animals.

3. The "habitats" most zoo animals are housed in barely even resemble their natural environments.

David Hancocks, a noted zoo architect and advocate, spoke with National Geographic about the man-made enclosures that hold zoo animals and doesn't have great things to say about what he has experienced in his work. He states that zoos have operated under the presumption that they are creating a "landscape immersion design," which is the idea that "the animals should be immersed in landscapes that represented as closely as possible their natural habitats, and that the human visitors should also be immersed in the same replicated habitat, experiencing it with all their senses."

Instead, what ends up happening is animals are forced to reside in habitats that are completely foreign to them, including plastic or concrete trees and illusions of real grass or dirt that masks hard concrete below. In short, Hancocks says, "Everything they touch except their food and feces is unnatural."

4. Which may help explain why many of the movements you see animals make in their enclosures are serious signs of anxiety and depression.

The animals' anxiety and depression is called “zoochosis," which is "psychosis caused by confinement." Erratic behaviors, such as bar-biting and pacing, are not normal and would not happen if the animals were in the wild. Zoos have tried to combat this issue by engaging the animals with activities like puzzles, or giving them toys or food that is a challenge to eat. But this doesn't always work. In her book Animal Madness, writer Laurel Braitman highlights the fact that drugs are often used to calm these problems. Which brings us to our next point...

5. That animal you see may only appear happy because he's on antidepressants.

If you think humans are the only animals who receive counseling and medication, think again. In her book, Braitman tells the story of a polar bear named Gus who resided at the Central Park Zoo in the '90s. For 12 hours a day, he would repeatedly swim figure eights in his pool and stalk children who came to look at him through the glass of his enclosure. This earned him the nickname "the bipolar bear." He was also put on a steady dose of Prozac and received $25,000 worth of behavioral therapy.

The practice of putting zoo animals on antidepressants is startlingly common, according to Braitman. However, the exact number of animals on medication is unknown, since many zoos want to avoid presenting the image that their animals are not "happy" and "content." However, Braitman told Slate, "At every zoo where I spoke to someone, a psychopharmaceutical had been tried." And just this February, at the British Scarborough Sanctuary, penguins were given antidepressants to bolster their moods after becoming distressed dealing with strong weather that included intense winds and lashing rains. While wild penguins would be able to adequately deal with the weather, those who were born in captivity responded with high anxiety and stress.

6. Animals are often moved around different zoos, which disrupts their pack units.

Zoos believe they are doing something good for endangered species when they decide to move an animal from its original zoo and send them to a completely different one for breeding purposes. Yet they often end up disorienting the animals and placing them in upsetting new situations. Some zoos are completely transparent about another motive for moving their animals around. The Milwaukee County Zoo states on their website that one of the reasons they move animals is to keep their collection "fresh and exciting."

In her book, Braitman tells the story of gorilla who was moved from his home zoo to another because he was a suitable genetic match for a potential mate at a different zoo. Once he arrived at his new enclosure, the other gorillas abused him and alienated him to the point where he became so depressed that he lost a third of his body weight. He was then sent back to his original zoo to be nursed back to health, only to be sent to another different zoo to live. When his original zookeepers came to visit him at his new home, the gorilla "ran toward them sobbing and crying."

7. And some zoos refuse to move animals who desperately need to be in a different environment.

Arturo is the last captive polar bear in the world. And he's pretty sad. He lives at the Mendoza Zoo in Argentina and all day he "paces nervously." The problem is that Arturo does not belong in the hot temperatures of Mendoza, where it can get up 86 degrees during the summer. That might explain why the last polar bear in Buenos Aires died in December 2012 during a heat wave.

There is currently a petition with more than 500,000 signatures on asking the Argentine President Cristina Fernandez to move the bear, and even former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has urged people to sign it. However, the zoo director has said that the zoo will not move the bear due to his old age (he's 28) and the risk associated with having to sedate him. Looks like Arturo is destined to live out the remainder of his life in misery.

8. Some zoos don't have the resources to properly take care of their animals.

2013 was not the best year for the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Three animals died and a zebra attacked a zookeeper after he didn't follow proper protocol. When asked about the cause of these issues, the zoo's director credited it to the zoo's lack of resources and the staff being "spread too thin." The cause of death for one of the animals who died, a female red river hog, was due to "improper nutrition." When she arrived at the zoo she weighed 110 pounds. After a year of living at the National Zoo, she died weighing only 79 pounds.

