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Dold's Israel Partisanship is Unacceptable

Tue, 2014-08-05 08:50
Ex-Congressman Robert Dold continues to cross a time-honored line by refusing to respect the hard-earned, bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress. I've been active in pro-Israel politics for a long time, and I thought I'd seen everything. But I never thought I'd see someone who claims to be a friend of the pro-Israel community, as Dold does, so blatantly use Israel for personal partisan gain.

On July 31, as many of us were glued to our TV or computer for news about our loved ones in Israel, and as Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) was on the floor of the House passionately speaking out against Hamas and uniting Congress in support of Israel, his opponent, Robert Dold, sent out a campaign fundraising email blast claiming that Rep. Schneider "has been silent and watched this happen."

We cannot let Dold get away with trying to weaken broad, bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. It's an insult to our intelligence and to the values we cherish. Schneider has written op-eds, taken the lead in pushing through letters and resolutions, and has sponsored and co-sponsored key legislation to strengthen Israel, including introducing the Israel Qualitative Edge Enhancement Act, which was unanimously passed by the House. He is a leader in Congress on stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and a strong advocate for increased sanctions against Iran. Schneider introduced the most recent Hezbollah sanctions bill, which also was unanimously passed by the House. And on all these efforts, Congressman Schneider has worked closely with both his Democratic and Republican colleagues, just as he did before joining Congress.

Trying to turn Israel into a partisan issue, particularly in Israel's critical hour of need, is disgraceful. Deliberately spreading falsehoods about Congressman Schneider sends a signal that we are divided on Israel, when the signal we need to send the world is that the United States stands united behind Israel.

There's a word for what Mr. Dold is trying to do: Swiftboating. That's when unethical politicians attack their opponent's strength by telling lies designed to turn that strength into a weakness to raise money or get votes. It can work, but only if we let it.

Mr. Dold does not deserve our vote. He is not qualified to represent us in Congress. Anyone who would use our ally Israel so shamefully, especially at a time like this, and especially against a staunch pro-Israel leader like Representative Brad Schneider, deserves only our scorn.

Mark Twain said a lie can get half-way around the world before the truth puts its pants on. Please help give the truth a fighting chance. Don't let Robert Dold weaken U.S support for Israel by misrepresenting Brad Schneider's outstanding record of leadership on Israel. Don't let Dold diminish the bipartisan support Israel rightly deserves, and at this moment, absolutely needs.

We Tried It: Sproing Sport

Tue, 2014-08-05 07:38
What We Tried: Sproing Sport

Where: The Sproing Sport studio is located in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood at 1652 N. Wells Street.

What We Did: Classes are 45 minutes long and consist of 30 minutes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) plus a 15-minute period ahead of time to set up your heart rate monitor, situate yourself in the Sproing harness and get the rundown on which skills (lunges, bicep curls, planks, forward running, backward running, etc.) will be performed during that particular session. When trying a new class, I hate feeling like I'm constantly two beats behind as I catch on to what we're supposed to be doing, so this preparation time was much appreciated.

How'd It Feel: Sproing's philosophy is "train hard, land soft." The machine itself looks a bit like a backward treadmill, only instead of a moving belt beneath your feet, you have a soft stationary pad reminiscent of a camping air mattress (in fact, that's what the founders used in their very first prototype). You're attached to the machine via a harness that allows you to run in place and that also contributes to the low-impact nature of the class.

Arguably more important is how the class didn't feel -- painful. Typically, after 30 minutes of strenuous, "actually no, I cannot do another burpee, because I don't have a drop of energy left in me" exercise, I wobble home on aching knees and strained shins. When I clipped out of the harness and returned to solid ground, there was the feel-good burn and fatigue that comes with a good workout but no aches to be had.

What It Helps With: Runners will appreciate that the Sproing Trainer was designed with them in mind as a way to build endurance and strength without the pain that can come with pounding the pavement. This is a low-impact workout that gets your blood (and sweat -- lots of sweat) flowing.

What Fitness Level Is Required: Everyone's max intensity is different, and the nice thing about classes that focus on heart rate zones is class-goers can customize to their fitness level. If certain skills are more difficult for you than others -- say, for example, you loathe planks of all varieties... ahem -- there are ways to change up your positioning on the pad to utilize the Sproing's harness and take a bit of the strain off your body while still completing the exercise.

What It Costs: Individual classes are $25, and package deals are available. Special heart rate monitors are required; you can purchase and personalize your own (helpful for those who like to know how many calories they're burning) or borrow a loaner.

Would We Do It Again: Definitely. This would be a nice supplement to my regular running activities as a way of building endurance and strength while also giving my joints a respite.

