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Democrats Renew Push For Colleges To Establish Cyberbullying Policies That Cover LGBT Students

Wed, 2015-03-18 12:04
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate's education committee, wants to require colleges to establish policies prohibiting cyberbullying and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Murray, along with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), unveiled legislation Wednesday they say would help mitigate harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students by requiring universities to adopt policies banning students from using online communication to taunt their peers. The lawmakers point to the death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide in 2010 after being a victim of cyberbullying, as an example of what they hope to prevent.

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2015 would force colleges taking federal money -- which is nearly all of them -- to establish policies that prohibit harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. The bill would also require schools to have policies banning cyberbullying, which is defined as any harassment taking place through electronic or mobile communication services.

Nearly one in five college students are victims of cyberbullying, according to a 2014 study published by SAGE Publications. One in four LGBT students -- and one-third of transgender students -- face harassment in college, a 2010 survey by the advocacy group Campus Pride found.

"LGBT students are more likely to be harassed in school, yet there is no federal requirement for colleges and universities to protect their students from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity," Murray said in a statement.

The proposal already has the support of Clementi's parents, the Human Rights Campaign, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Association for University Women, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Pride Foundation. However, previous proposals have attracted pushback from civil liberties advocates and higher education policy experts who worried the definitions of harassment based on a person's demographic were too broad.

Clementi, a gay student, committed suicide after his roommate rigged a webcam to record and broadcast an intimate encounter between Clementi and another man in their dorm room.

The roommate was found guilty of 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, and was sentenced in 2012.

A version of the federal proposal was first unveiled in 2011 and failed to gain traction in recent years. However, with Murray now the ranking member of the education committee, which is due to rewrite the Higher Education Act, the sponsors are hopeful there will be more movement this time around.

"Schools need to take bullying, harassment and humiliation seriously by making it official policy," Jane Clementi, Tyler's mother and the founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, said in a statement. "We support this legislation because no other student should have to feel the pain and humiliation that Tyler felt after he had been [filmed] by his roommate."

Laura Bennett, president of the Association of Student Conduct Administrators, told The Huffington Post that colleges should absolutely have anti-harassment policies, but they "should address a spectrum of behaviors and should adequately balance safety with First Amendment rights."

The legislation would also establish a grant program to support campus anti-harassment activities and programs, which includes trainings for staff and assistance for colleges providing counseling services to students who have been harassed.

On This Day In 2008, Obama Grabbed The Nation's Attention With A Speech On Race

Wed, 2015-03-18 10:39
On March 18, 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) gave a speech on race that grabbed the attention of the nation and helped define his 2008 presidential campaign.

At the time, Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) were the two leading candidates in the Democratic primary. Obama had faced controversy when video surfaced of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor in Illinois, making insensitive and inflammatory racial remarks.

Obama’s speech, called "A More Perfect Union," was presented at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and lasted almost 40 minutes. The candidate specifically addressed Wright, the role of race in the campaign, inequality and privilege in America, and religion:

At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

A couple of weeks before the speech, Obama condemned Wright's remarks on The Huffington Post's blog. He repeated that sentiment during the speech:

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

“This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected,” Obama added.

In 2009, NBC News named Obama's Philadelphia speech as the best political speech of the decade. Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times called it “Obama’s Lincoln Moment” the day after the speech.

Obama went on to win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency later that year.

Watch the full speech above.

9 Reasons Silicon Valley Should Move to Chicago

Wed, 2015-03-18 09:46
Are you tired of living in Silicon Valley's tech bubble? Do you want to be part of a growing startup-friendly tech hub? Come to Chicago! Here are nine more reasons to make the move:

Water: Chicago has water. Lots of water. Take lots of guilt-free long hot showers. Spring through fall, sail on the great lake Michigan. Join the famous Mackinac Boat Race. Watch the annual Air and Water Show.

Fly Anywhere Nonstop: Chicago has an international airport with direct nonstop flights to major cities and world capitals including New York, London, Washington, San Francisco, Amman (Jordan), Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Doha (Qatar), Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Delhi, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Fun and Food: Chicago has a great nightlife with bars, pubs, and dance clubs. Restaurants aren't crowded; you can get a table at the best restaurants in town without much fuss. In fact, you'll get a seat almost any time of day. Last Wednesday, I breakfasted at the Michigan Avenue Le Pain Quotidien at 7:40 a.m. In New York, the place would be packed at that hour, but in Chicago, I had the place to myself. Carlos, the friendly server, and Devon, the cheerful cashier, would love to see you! In the summer, dine al fresco at one of Chicago's many outdoor garden or lakefront restaurants.

Great homes and views: Chicago has abundant affordable luxury apartments and homes with lots of space and stellar views. Yes, Chicago has lagged the rest of the country in housing cost rises, but that is an opportunity for you. You can buy a tiny condo in Silicon Valley or a penthouse in Chicago. Even if you don't move to Chicago, buy one anyway. You can't beat the space, the views, and the amenities.

Fitness: Chicago has the best equipped gyms in the world from the matchless East Bank Club, to the Soho House, to Gold's Gyms and many more. Enjoy miles of lakefront bike trails. Chicago loves fitness.

Technology: Chicago has state of the art server centers and data farms. Chicago is already a major fiber optic cable hub, third in the USA, and is expanding fiber optic space. Chicago is home to the number one startup accelerator in the world. If you move, you will be in the company of other startups that have moved from Silicon Valley to Chicago.

Large Offices: Chicago has great office space available with famous architecture.

Culture: Chicago has lots of attractions: world class museums, theater, indoor and outdoor symphonies, and a Chicago Council on Global Affairs that is better than New York's since you can get a seat near world-class speakers. Most Chicagoans are friendly polite people (city crime aside and besides, California has crime, too), because if we weren't, in the winter, there would be no reason to go on living... other than close-by skiing, snowboarding and city-wide ice skating. When you're done, go to a bar with a fireplace for a hot chocolate or a hot toddy.

Deals: Illinois economy isn't in great shape, but it isn't much worse off than California, and the state of Illinois is already reneging on obligations like solar panel reimbursements and cutting funding for non-tech unprofitable business ventures. (h/t Second City Cop) Illinois and Chicago want your tax revenues. Move to Chicago, create jobs, and negotiate a tax deal for the day your business takes off.

Four Best Business Schools in Illinois

Wed, 2015-03-18 08:02
Illinois has dozens of universities with prestigious undergraduate programs. But what about the state's graduate programs? Which schools are best for which areas of study? U.S. News & World Report released its 2015 rankings for the best graduate school programs in the nation. The report focuses on six major fields of study: business, education, engineering, law, medicine and nursing.

Here are the Illinois business schools ranked by U.S.News & World Report:

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

  • Program rank: #4 (tie)

  • Full-time enrollment: 1,181

  • Tuition:61,520 per year

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management

  • Program rank: #6 (tie)

  • Full-time enrollment: 1,047

  • Tuition:61,596 per year

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Business

  • Program rank: #47 (tie)

  • Full-time enrollment: 169

  • Tuition:

  • $21,974 per year (in-state)

  • $32,974 per year (out-of-state)

DePaul University Charles H. Kellstadt Graduate School of Business

  • Program rank: #95 (tie)

  • Full-time enrollment: 68

  • Tuition:980 per credit

Check out the rankings for Illinois graduate schools in the fields of education, engineering, law, medicine and nursing at Reboot Illinois.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: How much did Illinois colleges make in 2014?

Remembering the Little Warrior

Wed, 2015-03-18 07:38
Reverend Willie Taplin Barrow was a powerhouse. She stood only 4'11", but she was a giant. She was a fighter, thus her title "The Little Warrior." Barrow fought injustice and spoke for equality on all fronts -- race, women, and gays.

A church family raised her in Burton, Texas, where she was born and grew up. At the age of 12, Willie experienced racism. The White students rode the bus to school while the Black students walked. She asked why. She confronted the injustice. It was the beginning of her life's work.

She started her career as a welder, the job on which she met her husband Honey Barrow, who preceded her in death. They were married for 50 years and had a son, Keith, who died of AIDS.

All of my adult life, there has been Rev. Willie T. Barrow. I met her at the age of 17, when I volunteered for what was then Operation Breadbasket located on 47th Street and Rev. Jesse Jackson assigned me to work with Rev. Barrow.

At that time she was boycotting and picketing grocery stores -- Red Rooster, A&P and National. Red Rooster was selling spoiled meat and second-rate food to Black consumers. I began to help with logistics of the picketers. I took the phone reports from the picketers and assigned the picketers to the lines. I was learning first hand Organizing 101 from a pro.