The National Zoo has been charged with a few internal reviews urged upon by Congress to look into the care that is being given to the animals there. In 2003, internal reviews urged upon by Congress to look into the care that is being given to the animals found that the zoo has suffered a "decade-long decline in facilities, animal collection, and quality of animal programs." And in 2013, two internal reports stated that "animal care and overall organization, accountability, follow-up and communication" were "severely lacking" in the zoo's cheetah exhibit. A biologist position that was needed for the cheetah exhibit was left empty for several years due to budget cuts. The job was was finally created by switching an animal-keeper's job to include the responsibilities of a biologist. The Guardian reports that this quick fix was "recommended against," as it would work against keeping "adequate staffing" in tact at the zoo.

9. In fact, some animals have very expensive specific diets that zookeepers hardly understand.

A panda at the National Zoo eating a fruit popsicle in the summer of 2011.

The specific diets that many animals can easily obtain in the wild by themselves have always proven to be a problem for zookeepers. In 1988, a New York Times article highlighted the challenges zoos face when deciding what and how to feed the animals. Oftentimes, zoos must spend a lot of money hiring nutritionists to finesse the perfect diet for endangered species, while horticulturists are brought on to cultivate and deliver specific plants to the animals. For example, one horticulturalist's sole job at the San Diego Zoo is to provide the 16 different species of bamboo that the giant pandas must eat in order to survive.

Because it's virtually impossible (and financially difficult) for zoos to create an exact replica of the animals' natural environment, they have devised ways to infuse specific nutrients and vitamins into pellet-type foods for the animals. These substitutions can have grave consequences. In 2011, after years of feeding gorillas a high-sugar and high-starch diet, the Cleveland Zoo had to desperately start working on a new food plan for their gorillas who were dying of heart failure, a result of heart disease, the number one deadly disease of Western lowland gorillas in U.S. zoos. They have started feeding the gorillas romaine lettuce and "bananas stuffed with multivitamins."

10. The truth is, many zoo visitors aren't interested or aware of the well-being of the animals they're seeing.

A study that focused on visitors' behavior at four different zoos in the Western U.S. with underwater exhibits found that 86 percent of the visitors said they went to the zoo for "social or recreational purposes," and only six percent said they go to a zoo in order to learn more about animals. In another study done on visitor behavior at an ape exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, it was revealed that both adult and children visitors "spent significantly more time watching apes than reading interpretives." The study also showed just how much people antagonize and harass the animals. Of 350 people, 78 pestered the apes by knocking on the glass or expressing other types of "undesirable behavior."

11. If you want to see wild animals, you should seek a place where you can view animals who are not caged.

A mother polar bear and her cub play in the wild in Barter Island, Alaska.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells recently wrote an op-ed in New York Magazine titled, "The Case For The End Of The Modern Zoo," in which he states that the major moral dilemma that seems to exist today with zoos is the idea that they are creating a "double illusion" both for humans and for animals. He writes that "People are convinced that they are seeing animals in something like their natural state and the animals, most of whom have never lived in the wild, are convinced that they are at home."

However, Wallace-Wells emphasizes that the illusion is far worse for the animals, who seem to be somewhat aware that their environments are complete fabrications and are apt to resist the unnatural human interaction they are forced to deal with. He speculates that America could be inching toward a move that Costa Rica just implemented: a plan to close all zoos and "open the cages where animals have been kept."

So, if you want to go see some wild animals who are living outside of cages and as close as possible to how they would in the wild, you should seek out a nature preserve. A good place to start would be visiting The Nature Conservatory's website which lists all the grasslands, coral reefs and habitats you could visit.

How Finding My Father's iPhone Helped Me Mourn His Death

Tue, 2014-07-29 08:33
I recently flew down to the Virgin Islands to bury my father. As I was sifting through his very few belongings in the tiny room he had been inhabiting for the last 25 years, I found an old iPhone. It was like opening a treasure chest filled with digital artifacts -- emails, photos, apps, music. I had found a way to reconnect with the man I once knew as my father but who had become a stranger over time.

My dad's death was sad for a number of reasons. Mostly, for me, because I had almost no contact with him for the last 25 years.

When I was 12 years old, my dad was divorced and broke. He had lost his family and his business and sought comfort in a bottomless bottle of alcohol. You could say he had hit rock bottom.

Rather than dealing with the situation he was facing around debt and addiction, he created a great escape. He moved to the Virgin Islands, where he could leave his responsibilities behind with very little consequence. He found his own version of Never-Never Land, living on an abandoned boat in a small shanty water-town community in the bay.

Estrangement is difficult and complicated. He did try to reach out a number of times on his own terms on birthdays and holidays, and I was always glad when he did. I felt like that was his way of letting me know he wished things could be different. But I was not good about keeping up my end of the communication. Even as an adult, I was too hurt and bewildered by his life choices.

