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The Best Hot Dogs In America Are Going Extinct, And Everyone Wants A Bite Before It's Too Late

Thu, 2014-09-25 16:03
On Wednesday, the long line outside Chicago's famed Hot Doug's was full of people who woke up at the crack of dawn, played hooky from work or drove hundreds of miles to be at the restaurant when it opened. They came in such large numbers that Hot Doug's closed earlier than it ever had in its 14-year history -- roughly 10 minutes after it started serving.

"We didn't even turn on the 'Open' sign today," Hot Doug's server Steve Labedz told The Huffington Post as he planted a "Closed" sign at the point in the line where patrons would have to be turned away.

Lines outside Hot Doug's have grown epically long since owner Doug Sohn announced he will shutter his wildly popular eatery on Oct. 4. With roughly a week left, everyone in Wednesday's line wanted one last taste of Hot Doug's so badly, they didn't seem to mind waiting all day for it.

A smorgasbord of encased meats showing various Hot Doug's creations. Yum!

From celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain -- who labeled Hot Doug's one of the "13 places to eat before you die" -- to food glossies like Bon Appetite and Travel + Leisure to the average Chicagoan at lunchtime, everyone agrees these are no ordinary hot dogs.

Sohn's creations range from the familiar (the classic Chicago Dog) to the exotic (the Chardonnay and Jalapeño rattlesnake sausage topped with roasted pepper aioli and Père Joseph cheese). Each is expertly crafted and tastes even better when served with a side of luxuriously sloppy duck fat fries (Fridays and Saturdays only).

Charlie Xu, a 21-year-old University of Chicago student, hauled 15 miles on a bus with two of his friends Wednesday morning to try Hot Doug's for the first time. When they arrived around 10 a.m., just 30 minutes before the place opened, they were already number 107 in line.

"My friends thought I was crazy for doing it," Xu, who planned on ordering one of the popular foie gras dogs, told HuffPost.

Hog Doug's long-timer Bonny Davidson walked out of the restaurant with just the Hot Doug's coffee table book (no line for that purchase) but told HuffPost she'll be back next week. The 65-year-old wants one final goodbye, even if it means waiting hours for something she's had so many times before.

Davidson regularly drives into the city from suburban Mt. Prospect for a hot dog after taking her ill young niece to one of her frequent medical appointments.

"It's very depressing. I would come [to Hot Doug's] to feel good," Davidson said. "It's such a nice place and Doug is a great guy."

The famous foie gras dog, which pitted Sohn against the City Council during Chicago's foie gras ban.

Lines are part of the Hot Doug's experience, though they've stretched as long as a third of a mile during this past summer.

In recent days, Labedz said some people have been mad when the line was cut off, but most just nodded or looked a little forlorn as they walked away.

"We get a lot of sob stories," Labedz said, having heard tales of people who supposedly flew from across the country or wanted to cross Hot Doug's off their bucket list. (One lucky couple who got to the line in time got married inside the sausage shop on Wednesday.)

Sept. 13 was a tipping point. As a yearly music festival descended on the city, an explosion of customers -- too many to serve -- streamed into the restaurant. That was the day Hot Doug's started cutting off lines.

"The line was so long we were still here at 10:30 p.m.," Labedz said. "Doug gets here at 5:30 a.m. We have to do this six days a week."

Hungry patrons wait in line outside Hot Doug's in Chicago, days before the beloved sausage shop closes after 14 years.

But the long lines have meant good business for a few enterprising locals. An ice cream man with a push cart "made a killing" serving treats to the line this summer, Labedz recalled. He also estimated that a kid who set up a lemonade stand to service the line made a "few hundred bucks."

One customer took things a little too far by making huge carry-out orders and then re-selling the meals at a significant markup, billing himself as a Hot Doug's delivery option. Sohn eventually learned of this and told the man he wouldn't be served takeout anymore.

More commonly, though, lines outside the hot dog joint inspire goodwill and friendship. David Allerding was the last person waiting in Wednesday's line, but the 30-year-old Chicagoan had already been given a dog by someone who'd made it into the restaurant much earlier.

"A guy who drove in from Iowa was the first in line this morning and offered to buy the last guy in line a Chicago Dog."

Allerding, whose wait would be between five and six hours, shared the hot dog with some strangers at the back of the line.

A sign marking off the end of the line at Hot Doug's.

Trial Underway in 'Legal Thriller' Case Against Bruce Rauner's GTCR

Thu, 2014-09-25 15:28
The long-awaited trial involving Bruce Rauner's private equity firm's alleged "bust-out" of its nursing home company began Monday, September 22 before Judge Michael G. Williamson in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa, Florida.

This is the case Judge Williamson previously described as having "all the makings of a legal thriller."

The case is brought on behalf of the estates of six elderly victims who suffered abuse and inadequate care while residents in nursing homes controlled by Trans Healthcare, Inc. ("THI"). GTCR acquired THI in 1998 and made the company its vehicle for rapidly buying-up over two-hundred nursing homes around the country.