For a while I was her right hand and I was watching, listening, and learning all the way. She went into meetings with a game plan. She argued her point. She was usually the only woman in the room, but it didn't matter. She would tell the men to be quiet and listen to her.

Eventually, the grocery stores shut down and eventually left the community. The protest was against poor food, and about putting Black manufactured products on the shelf and hiring and contracting with African-American businesses. I saw results come about from the boycotts.

I saw the feminist movement come to her seeking advice. Rev. Barrow worked with women at the highest levels of the world. She was at the table with the best of them and traveled the world addressing women rights, civil rights, and world peace. I'm proud to say that I wrote some of her speeches.

Her methods were always in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, rooted in non-violence. She was always nice and kind, but also forceful and focused. She was a wonderful negotiator who would not move off her point.

Her energy eventually turned to politics. Her famous speech when Harold Washington was running for mayor was that she wanted all the Black women in Chicago to vote for Harold. With that vote alone, she said, Harold would win. She organized Black women to make that so.

A Different Breed of Woman

Her musician son Keith came home from New York with an unusual illness -- he had AIDS and at the time no one knew what it was and most were afraid of it.

I went to the hospital with her often to visit Keith. She changed. Her faith deepened. When he passed away, she became a strong advocate for research on this horrible disease, but she never became bitter. She grew. She embraced everybody in a different way. She began to pay more attention to people. She had 100 godchildren and became a mother figure to many. Young people gravitated to her.

Willie taught by example. Her office space was usually a mess, but she knew where everything was. She was on the phone taking calls on behalf of Jesse. She was running the organization, no matter who was in charge. Willie worked with Rev. Jackson in multiple capacities for 50 years.

When Rev. Jackson ran for president in 1984 and 1988, she was on the road with him, organizing churches, communities, and women. Everyone loved her. She was Jesse's feet on the ground and she delivered.

She was another breed of woman. Willie had energy galore. Always ready for action. But she encouraged women to not be too busy for a family life, and often late in the evenings, she would tell women to go home and take of their husbands and children. I never saw her tire.

When I started N'DIGO, I wanted her support. She listened and asked a lot of questions. She finally said, I am retiring in November; will you be ready to publish then? I said I have to get my advertising together. She said, I'll help. Let's make a list of potential advertisers.

She was the first cover story of N'DIGO, in our premier issue of December 1989. At her retirement party at a downtown Chicago hotel, we introduced N'DIGO to the public for the first time by having it on every seat in the room. She took me by the hand and made sure everyone knew I was publishing a newspaper. Advertising came from that and the paper was introduced.

Willie lived a long and beautiful life of 90 years. She leaves a rich legacy. She taught five generations to fight for what is right. She taught us how to organize. She taught women how to have a seat at the table as a woman and as an African American.

Her saying, "We are not divided as much as we are disconnected," still rings true. She made us strong. We weep as we remember life lessons learned from her. It was a privilege to know her.

Rahm Emanuel's Housing Agency Sitting On Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars With Massive Waitlist

Wed, 2015-03-18 07:02
CHICAGO -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel's housing agency has been pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from a fund earmarked for its affordable housing program and using the money instead to boost its pension, purchase government debt and build up a staggering cash reserve.

Meanwhile, Chicago's most vulnerable are bearing the brunt. The Chicago Housing Authority's waitlist tops 280,000, with a sizable portion of the city's population hoping for a shot at affordable housing. Ninety-seven percent of the people receiving housing assistance are black or Latino, and 85 percent are women, according to the agency. Some 15,000 families on the list are homeless.

Early in Emanuel's term, the size of the housing agency's reserves began hitting eye-popping levels. Instead of pouring that money into housing, it found other ways to chip away at the pile. In 2011 and 2012, the CHA pumped more than $55 million into its pension fund, nearly 10 times the amount it was required to. But because the amount of federal money the agency was receiving outstripped what it spent by such a large amount, the reserves remained high. So in late 2012, the agency took $185 million and paid down its debts early. Of what remained, millions were pumped into state and local bonds.

Despite the more than $200 million the agency moved from the reserves, the fund was still sitting on at least $440 million at the end of 2013, according to its most recent audited financial report.

In a statement, CHA spokeswoman Wendy Parks noted that federal rules allow the agency to maintain some reserves, which CHA plans to use to finish developing 25,000 new units of housing.

"The increase in reserves was driven by the significant downturn in the real estate market that slowed the expenditure rate of funds," Parks said, adding that the pension contribution and bond purchase will help the agency save money on interest payments or otherwise reduce costs in the future.

The decision to hoard cash while tens of thousands of families are in need of housing appears to be a strange one only if the goal is to find housing for the people the agency is supposed to serve. Yet developers, bar and restaurant owners and other interests who want to see the city of Chicago continue to gentrify have little interest in assisting the poor, black and brown single moms who populate the waitlist. Instead, they'd prefer the women and their children leave the city and find housing somewhere in the distant suburbs or beyond. The trend was underway before Emanuel took office, with the 2010 census finding 182,000 fewer African-Americans living in the city than a decade before, when Chicago began demolishing its public housing.

The agency's massive cash reserves were first noticed by the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of tenants. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based watchdog group, later produced a report on the stockpile, leading to a spate of news coverage over the summer. But the fate of much of the money the housing agency has stashed away has so far gone unreported. Through a series of open records requests, the Chicago Housing Initiative and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability obtained internal documents revealing that under Emanuel, the CHA has become as much an investment fund as a housing agency.

Several days after providing its initial statement to The Huffington Post, the CHA, through the mayor's office, provided a new statement from CHA CEO Michael Merchant. While reiterating that the massive surplus was the result of the real estate downturn, he added that CHA was going to spend much more of it this coming year.

"CHA's mission is to create strong, sustainable and inclusive communities throughout Chicago and I'm committed to ensuring that low-income families have access to quality housing options. The increase in CHA’s reserves was driven by the significant downturn in the real estate market‎ however ‎this year CHA will invest $240 million ‎to build affordable housing units across the city on top of the $135 million spent last year to develop affordable housing for low-income families and seniors," Merchant said in the statement. "Additionally, last year we issued more than 3,000 housing vouchers and are on track to exceed that in 2015. Through paying down our pension liabilities we've saved more than $2 million and used those savings to directly invest in new and revitalized affordable housing helping families in need increase their potential for long-term economic independence and success."

By the end of 2015, he said, the surplus would be down to $50 million, assuming every penny is spent. That figure doesn't include, however, the $115 million reserve the CHA says the Department of Housing and Urban Development allows for, meaning the cash on hand will be closer to $165 million. Still, if the investment happens as Merchant forecasts, it would represent a dramatic turnaround and a boon for low-income residents in Chicago.

The CHA's long-term goal, set 15 years ago, was to dismantle its high-profile public housing high rises and replace them with 25,000 new units of affordable housing. The city received extra funds to pull off the task and succeeded in knocking down many of the high rises, yet hasn't managed to create all of the 25,000 new units. Each year from 2008 through 2012, the agency issued 13,000 fewer vouchers than it could have, according to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability's analysis.

Emanuel, who faces a runoff against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, was elected mayor in 2011. In the four years before he took office, the CHA delivered an average of 843 new affordable units each year, either through new construction or rehab. The year Emanuel took office, the number plunged to 424. In 2012 it dropped to 112, and in 2013 it fell again to 88, according to the agency's annual reports. For 2014, the CHA set itself a goal of 40 new units. Meanwhile, it was stockpiling unspent cash.

"It might be that a desire to reduce the number of low-income and minority families in Chicago is what motivates those who control CHA to withhold available housing assistance," said Leah Levinger, the executive director of the Chicago Housing Initiative. "Chicago activists have long questioned whether Emanuel's 'world class city' is contemporary code for rich and white -- a way to name development strategies that have obvious racial impact without all the racial overtones."

The reverse Robin Hood strategy implemented by the CHA is not an aberration when it comes to Emanuel's politics. The deregulation that the agency has exploited was made possible by a law passed in 1996, the same year President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform legislation that capped federal welfare spending and gave states more leeway to administer benefits. It was part of a strategy of triangulation that Emanuel, then a top Clinton aide, pushed as a way to win back working-class white voters and distance the party from traditional liberalism. The pinnacle of the new approach involved "ending welfare as we know it," a move Emanuel aggressively lobbied for as an aide.

