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I Took Off My Hijab...

Wed, 2014-02-12 19:15
...by adding more layers -- a knit hat and a scarf around my neck, to be exact.

I didn't understand what was happening at first. People started talking to me more. Women would speak to me like I'd known them forever. Men would look at me like I was actually approachable. And I was made to feel like I was actually from this planet.

Maybe I was finally fitting in? Maybe I was no longer self-conscious about my unique dress code and my face lacking makeup?

But then it became fishy. The Muslim taxi drivers, who would almost always say "assalamu alaikum" and ask me where I'm from or if I'm single and refuse to allow me to pay for the fare, became cold and dry. I would simply give the address, and the only dialog thereafter would be at the time of payment. It was puzzling.

I started to reevaluate my character. Had I become unfriendly? Arrogant? But other people had become even nicer to me. I couldn't figure it out -- until, on my walk to work, I started passing by hijabis who wouldn't acknowledge my existence. Here is the unspoken code between hijabis: One stares until the other notices, and then both exchange salams. But it was now as if I were just another passerby, with no significance to the wrap around my head.

The wrap around my head.

Then it hit me: My knit hat and winter scarf covered my hijab entirely, and all that was visible was my eyes behind my wannabe-hipster glasses, and my skinny jeans tucked into my boots. They didn't even know I was Muslim.

I found this realization absolutely hilarious, and entertaining. I started paying more attention to the differences in the ways people treated me. It was fun feeling like everyone around me believed I belonged in their culture by default, and not to some grudgingly accepted piece of the diversity pie. It was a good feeling. I secretly started looking forward to venturing out into the cold to further explore what it means to be "normal."

I became even more confident walking in my city. My city. All the stares were not racialized anymore. I was addressed as "lady" and "little lady," something I had never heard before. Men would hold doors for me. Women would crack jokes with me. I became respectable, lovable, and accepted.

But did that mean that with my hijab I am not as respectable? Not as lovable? Not to be accepted? I immediately began to despise the inequality, and it dawned on me that I was now acting like someone who had been bullied for years and had finally been accepted by the mean girls. In fact, nothing had changed; I had simply crossed over to another world for one season.

The power of this experience lies in the fact that it was not an intentional experiment. It happened simply because of the Chiberian weather, which required me to cover as much of my body as possible with warm pieces of cloth. Apparently, the type of cloth you place or wrap around your head defines how you will be treated.

I had never realized that with my hijab, I am given less respect and love and am not as accepted. I had always thought that the type of treatment I am exposed to is just how the world is. I didn't know that people could be nicer.

Thank you, winter. Thank you, subzero temperatures.

I pray that one day, and soon, people will be familiar enough with all other cultures and beliefs that they are not afraid and do not have reservations, and that the thing that stands out to them is not the wrap around my head but the smile on my face.

This blog post originally appeared on Leena's persona blog.

Labor Board Considers If College Football Players Are Employees

Wed, 2014-02-12 16:13
CHICAGO (AP) — A federal agency kicked off the first in a series of hearings Wednesday on whether to approve a bid by Northwestern football players to unionize, and both sides acknowledged the key question was whether college athletes can be considered employees.

During a National Labor Relations Board hearing in Chicago, lawyers for the proposed union and the university agreed that if college football players qualify as employees, they can legally form the first-of-its-kind union and if not, they can't. "That is the key threshold issue," university attorney Alex Barbour said.

If the union, called the College Athletes Players Association, or CAPA, eventually gets the green light, advocates says it will provide athletes a vehicle to lobby for financial security and improved safety on the field.

This first attempt is being closely watched, with the expectation that, if it succeeds, other college teams nationwide could quickly follow suit.

The players' attorney John Adam argued his clients met the definition of employees because they put in 40-hour workweeks during the season, are managed by coaches and receive payment in the form of scholarships.

"They are entitled to be represented by a union ... to bring a voice" to their grievances, he said.

Barbour disagreed. He told the hearing scholarships aren't divvied out as wages.

"Scholarships are for getting an education," he said. "It is not a form of compensation for playing football."

Supporters stretch the definition of employees too far, he argued. And he said it would raise other questions, including whether walk-ons without scholarships could be in the union.

Wednesday's hearing was meant to identify main points of contention, not to thrash them out in detail. That happens next week with three days of testimony. A decision on whether CAPA can organize could come soon after.

One witness who will testify next week for those petitioning for the union will be Wildcats' outgoing senior quarterback, Kain Colter.

Colter and former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, CAPA's designated president, announced the formation of the union last month. United Steelworkers said they were footing the legal bills.

For now, the push is to unionize athletes at private schools, like Northwestern. Public universities, which are subject to different regulations, could follow later

After Wednesday's hearing, which lasted less than an hour, Northwestern distributed a statement reiterating its opposition to the union at the Evanston, Ill.-based school.

"We do not regard, and have never regarded, our football program as a commercial enterprise," said Alan K. Cubbage, the vice president for university relations.

But Adam told reporters after the hearing that football players generate hundreds of millions of dollars for schools annually. So, he said, universities' insistence on calling them "student athletes" was inaccurate.

"This is a myth that we intend to demolish," he said.

___

Follow Michael Tarm at https://twitter.com/mtarm

Trial Underway For Steve Mandell, Ex-Chicago Cop Accused In Grisly Murder-For-Hire Case

Wed, 2014-02-12 16:01
The trial for a former Chicago police officer who allegedly planned to kidnap, torture and kill a man got off to a bizarre start Tuesday and Wednesday with dramatic testimony and recordings of lurid conversations.

In October 2012, Steven Mandell (formerly Steve Manning) allegedly planned to disguise himself and former Willow Springs, Ill. officer Gary Engel as federal marshals before arresting their victim, Steve Campbell, and taking him to a "killing chamber" he'd helped build inside a storefront on the city's Northwest Side. There, they allegedly planned to torture him into handing over real estate and money before they killed him.

Mandell, 62, referred to the killing chamber as "Club Med" in recordings played in court Wednesday, WGN reports. The recordings had been taken by George Michael, who worked as an FBI informant for five months.

"This place would make Stalin proud!" Michael told Mandell of the chamber in an audio recording played in court Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

According to the Chicago Tribune's Jason Meisner, who was tweeting from the trial Wednesday, Mandell was heard on FBI video making "moaning sounds" describing his planned torture of Campbell, a.k.a. "Soupy," and "bathroom noises" of Soupy "defecating on himself" in another taped conversation played in court.

Earlier, on Tuesday, Mandell's defense attorney, Keith Spielfogel, told the court his client did not plan to follow through on the bizarre statements he is heard saying in the FBI recordings. Arguments to the contrary, he claimed, are "absurd," ABC Chicago reported.

"He was talking and talking but there was no way on this earth this was going to happen. And it was absurd and ridiculous. It was never going to happen," Spielfogel said Monday, according to ABC.

In a separate extortion plot, Mandell allegedly planned to kill the owner of a mob-connected strip club called Polekatz in Bridgeport in 2012.

Previously, Mandell, who NBC Chicago reports remains a suspect in at least a half-dozen murders through the years, served 13 years on death row for the kidnap and murder of a truck company boss in 1990 but was released in 1998 when his case was overturned on appeal. Engel, Mandell's alleged accomplice in the "Soupy" extortion plot, was found hanged in his prison cell shortly after the two men were arrested in 2012.