I flew down to the Islands for the funeral to do my best to give him a dignified ending. I regretted not keeping in touch with him. My choice to keep him out of my life made finding any sense of closure around his death seem pretty much hopeless. It was too late; getting to know each other a second time around wasn't an option now.

But the trail of digital media I had access to on his iPhone offered me a glimpse into who this man had become and a bridge back to the memories I had of him as a father.

The photos stored on his phone gave me physical evidence of how he looked in his final days. He was older and grayer than I imagined, but he seemed active and happy. He was still playing tennis at one of the local island resorts where, I later learned, he worked for seven years managing the tennis shop. I remembered that he was an avid tennis player. I had vivid memories as a very little girl of hanging out in the day care center of the local tennis club while my dad played. Afterwards, he would buy me a 3 Musketeers candy bar and a can of white grape juice from the vending machines.

The last couple of pictures in his camera roll were of my newborn nephew -- images my sister sent him in the days leading up to his death. I hope he exercised his right as a first-time grandfather to show his friends pictures of his grandson and brag about the cutest baby ever.

As I swiped through the phone, I noticed a bunch of recipe apps. I found lists in one of the apps of Asian recipes. That brought back memories of ordering Chinese take-out on the weekends when we were still a family -- spare ribs and Moo shoo pork were our favorites.

He stayed up to date on sports and news through email alerts with a daily dose of the Bleacher Report and MSNBC. As a native New Yorker, he kept his connection to the city alive with the New York Post app. And every day he had a joke sent to his inbox. In a condolence card I received from a friend of his, she recounted his "many jokes" and said "he will always be remembered as bringing a smile to everyone's face." I thought to myself, that's a nice way to be remembered.

When I listened to his iTunes, a Frankie Valli song came on, and I thought about how I wanted to see "Jersey Boys," which had just come out in theaters that weekend. There were some of his favorite pop-soul singers from the late '80s like Taylor Dayne and Simply Red that I remember him listening to right before he left for the islands. He has some of my own favorite songs from the last 25 years. Turns out we had similar taste in music -- a random Boyz II Men album from 1997. There wasn't much of an "estate" to close out upon his death, but I feel like his music is the one thing he could leave to me.

And thanks to my own iPhone, I was able to document the way he lived. To my surprise, he had a lot of friends who wanted to meet me and give me the memories I had been missing over the last 25 years. His friends offered little eulogies; they told me how much they loved him and how much he loved me. I recorded them.

A neighbor of his from the boat community recounted how they supported each other when it stormed all night long. "Were you up in that storm?" she'd ask. "How much water did you have to bail out of your dingy?" I asked her if it was hard, living on a boat like that. "Yeah," she said, "but it was fun."

Another friend of his told us how much he missed spending time with my sister and me, and how much he missed that aspect of his life. "He never put you out of his mind -- he kept a lot of things inside," he said, "but he felt it."

I have regrets that estrangement will always be a defining characteristic of my relationship with my father, and I wish things could have been different. But I did find some solace when his friend went on to let me know that the experience of my father's death and visit to the Islands inspired him to become closer to his own daughter, whom he had not spoken to in over a year. When he called her, he said it was as if they had just spoken last week. I could tell how proud he was of the things she was accomplishing in her life, and how much he wanted to be a part of it. It felt like a translation of how my father must have felt about me.

I realize nothing can replace a face-to-face goodbye. But I believe the digital clues I've been able to piece together give me the memories I need, and I'm grateful that I was able to witness his life -- even in death.

The Truth Behind My Travel Photos

Tue, 2014-07-29 07:39

Over the past year, I went tango dancing in Buenos Aires, wine-tasting in Santiago, caving in Easter Island, waterfall chasing in Japan, rickshaw riding through Delhi, clubbing in Uruguay, ice climbing in Patagonia, bushwalking along the Australian coast, trekking in New Zealand and scuba diving in Fiji.

I stomped on my dancing partner's toes, wandered lost down the highway to a vineyard, crawled into a dark hole in the ground with a stranger, slipped on waterfall rocks, got carsick in India and seasick in Uruguay, face-planted on a glacier, befriended a fly and named it "Buzz" while lonely in the jungle, was bruised by hail whipping through a mountain, and got stung by jellyfish.

My photo of the sunrise peeking behind 15 monolithic Easter Island statues fails to illustrate that I witnessed this scene after a 1.5 hour flight to Baltimore, 2 hour flight to Atlanta, 10 hour flight to Santiago, and 6 hour flight to the island. This photo required a 3 a.m. alarm, instant coffee mixed with cold bottled water and a pothole-riddled, stray dog-dodging drive in total darkness.