The separate housing deregulation, approved by Congress with much less scrutiny, is called "Moving to Work." It allows a small number of city housing agencies to be part of a "demonstration project" that gives them more leeway to shelter the poor. Instead of having to inspect every apartment where a poor person wants to use a housing voucher, for instance, landlords in participating cities can be allowed to vouch for themselves. Crucially, separate federal funding streams for rental assistance, capital improvements and maintenance of existing housing stock can slosh together in an agency's general fund, instead of remaining segregated in separate accounts. And an agency's annual allotment from the federal government is no longer based partly on how many vouchers it distributed the prior year, removing an incentive to help as many people as possible.

While he was a White House aide, Emanuel was a close political ally of Andrew Cuomo, who was secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during Clinton's second term. Cuomo and Emanuel share a hard-charging style and a rejection of traditional liberalism in favor of a more business-friendly politics.

When Emanuel left the White House, he became vice chairman of the CHA from 1999-2001. Those were pivotal years for the agency, during which it applied for the special status that allows it the flexibility it is now using to short its would-be clients. The application to deregulate was approved by Emanuel's friend Cuomo. In 2000, Emanuel was also appointed by Clinton to sit on the board of Freddie Mac, stepping down the next year to run for Congress.

While Emanuel was on the CHA board, he was also working for the private equity firm Wasserstein Perella, where he made $18 million in just over two years. In 2002, he was elected to the House, before going on to become Obama's chief of staff and then Chicago mayor.

The Obama administration wants to extend the Moving to Work program to 2028, beyond its planned 2018 sunset. Republicans in Congress have proposed increasing the number of agencies eligible to participate in Moving to Work, which currently stands at 39.

The inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees Moving to Work, reported in 2013 that HUD's oversight of the initiative had been insufficient, and that the department was basically in the dark about whether the deregulation had allowed housing agencies to serve more families.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal D.C. think tank, reported in January that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, Moving to Work agencies issued 86 percent of the vouchers for which they had received funding, compared to 99.5 percent for agencies that are not part of the program. In 2013, Moving to Work agencies diverted more than $350 million of rental assistance to other purposes or left it unspent, with Chicago accounting for just under a third of the total.

HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said in an email that HUD is working with Chicago to accelerate the pace of spending so more families could get help.

"While CHA enjoys greater flexibility under the Moving to Work Program, we believe it's critical to get this housing assistance in the hands of the very people who need it most," Sullivan said.

On Nov. 20, 2012, according to a CHA document obtained as the result of an open records request and provided to HuffPost, the agency sought authorization from its board to use $185 million from its "existing MTW excess reserves" -- the Moving to Work slush fund -- in order to pay down its debt.

The national average wait time for a Housing Choice Voucher is 12-24 months. In Chicago, the average wait for the rent subsidy is 10 years, according to CHA's 2012 Moving to Work report.

CHA's reserve hit $349 million in 2010 and ticked up to $471 million in 2011, when it began diverting money to its pension fund. In 2012, despite the pension fund payment, it was still at $432 million.

In September 2013, the CHA, its coffers having grown to unmanageable heights, put out a request for an investment portfolio software package to help manage what it said was a $500 million fund, according to one internal document obtained through the records request.

In November 2014, the agency authorized itself to increase its municipal investments by 50 percent, so that it can now make up 7.5 percent of its total, according to another document.

The CHA gets tens of millions each year for apartments it controls but leaves vacant. One of the CHA's larger sites, Lathrop Homes, has a staggering vacancy rate despite the fact that the most recent November 2014 housing lottery saw more than 282,000 applicants. Lathrop Homes has 925 units, but according to longtime resident and co-chairman of the Lathrop Leadership Group, Miguel Suarez, only about 150 of them are occupied today.

"In 2000, CHA froze all leasing in Lathrop with the promise that in 2001, they would start rehabbing," Suarez told HuffPost. "And of course, that never happened."

Suarez said that by 2007, developers still hadn't made improvements, though roughly 45 families were still living on the north end of the site. Shortly after, those remaining families were moved to the south end of the site and CHA "went in and boarded all of the north end up."

Suarez, who has lived in Lathrop Homes for 25 years and is a chairman for the residents' leadership team, said some families left after years of what he characterized as neglect by CHA.

"There are apartments that have mold issues, leakage from the outside, and things of that nature," Suarez said. "When I first moved in, it was totally different: [Lathrop Homes] was fully occupied. Along [North Hoyne Avenue] had a canopy of trees. It was beautiful. Somewhere along the line they got rid of it. Ladies had their flower gardens up front, vegetables in the back. People would even hang their laundry."

"It was a very different thing -- it was a true community," Suarez noted.

But as the surrounding neighborhoods of Bucktown, Lincoln Park and Roscoe Village hit new levels of prosperity, Suarez called the situation with Lathrop Homes "gentrification at its worst."

"It's no secret that today, Lathrop Homes is on some of the most valuable property in the city," Suarez said. "For developers to come in and say, 'We want to make this a revitalized community," well, it already is. They want to move the current residents out to give this property to people with greater means."

Suarez said that knowing the agency is sitting on hundreds of millions of unspent dollars while Lathrop deteriorates is a clear sign of the city's priorities. "Knowing very well that CHA has $400-some-odd million stashed, knowing that money is there, and seeing that Lathrop Homes has had no major rehab done to it, it's evident that the CHA as a whole is not willing to make these units [livable] that could be made available," he said.

Top Dream Colleges In 2015, According To The Princeton Review

Wed, 2015-03-18 05:40
Stanford University has retained its top spot as the dream college for both students and parents for the third year, according to the Princeton Review. Harvard University follows close behind in second on both lists.

The Princeton Review, a college rankings publisher, makes the annual list of "dream colleges" by surveying parents and students on what college they would most like to attend if cost and acceptance were not an issue.

The dream colleges features a smattering of Ivies, but well-known state schools like the University of California-Los Angeles help make up the lists. Six of the students' top 10 colleges are Ivy League -- Brown University and Dartmouth College are left off the list -- while only four of the parents' top 10 choices for their children are in the Ivies. Parents were more interested in bigger universities such as the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and the University of Notre Dame.

New York University came in as the third dream college for students, but trailed at sixth for parents.

The Princeton Review also confirmed in their survey what most teenagers already know: College applications are stressful. Seventy-three percent of students and parents indicated that they had "high" or "very high" levels of stress over applying to school. The survey also asked what advice they would give students applying to college next year. The most repeated words of advice? "Start early."

See what colleges students want to go to and parents want their children to go to:

Students' Dream Colleges

Parents' Dream Colleges For Their Children

Billionaire Who Backs Rahm Emanuel Also A Big GOP Donor

Tue, 2015-03-17 20:47
Groups supporting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's (D) re-election received $750,000 this month from a conservative hedge fund founder who also has given money to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and conservative groups.

Ken Griffin, CEO of the hedge fund Citadel, has " target="_hplink">donated nearly $1 million to pro-Emanuel groups in the last year, including $750,000 since March 2, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Griffin has also contributed to Walker, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.). Schock, under fire for lavish spending, said on Tuesday that he would resign from Congress. Since last year, Griffin has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars American Crossroads, America Rising, the Republican National Committee and other conservative groups.

The donations to Emanuel come as the mayor faces Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in a runoff election scheduled for April 7. Emanuel has raised nearly $20 million for his re-election since taking office in 2011, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Kristen Crowell, executive director of United Working Families, a sister organization of the National Working Families party, told The Huffington Post that Chicago voters should consider the donations in voting.

"Every time Chicago voters see another one of Rahm's TV ads, they should remember who is paying for them," said Crowell, whose group backs Emanuel's challenger in the mayor's race. "It's Republican billionaires who have a different vision of Chicago's future than the rest of us. And that's who Rahm is really working for."

Crowell added that Emanuel has "devastated neighborhoods by closing down 50 schools, closing mental health centers all while funneling sweetheart deals to well-connected developers to build downtown. ... There is no doubt that he has made his friends more money at the expense of bringing quality jobs to the middle class."

Emanuel, who worked as an aide in the Clinton administration before serving as a congressman from Illinois and President Barack Obama's chief of staff, made more than $18 million in 2 1/2 years working on Wall Street. He has since turned his Wall Street contacts into tremendous fundraising resources.

According to HuffPost Pollster, which combines all publicly available polling data, Emanuel leads Garcia 50.5 percent to 37.3 percent.

Aaron Schock Still Eligible To Collect Taxpayer-Funded Pension

Tue, 2015-03-17 16:35

Rep. Aaron Schock, who announced his resignation today under suspicion of misusing public money, will be eligible for more of it in retirement.

Schock, a Republican from Illinois, could eventually collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded retirement benefits, depending on how long he lives.

Starting at age 62, he will be eligible for just under $18,500 annually, according to estimates by the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative nonprofit organization.