12 Dating Behaviors I'm Done With

Wed, 2014-02-12 15:59
1. Pretending like that fart wasn't me. Yes, I did it, and I meant it. Did you think that Chipotle burrito was going to digest itself? Besides, if you can't deal with my farts, growing old together is pretty much out of the question. Did you see Amour? You might have to smother me with a pillow someday and keep pigeons from pooping on my decaying body. My stinky butt is so the least of your problems.

2. Being SOO "jealous" when you check someone out. Look, you're human and have eyes. I know you want me to "perform" jealousy and be all "cute jealous," but I really don't care. This isn't Othello. Also, I just checked someone out like three seconds ago. Next time, let's just check out the hot guys together. This, my friend, is what true love is: the glory of shared objectification.

3. Pretending to be "normal." I'm not "quirky" like Zooey Deschanel. I'm flat-out, motherfucking weird, and I'm surrounded by weird people. My friends are weird. My family is weird. My mother danced on a table at a gay bar during my graduation. In high school, she went through a goth phase. My dad's partner is a sort-of mail-order bride, my uncle has a past-life counselor and my Nana believes I'm being haunted by the ghost of an Indian man. Does that sound like a lot? Good, because it's not even the half of it. There's so much more weird where this came from. Future partners: If it's any consolation, I'll never run out of things to talk about.

4. Tricking you into thinking I don't like you that much. Note to the next person I date and don't hate: I'm going to text you. Right after the date. I'm not going to be weird about it. I'm just going to tell you that I had a good time and I look forward to seeing you again and you're going to respond, "Great, I'll call you on Tuesday" and actually call me on Tuesday.

5. Telling you that all my exes were amazing. I'm not Ryan Gosling. I've had some great, wonderful exes who changed me and taught me what it was to love, and then I had the guy who dumped me because he "didn't want to date right now" and then got himself partnered a slim two months later. (Bullet dodged, IMO.) I'm not going to say nice things about everyone, and I might not say nice things about you, if you deserve it. I don't owe you my politeness. I owe you my honesty. As a Pinterest board once wisely told me, if you can't deal with my past, you'll never be my future.

6. Not eating in front of you. I eat a lot and very sloppily. I have a crazy high metabolism which means I'm always starving, so when I eat a sandwich, it looks like I'm attacking it. (I swear I can hear it screaming for help, like it's trapped in the kitchen during a family party with Great Aunt Gilda, who wants to talk about her bunyons.) Sure, you can't take me anywhere, but when you're doing it right, you won't need to.

7. Telling you I liked Inception. I didn't. I hated it, and it doesn't make me an idiot. It just makes me someone who likes to watch one movie instead of four. We're allowed to like different things. For godsakes, I loved The Paperboy, aka that movie where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. (Seriously, google it.) I do not expect most of humanity to agree with me, and I don't need them to. You don't have to be wrong for me to be right.

8. Playing dumb. Awhile ago I was in a self-loathing rut and I asked a friend what I'm doing wrong. (Answer: Asking questions like these.) He told me that guys are often intimidated by how intelligent I am. They can't keep up, and nobody wants to be on their A-game all the time. I don't think of myself as smart, so I asked other people I do think are smart. They've all been told the same thing, but the ones who are in a relationship found someone who loved them because of their brain, not despite it. If a guy isn't turned on by your throbbing, nine-inch brain, you didn't want him anyway. When it comes to intelligence, be a size queen.

9. Worrying about when is the "right time" to have sex. It's sex, not a space shuttle launch. It's the right time whenever you both feel it, not when he says or your mom says or Emily Post says or Dr. Ruth says. If you're feeling it, go for it. YOLO the fuck out of him. Get a little sleep deprived. Otherwise there is always cuddling, which is the best consolation prize ever invented.

10. Trying to figure out if the subtext in your text message or OKCupid communication indicates that you're "so" into me or "not that" into me. You know what I'm into? Not driving myself crazy for no reason. If you like someone, don't send them mixed signals. Send them flare signals. Write that shit in the sky via airplane. Life's too short to be coy, and while you figure out whether you're into me, I'm going out. I got new jeans and they need to be seen.

11. Going to the gym before the date. This needs to stop. I feel like I'm tricking you into thinking my butt is better than it is. It's a great butt, and it might be having a perfectly lovely day today, but it is not the rock solid mass you see after ten miles on the bike. That butt is a lie. There are some Cheetos in there, too. Trust me. They are just as sexy.

12. Caring about "The One." I'm sorry. I just don't give a shit anymore. When I was eighteen, I was the type who was always ready to meet him, obsessing over whether the guy across from me on the train was "The One" or that dude who smiled at me on the train was it. Is this love at first sight? No, it's called social politeness. Not everyone you see needs to want to fuck you or grow old with you for you to feel validated. At this point, I'm not even looking for that. Sorry Katherine Heigl, I don't need a husband. I just want someone to watch Mean Girls with.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on Thought Catalog.

Director Candice Jones and 4 Opportunities for Reform in the Illinois Dept. of Juvenile Justice

Wed, 2014-02-12 15:59
As Illinois' only non-partisan juvenile and adult prison watchdog, the John Howard Association (JHA) congratulates Candice Jones on her appointment to become the new Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ).

Director Jones is remarkably qualified to oversee the Illinois' juvenile prison system, which is responsible for more than 800 incarcerated youth and another 1,300 on parole. Having worked on public safety issues in Illinois and nationally as a White House Fellow and a program officer for the MacArthur Foundation, Director Jones brings an exceptional set of skills, networks and knowledge to her new position.

Created by statute in 2006, IDJJ was separated from the Illinois Department of Corrections and given a distinct mission: to "provide individualized services" to young offenders to help them return successfully to their communities, recognizing that they "have different needs than adults."

While Illinois has made important progress in building a better juvenile justice system, IDJJ's mission still remains more of an aspiration than a reality.

From JHA's perspective, which is grounded in our regular monitoring of IDJJ's facilities and operations, we believe that Director Jones' overall task is clear: She must find ways to operationalize IDJJ's mission -- to ensure that the principles of rehabilitation and treating justice-involved kids differently than adults are fully embodied in the agency's policies and practices.

Under this general recommendation, JHA sees four interconnected opportunities for reform that can help IDJJ create better results for young offenders and for the communities they return to.

1. Continue to reduce Illinois' use of juvenile incarceration through front and back-end reforms.

While Illinois has significantly reduced its use of juvenile incarceration, too many kids are still being incarcerated in IDJJ and too many paroled youth either return to IDJJ or end up in the adult prison system.

JHA recognizes that IDJJ has limited control over the youth committed to its custody. At the same time, we believe that IDJJ can play a stronger role in educating the justice system's front-end decision-makers -- including county judges, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys and probation departments -- about what these facilities can and can't do to address youths' needs and reduce recidivism.

The reality is not simply that IDJJ lacks the resources to be everything to everyone. Even with adequate resources, the fact remains that imprisoning kids in large penal institutions for long periods of time, far from their families, is not an efficient or cost-effective way to reduce recidivism or to rehabilitate young offenders. For many kids, particularly ones who are low risk, incarceration actually makes them more likely to re-offend.

Moreover, incarceration is the most expensive form of punishment we have. Illinois taxpayers spend almost $130 million a year on IDJJ, which amounts to upwards of $177,000 per year to incarcerate a single youth at the agency's most expensive facility. Compare this to Redeploy Illinois, a state-funded diversion program that enables counties to hold young offenders accountable in their communities. Research has shown that Redeploy is about four-times more effective at reducing recidivism than sending kids to IDJJ facilities and only costs between $2,000 to $10,000 per intervention.