Rauner was chairman of the Chicago-based GTCR when all of the alleged wrongdoing occurred. A series of GTCR entities are named defendants: GTCR Golder Rauner, LLC; GTCR Fund VI, LP; GTCR Partners VI, LP; GTCR VI Executive Fund, LP; GTCR Associates, VI; and THI Holdings, LLC.

Edgar D. Jannotta, Jr., formerly one of Rauner's fellow GTCR principals, and now one of the largest contributors to Rauner's gubernatorial campaign, is also named as a defendant in his individual capacity.

This trial isn't about deciding whether elderly people suffered at the hands of unscrupulous operators. We already know they did. State courts have already returned verdicts and awarded damages in excess of a combined $1 billion to the six victims' estates.

The hitch is that years have gone by and the victims' families have yet to see any of those monetary awards.

The parties are now in Federal Bankruptcy Court because the plaintiffs allege there was a deliberate scheme to hide assets from the victims which involved massive fraud and an unlawful abuse of the bankruptcy laws. The plaintiffs essentially allege GTCR's owners (including Rauner) plundered what they could while driving the nursing home business into bankruptcy, and then simply walked away from the elderly victims in the wake of massive court judgments.

That's the textbook definition of a "bust-out" scheme.

Plaintiffs seek to prove that Jannotta breached his fiduciary duty, and further that GTCR aided and abetted a breach of fiduciary duty.

The exhibit list filed by the victims' estates cites 1,430 documents they seek to introduce into evidence. Judging from the document descriptions it appears the anticipated 12-day trial will provide much insight into the inner workings of GTCR's nursing home business - details which Rauner has refused to share with voters.

GTCR and Jannotta are represented in this case by high-powered Chicago-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis. But the plaintiffs bring big guns of their own and according to one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, over 90 days were spent on depositions alone to get to this point. Among other experts, the plaintiffs enlisted multiple forensic accountants, some with IRS experience.

It's now up to Judge Williamson to sort it all out.

Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.

The Most Amazing Beer Pong Trick Shots (VIDEO)

Thu, 2014-09-25 15:24
If you think you have some solid beer pong skills, you ain't seen nothing yet.

We compiled some of the best footage of amazing beer pong trick shots. Many of these come close to defying the laws of physics, and are most likely only done thanks to some sort of wizard spell. Either way, color us impressed.

Watch the collection in the video above. If you think you've got a better one, tweet at us: @HuffPostCollege.

Video compilation by Ben Craw.

25 Halloween Costume Ideas That Scream 2014

Thu, 2014-09-25 15:12
It happens every year. The end of summer causes a month long period of mourning and denial, and then before you know it, Halloween is just a few weeks away and you panic, because you have absolutely no idea what your costume will be.

Well, fear not, we've got you covered. Here's a run-down of some of the most memorable trends, events and memes that happened in 2014, and few costume ideas to go along with them. These costumes guarantee that everyone at the party will think you're witty and hip.*

*WARNING: These costumes do not guarantee that everyone at the party will think you're witty and hip.

Need more ideas? Check out the most clever costume ideas below, the most topical costume ideas from 2013, and last year's BEST Halloween costumes (according to us).

We Tested 16 Pumpkin Spice Candles And Rated Them For You

Thu, 2014-09-25 14:52
Fall is the season of pumpkin spice lattés everything, so it's fitting that there are also now pumpkin-spice-scented candles. Because nothing says fall more than a pungent, seasonally-specific candle.

We'll be the first to say it: A lot of these autumn-themed candles smell like a bit much. But we still want to get in the spirit and burn one of these babies all season long.

But which one? How do you find the perfect autumn candle? We took it upon ourselves to test 16 different candles. We lit each candle, put it in a room and had innocent victims come in and rate each on its "pumpkin spice" factor, the strength of its scent and the look of the actual candle. The scale ran from 1 to 10 -- 1 being absolutely horrible; 10 being the best thing they've ever experienced. We then averaged the three scores for each candle.

Here are the results ranked from best to worst:

The Top Markets For Buying And Selling A Home

Thu, 2014-09-25 13:52
If you think that the West Coast is really "the best coast," it could be because you're currently in the market to sell your home.

The economists at Zillow ranked America's 35 largest metro areas to determine whether buyers or sellers have more negotiating power in a given market. How? They compared actual prices to asking prices and the number of days listings spent on Zillow, among other factors, Skylar Olsen told HuffPost Home. So what does this mean for East Coasters? You're better off buying. But there's certainly more to take away from these lists than regional pride.

Buyers in buyers' markets will "likely have more time to make their decisions and can be bolder at the bargaining table by submitting bids further below list price. They are also less likely to be faced with fierce bidding wars," Olsen noted. "In sellers’ markets, homes sell quickly so sellers can often be more aggressive by demanding the list price without having to make concessions. Bidding wars are more common in these markets which can often result in higher final sale prices, another advantage for sellers," he added.

But just because your city is in a seller's market doesn't mean that's always the case. "The San Francisco metro is a seller’s market compared to many metros out east, but there are pockets within San Francisco where homes are moving more slowly than in other areas within San Francisco," Olsen said.

So take it all with a grain of salt as you get your moving boxes or for-sale signs ready.

The top buyers' markets are...

The top sellers' markets are...