Douglas Kellogg, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, added that members of Congress are also eligible for a 401(k)-style plan, but it’s unknown whether Schock has chosen to participate in it.

According to a June report from the Congressional Research Service, members of Congress who have completed at least five years of service are eligible for taxpayer-funded pensions beginning at age 62.

The amount of a former congressional member’s pension varies, but the payout is based on the number of years of service and an average of the member’s three highest years of salary.

Being a former member of Congress carries other perks, too, including access to the House floor.

Schock, known as perhaps the nation’s fittest congressman and who once posed shirtless for Men’s Health, will also still be allowed to use the House gym — he’ll just have to pay a fee.

In recent weeks, Schock has been hit with repeated questions about his spending.

He repaid the government $40,000, money he spent redecorating his office along a theme inspired by “Downton Abbey,” a PBS historical drama, and fielded inquiries about his charter plane use, luxury overseas travel, personal photographer and concert tickets.

Today, Politico reported Schock has been reimbursed for more in mileage than his car had been driven.

“The constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself,” Schock said in a statement today.

An email to Schock's spokesman wasn't immediately returned.

Schock was first elected in 2008. His resignation will abruptly end ongoing congressional ethics investigations into his activities, although federal prosecutors could conceivably pursue the matter. Schock has not been charged with any crime.

The Federal Election Commission could also probe related accusations that Schock misused campaign money.

Racist ‘Runnin N*gger' Targets Sold At South Dakota Gun Show

Tue, 2015-03-17 15:35
Remember when Miami beach police were busted for using mug shots of black men for target practice? They’re not the only ones with a racially charged practice routine.

A South Dakota vendor was banned from Sioux Falls’ Collector’s Classic Gun Show this weekend after selling racist targets among his merchandise.

The papers featured a caricatured profile of black man with the words “Official RUNNIN NIGGER Target” across the top. They were being sold for ten cents each.

Bob Campbell, the gun show’s manager, told KSFY he was “disgusted” by the flyers. He assured reporters that the racist fliers were snuck in unbeknownst to organizers who examine all merchandise before it’s set out.

A photographer from the news station asked the vendor why he decided to use those targets. The vendor responded, “Why aren’t they there?” You know, there are some black people, and then there are some Negroes.”

“I sold 500 of them this weekend so what difference does it make,” the vendor went on to say. He was reportedly later banned from the gun show.

This comes after after a recent N word scandal at University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter. SAE brothers were filmed singing and chanting “There will never be another nigger in SAE.” The university has since shut down the fraternity chapter and expelled two students.

CNN invited rapper Trinidad James to speak Monday night, after a video of the SAE House Mom singing N word lyrics to James' song 'All Gold Everything' surfaced. James criticized the frat, and continued to explain that there are loving uses of the N word as there are hateful.

“We use the word because that’s how we came up... When I call you that you do not feel that I hate you. It’s love.”

Although, that's certainly not the way the gun show vendor meant it.

[h/t KSFY]

GOP-Controlled State Legislatures Passing Wave Of Bills Expanding Gun Rights

Tue, 2015-03-17 14:54
The Texas state Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to legislation that would allow licensed handgun owners to visibly bear their firearms, in a move that would repeal a 140-year-old open carry ban.

The Republican-controlled chamber approved the bill along party lines, and a final vote on the measure is expected Tuesday. The measure is likely to become law, since the state House of Representatives is also controlled by Republicans and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said he would sign such legislation if it reached his desk. Currently, Texas is one of just six states -- along with California, Florida, New York, Illinois and South Carolina -- to prohibit the open carry of handguns.

If the bill succeeds, the more than 800,000 Texans who have a concealed handgun license would be able to exhibit their guns in a shoulder or waist holster. The bill allows business owners to ban weapons from their premises and does not allow open carry on college campuses.

Gun rights advocates say open carry laws are an important component of self-defense and that the law would align Texas with most of the rest of the nation. Opponents of the measure, on the other hand, say openly carrying guns intimidates people in public places.

The developments in the Texas Senate come as multiple other GOP-controlled state legislative chambers across the country are pushing to expand gun rights.

In West Virginia, where Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) will have to decide whether to sign recently passed legislation that would allow anyone anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed gun without obtaining a permit or taking any safety courses.

A poll conducted by one Republican and one Democratic polling firm on behalf of Everytown for Gun Safety, a pro-gun control group, found that a significant majority of West Virginians oppose repealing the permit requirement for concealed carry, including majorities of Republicans and of gun owners.

Similar legislation has advanced in a number of other state legislatures in the past week. In Arkansas, a bill that would allow licensed public college and university staff to carry a concealed weapon on campus passed the state House of Representatives. The Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill that would let those with concealed carry permits take their weapons into public buildings. The Iowa House advanced a package of bills that would allow children under the age of 14 to have handguns with adult supervision, allow anyone with a permit to carry a weapon on school grounds and eliminate public access to the names of those who hold carry permits. And in Colorado, the GOP-controlled state Senate repealed a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines on Monday, although the legislation is unlikely to succeed in the Democratic-controlled state House.

Republicans have also supported legislation in at least 14 states to allow guns on college campuses, with gun rights advocates arguing that potential sexual assailants would be deterred by the presence of guns.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, which is part of Everytown For Gun Safety, said that the push to allow open carry in Texas and eliminate the requirement in West Virginia together reflected a desire "to put more guns in more places."

"Make no mistake: Whether it's guns on campus, lowering or eliminating permitting requirements for concealed carry, or pushing for open carry of handguns, it's just an attempt by the gun lobby, and the lawmakers who carry out their wishes, to put more guns in more places, no questions asked," Watts told The Huffington Post. "For decades, the gun lobby has pushed in state legislatures for laws that profit gun manufacturers, but now Moms Demand Action is pushing back in all 50 states, so that these attempts no longer go unchecked."

10 Chicagoland Good Food Shifts to Savor

Tue, 2015-03-17 13:48

The local food movement sure is cooking in Chicagoland. While we live in one of the most plentiful food generating regions, it's estimated a paltry 6% of our produce is grown in Illinois. Soured by food that travels over 1,000 miles to plate and is questionably produced to begin with, consumers are demanding locally sourced, organic food big time. Lagging supply has created tremendous opportunities in rebooting our local food system. This means choosing better ways to grow, process, deliver, distribute, serve and sell our food -- a win-win for healthier people, communities, the environment and the economy. Here's a taste of the Big Onion's good food strides so far:

Cultivating Markets
Every neighborhood needs access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, Chicagoland has a growing list of grocers, CSAs and farmers markets available to buy local sustainable food, ranging from the celebrated Green City Market to neighborhood stands. In 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the number of low-income Chicago residents living in food deserts had declined by 21% since 2011 and he is committed to eliminating food deserts in the city by 2020. Fertile efforts have included the expansion of markets in food insecure areas, coupled with education outreach. This summer, Walgreens finished installing fresh produce "food oasis" in 50 food desert stores. Another gamechanger is Whole Food's upcoming location in Englewood.

Farms and Farmers Plowing Forward
City Farms has been converting vacant city lots into productive farmland for over 40 years in Chicago. More recently, an influx of urban farms has sprouted citywide. Organizations such as Growing Power, Windy City Harvest, Growing Home and Angelic Organics Learning Center are not only producing local, organic food, but providing intensive training to a crop of new urban farmers. Alternatives to conventional agriculture are also taking root outside of Cook County. The Liberty Prairie Foundation's Farm Business Development Center supports new farmers by providing affordable access to certified organic land and introducing experienced mentor farmers. Wilmette-based Iroquois Valley is nation's first private equity firm to connect investors with organic farmland transitioned by local family farmers.

Indoor Harvests
Farms are moving indoors thanks to technology. Farmed Here, in Bedford Park, is considered one of the nation's largest indoor vertical farms. Using aquaponics, organic greens are grown soil-free under LED lights, fed with water in tanks enriched by tilapia. The Plant, a net-zero energy vertical farm and business incubator also houses aquaponic growing systems. O'Hare features the first aeroponic garden at an airport in the world. Vegetables and herbs produced in 26 root-misting towers are consumed at airport restaurants. All of these facilities reap the benefits of year-round production, water efficiency, insect-free crops, and the avoidance of droughts and floods.

Propagating Planters
During wartime in the 1940s, citizens planted 20 million Victory Gardens, which produced 40% of the vegetables consumed in the US. After many unproductive years, growing food is back in style. At homes, schools, congregations, neighborhood plots, corporate campuses and even golf clubs, folks are transforming outdoor spaces into edible havens. Everything under the sun - including garden patches, living walls, fruit trees and even chicken coops and beekeeping - is back on the table. Food Patriots are enjoying all the homegrown benefits - better freshness, taste, health, economics, nature connection, community building and fun!