JHA believes that if IDJJ educated system stakeholders about the real limitations of addressing youths' needs in institutional settings and of the effectiveness of alternatives like Redeploy, more front-end decision-makers would make wiser use of incarceration, sentencing kids to short periods of incarceration only after they have fully exhausted every other possible way of holding them accountable in their communities -- which is ultimately where they will always return to.

This points to the second aspect of reducing Illinois' use of juvenile incarceration: IDJJ needs to effectively implement its new Aftercare Program.

The real work of rehabilitation always begins after youth leave prison and have to deal with the challenges that led them to the deep-end of the justice system. The idea behind IDJJ's Aftercare Program is to provide paroled youth with community-based interventions and support during this critical period. To do this, Aftercare Specialists need to address family and neighborhood challenges, use meaningful consequences and guidance in managing disciplinary infractions, as well as help provide educational and employment opportunities for returning youth.

This is the right approach, but it will only be effective if IDJJ is able to manage a difficult parole population with diverse needs, and if the larger framework for youth reentry, which includes release, supervision, revocations and parole termination decision making, is aligned with the goals of Aftercare.

2. Educate and empower IDJJ's staff to implement the agency's rehabilitative mission.

Policy is only as good as its implementation, and implementation in a correctional setting is always the responsibility of frontline staff. While IDJJ's administration has provided staff with training and other support, more important work is still needed to help its staff champion the agency's mission. From JHA's perspective, we believe that there are dedicated staff at every facility waiting for this opportunity.

3. Make IDJJ's facility safe places for youth and staff.

In June 2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, United States Department of Justice (BJS), found that Illinois ranked among the four worst states in the country for rates of reported sexual victimization in juvenile detention facilities.

IDJJ has taken some important steps to respond to BJS's findings, including establishing a hotline for youth to report allegations of sexual victimization and partnering with Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault to provide training for staff. Along with these actions, JHA recommends that IDJJ further increase opportunities for meaningful family visitation and communication, reform its grievance system, educate youth in a language and manner they will understand, and create stronger institutional oversight, such as a pending Illinois Senate proposal would do by establishing an ombudsperson to oversee all IDJJ facilities and policies.

These individual policy changes will help move Illinois in the right direction. However, they do not go far enough to address the systemic factors that are associated with high levels of sexual victimization, including the size of the prison, length of stay, age of the population, and proximity to youth's community. Overall, the BJS Report found that larger facilities that housed older youth serving long sentences far from their homes had the highest rates of sexual victimization. To make state juvenile prisons safe for youth and staff, Illinois needs to move away from and ultimately abandon this model of incarceration.

4. Increase transparency and accountability.

In corrections, perfection is an impossible standard, but failure is not always the opposite of success. No correctional program, no matter how effective it is, can totally prevent unpredictable behavior, and if kids leave IDJJ and do not have problems reentering society, then they should not have been committed to the agency in the first place.

Understanding these limitations, the public cannot begin to assess IDJJ's effectiveness without more information about its operations. JHA recommends that IDJJ track and release regular public reports including data already collected by the agency to evaluate facility operations, school performance, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, use of confinement or other disciplinary measures, rates of release, release placements, and rates of return to IDJJ.

For more than 100 years, the John Howard Association has served as Illinois' prison watchdog, monitoring the facilities and policies that impact our incarcerated populations, which in turn impact us all as taxpayers and citizens. We look forward to working with Director Jones as she begins her tenure.

NBA Midseason Awards: Kevin Durant Maintains Firm Grip In MVP Race

Wed, 2014-02-12 15:29
The NBA season has reached its midway point, and here's what we know: Miami and Indiana are on a collision course in the Eastern Conference, and the potential LeBron James-Paul George matchup has hoops fans salivating because George is that good. In the West, there are legitimately six teams we can make a case for: Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Golden State, Portland, Houston and the Clippers. And, if the second half of the season is as entertaining as the first was, we are in for a real treat.

With that in mind, let's take a look at my midseason awards.

MVP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

It's hard to believe that Durant has yet to win an MVP, but that ends this season. The 25-year-old scoring dynamo is enjoying the most productive and efficient year of his career, averaging over 31 points per game to lead the league. Moreover, he's shooting 51 percent (also a career best) from the field and leads the NBA in Basketball-Reference.com's player efficiency rating and win shares. Perhaps most impressive though, is how he's kept the Thunder afloat with injured All-Star Russell Westbrook.




Rookie of the Year: Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers


As poorly as Philadelphia has played, consider that the 76ers lost 10-11 games with him out of the lineup. MCW has not been overly efficient (40-29-70 shooting splits), but his ability to score (17 points), facilitate (7 assists), and defend (2 steals) has validated Philly trading Jrue Holiday on draft night. Carter-Williams is only 22 years old. While he'll get better at operating pick-and-roll while controlling a game even when he's not scoring, he is clearly the Rookie of the Year right now.

Defensive Player of the Year: Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

For this award, Houston's Dwight Howard makes a case, as does Hibbert's teammate, Paul George. But 7-foot Hibbert has been truly dominant in the middle all year. And it's not just the shot-blocking either, though he certainly does that (third in the league). Indiana -- which ranks first in defensive efficiency -- relies on lightning-fast rotations and help defense. Hibbert has surprising good lateral movement and is a willing helper, something we don't see a whole lot of in today's NBA. The Pacers are my pick to upend the Heat and win the championship this season, and Hibbert's defensive presence is a key reason why.

Coach of the Year: Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers

Indiana's Frank Vogel and Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek both make valid cases here, but Stotts has transformed a lottery team in Portland into a title contender. In a league that saw just eight franchises win titles during the David Stern era, that is almost unheard of. The 36-16 Trail Blazers are an offensive juggernaut that lead the league in scoring with 106 points per game. Stotts' "flow" offense is remarkably efficient, and with over 100 plays and sets, equally as difficult to prepare for.



Most Improved: Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers

What Stephenson has done in four short years is nothing short of magnificent. After slipping to the second round of the 2010 draft, the 6-foot-5 swingman has morphed from deep reserve into near All-Star. Stephenson -- who was at one time the No. 1 high school recruit in America -- has significantly improved every element of his game. His scoring has increased from 8.8 to 14.1, his rebounding average from 3.9 to 7.2 and his assists average from 2.9 to 5.3. His versatility on both ends of the floor has been crucial to Indiana's success.

Sixth Man of the Year: Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder

The Clippers' Jamal Crawford and the Spurs' Manu Ginobili make strong cases here too, but Jackson has stepped into a real starring role for the Thunder during the Westbrook injury. A gifted scorer who can play on and off the ball, the former first-round pick has averaged a healthy 14 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds while helping shoulder a bulk of the scoring load from Durant on a nightly basis. The key for Jackson actually winning this award is how he responds to running the team when Westbrook returns and when he's not on the floor with Durant.

Executive of the Year: Neil Olshey, Portland Trail Blazers

This goes right back to Aldridge, who had long been thought of as a guy who wanted to be dealt. Olshey went out and traded for center Robin Lopez in the offseason so he could allow Aldridge to be a true four-man -- his best and most comfortable position. Olshey's reward? "LA" has averaged a career-best 24 points and 12 rebounds while making a strong case for first-team All-NBA.

Correction: A previous edition of this article stated both Roy Hibbert and Reggie Jackson as the Sixth Man of the Year. Hibbert is now correctly stated as the Defensive Player of the Year.

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

41 Things You Need To Know Right Now, For No Reason In Particular

Wed, 2014-02-12 15:06
How have you lived this long without seeing a walrus sleeping on a submarine?