9 Life Lessons Only Grandparents Can Teach

Tue, 2014-08-05 06:51
Nowadays, you can study multivariable calculus on Khan Academy, master the perfect winged eyeliner look on YouTube, and learn how to make DIY soaps, creams and butters on Pinterest. However, there are some life lessons that only grandparents can teach us. Here are the best ones:

Marry your best friend.

You may kiss a bunch of frogs along the way, but you'll know when you meet your prince (or princess!) Looks fade, fortunes fail and crushes calm with time, but your best friend will always be there for you. No one will get you like your BFF does, so look no further than your best bud for your loving life partner.

Face time trumps Facebook.
Let’s be honest: While you can text, tweet, or Facebook message your friends until your thumbs fall off, nothing can ever replace spending time together in person. Take a cue from your grandparents: Leave the cell phone at home and commit to spending some quality time with your friends. You will be surprised by all the little things you miss on social media -- the laughing until you're crying, the eye-rolls, the pitch-perfect sarcasm and everything else that makes your friends unique.

Embrace tradition.
Whether it’s eating dinner together every night or making tamales on Christmas Eve, every family has rituals that serves as its glue. Keeping family traditions alive builds strong, unbreakable bonds -- and that’s a good thing.

It’s never too late for new beginnings.
Starting over takes resilience and courage -- two things grandparents know a lot about. If our grandparents had been afraid to start over, we probably wouldn’t be here today. Many grandparents immigrated to new countries, changed livelihoods and rebuilt their lives after war, natural disasters, and financial collapse. Keep this in mind the next time you find a chapter in your life closing. Don’t be afraid to see what’s behind the next door.

Keep a family photo album.
And no, we don’t mean the ones on your iPhone. There is nothing quite like sitting down with your kids and flipping through a photo album, looking through years of bad haircuts, first dates, and learning to ride a bike. It’s like holding hundreds of little stories in your hands. Instead of adding all your photos to Facebook or a folder on your laptop, take the time to print some every so often to add to the collection.

Appreciate the small things.
Life is a whole lot better when you appreciate the gifts you have instead of complaining about those you don’t. Grandparents who lived through turbulent periods in history know the power of stopping to express gratitude. In the face of adversity, taking comfort in something small -- a loved one’s smile or the smell of fresh rain -- lifts the spirits. Science agrees: According to Psychology Today, “Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so.”

Never underestimate the importance of family.
Family can take many shapes. Sure, there's your biological family, but an AA support group, an LGBT organization or a small village in the Philippines may be your family too. No matter how you define it, grandparents understand the importance of a tight-knit support system to help when life gets tough. No one has to go through life alone.

Cook the family recipe.

We’ve heard countless people say that their grandma or grandpa makes the best, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies. Or maybe it’s the best fried chicken, matza balls, pupusas, etc… They can’t all be right, or can they? There's something about homemade, time-honored recipes that just makes food taste better. Cooking is one of the most common ways our grandparents show us love, so show them love back by keeping the tradition alive.

Time, money and resources are precious. Grandparents know better than anyone that these things can disappear all too quickly. Conserving our assets may be the most important thing we can do to maximize our time and increase our quality of life. Don't be afraid to brown bag your lunch, bike to work, start an herb garden -- its better for the environment, your wallet, and your health.

Toledo's Troubles: Vivid Example of Why We Need to Act on Climate and Clean Water

Mon, 2014-08-04 22:23

The troubles in Toledo this weekend might seem the stuff of science fiction (as an aside, just listen to the stories running on Chicago Public Radio), but the truth is that a major American city, perched along the Great Lakes just went three days without drinking water after pollution poisoned their supply.

Massive algae blooms on Lake Erie have previously and periodically robbed Ohioans of their ability to enjoy the Lake, but robbing Toledo of clean drinking water is a galling escalation. We can’t just boil our way out of this (in fact, boiling water poisoned by blue-green algae toxins just concentrate the poison!). There is no single, simple fix to the multifaceted problems causing the green slimy mess—but most of the contributors are preventable: 

There are very real decisions that need to be made NOW about policies and practices that will help avoid this sorry situation from increasing in Ohio, and becoming totally commonplace in America.

Toledo's troubles make it vividly clear that as a nation, we need to address water pollution and carbon emissions. Policies to achieve these goals are being proposed and advanced now, and the situation in Toledo shows how critical it is that we embrace them. 

Our nation needs the “Clean Power Plan” (which would slash emissions from our nation’s largest carbon pollution sources), and the “Clean Water Protection Rule”clarifications to the Clean Water Act (which would return anti-pollution protections to wetlands, streams and headwaters that flow into bigger bodies of water) to ensure we put people before polluters. Otherwise, Toledo’s troubles are likely be more common, in Ohio, around the Great Lakes and all over the nation.

Lake Erie algae photo courtesy of Ohio DNR via Flickr

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

An Open Letter to the Chicago Media

Mon, 2014-08-04 18:45
Dear Chicago-area reporters, journalists, story seekers and other friends in the media,

Our city's women are facing many complex, interrelated and life-altering struggles that are not gaining the traction needed to hit our local headlines.