Appetizing Enterprises
Local and organic food is a hot, fast growing, multi-billion dollar industry. And Chicagoland entrepreneurs are hungry to meet the growing demand. Notice the rise of farm-to-table restaurants, microbreweries and distilleries, coffee roasters, artisanal food producers, composters, urban ag, aquaponics... Watch out for Local Foods' fab new Lincoln Park space coming soon. It will be Chicago's first wholesale distributor and retailer of strictly local food from the Midwest's finest farmers. Many more good food innovators and businesses to come.

Nurturing Mentors and Investors
For over a decade, Family Farmed has been bringing together farmers, food businesses, investors, policymakers, and others engaged in expanding a robust Midwest Good Food cluster. Last fall, they launched the Good Food Business Accelerator to prepare food and farm start-ups for primetime. As a recipe for success, selected fellows are provided with mentoring, resources and connections. To bridge financing barriers, the Good Food Financing and Innovation Conference offers a forum for businesses to pitch their ideas, and investors to learn about new businesses. Since 2011, the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG), an angel network with 27 members, has focused on businesses along the food supply chain. So far they have invested $1.2 million in multiple projects. Venture funds and private equity investors have also become increasingly active in Chicago's sustainable food space. On a smaller scale, Seed Chicago curates a Kickstarter page to crowdfund food projects.

Palate-pleasing Chefs and Restaurateurs
For years, Chicago chefs have influenced our culture's appetite for local, sustainable food. In the early '90s, icon Charlie Trotter brought notoriety to organically grown, city-sourced Cabrini Greens vegetables, lauding it's superior flavor. Pioneer Rick Bayless has long served locally grown food at his restaurants, awarded grants to small Midwestern farmers, and served as a Chefs Collaborative change agent. Bringing home local and organic, Michael and Helen Cameron grow produce on-site at Uncommon Ground, named "the greenest restaurant in America" and now operate Greenstar, Illinois' first organic brewery. The Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition, Green City Market, Edible Chicago, The Local Beet and Slow Food showcase our city's sustainable chefs and restaurants.

Taste for Transparency
The more we know about our food, the healthier it tends to be. However, it's not always easy for consumers to clearly digest the genetic modifications, pesticides, antibiotics, processing chemicals, synthetic ingredients or origin of our food. We have a right to know what we are eating. One positive step would be passing the GMO labeling bill in the Illinois legislature. Sustainable food producers go to great effort to inform consumers of their production profile. And many Chicagoland grocers, restaurants and producers now commonly share how and where food was grown.

Feeding the Ecosystem
A cornucopia of public, private and non-profit partners have been working to improve the way we eat and strengthen the Chicago foodshed. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's GOTO 2040 regional plan, echoed by the City of Chicago's A Recipe For Healthy Places, calls for facilitating local food production, increasing access to healthy food and raising awareness. In parallel, Fresh Taste was formed by Chicago-region foundations to catalyze change. This noteworthy funder collaborative works to strategically address systematic gaps in the local, sustainable food system. To date, members have collectively awarded over $14 million in grants to support good food initiatives.

Scrumptious Celebration
Starting 11 years ago, folks throughout our local food system have been uniting at the annual Good Food Festival & Conference, this year coming on March 19-21 at the UIC Forum. Organized by Family Farmed, the event includes the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, Good Food Trade Show, School Food Summit, Food Policy Conference, Localicious tasting party and consumer-focused Festival with an impressive lineup of exhibitors, speakers, DIY workshops and chef demos. Nearly 5,000 people attend including farmers, food businesses, restaurateurs, policy makers, and consumers. For networking, learning, changemaking or sampling, this foodie fest takes the cake!

Now go explore these good food transformers and show them some love! And let's keep pushing for a vibrant, sustainable food system in Chicagoland.

Aaron Schock Resigning From Congress Amid Spending Controversy

Tue, 2015-03-17 13:14
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) will resign from Congress amid a controversy over his spending habits, Politico reported Tuesday.

In a statement to Politico, the congressman said he will resign effective March 31.

"I do this with a heavy heart," reads the statement. "Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life. I thank them for their faith in electing me and letting me represent their interests in Washington."

Schock continued: "But the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself. I have always sought to do what’s best for my constituents and I thank them for the opportunity to serve."

Schock's spending came under scrutiny after a Washington Post report highlighted the Republican's newly redecorated office, allegedly modeled after the popular British period drama "Downton Abbey." The report noted that the office's decorator, Annie Brahler, remodeled the office for free, sparking an ethics complaint against the congressman.

Schock ultimately repaid $40,000 for the redecoration, but the initial story set off a series of reports on the 33-year-old congressman's lavish spending habits. Subsequent reports detailed a taxpayer funded weekend in New York for his staffers, a dozen charter flights worth over $40,000 on donors' planes and $24,000 in campaign funds spent on concerts and events, including a sold-out Katy Perry concert.

Other reports raised questions over Schock's relationships with donors. In February, a complaint was filed against Schock over the alleged sale of his home to a campaign donor for a significant profit. And earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune reported that multiple Schock donors were directly involved in a 2014 property deal in which the congressman paid one donor for a commercial property, and then took out out a mortgage for that property from a bank run by other donors.

This is a developing story and has been updated.

Chicago' Homan Square: Torture by Any Other Name...

Tue, 2015-03-17 13:11
Guardian investigative reporter Spencer Ackerman has sparked a firestorm with a series of reports exposing a "secret" site, in the heart of Chicago's predominantly African-American west side, at which police have conducted off-the-books interrogations for more than 15 years.

Ackerman reports that black and brown suspects and witnesses, as well as white activists, have been taken by police to the abandoned Sears and Roebuck complex, known as Homan Square, and subjected to abuse. The victims describe, variously, being denied contact with lawyers or family for up to three days, being shackled hand and foot, and being subjected to starvation, sweltering heat, sensory deprivation and beatings. On at least one occasion, a detainee -- John Hubbard, 44 -- died in an interview room. (After the Guardian article appeared, Cook County said the death was due to heroin intoxication.)

The initial Guardian exposé prompted calls for an investigation from two former high-level Justice Department officials, William Yeomans and Sam Bagenstos, and several progressive Chicago politicians (including one, Luis Gutierrez, who has been a conspicuous supporter of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel). The city attempted to give the growing scandal the back of the hand: Emanuel stated that the allegations were "not true. We follow the rules." The police department issued a statement claiming that the site was not secret, that lawyers had access to their clients and that the charges of brutality were "offensive." The local press, beaten on the story -- by a UK paper no less -- and having lost many of its award-winning investigative journalists years ago, turned to a veteran Chicago Sun-Times' police reporter who has long been embedded with the CPD, to attack the Guardian reports. He claimed that he had been to Homan Square 20 to 30 times to be shown drugs seized in raids. This, however, exhibits only the strange hidden-in-plain-sight nature of Homan Square: Press and lawyers were sometimes allowed in, but the interrogations and brutality were never reported. Nonetheless, a local NPR reporter, relying on the police reporter's assertion and doggedly focusing on the Guardian's use of the term "black site" to draw a parallel with the CIA's secret interrogation sites in the Middle East, attempted to dismiss the reports as "exaggerated."

The Guardian countered with yet another story, which detailed four more cases of secret physical abuse in "kennel-like" cells at Homan Square. The young African-American men describe being grilled about guns and gangs for days. This time, the alleged practices included handcuffing both wrists in a way that, according to the victim, felt like being "crucified," and stomping on another victim's groin.

The textbook definition

So how should we view Homan Square? The U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which has been adopted, with reservations, by the United States, defines torture as follows:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Given this, the emerging evidence of abuses at Homan Square once again places the question of systemic, racially and politically motivated torture squarely at the doorstep of the political powers that be in Chicago.

The similarities to the Burge torture era of the 1970s and 1980s are hard to miss. While the coercive tactics that have so far been documented at Homan Square are not as extreme as those practiced by then Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his men (which included electric shock, simulating suffocation with a bag and mock-executions), they still intentionally inflict "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental" as forbidden by the CAT. During the Burge era, lawyers and family members would call the police looking for an African-American client or loved one who had been taken into custody, only to be told that he or she was not there. When the person was finally located, Burge and his confederates had finished their torture and abuse, and in most cases, obtained a confession. Similar to Homan Square, numerous black men, including Darrell Cannon, Michael Tillman, and Alonzo Smith, were taken offsite to remote locations or to the basement of the police station to be interrogated under torture. And, as in Homan, at least one person died under highly suspicious circumstances on Burge's watch.