Pretty travel photos mask the work it takes to reach the destination. There is no shortcut to Easter Island. But with a little patience, the journey often becomes the best part.

I was lucky enough to travel internationally over the past year, yet I still found myself jealous of a friend who received his M.D. and my cousin who received her law degree. I looked at their diplomas with envy and forgot that they worked many years to achieve a goal; there is no shortcut to their professions either.

But we are in a shortcut era. Why bake a potato when you can microwave it? Why walk to the store when you can drive? Why meet up with friends when you can text? These quick fixes make life faster, but your potato tastes mushy, you miss out on sights and sounds of the street, and you're sitting alone with your phone.

Fair or not, I occasionally noticed a stigma against Americans while abroad. Some people guessed I was Canadian to be polite. According to them, it's offensive to guess that someone is from the U.S.

I met many warm Americans with open hearts while traveling, but I also repeatedly saw people from the U.S. with unrealistic expectations -- they assumed there must be a shortcut to the good stuff. I watched a group of American teens in Argentina scream at an airline ticket agent because their flight was delayed, as the other passengers sat quietly watching. I heard Americans rant in shock that there's no faster boat to a faraway island in Fiji or speedier train across the country in India.

We sometimes seem to feel that we deserve a shortcut, faster service, a magical carpet ride that defies nature. It makes sense, because in this technological world, we are increasingly close to having it all with the tap of an app.

Yet, if I had used the Google Maps app while traveling, I wouldn't have asked strangers for directions, and then I wouldn't have received tips on the best food in each city. I would have missed wandering aimlessly and stumbling upon historic church ruins. I wouldn't have had a personal tour through a cave overlooking the sea.

Sometimes our reliance on apps and shortcuts cuts out the good stuff in life.

"Nobody ever warns that for one rose you get 12 thorns," lyricist Michael Berkeley once wrote. That doesn't stop a few hundred million people from buying roses every February 14. You can't grow a real rose without thorns, you can't get to Easter Island without a day of travel, and you can't often take shortcuts to achieve your goal. But I still travel and gladly accept rose bouquets (though prefer chocolate).

I took photos from recent and past trips of both beautiful sites and the less picturesque efforts it took to arrive at my destinations. Not only was each of these scenes worth the journey, but the journey was often the part I'll hold most dear.

Viedma Glacier, Patagonia:

To climb the glaciers, you wear crampons and -- if you're anything like me -- will get the metal hooks caught on your pants and faceplant in the ice:

Wineglass Bay, Tasmania:

You might run into one of these guys on your hike to the beach:

Himalayas, India:

Follow precautions or risk serious medical problems from ascending too fast:

Great Ocean Road, Australia:

The empty, pristine beaches are sprinkled with these warnings:

Lake Chuzenji, Japan:
Dozens of hairpin turns will take you there:

Abel Tasman, New Zealand:

If you hike here, you'll be using a fly-covered toilet like this:

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay:

Check for stormy weather before your ferry ride over:

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Tasmania:

It's a 3 hour bike ride from Hobart with a bike lane-free bridge crossing:

Iguazu Falls, Argentina:

Features warning signs like this:

Mamanuca Islands, Fiji:

You may run into some gently stinging jellyfish:

El Chalten, Argentina:

That's an all-day trek ahead of you:

Bruny Island, Tasmania:
You hike up these steps for the view:

Then there are those rare moments when life is quite simply spectacular, no thorns attached:

Coles Bay, Tasmania

All photos by Joanna Zelman.


NEW ZEALAND: The One Question I Am Asked In Every Country I Visit

TASMANIA: I Thought the World Would Stop Turning When I Left Home to Go Travel

GREAT BARRIER REEF: Feeding My Voracious Passport With a Jellyfish-Munching Turtle

ARGENTINA: Climbing Patagonia's Glaciers With My Dearest Strangers And One Lone Instant Coffee Packet

BUENOS AIRES: It's 3 a.m. and I Have Surrendered to a Stumbling, Magical Tango in Buenos Aires

The Dark Side Of Traveling You Don't Write About In Postcards

CHILE: Here's Why I Travel Despite Sometimes Ending Up Lost In A Sex Shop

EASTER ISLAND: The Holy Sh*t Island

NYC: Dear New York, We Need To Take A Break

JAPAN: Life Is What Happens When You're Killing Time...Even With A Dead Camera, 120 Yen And A Lot Of Sleet

INDIA: How to Cross the Street in a Delhi Market While Eating Jalebis and Searching for a Scarf

INDIA: When My Mother Heard I Was Traveling Along To India...