All of these are picture based so there's really no excuse to refrain from spending the roughly two minutes it'll take to learn everything. We expect you to nod your head slightly and say, "hmm," or "oh, so that's what that looks like," in a mildly amused tone quite a few times throughout this post.

Let's do this.




1. This is how sperm whales sleep.



Discovery Channel video.


2. This is how double decker buses are tested.



Bus tilt testing video.


3. This is what Mars would look if it still had water.



Article from The Atlantic.


4. This is how zoologists weigh tiny birds.



The bird is a java sparrow and it's being weighed at Chester Zoo in England.


5. This is how Amazon ships bubble wrap.



Order some for yourself.


6. This is how pineapples grow.



If you love pineapples, here are some more "mind-boggling" facts.


7. This is how Google does "street view" in the Arctic.



This is the Canadian Arctic. It's also sometimes done by foot.


8. This is what we'd see if Saturn was as close as the Moon.



More planets.


9. This is how snow is cleared off train tracks in Alaska.



These things have been around for awhile.


10. This is how wood chips are unloaded from trucks.



Video of this in action.


11. This is the first alligator with a prosthetic tail.



The alligator's name is "Mr. Stubbs."


12. This is how a Protestant and Catholic couple were buried since neither could be buried in the other Church's graveyard.



The gravesite is in the Netherlands.


13. This is the Super Bowl confetti shaped like the Lombardi trophy.



According to The Onion, the confetti was "made entirely from shredded concussion studies."

Image: Getty


14. This is what Mt. Rushmore was supposed to look like.



This scale model shows the level of detail they wanted. Too bad they ran into some serious funding troubles.


15. This is how the elevator works in St. Louis' Gateway Arch.



Video of someone riding up the elevator.

Image: National Park Service


16. This is how a starfish eats an anchovy.



Video of a starfish eating.

Image: Flickr user Elton Lin


17. This is what 20 minutes of fireworks being set off at once looks like.



It was a big mistake. It happened in San Diego in 2012.


18. This is the inside of an Amazon warehouse.



The warehouse is in Wales.


19. This is tonic water under a blacklight.



Here's how to make glow in the dark drinks.


20. This is what Barbie would look like with normal proportions.



The Vice President of Design at Mattel, Kimberly Culmone, recently said, “Barbie was never designed to be realistic.” That obviously didn't go over well.


21. This is what Justin Bieber wore to meet the Prime Minister of Canada.



Justin Bieber explaining himself.


22. This is what it looks like when kayaking through ice.



Here's some advice about winter kayaking.


23. This is the world's largest living cat.



It's actually a liger named Hercules and weights 922 pounds.


24. This is the largest K'nex ball machine.



Video of the machine in action.


25. This is several tons of manure being dumped in front of the French parliament.



The gifting happened in January 2014 and was obviously a symbol of protest.


26. This is algae causing the water of Bondi Beach to turn red.



Caused by a rare algae bloom in 2012.


27. This is how fish are fed at an aquarium.



At the Harbin Pole Aquarium.

Image: Getty


28. This is what decades of nuclear testing did to a desert in Nevada.



The history of the Nevada Test Site (NTS).


29. This is what a penny looks like after being on Mars for over a year.



The penny is being carried by the Mars Rover Curiosity.


30. This is the tombstone symbol used for atheist U.S. veterans.



The National Cemetery Administration actually offers many different symbols for religious denominations.


31. This is what happens when a train does a "burnout."



The brakes are applied but the engine didn't get the signal.


32. This is the correct way to cut limes.



At least according to that box. Of course there are other correct ways.


33. This is the "sand" at Ireland's coral beach in Carraroe.



The coral pieces can get fairly large.


34. This is how much bigger Disneyworld is than Disneyland.



Here's a side by side visual comparison of a few of the more famous attractions.


35. This is what the signature "line" looks like on checks.



It's called microprinting and can be found on U.S. currency as well.


36. This is a "snake worm" called an Amphisbaena.



Video of the thing in action.


37. This is Vancouver's "The Sun" becoming "The Moon!"



From July 21st, 1969.


38. This is what a road clearing looks like after huge snowfalls.



This is how Japan dealt with clearing the road.


39. FedEx seems just a bit duplicative.



FedEx used to be Federal Express, which mean this is comically close to Federal Express Express. Between this and the "arrow," FedEx really wants to stress how fast they are.


40. This is what it looks like when a walrus falls asleep on a submarine.



Apparently walruses are the "world's most unusual snoozers."


41. This is someone who should get a DUI.



Also Nickelback lullabies exist if you weren't aware.


These space tears are being shed because of Nickelback.

Chicago Petcoke Crackdown Falls Short Of Outright Ban, But Includes New Restrictions

Wed, 2014-02-12 14:13
Chicago appears set to take another big step in its crackdown against petroleum coke, or "petcoke," though it has thus far refused to ban the mostly-carbon black dust altogether.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday announced he and two Chicago aldermen -- Alds. John Pope (10th) and Ed Burke (14th) -- will soon introduce a new ordinance that would ban new petcoke facilities from opening in the city, as well as ban any further expansion of existing facilities that either "process store or handle the material," according to a City Hall press release.

"These efforts are a significant step to prevent dust from settling in residential areas. We will continue to work to regulate their operations to ensure our residents have the best possible quality of life," the mayor said in a statement.

The proposal will be introduced to the City Council on March 5.

Wednesday's announcement comes on the heels of Emanuel shutting down a proposal from Burke in December that would have banned petcoke facilities from the city, the Chicago Sun-Times notes.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Department of Public Health is also on the verge of finalizing additional regulations on petcoke facilities in the city, including a requirement that petcoke storage be completely enclosed, preventing the oil refining byproduct from polluting the air or water, according to the mayor's office.

The Sun-Times reports that the operations manager of KCBX, the city's largest petcoke facility, claims the regulations would force their facility to close. But community groups say the regulations contain too many loopholes and would still allow petcoke to pile up on the city's southeast side, the area of the city most affected by the black dust, Midwest Energy News previously reported. KCBX is a subsidiary of the Koch brothers-owned Koch Industries.

At the state level, emergency rules proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were rejected by a state panel last month. Al Jazeera reports the Illinois Pollution Control Board ruled unanimously that the governor had not shown proof of an imminent public health threat due to the petcoke.

Petcoke, comprised mainly of carbon and sulfur, is becoming an issue in the Midwest as the BP refinery in Whiting. Ind., has increased their output of the dust, leading to piles that form black clouds that blow into nearby residential areas.

Hate Crime Leaves Illinois Middle School Student With 2 Broken Collarbones

Wed, 2014-02-12 14:07
A hallway altercation left an eighth-grade boy with two broken collarbones following an attack Crystal Lake, Ill. police are calling a hate crime.

Hannah Beardsley Middle Schooler Omid Babakhani told NBC Chicago another student walked up behind him in a corridor after lunch Monday and shouted, "Hey, Persian" at him.

The 13-year-old said the fellow student then called Babakhani's mother "a rude word." When he told his attacker not to say that, Babakhani said the other boy asked, “Do you want to fight a black man?"

"I walked away from the situation like they always tell you to, but it didn't work," Babakhani told WGN.

Despite his apparent attempt to avoid a confrontation, Babakhani said that the boy came up behind him, put him in a headlock, “slammed” him to the ground and punched him repeatedly, the Tribune reports.

Babakhani, a competitive swimmer, said both his collarbones were broken before he even hit the ground. He described the other boy, who he said he had never met before, as the same height as himself "with a bit more muscle."