Homan Square itself has a direct tie to other brutal chapters of Chicago police history: The site is geographically located in the notorious Fillmore Police District, near the former Area 4 detective headquarters. In the 1980s and 1990s, a team of well-known Area 4 detectives interrogated suspects with a viciousness that was second only to that of Burge and his men. Decades earlier, in the 1960s, Fillmore District Officer James "Gloves" Davis, and his partner, Nedrick Miller, patrolled the streets with a brutality so extreme that they are remembered by residents to this day. Davis has another claim to infamy: When the Chicago police were enlisted by Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan and F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO program to execute the deadly west side raid on the apartment of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Davis was one of the leaders of the raid, and bullets from his carbine were found in the bodies of both of the slain leaders.

More to unearth?

The first case of Burge related torture came to light in 1982, but it was more than two decades before the larger scope of his unit's systemic torture on the South and West Sides of Chicago -- 120 victims and still counting -- was unearthed. So it is little wonder that the stories emerging from the sprawling brick edifice chill those who have experienced similar terrorizing brutality at the hands of the Chicago police. At a rally in front of Emanuel's City Hall on March 2, torture victim Darrell Cannon linked Homan Square to Burge's racist torture, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr.: "Justice denied to one is justice denied to all." Angry young activists of color at the rally suggested that the revelations to date are just the tip of an iceberg and described everyday occurrences of brutal interrogations in their communities. Since the Guardian stories hit, lawyers have come forward and complained that holding clients incommunicado is a citywide problem.

That it is, without doubt, and it is much too early to call the story "exaggerated" or to conclude that there has been transparency with regard to what goes on in those kennel-like cells. As if on cue, the Guardian chronicled another case of Homan abuse less than a week after the angry demonstrations. And one veteran and well-respected African American activist, Prexy Nesbitt, who has lived in the shadow of that complex of buildings and had tasted the lawlessness of the Fillmore cops back in the day, has asserted that Homan Square is "where the bodies are buried." Unfortunately, in Chicago that statement can be taken literally, as well as figuratively.

On the Saturday after the first Homan Square article broke, a group of hardy protesters, led by Black Lives Matter, gathered before the fortified entrance of the main building at Homan Square. A spokesperson posed questions to the silent row of police guards: "How many people are you holding there?" "What are you doing to them?"

Those questions deserve answers, along with many others. Foremost among them: Given Chicago lawyers' reports that officers feel free to practice these kinds of abuses throughout the city, what is the purpose of taking people off the books to interrogate them at Homan Square? And who, among the thousands that may be taken into custody by the Chicago police on a given week, are brought there?

The CPD isn't telling. But an answer may be pieced together from what the police, the embedded reporter and the Guardian's exposé have so far revealed. Here's what we know: First, the CPD's undercover operations and intelligence and anti-gang units are based at Homan Square. Second, selected political activists are brought there, along with youth of color. The former are questioned about "terrorist" and other political activities, and the latter are grilled about gang activities, drugs and guns. Third, detainees are secreted away from their lawyers and families for as long as possible, sometimes days. Fourth, in many instances they are not charged with a crime. Fifth, one of Homan Square's main functions is, by the CPD's own admission, to "disrupt" gang activity, in a chilling echo of how the FBI's COINTELPRO program characterized its illegal set of tactics, which were also practiced by the CPD's notorious Red Squad and Gang Intelligence Unit to trample on the rights of political activists and people of color in the 1960s and 1970s.

All of this indicates that Homan Square houses a centralized police intelligence gathering and disruption operation -- secret, lawless, and out of control. Since the tactics at least sometimes include human rights violations forbidden by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, it seems depressingly appropriate to liken Homan Square to Burge's House of Screams, to Guantanamo Bay, and yes, to the CIA's secret black sites.

The politics at play

Two final overarching questions also must be posed: How, if at all, will the Obama Justice Department respond? And will these related human rights issues impact the mayoral runoff between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and progressive challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia on April 7?

With regard to the Justice Department, local activists remember all too well that Barack Obama, when a state senator, steered a wide berth around the Burge torture issue. That, coupled with his staunch support for his former chief of staff in the mayoral primary, make the chances of a meaningful federal investigation, at least in the short-term, next to zero.

As for the mayoral race, Garcia took a position in the primary elections that, to many progressives, appeared to be to the right of Emanuel on the issue of policing. He called for 1,000 more cops on the street in his one and only TV advertisement, a position that hardly resonated with those people of color and progressives who suffer the slings and arrows of overly aggressive, racially motivated policing. He does support the ordinance for reparations for Burge torture survivors, but came to it late in the campaign, with a written statement. He thereby missed a golden opportunity to seize upon an issue that would have further separated himself from Emanuel -- who has refused to commit to the ordinance despite its support by a majority of the City's aldermen - -while appealing to the African-American community.

The Homan Square scandal offers Garcia yet another chance to show progressives and people of color that he is committed to reform a corrupt and brutal police department. With a broad-based attack on his opponent for failing to support torture reparations or to halt Homan Square, Garcia would be taking a page from his mentor, the late and great Mayor Harold Washington. Harold's campaign caught fire in 1983 when he heeded the advice of one of his progressive advisors and seized on the issue of rampant police brutality to attack the incumbent, Jane Byrne. His base was galvanized, and the rest is history.

In response to repeated requests for a statement on Homan Square by an In These Times editor, Garcia's campaign issued the following statement on March 5th: "Media reports about issues at Homan Square raise troubling questions. I call on Mayor Emanuel to answer those questions."

Garcia's campaign indicated he would be releasing a longer statement in the coming days, but so far it has not been forthcoming. Time is running short, but to paraphrase the late Congressman Ralph Metcalfe, it is never too late to be right.

Pearson's Intellectual Property -- Why Is This Even a Thing?

Tue, 2015-03-17 13:10
Bob Braun, a five-decade veteran of the Newark Star Ledger and currently an independent blogger, blew up a portion of the internet on Friday by reporting that Pearson, the international education giant responsible for the PARCC examinations currently underway, was "spying" on students' social media activity. According to a letter from Watchung Hills Regional High School District Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, the district test coordinator got a late night phone call from New Jersey DOE after Pearson initiated a "priority one alert" for a breech of test security within the district. NJDOE informed the district that they believed Pearson's alert was for a student who took a picture of a test item during testing and posted it to Twitter, and the state suggested that the district should discipline the offending student. However, upon examination, the district ascertained that a student had tweeted a comment well after testing was over and included no picture at all. The tweet has since been deleted by the student, but given the 140 character limit on Twitter, it is extremely unlikely that any significant breech of test security could have possibly occurred. However, the incident revealed that Pearson is monitoring social media for any and all references to the testing going on and is prepared to initiate state level investigations of individual students (how else would NJDOE know the district and student involved?) over very flimsy circumstances.

The story took off very quickly as did Mr. Braun's accusation that Pearson is "spying" on students' social media. The web site was loading very slowly on Friday night likely due to very high traffic, but by later that night it was completely inaccessible and Mr. Braun reported on Facebook that his web host informed him a denial of service attack was underway from an as of yet unidentified sources. Meanwhile, outraged parents and anti-testing/anti-PARCC sentiments took off in social media:

Let me state that I am unconvinced that "spying" is exactly the correct word over "monitoring." The reality is that most corporations of any size are monitoring social media routinely to check on their reputations and potential scandals. In a world where social word of mouth is genuinely a thing, it makes business sense for them to do so, and social media is not communication in the private space. If you don't believe me, wait until you have a bad customer experience with your cable company and then take to Twitter about it -- If you don't get a response from someone in corporate within 24 hours, I owe you a coffee.

However, even from a "monitoring" social media perspective, Pearson's actions are troubling. I will concede that the company -- and participating PARCC states -- have an interest in test security while a standardized test is being deployed (although I also agree with Peter Greene that this level of test security does not bode well for the quality of these exams), but what, exactly, causes Pearson to raise a "priority one alert" and contact a state department of education with sufficient information to locate a district and specific child in question? What information about a minor's social media use does Pearson consider its business to pass along to the top education officers in a state? To what depth does Pearson consider itself able to impose a gag order on other people's children and use state capitols to enforce it?

Remember -- the child in question did not send out a photograph of the exam, merely a single tweet limited to 140 characters AFTER testing for the day was over. For that, Pearson initiated contact with the NJDOE that sent Trenton thundering into the student's social media account and alerting district officials when frankly, nothing should have happened at all. Thankfully, Superintendent Jewett is reasonable and knowledgeable about social media; it could have easily gone south really quickly.