What City Dwellers Want, and Why It Matters

Tue, 2014-07-29 07:32


American city dwellers place a high value on their cities’ food offerings, from restaurants to farmers’ markets.  We also love historic buildings and good public spaces.  Traffic, not so much.  These findings are from a new study released last week by Sasaki Associates, a Massachusetts-based design and planning firm. 

The study, although limited to six cities, is rich with interesting findings that should help inform the agendas of urban planners and advocates.  The findings should also matter to environmentalists, because successful cities are key to a sustainable future.  To get the environment right, we need to create and maintain urban environments that people love.

Restaurants and food

In particular, restaurants and other sources of food are among the most popular aspects of city life, according to respondents in six major US cities:

“When we asked city residents what aspects of urban life enchanted them, food kept popping up in their responses. Eighty-two percent of urbanites appreciate their city's culinary offerings.”

Restaurants were also ranked number one among a menu of items that would make residents visit a new part of their city, named by 46 percent of respondents, and number one among a different list of choices when asked to name “the most outstanding aspect of cities people love to visit.”  (“Local attractions” ranked second.)

One thousand respondents participated in the survey from Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.  The study was conducted in May 2014.

Architecture and public spaces

City dwellers also place a high value on historic architecture.  54 percent agreed that, “to improve their city’s architectural character,” they “would like to see their city invest in renovating existing historical buildings to retain character while making them more useable.”  Only 17 percent felt their city was too quaint and “would like to see more skyscrapers and iconic buildings.”

Similarly, 57 percent will “stop to admire buildings that are historic,” while 19 percent favor “buildings that are modern.”  38 percent admire buildings “that prominently feature public art or very unique design elements.”

Beyond buildings per se, urbanites love parks and other good public spaces.  The study’s authors found that most people remember their favorite city experience taking place outdoors, either in a park or on a street.  A park or street was named by 65 percent of respondents as the site of a favorite experience, with private buildings coming in a distant second at 22 percent.  Government and civic buildings came in at a paltry 6 percent.

Waterfronts were named most popular among public spaces, with large parks coming in second.  And substantial numbers of respondents wish their cities would make streets more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians, would support adding outdoor music and entertainment venues, and would like more small urban parks, “such as for visiting on lunch breaks.”  

Transportation and parking

Not all is rosy in cities, however, according to the survey.  A substantial plurality of respondents – 41 percent – cited traffic as first among city complaints.  Yet most respondents are themselves contributing to that traffic, with 58 percent saying that they use cars most frequently among modes of transportation.  (Half that many listed public transit.)

Not that I blame them.   For many people, convenient, comfortable, and clean alternatives to driving either don’t exist or don’t function in a way that meets their needs.

The study’s authors write:  

“When we asked urban residents what they liked least about living and working in a city, traffic was the unsurprising winner.

“Breaking Americans of their car habit has been an ongoing battle. Transit-oriented development is the most-cited solution to encourage a less auto-centric society.  (An anomaly, New York has the city-wide density to support a robust transit network.)

“However, the numbers (here and elsewhere) speak loud and clear:  we are still auto-dependent.  We need to plan and design differently—in a way that will enhance mobility options while still acknowledging our love for the automobile.”

The second-most-listed complaint was a lack of parking.

Staying put

Ultimately, the study provides great news, at least about the cities surveyed:  60 percent of respondents said they plan on living either where they do now or in a different part of the city.  The portion who say they plan to move outside the city at some point, 34 percent, is also a large number.  But what a welcome contrast to the situation a few decades ago when central cities were emptying out, suburbs seen as the overwhelmingly preferred domicile for those with a choice. 

Not long ago, I listed some questions designed to elicit whether a city is environmentally and socially sustainable.  Those questions remain important, regardless of the findings here.  But we’ll have a much better chance of reaching sustainability if we provide its ingredients in a form that responds to people’s self-expressed needs, such as those reported here.  As I have said before, if our solutions don’t work for people, they will never work for the planet.


Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Huffington Post and in other national media.  Kaid’s latest book is People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities.

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The Sweaty Girls' Guide To Summer Dressing

Tue, 2014-07-29 06:00
If you're anything like us, you're a sweaty mess in the summer. It's hotter than hell outside and if you can't spend your days in a bikini next to a pool and a fan, then you're SOL.

Well, not exactly. There are some tips and tricks that will help even the sweatiest of girls get dressed. From avoiding silk and light colors, to wearing linen and printed, breezy dresses, there are many ways you can look cute, stay cool and remain stylish during a heat wave.