Babakhani's father, who originally came to the U.S. from Iran, said "there's no rhyme or reason" to the attack, telling CBS Chicago, “It’s heartbreaking, but what can you do? You have to deal with it."

Prosecutors say the attack was classified as a hate crime since the offender "made verbal reference to the victim’s national origin just before the attack," according to the Daily Herald.

The other boy was arrested and originally faced lesser charges before being released to his parents. After an investigation led to upgraded charges of felony aggravated battery and a hate crime, he was later taken to a juvenile detention facility where he awaits a detention hearing in juvenile court.

15 Ridiculous Things People Say When They Find Out You're Brazilian

Wed, 2014-02-12 11:33
Upon sharing our culture and nationality with someone new, the responses can sometimes surprise us. Be it comical or ignorant, there's almost always something to take away from these exchanges.

Brazilians are widely known for being diverse and loving the beach, but there are more than a few misconceptions about the nation and its people that are usually revealed within minutes of someone finding out you're Brazilian. Sometimes you just can't help but smile at these comments...

"Are you from Rio or São Paulo?"



I could be from one of those, or I could be from one of the other bajillion-plus cities in the country. Just sayin'.

"You must be really good at soccer..."



It's not like it's a national mutation. Some of us are obviously great, while some of us can't even kick a ball, much less dribble it up and down a field with our feet.

"And you're probably a really great dancer too, right?"



See above. But I'll give it to you ... most of us do have some moves, or at least the ability to fake it if we don't.

"Do you speak Brazilian?"



Come again? I don't think that's actually a thing that exists. Do you perhaps speak American?

"Oops, I meant Spanish..."



Wow, you were closer with "Brazilian."

"The capital of Brazil is Rio, right?"



No, it's really not. It actually hasn't been for a while. Setting the record straight here once and for all: The capital of Brazil is Brasília.

"Sambaaaa." "Riooooo." "Peléééé."



The one-word prolonged reaction is probably the best -- an unfiltered vocal vomit of the first thing that pops into someone's mind after you utter "Brazil."

"Oh yeah, you guys hate Argentina!"



This is pretty old. As in, I don't think anyone really cares anymore. *Note: I hold the right to revoke the aforementioned claim should I get into an argument with someone from Argentina.

"I love Brazilian food. Can you cook [insert dish here]?"



You think I'm a good cook just because I'm Brazilian, don't you? Yeah, we're not born with that. Although, I'm pretty sure most of us can make you a caipirinha. So cheers.

"Really? You don't look Brazilian. I thought maybe you were [insert other nationality here]."



While you play a guessing game of where I'm from, I'm going to stick with my first answer: I'm Brazilian. We're kind of a melting pot. So if you're expecting me to fulfill your racial stereotype, sorry I'm not sorry.

"That's so cool, so do you see monkeys just running up and down the streets and stuff?"



Um, no. Granted it depends on where you're from (this goes back to the first point), but for the most part I can't recall the last time a monkey jumped on my windshield while I was stuck in traffic in Belo Horizonte.

"Why is your English is so good?"



I learned it. You see, we have this thing called school ... There you go, I knew you'd get it.

"Oooo, as in Carnival?" "As in Brazilian waxes?" "As in really small bikinis?"



Yeah, that. Or, as in: fifth most populous country in the world and home to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. But sure ... waxes and stuff.

"How exotic!"



I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. I also find that this is commonly used when someone just doesn't have anything to contribute.

"I love Brazilians, you guys are always so happy."



Although a funny response, it's kind of true. Sure, we have our bad days, but as a whole Brazilians are some of the most jovial people you'll ever meet.

So no matter how you respond upon meeting us, there's a big chance that we'll still love you anyway!



Full Disclosure: These are real responses that I have personally received from real people. Yes, even the "monkey" one, which was in fact quite recent.

Why We're Partnering With DonorsChoose

Wed, 2014-02-12 10:41
I'm delighted that the release of my new book Thrive will include an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children across the country. As part of the book's rollout, we're partnering with DonorsChoose -- an amazing organization that Fast Company this week called one of the most innovative companies of 2014 -- so that readers who pre-order the book before the March 25 publication date will get a DonorsChoose gift card equal to the book's list price of $26 (even if they paid a discounted price, or $10.99 for the Kindle version). DonorsChoose works like this: public school teachers across the country post their specific requests -- from laptops, Kindles and cameras to textbooks, art supplies and musical instruments -- and then you can choose the project that most resonates with you and make a donation.

Charles Best, who founded DonorsChoose in 2000, was educated at St. Paul's and Yale. When, at age 25, he took a job as a social studies teacher at a public school in a poverty-stricken Bronx neighborhood, he was astonished by the conditions he saw -- and by the contrast with his own educational experiences. He was particularly struck by how few resources were available to his students. As Peg Tyre writes in Fast Company, Charles had his epiphany "on a rainy January morning just before dawn," standing in a Kinko's making photocopies of a chapter of Little House on the Prairie for his students. And so he decided to do something about it. Later the same year, he founded DonorsChoose.

I love that by working with Charles and DonorsChoose, we're building one of the book's key themes -- how compassion and giving transform our lives -- into the actual release of the book. From the beginning, my goal while writing Thrive was to use my own journey -- including a painful wakeup call that led me to change my own life -- as a springboard for a wider discussion about our society's flawed definition of success, and the ways we need to redefine it. I wanted the book to begin with my story, but I don't want it to end there.

So somewhere along the way -- I think it was around the 89th draft -- I decided I wanted the book to be filled with tools and practical advice to help readers redefine success and live lives that are more fulfilling and more sustainable, whether it's around well-being, wisdom, wonder or giving. And that's where this partnership comes in. At the end of the chapter on giving, I have specific tips that help us go from being a go-getter to a go-giver, such as turning gestures of kindness into habits and making personal connections with people we might normally pass by and take for granted.

This partnership with DonorsChoose takes that goal to the next level, since those who pre-order the book will be able to directly make a difference in the lives of students who need it. There are so many ways in which technology distances us from our fellow citizens, makes it easy for us to get distracted and not get involved, or offers only shallow and ersatz versions of connection. That's what's so special about DonorsChoose -- it's a perfect use of technology to truly connect and make an actual and immediate difference in other people's lives.

And as I write about in the book, the reason why giving is so important in redefining success and allowing us to thrive is because its power to change and transform flows as much to the giver as to the recipient. This isn't just an aphorism -- in recent years there's been a ton of science on the subject and the results are unambiguous. In short, giving is like taking a miracle drug for our well-being, except with no nasty side effects. To name just a few, there's the Harvard Business school working paper that showed "donating to charity has a similar relationship to subjective well-being as a doubling of household income." Or the 2013 study by Dr. Suzanne Richards of the University of Exeter Medical School that revealed that volunteering is associated with lower rates of depression, higher reports of well-being, and a significant reduction in mortality risk.

Of course, it's great to see Americans come together after tragedies like Newtown or natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. That collective, we're-all-in-this-together spirit is always there. But it shouldn't take extraordinary disasters to remind us to tap into our shared humanity and connect with our fellow citizens. So how can we access that part of ourselves, and use its power in our everyday lives? Well, for a start, with DonorsChoose, which makes it so easy to connect. And not just easy, but fun and uplifting -- just surfing their site and reading the stories behind the requests is a mood boost. The dedication of the teachers, their willingness and efforts to reach out on behalf of their students, is so inspiring. Whatever you donate, you'll be getting back more.