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Millennial Engagement in Midterm Elections Matters, and Here's Why

Thu, 2014-09-25 11:53
Thirty of us sat in a Chicago bar discussing how to create a better future for a tsunami of college graduates who are struggling to land jobs. Over local brews at Haymarket Pub and Brewery, we debated solutions and resolved how to better prepare our generation for today's tough economy.

I'm part of a new movement of Millennials working to make change in our state -- on a wide range of issues, from unemployment to education to access to lawmakers at the Statehouse -- to make sure my generation can thrive.

This summer marks the first time that young adults like me across Illinois, who are often engaged but not always united, are putting our heads together to debate a better, more comprehensive state agenda for our peers.

As a voting bloc, there are a wide range of critical issues we can help shape -- from student loan debt, to unemployment, to a legislative process that currently often excludes our generation during debates.

By recent estimates, 65 percent of graduating college seniors in Illinois last year left school with -- on average -- nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. Our state has the 12th highest unemployment rate in the country; young adults in Illinois, aged 18 to 34, face an unemployment rate of roughly 11 percent -- that's nearly twice the national adult unemployment rate. And our state legislative process is structured in such a way that my generation is left out of critical policy discussions.

We have an opportunity to change this.

The first step is identifying the problems and finding solutions, as I've been doing along with hundreds of Millennials this summer under the movement called NextGen Illinois. At nearly 60 caucuses modeled similarly to political committees, roughly 700 of us have brainstormed potential policy solutions.

Young adults at caucus after caucus say student loan debt is a major problem because high debt prevents our generation from being able to move forward with our lives -- buying that first car is impossible, for example, if we're struggling to put food on the table while paying off loan interest rates. Millennials like me who joined caucuses came up with some fixes: the state could incentivize good academic performance with additional aid and provide a path to help student borrowers pay off their debt.

We also heard often about the difficulty they have finding work. Some caucus-goers suggest high schools increase technical and certification programs to help students build the skills necessary to compete; others say our state should encourage companies to hire our generation by providing tax incentives for companies to move their business to the South Side of Chicago, where a disproportionate number of unemployed young people live.

And there's a lot to do in Springfield; my generation gets that there are serious problems with the role money plays in the policy-making process. We heard new ideas for making elected officials more accessible and therefore accountable to young adults across the state, such as creating a user-friendly Illinois government mobile app. to access public data.

All summer, we heard these solutions at bars, community centers, and parks this summer to determine how to improve our generation's economic prospects. And on September 27, I'll join 1,500 Millennials across Illinois to put these ideas into a cohesive agenda of top policy priorities for lawmakers elected in November.

After the 27th, we'll take the next step - we'll go to the polls in November to show that we're a constituency who cares and can make a difference. With just 24 percent of young adults in Illinois, aged 18 to 29, voting in the 2010 midterm election, our state ranks 47th in the nation, in terms of how frequently young adults turn out to vote in local elections. This movement can help change this in November.

I encourage every Millennial reading this to join me on September 27, then at the polls in November, and finally, in the months ahead to make sure our generation's vision for Illinois' future becomes a reality.

Baffling Butterfly-Shaped Cloud Turns Out To Be... A Huge Swarm Of Actual Butterflies

Thu, 2014-09-25 11:22
Meteorologists in St. Louis were baffled last week when radar images showed a strange butterfly-shaped cloud passing overhead on its way south.

The cloud was shifting its shape dramatically on what otherwise was a “completely clear day,” Laura Kanofsky, a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist, told the Washington Post. “So we were all kind of scratching our heads saying ‘What are we looking at here?’”

But the mystery has now been solved. What looked like a cloud on radar images was actually a huge butterfly-shaped swarm of actual butterflies.

Radar reflectivity image of the butterfly swarm

“We think these targets are monarch butterflies,” the NWS in St. Louis wrote on Facebook on Sept. 19. “A monarch in flight would look oblate [flattened] to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape.”

Radar showed the "cloud" to be not particularly uniform (bottom right image), NWS St. Louis told The Huffington Post, and low in liquid water (bottom left image).

The monarch butterflies are believed to have been flying between 5,000 and 6,000 feet above the ground as they migrated south to their winter home in Mexico, LiveScience reported. Every year, millions of monarchs migrate from the U.S. and Canada to central Mexico's highlands.

In this 2008 photograph (below), monarchs are seen flying in Angangueo, Mexico.

Four Ways Higher Education Can Change the K-12 Equation

Thu, 2014-09-25 11:10

Most Americans believe that the major problem with K-12 education today is a lack of quality standards. Schools aren't able to effectively impose higher standards, students aren't expected to meet higher standards, and the processof implementing standardized initiatives like Common Core seems more daunting everyday.

This is a concept that needs to be reframed.

Today's biggest education problem is not that we suffer from a lack of standards, or that we can't meet the ones we have. Rather, it's that the standards we aim for are not necessarily the right ones. In other words, we have built a system designed to drive results against measures and ideals that are becoming less and less relevant -- not just to students, but to teachers, school districts, future employers and local communities themselves.