Herewith, 11 tips all for all the sweaty girls.

1. Pick the right colors. Light colors -- especially gray and white -- are the worst at concealing sweat. Instead, opt for darker colors like brown, black and navy.

2. Patterns and prints are a great way to camouflage sweat.

3. To avoid pit stains, choose dresses and tanks with low arm holes.

4. Go for dresses with strategic cut-outs for extra ventilation.

5. Avoid wearing hats. Since your body releases most of its heat from your head, wearing a cute baseball hat will only make you overheat. If you're dying to accessorize this summer, go for a pair of cool shades and extra sunscreen instead.

6. Choose the right fabrics. Natural fabrics like cotton and linen will absorb and release moisture, whereas silk will only exaggerate sweat stains. Open knits are also ideal because they're breezy.

7. Tie a shirt around your waist or pack a change of clothes in case you sweat through your outfit.

8. Wear polyester with caution. Though the synthetic fiber won't show sweat stains, it will make you much hotter.

9. Be conscious when buying dry clean only summer clothes. You'll most likely have to wash them after every wear, which quickly adds up.

10. If you're headed to a business meeting that requires you to wear a blazer, instead of putting it on, throw it over your shoulders.

11. Wear open toe shoes or canvas sneakers to let your feet breath. And whatever you do, avoid plastic shoes at all costs.

All images for

House Bill Would Legalize 'Charlotte's Web' Medical Marijuana

Mon, 2014-07-28 18:38
A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Monday would legalize a compound in marijuana used to treat severe epilepsy.

The legislation, called the "Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014," would exclude "therapeutic hemp" and "cannabidiol," or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana used for medical purposes, from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana, including therapeutic hemp and CBD, is illegal under current federal law.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Paul Broun (R-Ga.), says therapeutic hemp and CBD "shall not be treated as controlled substances." Both treatments contain little of the psychoactive substance that generates a marijuana high.

"This bill in no way changes my stance on marijuana -- I still disagree with the recreational use of marijuana," Perry said in a statement. "However, these children and individuals like them deserve a chance to lead a healthy and productive life and our government shouldn’t stand in the way."

The bill takes its name from 7-year-old Charlotte Figi, a Colorado girl with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. Her parents are successfully treating her debilitating seizures with a strain of high-CBD, low-THC medical cannabis called "Charlotte's Web." Traditional pharmaceuticals failed to help.

“It’s a huge day, we’re celebrating, we’re very excited," Paige Figi, Charlotte's mother, told The Huffington Post. "It’s a step in the right direction -- it’s not full medical, but the success we’ve had in showing this is a working therapy, state to state, has come through and now federally they are taking notice." Figi volunteers at Realm of Caring, a nonprofit Colorado Springs organization that developed the Charlotte's Web strain of cannabis for her daughter.

The introduction of the House bill comes after 11 states have legalized CBD for limited medical use or research. To date, 23 other states have more broadly legalized medical marijuana. But because federal law considers all forms of marijuana illegal, people who use, possess, sell or grow marijuana for medical use -- even in states where it's legal -- face potential federal charges.

Some have argued that CBD-specific legislation, like the new House bill, is too narrow and should be expanded to include marijuana for all medical uses.

"We fully understand that, and are pushing for" full legalization of medical marijuana, Figi said. "But with politicians, you negotiate down to what they are comfortable with and what will or will not pass. How do you stand by and say we’re not going to help anybody?"

Figi said the Realm of Caring has about 9,000 patients on its waiting list for epilepsy treatment with Charlotte's Web. "It’s so painful to see people waiting and dying," she said. "My friends -- the Conte family -- just lost their daughter in New York. They fought for New York’s medical marijuana law and she’s probably the reason that bill passed, and then she lost her daughter while on the waiting list. And there’s many more that are dying every week.”

Anna Conte, 9, who suffered from seizures, died last week due to complications from her disorder. New York lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill last month, but it won't take effect for a year and a half. Since its passage, two other children with seizure disorders similar to Conte's have also died.

The House bill must successfully pass multiple House committees before it reaches the floor for consideration.

The bill is among several recent moves in Congress to change longstanding federal marijuana policy. The House recently voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from targeting medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws -- a vote that surprised even longtime supporters of marijuana policy reform. In May, House lawmakers also approved a measure that would prohibit the DEA from using funds to crack down on state-legal industrial hemp programs.

Turns Out Booking R. Kelly To Play Your Music Festival Is Bad For Business

Mon, 2014-07-28 17:19
An Ohio music festival has found itself in a difficult position on the heels of its booking of controversial R&B singer R. Kelly as one of its headliners.