And in fact, many DonorsChoose projects are very much in line with Thrive's other themes about how to bring balance back to our lives. One teacher in Tennessee is asking for a yoga classroom kit so she can introduce yoga to her students, many of whom come from low-income families. "Today's student is over stimulated by technology and screens," she writes. "With the tools of yoga, I am hoping to teach students to 'turn off' the electronic world around them and focus on being in the present."

Another teacher, in Ohio, is asking for a yoga-themed set of DVDs, to help foster a healthier and less sedentary lifestyle for her students, many of whom struggle to maintain a healthy weight because they take medications and have behavioral challenges. In North Carolina, a teacher is hoping to help her students learn to love and respect animals by bringing in some unusual ones, including hissing roaches! (There's a section in the book about all the ways in which animals enrich our lives and improve our well-being, including reducing depression. In the next edition, I'll make sure to include hissing roaches!) In Massachusetts, a teacher whose students speak little English because they are refugees from around the world, believes meditation, yoga and relaxation practices can help them find their place in an environment that can be stressful.

As Fast Company noted, DonorsChoose has raised $225 million, from a network of more than a million donors. Those donations, large and small, have funded more than 400,000 classroom projects, impacting the lives of more than 10 million students. As Charles said, "Teachers know how to improve education, but they are a voice that is consistently overlooked or ignored."

Thanks to DonorsChoose, of course, that's no longer the case. I'm delighted that we're joining forces. To find out more, please go to the landing page that DonorsChoose has created.

Dan Rutherford Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Could Spell Trouble In Corruption-Weary Illinois

Wed, 2014-02-12 10:09
CHICAGO (AP) — While a federal lawsuit against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford has publicized salacious sexual harassment allegations, government watchdog groups say the lawsuit's claims of political corruption are just as worrisome as the Republican campaigns for governor.

Rutherford, who has strongly denied allegations leveled by a former employee, is locked in a four-way Republican primary. He spent Tuesday — the day after the lawsuit's filing — countering the claims in radio appearances. He maintained that the suit is a politically motivated ploy meant to hurt his campaign weeks ahead of the March 18 contest. In the lawsuit, Edmund Michalowski, a former lawyer and director in Rutherford's office, alleges a "long-standing pattern" of being forced to engage in political activity while working for the state.

Even the hint of such political corruption could taint Rutherford ahead of the primary, and it raises troubling questions, experts say, especially in a state where two former governors — George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich — have gone to prison for corruption.

"It's the question or appearance and it really wears on the voters," said Doug O'Brien, who was chief aide to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., while he was an Illinois congressman. "The voters of Illinois are just so tired of having to put up with a lower standard for ethics among their elected officials."

According to the lawsuit, Rutherford allegedly demanded Michalowski organize petition drives and parades, solicit donations and constantly check his political email account while at work. Michalowski claims he was berated for not meeting fundraising goals and that employees active on Rutherford's campaign received raises and promotions.

Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of Common Cause Illinois, said the claims raise questions about a culture of bullying.

"If he runs the treasurer's office like that, is he going to be pushing around his (governor's office) staff into doing this that they are not supposed to?" he said. "That's a deeper question that should be center to his ability to be the next governor."

Political experts say the issue could hurt Rutherford with fundraising and organizing. State Sen. Kirk Dillard, one of his GOP primary rivals, asked Rutherford on Monday at a candidate forum about the potential for more allegations. Rutherford called the question "inappropriate." The other GOP candidates are Bruce Rauner and state Sen. Bill Brady.

Rutherford called a news conference hours after the lawsuit was filed.

"No treasurer's office employee in this administration has been pressured ... or otherwise coerced into performing any political activity," Rutherford said. "Employees such as Michalowski have volunteered to perform political activity on their own time and using their own resources."

While state law expressly prohibits political activity on the state's expense, the two activities can intertwine. Government employees often get their start on campaigns or choose to work for a particular elected official based on political ideology, experts say. It's not uncommon for government employees to schedule vacation around elections to go door-knocking, volunteer weekends to distribute yard signs or use a lunch break to check campaign emails.

However, the two activities should not be confused, better government groups say.

"It's so clearly unacceptable and against the law," said Susan Garrett, a former state lawmaker and chairwoman of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "You can't go back and forth between campaigns and doing state work and ask the taxpayers to cover your cost."

The issue has come up in high-profile corruption scandals before.

Ryan served 6½ years in federal prison for racketeering and fraud. But dozens of witnesses in the decade-long investigation that led to more than 60 convictions before nabbing him testified that when Ryan was secretary of state, staff members routinely did campaign work — like selling political fundraiser tickets — while receiving their taxpayer-financed state salaries.

It's also not an unusual allegation in other public offices.

The Office of Executive Inspector General — which covers Illinois commissions, public universities and dozens of state agencies excluding the treasurer's office — received eight complaints about "political work on state time" in the 2013 fiscal year.

In denying the allegations, Rutherford has claimed that rival candidate Rauner was behind the lawsuit, which Rauner has denied as "ridiculous." Rutherford has also pointed out Michalowski's financial problems. Public records show Michalowski and his wife — who are in the process of divorcing — filed for bankruptcy in November 2011. A judgment of foreclosure and sale was entered in October against Michalowski's Chicago condo.

However, Michalowki, who submitted a letter of resignation to Rutherford's office last week, said he's not motivated by money. He claimed that Rutherford began making unwanted sexual advances in 2011 shortly after taking office.

His attorney, Christine Svenson, said the claims are credible.

"(Rutherford) can say whatever he wants ...," she said. "My client came to me with issues concerning his employment at the treasurer's office. Those issues had been going for a long time."

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Associated Press writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report from Springfield.

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Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen

The Power of Spoken Word Poetry

Wed, 2014-02-12 08:49
Growing up I never had a love much less an appreciation for poetry. In high school and college there was nothing that drew me to admire, care for, or even really even respect the words from the typical canon of poets. It wasn't until a few years into my teaching career when I went to a Louder Than A Bomb poetry event and heard students from all across our city and the Chicago land region putting their words out there for everyone to hear, that I realized the true power that spoken word possessed.

For the many of us fortunate enough to already know about Louder Than A Bomb or more commonly LTAB, we know that it is one of the best things that Chicago has going for it.

You see, LTAB is put on by Young Chicago Authors which brings over 1,000 kids from nearly every neighborhood of our city, the suburbs, Indiana, and the greater Chicago land area together. As we know Chicago is one of the most racially and economically segregated cities in the United States. LTAB is one of the few events that actually works to desegregate our students and our city. This "competition" of poetry gives students from every possible neighborhood, suburb, or region a chance for kids to listen, share, and build a community with each other through the simple ancient act of sharing their stories.

I could go on and explain the profound impact this event has had on me and my co-coach Missy Hughes for the past six years, but just read what students from TEAM Englewood High School feel about the importance of LTAB, two years after they last took part in the event. All of the quotes are from graduated former students of ours who are nearly all in their second year of college. (By clicking on the students names below you will see their spoken word performances from their senior year in high school)



From left to right: Melana Bass, Myara Robinson, Jeremey Johnson and Keith Warfield performing in the 2012 National Grudge Match Poetry Slam at Young Chicago Authors


Jonathan Nesbitt (Western Illinois University)- "What it means to me to be a part of TEAM Englewood spoken word is like being a part of a big family. We bumped heads, we argued, we loved and we always came together at the end of the day. Spoken word has changed my life around. You get to hear what people/ friends are going through and it makes me feel so blessed because you never know what people have been through until they spit their piece. Spoken word brought out a very very important skill which is writing and rewriting and editing. And then the adrenaline rush you get when you step out on stage and tell to your story to the world, the feeling is just amazing. I wish I could just go back to high school for one day to compete in LTAB!!! "

Jeremey Johnson (Columbia College-Chicago)- "Poetry gave me a positive outlet for some of my anger. It taught me that I not only had a voice, but that it was one worth listening to. I didn't need to run from my problems because I could write them down. I could master them. Spoken word gave me courage to face the world and myself. I never would've gotten that if it weren't for the Team Englewood spoken word team."