It's tempting to think that we could come up with a neat, one-size-fits-all approach to curriculum and learning that gives teachers a clearer sense of what to teach and when, and policy makers a better way to assess and optimize student performance. But unfortunately, "neat and linear" is not the way today's economy works. In reality, our job market and the skills required in order to thrive there are anything but uniform. The needs of local employers vary by region, as do the passions, interests and learning styles of individual students. So how do we solve for such diversity, embracing it as an opportunity rather than a challenge? My belief is that higher education can and should play a bigger role.

At our University campus in Aurora, Ill., we're acting on what we see as a shared responsibility to better prepare K-12 students for the careers of tomorrow. To do this, we are breaking down classroom walls, getting rid of textbooks and discarding traditional testing for what we believe will truly work to build a thriving local economy. At our newly opened John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, we're showcasing a relevant and interactive STEM curriculum that's designed to solve education challenges by changing standards in a positive direction.

We were proud to have welcomed 150 students this August, and look forward to openly communicating our results in the coming months and years. In the meantime, we believe our experiences to date will provide other local universities and communities with a model worth replicating.

Along these lines, here are the four most important lessons we've learned so far:

1. Embrace diversity: Our local communities -- consisting of parents, students, teachers and businesses -- understand the needs of their citizens better than anyone else. When national governments don't listen to these needs, it's our responsibility to lead the charge. That's why we created a process designed to gather input from key voices in our community (see point three below) and instituted a lottery system that gives equal opportunity to all students in our community to enroll in our school, regardless of economic background.

2. Leverage location as an asset: Aurora isn't a town that most people have heard of. And yet, it is one of America's fastest growing cities, quickly expanding on the intersection of rural agriculture, manufacturing and technology. Early on in the process of developing our new STEM school, we committed to using location as an advantage. We partnered with local corporations such as Caterpillar and Exelon, civic organizations such as the Dunham Fund, and policy makers such as Aurora mayor Tom Weisner. Over time, these community leaders have become our partners and strongest advocates, helping to shape a curriculum that serves as the perfect incubator for tomorrow's local talent pool.

3. Collaborate wisely: Collaboration can get out of hand when you don't approach it thoughtfully. The process must be efficient, as there is a tendency for stakeholders to want to deliberate endlessly or wait for others to act before making certain decisions. Because we gave ourselves a tight timeframe, clear parameters and a mutual set of objectives, we were able to effectively engage different stakeholder groups -- from business and government partners to public school districts and university faculty. Through the collaborative process, we managed to gain necessary buy-in and move more quickly than we would have on our own. We also uncovered a model that others may replicate, thereby scaling our impact.

4. Take necessary risks: One of the key pieces of learning we gleaned from listening to our stakeholders was that local students needed a better way to personalize and master academic material. While initially, the thought of foregoing textbooks or standardized tests for leading-edge, project-based learning techniques was an uncomfortable concept, over time we've found that an experimental attitude yields promising results. Thus far, students are excited, teachers are broadening their professional skills, and parents seem happy with the STEM school's methods. We're looking forward to seeing how our curriculum affects the lives of our students and community in the years to come.

We recognize that change doesn't happen overnight -- it happens step by step, community to community. Here in Aurora, Ill., we're taking that first step.

BGA: Chicago Public Schools "willfully and intentionally" delaying FOIA requests

Thu, 2014-09-25 10:38
Andy Shaw at the Better Government Association says the organization has filed a lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools for "willfully and intentionally" keeping Freedom of Information Act requests from reaching the BGA in a timely manner.

From Shaw:

Why? Because, with so many FOIA requests slipping through the cracks for so long, CPS has to be doing this purposely, or at least be aware its FOIA compliance is grossly inadequate.

As far as we can tell, there's only one FOIA officer fielding requests at CPS, which has hundreds of schools, thousands of teachers, and hundreds of thousands of students.

That's ridiculous. And CPS, led by educated professionals, should understand that.

Our suit is demanding reforms -- not just to punish CPS, but also to fix the FOIA process and improve service to the public.

Read more about why Shaw believes the media and the public need access to certain CPS information at Reboot Illinois.

There may be more bad news for Illinois, says a new report by the Public Interest Research Group. The Illiana Expressway, a proposed tollway running between Wilmington, Ill. and Hebron, Ind. Proponents say it would help relieve traffic from I-80 and generate revenue from truckers paying tolls. But the PIRG says the project would unnecessarily spend taxpayer money (possibly more than $250 million from Illinois taxpayers) and not attract enough traffic to pay for itself. The PIRG says Americans are driving less and spending money on expanding roads throughout the country could be a waste of money. Which 10 other proposed highway projects did the report call "boondoggles?"

Derrick Rose Donates $1 Million To Program For Teens

Thu, 2014-09-25 08:06
Nice move.

Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose has donated $1 million to a program for disadvantaged teens, the team announced this week.

After School Matters provides apprenticeships for Chicago students in the arts, communications, science, sports and technology.

“To have a strong community of people who believe in your potential can make all the difference in the world,” Rose, who hails from Chicago's Engelwood neighborhood, said in a statement. “So many people have invested in me and I want to do the same for Chicago’s teens.”