The Fashion Meets Music Festival, slated for Aug. 29-31 in Columbus, Ohio, has run into a number of troubles since they announced last month that Kelly would be playing their inaugural fest alongside jam band O.A.R. and Destiny's Child alum Michelle Williams, among others.

Since then, two Ohio-based bands -- Damn the Witch Siren and Saintseneca -- have dropped out of the lineup since Kelly's booking was made public and Sunday Columbus Alive reported that radio station WCBE 90.5 FM has withdrawn from sponsoring the festival, also due to Kelly's participation in the event.

As WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis notes, ticket sales for the "I Believe I Can Fly" singer's performance at the festival -- which start at $58.50 plus fees -- also appear to be selling very slowly.

The pushback stems from Kelly's past allegations of child pornography and sexual assault, a story DeRogatis helped break and Jessica Hopper detailed in a viral news story for the Village Voice in December 2013.

"We feel [R. Kelly's] selection as a performer ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence and assault," Saintseneca said in a statement explaining their decision. "We feel it is an affront to all survivors, who are already often overlooked and forgotten in our society." The band plans to host an alternative concert benefiting victims of sexual assault.

In response to the criticism, Fashion Meets Music Festival co-founder Bret Adams defended the booking to Columbus Alive, noting that Kelly was acquitted of the allegations in 2008, saying, "we're not the morality police."

Kelly also headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago last year, a booking DeRogatis lashed out against but which was not met by any bands or sponsors dropping out from the event. Kelly also played the Bonnaroo and Coachella festivals in 2013.

$15: The New Eight-Hour Day

Mon, 2014-07-28 16:44

When 200 New York City fast-food workers walked off their jobs in November 2012, their demand of $15 an hour seemed like a fantasy.

But over the weekend, as more than 1,000 fast-food workers from 50 cities gathered in Chicago for the first-ever nationwide fast-food workers convention, the workers' call for $15 looked prescient.

In a little less than two years, the call for $15 per hour has spread far beyond the fast-food industry -- indeed, in its power to inspire all low-wage workers, the "Fight for 15" is akin to the movement for the 8-hour day roughly two centuries ago.

While it's commonly taken for granted, today's standard 8-hour workday did not arrive by accident -- it began as a near-utopian demand from workers in industries like mining, construction, and manufacturing, where 15-hour days were the norm.

But under pressure from strikes that gradually spread across the country, a growing number of cities and companies began granting 8-hour workdays near the end of the 19th century -- and eventually, this standard 40-hour workweek was extended to workers nationwide. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1938.

The call for a $15 per hour wage similarly began as an over-the-horizon demand from fast-food workers stuck in jobs that offer no benefits, limited hours, and a median hourly wage of only $8.69 per hour. Today, however, following nearly two years of strikes by fast-food workers, low-wage workers of all types have taken up the call for $15 per hour -- and this growing movement is already getting results.

For example, in Baltimore earlier this month, service workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital reached a tentative agreement, after the threat of continued strikes, for a groundbreaking pay raise to $15 per hour. If finalized, this pay raise would substantially boost the wages of hundreds of low-paid janitors, cooks, housekeepers, and technicians, many of whom earn just above $10 per hour today.

In Michigan, hamburger chain Moo Cluck Moo raised wages to $15. And out west, workers in the Los Angeles Unified School System--the nation's second largest--just won a near doubling of their wages, to $15. Also in Los Angeles, a proposal to establish a $15 per hour minimum wage for hotel workers throughout the city won unanimous approval from the City Council's Economic Development Committee earlier this year, setting the stage for a vote in the full City Council in the coming months. Local leaders in LA credited the "tremendous energy" created by striking low-wage workers across the country in spurring progress on this proposal.

In November, voters in SeaTac, Washington approved the nation's first $15 minimum wage. And in June, the city of Seattle officially answered the rallying cry of fast food workers, approving the nation's first $15 citywide minimum wage. This historic development was followed just weeks later by the announcement of an agreement in San Francisco -- backed by local businesses -- to refer a measure setting a $15 citywide minimum wage to the city's voters this November.

It's not hard to understand why the Fight for 15 would inspire workers across the economy to take action. Much like the 15-hour days that characterized America's 19th-century industrial economy, stagnant wages and low pay are the "new normal" for millions of workers in the U.S.

For four decades wages have flat-lined even as worker productivity has continued to grow, and low-wage jobs now form the core of America's economy, comprising 8 of the 10 occupations with the largest projected growth over the next decade.