Pearson's hyperactive attitude towards test security is disturbing not only because of how it is being enacted without concern of proportion, privacy, and the implications of initiating state level investigations into unremarkable student speech. It is also disturbing because of its connection to Pearson's larger perspective on its intellectual property and the allowance the public sector gives them in defense of it. While discussing this on Twitter, I encountered a user who stated that he "applauded" Pearson "defending its intellectual property," which led me to a single question:

Why is Pearson's intellectual property even a thing after it delivers a exam to be used for public education?

Considering the following:

  • PARRC was seeded with part of a federal grant worth over300 million to create examinations for the Common Core State Standards.

  • Pearson was the only bidder for the contract to write the examinations for PARCC.

  • That makes the Pearson written PARCC examinations the only CCSS examination in 12 states and the District of Columbia -- Pearson writes CCSS aligned examinations for other states such as New York.

  • Pearson's contract with New Jersey alone is worth more than100 million over 4 years.

  • The examination is high stakes - with implications for teacher evaluation and a possible future role in graduation requirements.

  • The examination is used by the state to fulfill federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act that all students in all schools between grades 3-8 and in grade 11 be tested in English and Mathematics. Unlike other standardized examinations students takes, these exams are mandated by state and federal laws.

  • Pearson has no intention of releasing complete copies of this year's exams even after they have been fully deployed and assessed.

This isn't even like copyright rules preventing photocopying textbooks -- textbooks publishers rightly expect that schools will buy enough copies of their texts for students using them, and they are in direct competition with other potential text providers. Pearson has an exclusive contract to provide examinations for millions of students (a contract it did not exactly sweat bullets to obtain). These examinations are used for high stakes purposes. The examinations fulfill federal mandates for testing in our public schools, and they inform personnel decisions locally, administrative decisions at the district and state levels, and federal actions nationally. The company is providing a contracted service in our public education system which is, itself, compulsory and, for the time being at least, democratically controlled.

Once they are done writing the exams, why isn't Pearson required to turn the entire kit and kaboodle over to the state and thus to the voters and tax payers who provide the vast majority of decision making and funding to public education?

I am unaware of a construction company that, after delivering a highway project, reserves lanes for its own use or to pull up and recycle in other projects. Generally speaking, government buildings do not have entire floors blocked off for use of the contractors who built them. When Northrop Grumman delivered the USS Ronald Reagan to the Navy, they did not block off sections of the ship that the Navy cannot access. If such companies create or develop a process of construction or tool for use in construction, they can protect that via patents, but once the contracted item is finished, we generally understand it as belonging to the public who paid for it.

But when it comes to items that are not physical in nature, we accept an arrangement where the public foots enormous costs to only lease the product in question. Think of electronic voting machines. I can think of few things as important as protecting public confidence in the integrity of their vote, but companies are not required to make the code for voting machines open source and the public depends upon leaks to inform us of potential security holes in the devices. Similarly, Pearson is providing a mandated service for our compulsory public education system, and the results of that service will have actual consequences not just for the individual teachers and students involved, but also for the entire system. Confidence in what they are providing and informed decision making about whether or not what they are providing is desirable requires open and informed discussion and debate -- such discussion and debate is impossible while Pearson's intellectual property is valued more highly than the public purposes it allegedly serves.

In a small way, you cannot even blame Pearson. They made contracts with states that allowed them to behave this way, and they are a publicly traded company with $17.75 billion in market capital. Doing everything to maximize their revenue and return to investors is what they do and not a secret. However, we elect governors who appoint leaders to state education departments; they represent us. Craven obsequiousness in making contracts worth 100s of millions of taxpayers' dollars is unnecessary and unacceptable. It is possible, I suppose, that if our elected leaders and their appointees insisted upon reasonable contracts and the full disclosure of all test materials after the tests are over, then the cost would go up, perhaps to a level states could ill afford and leading to pulling back of the test and punish regime that is currently driving education policy and warping curriculum into test preparation.

Heavens. That would be terrible.

This post was first published on

Picking These 5 High Seeds Could Ruin Your March Madness Bracket

Tue, 2015-03-17 12:54

Anybody can pick all four No. 1 seeds to advance to the Final Four. But if you know March, you know that rarely does the madness let that happen. Kentucky, for example, is attempting to go 40-0 and become the first undefeated national champion since Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers... in 1976.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the most vulnerable high seeds in those precious brackets. Don't forget to check out my five sleepers and five Cinderellas to consider as well.


Jay Wright (above) has done a marvelous job restoring the 32-2 Wildcats to national prominence. This team has a concentration of strong guard play, toughness and elite quickness. Last year, I picked 'Nova to bow out early and it did. While this team is surely a superior unit, there's one serious issue to consider. In the last six years, Wright is only 2-5 in the dance, and a big reason why is his team's lack of rebounding. This season, they rank 174th nationally, a brutal clip made worse by the fact that scoring is at a premium in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova will employ a suffocating zone press that extends full-court. Against quality backcourts with disciplined guards, that press is less effective, and Wright's team typically struggles with playing against size. The East region, with potential matchups against North Carolina State, Northern Iowa, Wyoming, Michigan State and Virginia, presents a litany of issues for the tournament's second overall seed.


The Irish are playing their best basketball of the season, fresh off the first ACC Tournament title in program history (formerly of the Big East). Nothing against head coach Mike Brey, but we know his teams typically struggle in March. Notre Dame's biggest issue is bigness itself -- the team's size, or lack thereof. Zach Auguste is atrocious, and while freshman Bonzie Colson has had a nice year, he's only 6-foot-5. Jerian Grant (above) is the fearless leader and his do-everything ability (17 points, 7 assists) from the perimeter is a huge plus. However, Grant shot just 30 percent from 3 in conference play and is such an integral part of the Irish success that one off shooting game becomes very scary. Interestingly, the last ACC Tournament champion to reach the Elite Eight was Duke, when the Blue Devils won the national title in 2010.


This is Rick Pitino's softest team in recent memory, and making matters worse is the recent dismissal of Chris Jones, the third-leading scorer. In essence, this is a two-man team filled with weak ancillary parts. Junior forward Montrezl Harrell and sophomore guard Terry Rozier (above, with 17 points per game), will have to go off for the Cardinals to make any sort of run. Both players are second team AAC All-Conference performers, but Harrell is prone to foul trouble and has not become the type of go-to post threat Pitino had hoped for.

Each of the past two seasons, Louisville ranked second in the nation in forcing turnovers. This year, though, they've hovered near 40th, speaking to the lack of toughness we are accustomed to seeing from Pitino's teams. As it is, the Cardinals lost five of their last 10 games, but three of those five wins came by 2 points or less. Over the back half of the ACC regular season, the Cards scored just 0.98 points per possession.


I've been way down on Kansas all year, and nothing changes with the surprising 2 seed. Aside from a potential Sweet 16 matchup looming with Kentucky, Bill Self could be staring a first weekend upset right in the face. His point guard, Frank Mason III, is adequate but undersized. Combo guard Wayne Selden Jr. hasn't made the necessary steps in year two. Self's best interior player, Perry Ellis (above), is not 100 percent healthy, nor is he a legitimate NBA prospect. Self has always had pros to rely on. This Jayhawk team simply doesn't have the talent to make up for his lackluster in-game coaching.


Staying in the Big 12, Baylor is a 3 seed ripe for an upset. Head coach Scott Drew is highly stubborn in employing his patented 1-3-1 matchup zone, and it can be effective given Baylor's length. The tournament is about teams getting hot, though, and a hot shooting team that can spread out the zone presents a huge problem. Senior point guard Kenny Chery is a liability who turns the ball over a ton and shoots just 38 percent from the floor. The X-factor for the Bears is 6-foot-7-inch junior wing Taurean Prince (above), the team's leading scorer at 14 points per game. When Prince plays well, the Baylor offense clicks. When he struggles like he did in going 1-11 against Kansas in the Big 12 final, this is a club that really struggles to score in the half court.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure to catch my NBC Sports Radio show "Kup and Schultz," which airs Sunday mornings from 9 to 12 EST, right here.

Rahm Emanuel Still Vulnerable After First Chicago Mayoral Runoff Debate With Challenger Chuy Garcia

Tue, 2015-03-17 12:47
Snappy, scrappy and visibly tense are how Rahm Emanuel and his challenger, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, came across Monday night in the first of three live televised Chicago mayoral runoff debates.

Despite the incumbent mayor and the Cook County commissioner wasting no time slinging mud in the rapid-fire, hourlong forum that touched on everything from the city's ruinous finances to public safety and schools, no clear winner emerged.