The Chicago Tribune noted that Rose's high school, Simeon Career Academy, participates in the program.

Rose's previous charitable contributions include the Japanese tsunami relief effort.

The guard has missed most of the last few seasons with knee injuries. The Bulls begin training camp on Monday for the 2014-15 season.

12 Banned Books Every Woman Should Read

Thu, 2014-09-25 07:58
While it would be great if we were past the whole "banning books" thing, the fact remains that hundreds of books have their places in libraries or on school reading lists challenged each year.

According to the American Library Association, books are most commonly challenged for being "sexually explicit" or containing "offensive language." But some of the books that are most often challenged are also literary classics, containing storylines that almost everyone can learn from.

In honor of Banned Books Week 2014, we've pulled together a list of controversial books that every woman should read. They cover sexual freedom and women pushing back against prescribed roles, oppression against women and people of color, and what it means to be a woman in different places and times. Above all, they are stories well-told.

Here are 12 banned, censored and commonly-challenged books every woman (and person) should read:

University Of Chicago Activists Post List Of Men Who Have Shown 'Troubling Behavior'

Wed, 2014-09-24 18:00
Students at the University of Chicago are circulating a list of men who have shown "troubling behavior towards romantic or sexual partners," according to the group behind the effort.

The list was posted in restrooms and in the hallways of the Harper Memorial Library, according to the students who created it. A photo of the "Hyde Park List," a reference to the university's location, began circulating online Monday among sexual assault and feminist activist circles.

A similar list popped up in the spring at Columbia University, naming men on campus who had allegedly sexually assaulted other students. One appeared at Brown University two decades earlier.

Unlike the lists at Brown and Columbia, the printed list at the University of Chicago refers to a Tumblr page, which contained additional details, including descriptions like, "Often at fraternity parties." The Tumblr list was reported for harassment and was taken down Sunday. It returned online late Tuesday, and was taken down again Wednesday afternoon.

The men named on the University of Chicago list have diverse backgrounds. Each name has either a "Code Red" or "Code Orange" note next to it, which the sponsors say represent the severity of supposed offenses.

The anonymous activists behind the list -- a mix of sexual assault survivors and allies, according to students -- cautioned that the names should not be considered a "rapist list."

"We are not claiming to be judge, jury, and executioner," the group wrote in a note online. "The individuals on the list are individuals we would warn our friends about, because of their troubling behavior towards romantic or sexual partners. Usually, this means either a pattern of negative/troubling behavior, or a very significant negative act. Sexual assault can be one of them, but we are not claiming that all the individuals on the list have committed sexual assault."

The Huffington Post is not naming the men or linking to the Tumblr because there is no indication that any of the men have been accused or convicted of any offenses.

The University of Chicago is one of 78 colleges and universities under federal investigation for how it handles sexual violence.

"The University has failed to protect the community, sexual assault is historically deeply underreported, and we have failed as a campus to have a real and serious conversation about sexual assault on campus," the Tumblr says. "... If administration cared about protecting survivors, and not their own reputation, this list would not exist."

The university declined to comment on the list, but said it is committed to "to preventing and addressing sexual misconduct, unlawful harassment, and discrimination."

"University efforts have included the creation of student support programs such as the Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call, the Bias Response Team, and RSVP (Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention); the growth of confidential resources offered by the Student Counseling Service and the SADoC program; and special training for University police officers in responding to acts of sexual violence," the school said in a statement. "The University also has continued to update its policies and disciplinary processes, as it did in 2006, 2010, 2011, and again this year."

FBI Study Finds Mass Shootings On The Rise, Often End Before Police Can Respond

Wed, 2014-09-24 16:28
WASHINGTON -- Mass shooting incidents are generally on the rise in America, according to FBI officials who have studied the topic. These events are usually over within minutes, often before police even arrive at the scene and long before heavily armed tactical teams have a chance to show up.

A new study released by the FBI on Wednesday focused on 160 "active shooter" incidents from 2000 through 2013, in which police were called to respond to an unfolding situation involving one or more individuals attempting to kill people. Incidents that resulted from gang or drug violence were excluded. The report covered both high-profile attacks -- including those in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, and at Fort Hood, Texas, and Virginia Tech -- and shootings that didn’t turn into nationally covered events -- like those at a cafe in Florida in 2010 and at a house party in the South Jamaica section of Queens, New York, in 2011. A total of 486 people were killed and 557 people injured in the 160 shootings examined.

While an average of 6.4 such incidents occurred annually in the first seven years covered by the report, an average of 16.4 such incidents occurred annually in the final seven years.

Overall, 66.9 percent of the incidents had ended before police even arrived at the scene and could engage the shooter. When they were able to engage a shooter, a law enforcement officer was killed or injured nearly half of the time, in 21 out of 45 incidents.

At a press briefing on Wednesday at FBI headquarters, officials suggested that providing tactical equipment to that first line of officers was essential.

"We now have tried to push out some of that equipment that we know is essential to the patrolman or at least the patrol sergeant, to get it out as far as possible, equipment previously that we just had tactical teams using," said James F. Yacone, the assistant director of the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group, who added some examples. "So, door ram. If you can’t get in a place, then you can’t stop the further loss of life. So a ram is an essential tool. Compatible radio systems ... are going to be key. Not just within the hierarchy level within those organizations, but right down at the troop level within those organizations."