Looking ahead, we can ask: Which state will be the first to set a $15 minimum wage? Which big fast-food company will be the first to guarantee a minimum hourly wage that is double the industry standard? When can we expect to see a living wage become a core labor standard guaranteed to all workers across the country?

As fast-food workers gathered in Chicago to plot their next steps, one thing was clear: Their $15 demand could soon be as ordinary as the 8-hour day.

Jack Temple is a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Goodman Theatre's <i>Brigadoon</i> Offers a Delightful Romp in the Heather

Mon, 2014-07-28 16:41
"Isn't Brigadoon the one with the leprechauns?"

No, that's "Finnian's Rainbow," clarified my theatre companion as we walked into Goodman's suprisingly delightful new production of the Scottish-based Lerner and Loewe tuner.

Brigadoon is a show that I'd firmly dismissed. Many of those warhorse musicals often feel so steeped in schmaltz, by the time you're done, you feel like you need a root canal to eradicate all the manufactured sweetness. So a show about a pair of strapping men who happen upon a magical land that appears once very 100 years and fall in love with the lonely lasses who live in the misty hills didn't really capture my fancy.

But then I heard Goodman was producing a revival helmed by revolutionary musical theatre director Rachel Rockwell, and my interest piqued considerably. Maybe it was worth revising a show I hadn't seen since my community theatre dusted it off when I was 16?

Well, color me tartan: Upon the first few chords of this charming revival, I found myself swept up into a world of kilts, bagpipes and heartfelt ballads. Yes, this 1947 musical, while updated with some script tinkering (by Brian Hill), still relies on old-school musical theatre tropes, it's far from musty. In fact, I'd be so bold as to say it's blissfully charming.

The cast of Goodman Theatre's "Brigadoon"

Leading this unapologetically romantic show, Jennie Sophia lends her warm presence and shimmering soprano to Fiona -- the leading lady who captures the heart of a hunter who wandered into the mysterious land (the evening I saw the show, Rod Thomas, who typically plays the sidekick friend, stepped in for Kevin Early, and was outstanding). Offering up some blowzy comedic relief, the ruddy cheeked Maggie Portman as Meg does well with two tongue-twisting numbers.

In fact, Rockwell, a rockstar director tapped by the Goodman to lead this rare revival, often succeeds because she casts shows extremely well, and here she's assembled a fresh-faced ensamble, many of whom are making their Goodman debuts along with her. In addition, many double as dancers, pulling off lively jigs also choreographed by Rockwell, including a thrilling sword dance to close out the first act.

It also doesn't hurt that the show looks delicious. Kevin Debinet's lush sets find a way to make green moss seem exotic, and Mara Blumenfeld dots the stage with bursts of color, while remaining authentic to the timeless period.

"Brigadoon" plays through August 17 at Goodman Theatre. More info here >

Rahm Emanuel Wants To Bring More Child Migrants To Chicago

Mon, 2014-07-28 15:55

CHICAGO, July 28 (Reuters) - Chicago will set up additional shelters for unaccompanied immigrant children to be funded by the federal government and run by local charities, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Monday.

Increasing numbers of children, mostly from crime-plagued Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, are crossing into the United States from Mexico, and shelters near the border are strained. Some of the children are immediately flown home to Central America, but immigration authorities send most of them to temporary shelters in cities around the United States until they are placed with family members while they await deportation proceedings that can last for years.

While some cities - such as Escondido, California and Oracle, Arizona - have resisted efforts to set up temporary shelters for unaccompanied minor immigrants, officials in other cities are more welcoming. Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins has offered federal authorities empty buildings in a risky political move as he faces re-election in November.

Increasing shelter space for minors is not seen as putting Democrat Emanuel in any political jeopardy, although some community groups in Chicago have criticized President Barack Obama's proposal to increase spending on immigration measures rather than on programs for struggling neighborhoods in Chicago.

"The influx of unaccompanied child migrants is a growing humanitarian crisis that we can no longer ignore," said Emanuel in the statement. "While we have our own challenges at home, we cannot turn our backs on children who are fleeing dangerous conditions. We will do our part to ensure that these children are given access to services and treated fairly and humanely."

Chicago already has nine shelters that house several hundred immigrant children on a short-term basis.

One of the most pressing needs for the children is legal aid as many of them try to argue that they should be granted asylum because they would face danger or persecution if sent back home. Without a lawyer it can be difficult to establish grounds for asylum or for special immigration status for neglected children.

Emanuel said that Chicago would expand legal aid services - through a network of pro bono lawyers from big firms - to meet the demands of the rising population in the new shelter. (Reporting by Fiona Ortiz)