Myara Robinson (St. Xavier University) - "Being on the poetry team has helped me to find my voice. I've made amazing friends and professional connections through spoken word performances. I have a better appreciation for literary devices because of it. By being engulfed in the world of poetry my ear has become a magnet to metaphors and deeper meanings. If my teachers had never seen something in me and my writing I would still be oblivious to the artistic and creative part of life. Also, being a member of the poetry team and being apart of the LTAB Festival was one of the reasons high school was so fun for me, very memorable. My writing has changed, gotten better thanks to spoken word. It's kinda like I've been freed or saved in a way. Writing liberates me and gives me yet another artful way to express myself. It's something that will forever be apart of me."

Montrel Marks (Harold Washington College) "Being on the Team Englewood spoken word team helped me realize what I can be and push me past my limits. I was lazy with school and I always used to pick the easy way out of things. The coaches pushed me to pull my grades up. I built a love for poetry. My team(Englewood) showed me how to truly love someone that didn't come from the same parents. They showed me how to understand and relate to people. Now today my bonds and connection that I made are strong. I love poetry so much that I'm becoming a teacher to give back, what was given to me."

Keith Warfield (Proud father-returning to college soon)- "Being apart of "NO DOUBT BABY!" (A.K.A. TEAM Englewood) was one of the best things that ever happened to me. We were able to build relationships aside from just being students and teachers and I honestly feel like that was the most important part. To all of my former teammates, I appreciate and respect you guys even more after watching you open your hearts up to complete strangers and showing them how valuable our voices are. To the coaches I just really want to thank you guys for doing more than just coaching and teaching because you actually became our best friends and I've NEVER been legitimate friends with any of my teachers. I love you all and every single one of you has played a very important and inspirational role in my life contributing to the man I am today!"

Melana Bass (University of Wisconsin-Madison)- "Being on this team was everything to me. I learned so many social skills that I didn't have. I learned how to articulate everything through a creative lens. I was able to develop spoken word into a craft that helped me attain an online reputation, job opportunities, and connections to other great gigs. I created lifetime bonds with my coaches and teammates and even others that I met through the slam. Being on the team also taught me a great deal of creative discipline and how to hustle artistically and how to use resources to create shows or other artistic endeavors. This was at first a team I ran from and now this gift of spoken is paying for my college education!! I couldn't be more grateful."

The amazing thing is I guarantee of all the kids who have taken part and "competed" in LTAB there are thousands of stories just like these.

So if you have never seen this event before do yourself a favor and go watch and listen. The youth of Chicago are speaking and they have spent days, weeks, and months preparing their messages to be heard.

Chris Christie Mocks Income Inequality, Praises George W. Bush

Wed, 2014-02-12 08:32
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday criticized Democrats' focus on income inequality, speaking in Chicago in one of his first major public appearances since his administration was engulfed by scandal.

"You want income equality? That is mediocrity," he said. "Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary."

"The debate that needs to be had between the two parties needs to be: Do we want equality of income, or greatness of opportunity?” he added. “The opportunity for greatness excites the American people much more."

During an hour-long question-and-answer session with Greg Brown, the chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions Inc., Christie also took the opportunity to praise former President George W. Bush.

"The guy won two national elections," Christie said. “How easy has that looked the last 8 years. He was, first, an outstanding political candidate. And I think he was grossly underappreciated by his own country and his own party as a politician."

"No one ever had a question where he stood, either foreign or domestically," he added.

The two men have a long history. Bush nominated Christie as United States Attorney for New Jersey in 2001. The Washington Post reported that some viewed him as unqualified for the position and "[m]any attributed his appointment to his fund­raising prowess for Bush."

At Christie's request, Bush appeared in November at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, which Christie chairs.

The remarks, in front of a friendly, mostly-Republican audience, seemed to indicate an attempt by Christie, who has presidential aspirations, to tack further right. He is set to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference next month in Maryland, one year after he was snubbed by the same event and not given a slot.

High School Senior Class Crowns Two Students With Autism Homecoming King And Queen

Wed, 2014-02-12 08:27
Whether it's singing a song or giving out hugs, Seth Knox and Kelsey Roeser always know how to brighten their peers' days.

And the senior class at Tri-West High School in Lizton, Ind., found a way to repay them, according to FOX 59.

Knox and Roeser, who both have autism, were excited to be chosen as two of the 16 students on the homecoming court. But it didn't stop there.

During the halftime show at their school's homecoming basketball game on Feb. 7, the pair were crowned homecoming king and queen.

"For this group of kids to accept these special needs kids," Roeser's mom said to FOX59. "You can't put that into words, what that means as a parent."

King Seth Knox and Queen Kelsey Roeser after the Homecoming Festivities. pic.twitter.com/FdGGqub8UD

— Tri-West Athletics (@triwestsports) February 8, 2014




Michael Jordan Twins: Athlete's Wife Gives Birth To Daughters Victoria And Ysabel

Tue, 2014-02-11 23:02
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan has more to be happy about than just the improved play of his NBA franchise.

His wife, Yvette, has given birth to the couple's identical twin daughters, Jordan's spokeswoman Estee Portnoy told The Associated Press. Portnoy said Tuesday night Yvette Jordan, 35, gave birth to Victoria and Ysabel on Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Yvette Jordan and the babies are doing well and the family is overjoyed at their arrival," Portnoy said.

Jordan is the owner of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, who are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and have a chance to make the postseason for the first time since he took over as majority owner in 2010.

Jordan, who turns 51 next Monday, married former model Yvette Prieto on April 27 of last year in Palm Beach, Fla. The reception took place at a private golf club in Jupiter, Fla., designed by Jack Nicklaus. Jordan owns a home near the course.

The couple met six years ago.

Jordan has three children — two sons, Jeffrey Michael and Marcus James, and a daughter, Jasmine — with former wife Juanita Vanoy. They divorced in 2006.

Jordan won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and was a 14-time All-Star and five-time league MVP.

This German Olympic Figure Skater's Hot Pink 'Pink Panther' Catsuit Is Everything (PHOTOS)

Tue, 2014-02-11 19:53
Hot pink was clearly the color of the day Tuesday as the Olympic pairs figure skating competition kicked off in Sochi, Russia, with the short program.

As many expected after their sensational skate as key members of the gold medal-winning squad in the team figure skating competition, Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov took the lead with a flawless skate that bested their next closest rivals.

Though Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy trail the Russians by almost five points heading into the final free skate, they still made a lasting impression with their "Pink Panther" program which, naturally, featured the return of one of the most epic catsuits we've ever seen worn in figure skating (as well as an impressive Chief Inspector Dreyfus look).



Not to be outdone, NBC commentator Johnny Weir, whose fashions some say have stolen the show from the competing skaters' traditionally flashy on-ice wear, rocked a hot pink jacket that just so happened to match Savchenko's loud look. For her part, fellow NBC analyst Tara Lipinski also brought her fashion "A" game and wore a pale pink jacket with a Lana Del Rey-esque floral hair piece.