The federal government has also sent billions of dollars worth of military-style armored vehicles to police departments across the country, but those vehicles rarely have any impact in active shooter incidents -- though officials did say they would be useful in response to a coordinated terrorist attack. J. Pete Blair, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas State University and director of research at the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, could think of only one incident examined in which a heavily armed tactical team actually ended up engaging the shooter themselves.

"Generally, a SWAT team is not usually a quick response force," Blair told The Huffington Post after the briefing. "It usually takes them some period of time to spin up -- it may be a half-hour, sometimes longer than that." He said that SWAT teams would be useful in complex terrorist attacks when police were facing trained fighters, but that they had little to no impact on any of the active shooter incidents covered in the study.

"A lot of times the SWAT team can take longer to deploy than the actual event is going on, so a lot of times the SWAT will take a role in controlling the area, containing the area and then searching," Blair said during the briefing. "But it is the line-level patrol officer that is where the rubber meets the road here, and that is the person who would be going in to stop the shooter."

Given that first responders or bystanders are the ones who usually help bring an end to a shooting incident, officials said that getting some heavier equipment -- like extra ballistic vests, helmets and rifles -- out to police officers on the front line was important.

"There's been a lot of discussions lately regarding the appearance of equipment: Is it military-type equipment? The reality is most of those officers responding would prefer to be wearing a second ballistic vest given the heightened state of threat. Most people would prefer to have a patrol rifle; it gives them an advantage over the individual," said the FBI’s Kerry Sleeper, adding that a harness to carry all of the extra equipment, including medical supplies, was also useful. He said many police departments now have their officers keep "go bags" in their cars in case they have to respond to an active shooter incident.

Because such incidents often end so quickly, even before police arrive, the FBI report said that training exercises are essential for both law enforcement and citizens, and that training should include "not only an understanding of the threats faced but also the risks and options available in active shooter incidents."

Andre Simmons, a supervisor in the FBI’s behavioral unit, also warned that "the copycat phenomenon is real" and that shooters frequently have a "real or perceived deeply held personal grievance."

The study did not look at how the shooters generally obtained their weapons, but officials at the briefing said they were open to examining that down the road. This study, they said, was intended to provide basic data about what active shooter incidents have in common in order to better prepare law enforcement -- and anyone else who ever faces such a scenario.

The U.S. Wants You To Know It's Great At Blowing Stuff Up With Its Ridiculously Expensive Toys

Wed, 2014-09-24 15:22
The United States and five Arab allies launched a military campaign in Syria this week, striking targets controlled by the Islamic State and the Khorasan Group, a small al Qaeda offshoot in Syria that was allegedly plotting an attack against the United States. Hours after missiles were launched from both air and sea, the American military released a set of images and video footage, excitedly showing the first effects of the operation.

During the first wave of strikes, 160 munitions were reportedly fired at 14 targets inside Syria. The operation included the firing of 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. Navy destroyers, as well as airstrikes by American and allied jets. It also featured the highly anticipated debut of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, an aircraft that had never flown in a combat operation before, despite costing the Pentagon around $67 billion to develop and build. That's a cost of about $412 million per plane, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The Daily Beast tallied up the total cost of the first day of the mission, including missiles and flight time for the entire strike package, and estimated the operations were worth about $79 million. Pentagon officials promised that it would be just the beginning of a prolonged campaign that could take years to complete. If we're going to be getting into another war with no defined end, the U.S. military wants taxpayers to know that their annual IRS checks are least buying supremacy (not that this has guaranteed results in the past).

Jimmy John's Confirms Credit Card Breach At 216 Stores

Wed, 2014-09-24 14:54
The sandwich chain Jimmy John's confirmed Wednesday that hackers stole customer debit and credit card data from 216 of its stores, making the company the latest in a string of cyberattacks against major retailers and restaurants.

A hacker stole login credentials from credit card readers at corporate and franchised locations between June 16 and Sept. 5 of this year, the restaurant chain said in a statement on its website. It learned of the breach on July 30 and hired security experts to help with its investigation.

Jimmy John’s is based in Champaign, Illinois, and has about 1,900 locations. It said the cards impacted were only those swiped at the stores, and not ones entered manually or online. It did not say how many cards were stolen, but said its investigation is still ongoing and it is now safe to use credit and debit cards at its locations.

On its website, the restaurant posted a listing of stores affected by the breach, spanning from Florida to California.

Jimmy John’s also said it has taken steps to tighten security by installing machines that encrypt credit card data and is “reviewing its policies and procedures for its third party vendors.”

While the statement suggested another company may have been the cause of the breach, it did not disclose the company’s name. However, cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs reported nearly two months ago that the theft of cards at Jimmy John's was caused by a cyberattack on a company called Signature Systems, which makes card readers for restaurants.

Krebs reported that banks were seeing a pattern of fraud on cards recently used at Jimmy John’s locations around the country.