Emanuel slammed his rival for being vague on how he would generate new revenue to ease the city's massively underfunded pensions or pay for more police boots on the ground. Garcia, meanwhile, hit back at the mayor for being an "out of touch" elite who failed to keep his promise of turning around city finances.

One of the critical issues the next mayor will face is debt: The city has a looming $550 million pension obligation for police and firefighters by year's end, as well as a dismal credit rating. (Moody's Investors Service downgraded Chicago to just two levels above junk bond status last month.)

Emanuel said he would look to city employees for help, asking for a pension reform in Springfield and opening a Chicago casino, the revenues of which he said would be dedicated to pensions.

When Garcia said he would form a commission to examine city finances, Emanuel criticized his rival: “Chuy, you laid out a commission, not a plan.” Garcia, however, noted the pension reform Emanuel mentioned is currently before the Illinois Supreme Court and said he believes they will be found unconstitutional.

"I'm not opposed to dealing with revenue questions of where we're at, but I'm opposed to moving forward with the current state of assumptions that's been provided by [Emanuel's] administration," Garcia said. "I believe there has been a lot of abuse with regards to subsidizing the rich and wealthy and disinvesting in the neighborhoods."

Another area where Garcia attempted to seize on the mayor's broken promises was crime. Emanuel claimed that crime was down -- a fact moderator and veteran political reporter Carol Marin corrected, noting that shootings are up -- and touted an increase in community policing.

"Everybody from [Chicago Police Superintendent] Garry McCarthy to the beat officer, everybody practices community policing," Emanuel said of his strategy, which has been criticized as mischaracterizing the true number of new police on the streets.

"You're the only one who believes that in Chicago," Garcia shot back. "That's the problem."

Garcia said the city's staggering shooting rate is proof the mayor's plans have not worked, adding, "[I've] been to more funerals for young people shot as a result of gun violence than the mayor will ever attend."

On education, both candidates agreed there should be no more school closures. Emanuel touted his success in bringing full-day kindergarten to Chicago schools, while Garcia noted, "You extend the day, but half of the libraries in schools don't have librarians. You extended the day with no resources"

After being forced into an unprecedented runoff in the Feb. 24 election, Emanuel has been using his well-stocked war chest of about $18 million to saturate the airwaves with campaign ads and mount a serious defense.

Garcia, meanwhile, has raised about $1.7 million for his campaign, mostly from labor unions and grassroots efforts.

Yet despite Garcia's backing from the influential Chicago Teachers Union, as well as black and Latino voters angry with the mayor for shutting down 50 public schools in 2013, a recent poll showed Emanuel claiming 55 percent of the vote to Garcia's 45, Reuters reports.

The candidates will meet for two more televised debates on March 26 and March 31 before the April 7 runoff election.

Family Of Jason Harrison, Mentally Ill Black Man Killed By Dallas Police, Release Graphic Video

Tue, 2015-03-17 12:28
(Reuters) - The family of a mentally ill African-American man who was shot dead by Dallas police last summer has released footage from an officer's body camera that recorded the incident, the Dallas Morning News reported on Monday.

The move comes as police across the country have come under increasing scrutiny for using deadly force, particularly against black men, in the wake of high profile killings of unarmed African-Americans in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.

The footage, released by the family of 38-year-old Jason Harrison and their attorney Geoff Henley and published by the Morning News, shows officers responding to the home of Harrison's mother the morning of June 14, 2014.

Harrison's mother had called for help to take him to a local hospital as he was in a mental crisis, suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the Morning News reported.

In the video, Harrison's mother opens the door to the awaiting officers and he appears behind her twiddling a screwdriver. The officers immediately demand he drop the tool and within seconds fire several shots, killing Harrison.

Harrison's family in October filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the two officers, who appear in the video to be white, arguing that he did not pose a threat, according to the complaint.

Dallas Police Department spokesman Lieutenant Jose Garcia said the case was forwarded to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, the Morning News reported, adding that an attorney for the officers said they feared for their lives.

A representative for the police department could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Former NBA Player Jay Williams On One Of His Darkest Moments: 'I Saw A Pair Of Scissors...' (VIDEO)

Tue, 2015-03-17 11:52
At age 21, Jay Williams had a life that most people only dream of: He was a rookie player in the NBA with a lucrative contract with the Chicago Bulls and a promising future. Then, in 2003, it all came to an abrupt halt when Williams got into a near-fatal motorcycle accident that ended his career and threatened his ability to walk again.

Suddenly, Williams found himself lost in more ways than one. Physically, his recovery was a struggle, and emotionally, the wounds ran deep. Basketball had been everything to Williams, but now he felt he had nothing. There were dark moments in the time after his accident -- including one in which Williams envisioned ending it all.

It was less than three months after Williams had been released from the hospital, and he had a rare moment alone in his apartment, as he tells Oprah in the above video from "Super Soul Sunday."

"I was praying a lot at that time. I bounced back from prayer to anger so quickly," he says. "I had no idea who I was, who I wanted to be, if I was going to be able to walk again or run again."

Williams' parents knew of their son's fragile mental state and always tried to be with him to offer their comfort and support. This particular time was different. "My parents did a really good job of not letting me be alone," he says. "I actually thought it was a sign..."

At the time, Williams says he was "very high" on morphine, which he believes impacted his judgment. "This is how delusional you can become when you're on a morphine tap," he says. "I saw a pair of scissors there, by the bed. I just remember thinking to myself, 'If I could reach those scissors, then I deserve not to be here.' Because they were put there for a reason."

So, Williams reached for the scissors.

"I grabbed the edge of the scissors with my pinky and I pulled it in," he says. "I remember sitting there just trying to take those blades and just pull them over my wrist -- over the tattoo that says 'believe' on my wrist, looking at it, saying, 'I don't believe in anything anymore.'"

In that moment, Williams had lost his faith. "I was angry. I always try to do things right, I'd be on time, I'd gone to charities. Just kind of thought, 'I can't believe you would do this to me," he says.

That's when Williams' mother came in and saw his with the scissors.

"[She] started screaming at me," Williams says. "Takes the scissors out of my hands and just grabs my hand, and starts to pray. And said, 'Promise me you're never going to hurt yourself again. You've been left here for a reason."

That last sentence jumped out at Williams, who couldn't understand why his life would have been spared. "What reason do I have to be here? To be made fun of? To be told by everybody that I'm a failure?" he wondered.

Still, his mother prayed. This is the type of unconditional love and support that Williams credits with helping him turn things around.

"It was the constant support of the people who loved me that really pulled me through those dark times," he says. "I don't think it was until later, a couple of years later, until I started going to counseling, started to try to go to church. I put my faith into something bigger -- and it was through my mother and my father helping me believe that [I was] left here for a purpose."

"Super Soul Sunday" airs Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on OWN. You can also stream the program live on or

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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What do the state of Illinois and a boiling frog have in common?

Tue, 2015-03-17 11:35
Ever heard the one about the frog and the boiling pot of water? If you throw a frog into a pot of scalding liquid, it'll jump right out to save itself. But if you place the frog in the pot and then slowly turn up the heat, the frog will boil right along with the water--it won't know it's slowly dying.

Former Illinois resident John Cole explains why that science experiment could be a metaphor for Illinois' political and financial situation:

For years, the state's population has been like Illinois frogs sitting in their pot of water, with the fiscal temperature slowly but steadily being turned up by delusional politicians of both parties through excessive and irresponsible spending under the veil of trying to please everyone. Today, with boiling water all around, the real question is . . . will Illinois voters evolve and leap from the pot or take drastic measures to turn the heat down to save themselves, or will they simply let business (and politics) as usual continue, remain in the pot, and let the state slip into bankruptcy?

The potential for the Illinois frog to evolve has shown limited signs of hope and life recently. Electing a governor a) that hasn't made a lifestyle out of couching himself in the fantasy world of Illinois politics and living off taxpayers, and b) that fully understands the necessity for state fiscal reform, is a reasonable start, but is still just that . . . a start. Does he have all the answers? No - no one does. The only real answer we know today is "it can't continue the way it's been."

Read the rest of Cole's frog explanation at Reboot Illinois.

At the helm of that frog boil/Illinois' political situation is Gov. Bruce Rauner, whom Illinois technology professor Mark S. Schwendau says is not handling the position very well. Schwendau says his "jaw hit his chest" when he heard about Rauner's proposed budget cuts, and the professor said he doesn't understand Rauner's continued efforts to convince Illinoisans to get on board with his budget plans. Find out in which of two Republican camps Schwendau believes Rauner falls at Reboot Illinois.

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