Johnny Weir is a walking middle finger on the streets of Sochi today. An American hero. pic.twitter.com/x43zbneCb0

— Shawn Francis (@TheOffsideRules) February 11, 2014

Jon Burge Pension Scandal Continues to Simmer

Tue, 2014-02-11 16:44
In June 2010, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for three torture-related felonies. But while Burge serves his time at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, NC, he's continued to collect his police pension -- to the tune of some $36,000 a year. After his conviction, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, acting on behalf of the people of the state of Illinois, went to court in an attempt to stop that cash flow.

On Jan. 22, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments in Madigan's case, People v. Burge. The question argued before the court was whether Madigan had the power to challenge the continuing lifetime payments to Burge.

City, county, state and federal taxpayers have already footed a bill amounting to more than $100 million over the course of two decades to investigate, prosecute and defend Burge and his cronies -- and to compensate some of his victims. Still, Burge's lawyers, likely funded by the Fraternal Order of Police based on past behavior, argued that the police pension board's 2011 decision to continue to pay him could not be challenged in court. (The FOP did not return requests for comment.)

The board's original 4-4 decision was based on the proposition that Burge's conviction for lying under oath about whether he tortured detainees did not relate to, arise out of, or connect to his work as a police officer. Given the notorious circumstances of Burge's sentencing, this resolution fostered widespread outrage, particularly in the African-American community. Madigan filed suit less than a month later to halt the payments.

After Cook County Associate Judge Rita M. Novak dismissed the case, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned her decision. In doing so, the court noted that Burge was "widely believed to have sanctioned and participated in physical abuse and torture of arrestees in order to obtain confessions." Burge and the pension board then sought review of the decision in the Illinois Supreme Court. This high court, which only agrees to review about one in 20 cases, nonetheless granted Burge and the board the right to appeal.

During the arguments on January 22, the arcane-sounding legal issues discussed by justices and lawyers were framed by overarching concerns about the pension board's 2011 decision. Those questions included whether the board's evenly split decision, voted for only by the four current or former police officers present, had been a legally binding one. Another was whether it could be reasonably concluded that Burge's eventual conviction -- lying in federal court about whether he participated in the serial torture of arrestees during his tenure as a police officer -- was, in fact, unrelated to his police work. And a third was whether the taxpayers can challenge such a decision via Madigan, given that neither Burge nor the board had an interest in appealing it.

But there are other older, equally troubling questions that surround the saga. Burge was first suspended in 1991 for allegedly torturing Andrew Wilson in 1982. The police board fired him for this offense in 1993, and his appeals were exhausted in 1995, making the decision final. Nonetheless, in 1997, Burge started to quietly collect his pension.

After the court-appointed special prosecutor's 2006 report found that Burge had tortured Wilson "beyond a reasonable doubt," a furor arose about the former commander living comfortably in Florida on his police pension. That report also led to a widely publicized City Council torture hearing in the summer of 2007, during which Alderman Ed Smith said Chicago could no longer allow Burge "to live off the fat of this city." Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times, in a banner editorial, urged Chicago to "PULL HIS PENSION."

However, the Daley administration did nothing beyond funneling additional millions to defend Burge -- and ultimately, Daley himself -- in the civil cases brought by Burge's exonerated victims in the following years.

The lingering doubts about Burge's right to his pension were compounded in 2009, when former Chicago Police Superintendent LeRoy Martin testified at a deposition that, if Burge had been fired, he would have only been entitled to a lump sum payment of what he'd contributed to the superannuation fund over the course of his 21-year career, instead of lifetime checks supplemented by city funds. But contrary to the unambiguous decision of the police board and the reviewing courts, Martin then asserted that, in fact, the department had permitted Burge to retire, thereby protecting his right to collect his pension starting at age 50.

While this seems hard to fathom, Burge maintained in his 2010 trial that he'd retired in 1997 without mentioning his firing -- testimony that went unchallenged by government prosecutors. And in 2011, the board opted to continue paying the pension Burge had begun to pocket more than 10 years prior.

Attorney General Madigan's current battle with Burge and his lawyers could go on for several years: If the Supreme Court deems that she has the legal right to challenge Burge's payments, she'll have to return to court again to do just that. To date, Mayor Emanuel's lawyers have not joined forces with Madigan. And, like Daley before him, Emanuel has not spoken out on either side of the issue.

Burge, who rose in the ranks from patrolman to Commander in record time, has been said to have friends in high places. In an era where the Illinois Supreme Court and the legislature are potentially scaling back the hard-earned pensions of law-abiding public workers and their families, it will be telling to see, once again, just how high Burge's clout reaches in this scandal-within-a-scandal.

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G. Flint Taylor is a founding partner of the People's Law Office and has represented numerous survivors of police torture in Chicago for more than 25 years.

Controversial Book, 'The Hindus', By Religious Scholar Wendy Doniger Withdrawn By Penguin Over Lawsuit

Tue, 2014-02-11 16:23
Penguin Books India has agreed to withdraw a controversial book on Hinduism as settlement for a lawsuit filed in 2011, The New York Times reported.

The book, entitled "The Hindus: An Alternative History," by University of Chicago Divinity School professor Wendy Doniger, was published in the U.S. and India 2009 and was shortlisted for a National Book Critics Circle award. In it, Doniger reportedly argues that Hinduism is not a neatly 'unified' religion but rather the amalgamation of many practices and traditions that developed over millennia.

Dina Nath Batra, who heads Shiksha Bacho Andolan, a Hindu educational organization in New Delhi, filed the lawsuit against Penguin in 2011. In a notice to the author and Penguin Group USA, Batra said he, "found [the book] to be a shallow, distorted and non serious presentation of Hinduism."

Batra's sentiments appear to have been shared by others in the Hindu community. "During a lecture in London in 2003," New York Times book reviewer Pankaj Mishra wrote in 2009, "Doniger escaped being hit by an egg thrown by a Hindu nationalist apparently angry at the “sexual thrust” of her interpretation of the “sacred” “Ramayana.”"

The New York Times and Reuters referred to what appears to be a copy of the court settlement, which shows Penguin Books India's agreement to withdraw all copies of the book from India within six months.

Despite the Penguin's decision, the book has also been defended by many. Hindustan Times noted:

"Doniger is regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Hinduism. In her unique and authoritative account, she debates about Hindu traditions become platforms from which to consider the ironies, and overlooked epiphanies, of history."

The news generated over the issue may have worked to spread awareness of Doniger's book, despite the lawsuit's aim. In the wake of the settlement, someone set up a website, DownloadTheHindus, where the book may be purchased or downloaded in its entirety.

These 100-Year-Old Best Friends Share Their Hilarious Thoughts On Today's Pop Culture (VIDEO)

Tue, 2014-02-11 16:02
When these ladies first met 94 years ago, the world was a completely different place.

Irene Cook and Alice Jensen were born in Chicago in 1913, ABC7 reported. They met at St. Gregory's School in first grade and "took to each other almost immediately," Jensen told the outlet.

In 1918, the year they met, Woodrow Wilson was president, Congress was grappling with an amendment that would give women the right to vote and World War I was being fought.

Now, the two 100-year-olds are still best friends, and recently appeared on the "Steve Harvey Show" where they shared their thoughts on today's pop culture -- chatting about everything from selfies and twerking to Justin Bieber and iPhones.

Between not believing that someone actually named their child North West and referring to Justin Bieber as "Justin Beaver," these two are nothing short of brilliant.

Watch the hilarious video above for their full appearance on the show.

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