Signature Systems did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jimmy John's is one of the several stores hacked within the last year, including Home Depot, Target, Neiman Marcus and P. F. Chang's.

7 Illinois High Schools With Surprising Mascots

Wed, 2014-09-24 13:26
Fall sports season is underway for Illinois high school students who are wearing their school colors and being cheered on by their schools' mascots. But among the ubiquitous Eagles and Wildcats, some Illinois high schools have some pretty creative mascots.

Check out seven unique Illinois high school mascots:

Cobden High School Appleknockers

Hoopeston Area High School Cornjerkers

Centralia High School Orphans

Zion-Benton High School Zee-Bees

Illinois Valley Central High School Grey Ghosts

Farmington Central High School Farmers

Freeburg Community High School Midgets

According to high school sports website MaxPrep, the most common high school mascot in Illinois is the Eagles, with 33 teams named after the bird. The next most common are the Wildcats, the Panthers and the Warriors. The site also cites the Appleknockers, the Marcos and the Green Giants, among others, as the only mascots with those names in the country.

See 36 other wacky, fun and creative Illinois high school mascots at Reboot Illinois, including teams that have named themselves after statues and criminals.

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Lessons Learned in Englewood: 8 Years of Reflections From a CPS Teacher

Wed, 2014-09-24 13:10
A little over eight years ago when I took my first job in CPS at a high school in Englewood, people of all races would look at me like I was crazy when I told them where I would be working. During my time teaching in Englewood I had people make assumptions about me, such as, that I must not be a very good teacher if I teach in Englewood, because surely, if I was a good teacher I would be working somewhere else.

Obviously if people were making assumptions about me working in Englewood, they were surely making assumptions about my students who lived in the community. I have written previously about when a random stranger on the bus called my kids animals and how I responded.

Through all of assumptions and stereotypes I realized that the students I taught were all that mattered. But I also very recently came to a point in my professional career that I needed a change of schools. Leaving the students was and is still hard. I didn't officially make the decision until August so I told my students through email and text messages. That was the hardest thing by far about leaving. But the beauty of the students was they wanted me to be happy. Yes, they were upset and hurt, but every single student (I even messaged kids who graduated a while ago to let them know) really just wanted me to be happy. So I write this dedicated to every single student I taught in Englewood which is close to 1,000 students.

So here is some of what I learned from my time in Englewood:

1) Teachers know that kids can detect a good teacher in the first few minutes of meeting us. Well, my Englewood students could detect a good teacher in seconds.

When we hired teachers at our school, we would always have students sit on the interview and ask questions. Once the interview ended, if our students had doubts then that person wasn't hired.

2) The kids knew the stereotypes about them, but more importantly with guidance knew also how to beat those stereotypes.

3) That most of the kids I taught could make better politicians than many of the people who are in power in this city.

4) That Englewood produces genius. Yup, you read that right. Still doubting? Then watch this.

5) I learned that having open and honest conversations about race wasn't always easy, but was always very necessary.

Lisa Delpit an acclaimed scholar on race once came to our school and observed me teach and talked to students that I taught. Because of my openness to talk about race and the stories my students shared with her, she was inspired enough to write about me in her second book.

6) That four Englewood high school students can stand up and poetically dissect every terrible policy Rahm Emanuel has put in place.

7) That when I experienced the worst loss of my life it was the students that I taught who knew how best to support me.

8) That when the first student that attended our school was murdered students and staff came together.

It was in my fourth year of teaching that I got a phone call at 6 a.m. on a cold January Saturday morning from our assistant principal who told me Travell had been killed. Travell was a very likable kid and a kid who had turned his life around from early in his high school career to just get accepted into college. His loss rocked our school. Everyone dreaded going to school that Monday after his death. But it was everyone at the school, students and staff that kept us all together so we could grieve and overcome this tragedy.

9) That when one of our staff members passed away the students and staff came together.
One of the most happy and upbeat people at our school, passed away last year. He was loved by students and staff alike. No matter what, he was always smiling and was one of those people that truly made school a better place. It was at his funeral that students stood up and spoke and shared stories of love for Stokes that helped us all overcome this loss.

10) That there are some amazing organizations, people, and teachers working in the Englewood neighborhood. If you never heard of RAGE then you need to.

11) That a public high school in Englewood had over 90 percent college acceptance rate, but the Mayor never came to congratulate us.

12) I learned that being white and bald would automatically lead me to being nicknamed Caillou.

13) That every student deserves so much more than this city's government and poorly school system is giving them.

14) That everywhere parents and students want to succeed.

While I was growing up and going to school, I have some teachers who still stick in my mind. The teachers who really helped guide, coach, teach, and inspire me. Well the thing that most people who aren't teachers don't know is teachers have kids who stick in their minds the same way. While there are way too many students to name individually who stick and will continue to stick with me, I know that I have become a better person, because of the "dangerous" Englewood students that I taught.

**I am still a CPS public high school south side teacher, just at a different school now**

In Love With David Bowie

Wed, 2014-09-24 13:07
David Bowie wasn't always a super star.

That's right. Despite all the attention being paid to the David Bowie Is exhibition at MCA Chicago, when he flashed across TV screens in my college days he was just a cult figure. And a figure of fun. Ziggy Stardust was bizarre-looking to the talking heads on local news in New York City and they mocked him when he played at local venues.

I thought he was fascinating and magnetic, but I kept that to myself.

His only radio hits were "Space Oddity" and "Rebel Rebel," and my college buddies thought those songs were a joke. I wasn't wild about either one. But in junior year, when my girlfriend from New Zealand played Aladdin Sane for me, I was hooked. The piercing piano, the enigmatic lyrics, and that sci-fi album cover transported me to a unique world of his making. But so did Ziggy Stardust, Hunky-Dory, The Man Who Sold the World and the grossly under-rated Pin-Ups, whose songs still run through my head decades later. Where have all the good times gone.....

There just wasn't anybody like him.

Diamond Dogs truly sealed the deal--it was so crazed, so sexual, so gorgeously out there, and seeing him on that tour at Radio City Music Hall was a peak experience. Loving Bowie, no, adoring him, thinking he was a genius, admiring his work with Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople, quoting his songs at every possible occasion, devouring everything we could about him in every magazine, we felt like initiates.

Bowie was weird, funky, alien, in-your-face, madly stylish, transgressive, bisexual, unhinged and unafraid. Everything this nice Jewish boy wished he could be.

It's not that I didn't enjoy lots of other musicians who were mainstream, like The Allman Brothers, Peter Frampton, Neil Young, Loggins and Messina, but they were just musicians. Bowie was theater. He was an experience. His dangerous sardonic smile and eyes seemed to pin you, to make you feel special, treasured, heard. Maybe it was all a little creepy around the edges, maybe he was a little like the brave Apollo he sings about on Diamond Dogs. Someone to claim us, someone to follow. But where? Well, to the next incarnation, whatever it was.

And I did follow him through Plastic Soul to the Berlin Trilogy and the brilliant Scary Monsters were he deconstructed himself and poor Major Tom.

And then came Let's Dance, that glistening dud. Bowie said in a recent documentary that he wanted to write a big pop success, and he succeeded. It scored him huge stadium crowds, but it was some of the least interesting music he ever wrote, at least to me. And though I tried his albums since, they've all seemed even less interesting. So what happened? Was he spoiled by fame? Did he run out of musical ideas and personas?

I didn't care. Nothing dimmed my love for the albums that changed my life, that changed rock music forever, that maybe even changed the world. I've got my ticket for "David Bowie Is." I'm ready to pay homage to the chameleon, comedian, Corinthian, and caricature.

Lev Raphael is the author of the suspense novel Assault With a Deadly Lie and 24 other books in a wide variety of genres.

This $1,000 Ice Cream Sundae Might Actually Be Worth It (If You Have $1,000 Lying Around)

Wed, 2014-09-24 12:59
Why would a Chicago hotel put an ice cream sundae on its dessert menu that costs more than many folks pay in monthly rent?

"Why not?" was the explanation offered to HuffPost by Scott Green, executive pastry chef at the Langham Chicago's Pavilion lounge and tea room.

On Wednesday, the Langham is debuting a brand new menu of luxurious ice cream dishes headlined by the attention-grabbing Victoria sundae, named after the queen who reigned in England at the time the flagship Langham opened in 1865.

Available along with six other sundaes through Oct. 31, The Victoria will set customers back $1,000, recalling the price tag of New York restaurant Serendipity 3's Golden Opulence Sundae, which was once recognized as the world's most expensive dessert and even inspired a gag on NBC's "30 Rock."

(Story continues below.)

The sundae's base consists of both vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The chocolate ice cream, Green told HuffPost, is made from premium Guittard Complexite 70 percent chocolate -- not cocoa powder or flavoring. And the vanilla ice cream consists of three different vanillas -- fruity Tahitian vanilla, traditional Madagascar-Bourbon vanilla and peppery Mexican vanilla -- contributing to a much more complex flavor than your typical bucket of Häagen-Dazs.

Next come the caramelized golden peanuts, 24-karat gold dust, dark chocolate croquant, Hennessy VSOP cognac, hot fudge, salted caramel, butterscotch and whipped cream. That's all topped off with a 24-karat gold leaf and a hand-crafted, entirely edible chocolate crown.

Finally, the sundae is served in a Wedgwood crystal bowl, which customers get to keep, and paired with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon -- which alone retails for about $150.

Let's get a closer look:

Despite the long list of tasty and decadent components, we wondered: Who would buy this thing? Green is well aware the sundae is out of reach for many people, even at the Langham -- where an October weeknight stay will cost you at least $450 a night, before taxes.

"I realize it's a seldom-if-ever type of menu item but it just kind of adds another level of depth to the experience of the Langham," Green explained.

Green added that he's very curious to see who the first person to order it will be. Perhaps Lady Gaga, who spends a lot of time in town and often turns up where she's least expected. Or "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, taking a break from a planning meeting for his forthcoming museum on Chicago's lakefront.

"You never know who will come through the door," Green said. "Maybe a high-powered CEO who has some colleagues in town and wants to impress them, or someone who wants to make an extra special engagement night. This is for the guest who wants to go all out."

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