To help focus attention on our women's struggles, Chicago Foundation for Women recently teamed up with the Chicago Tribune to host a Trib Nation Community Conversation on how to increase media coverage of women's issues. Women representing over 20 different nonprofits across Illinois participated and, for many, it was their first opportunity to speak directly with reporters about the stories they'd like to see covered. The following are just a few of the issues that ought to be hitting our local headlines:

The impact of Chicago's violence upon the lives of women and girls. There is no shortage of coverage about the violence plaguing our City, with focus placed primarily upon the perpetration by, and effect upon men and boys. I'd like to see a story about the single mothers left to care for family in the wake of death or incarceration of their husbands, partners and sons. Or, tell me about the young girls, mothers and grandmothers who are making a difference in these communities.

We talk about the overcrowding of prisons, but do we hear about the fact that the fastest growing prison population is women, primarily mothers? I would like to open the paper or read a news story online that analyzes how this rapidly growing incarceration rate of caretakers is having an impact upon families and communities. Also, might this incarceration rate of women be different if Illinois law enforcement shifted its attention away from prostituted individuals and instead focused on arresting those who are profiting: the pimps, johns and traffickers? Or, could we examine the economic toll on Illinois taxpayers who pay an average of $38,268 annually for each new inmate put behind bars?

It is clear that women of color are not getting a fair shake when it comes to preventative healthcare. African American women in Chicago are 62% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. The next time a reporter interviews a politician, it would be exciting to hear a question about a plan to ensure that Chicago's communities of color gain better access to quality preventative healthcare services.

These are but a few of the issues discussed at our Trib Nation conversation. These stories are not easily broken down into digestible sound bites. I understand the difficulty of boiling down complex issues like the myriad unique barriers impacting the economic mobility of a single mother to a simple press pitch. After all, how do you take an entrenched, multidimensional problem and make it newsworthy for today's short attention span?

Yet, this is a challenge I'd like to see faced, cooperatively, between the change agents on the frontlines and our news media. I commend the Chicago Tribune for opening its doors to listen and engage with our community and I hope other media outlets will follow suit. Together, I have no doubt that we can elevate the remarkable but untold stories of Chicago's women and girls into the public consciousness.

Yours Truly,
K. Sujata

What's a story about local women and girls you'd like to see covered in the news? Send me a Tweet @ChiFdn4Women / #WeAreNewsToo or share your thoughts on Chicago Foundation for Women's Facebook page.

Fifth-Graders In Chicago Write To Newspaper: 'You Don't Really Know Us'

Mon, 2014-08-04 18:02
A group of fifth-graders came together to write an op-ed published last week in The Chicago Tribune in an effort to combat "the constant negative publicity their neighborhood receives" due to gun violence.

The students, from the Bradwell School of Excellence, live in the Chicago neighborhood of South Shore. South Shore has a relatively high rate of violent crime, but the kids wanted the world to focus instead on the good things about the community they love and call home.

"We saw your news trucks and cameras here recently and we read the articles, 'Six shot in South Shore laundromat' and 'Another mass shooting in Terror Town,'" wrote the students. "We saw the reporters with fancy suits in front of our laundromat. You spent less than 24 hours here, but you don't really know us."

The students went on to describe the positive parts of their neighborhood: the children they see jumping rope, for example, and the local store clerk who gives them free candy.

"We want you to know us," they concluded. "We aren't afraid. ... This neighborhood is filled with love. This isn't Chi-raq. This is home. This is us."

Two of the students who penned this op-ed, along with their teacher, Lindsey Rose, recently appeared on NPR to discuss the essay.

"It wasn't really hard to write it," student Rondayle Sanders told the outlet. "Because I always try to see the good things out of bad. As a class we wrote it, and it inspired a lot of people. So, I'm really proud of myself."

But Sanders' teacher suggested the writing process was a bit more difficult.

"It was hard when we started because when we started working on that first part of the essay, you know, 'What do you think people know about you?' the students were able to rattle off lots the stereotypes they know about their neighborhood," said Rose. "But when we got to the second part, it took us awhile to think of, 'What are the great things?' And I think that's a testament to the narrative that we hear so often."

As NPR notes, there have been more than 1,200 recorded shooting victims in Chicago so far in 2014. But there are also bright spots for the youth of Chicago. For example, for the fifth year in a row, 100 percent of the graduating class at Urban Prep Academies' three campuses will be attending college in the fall.

Civil Rights or Civil Wrongs: A Closer Look at the Common Core

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:56
From the very beginnings of No Child Left Behind, the strongest argument for attaching stakes to standardized tests has been one of Civil Rights. This argument is shorthand for equity in education, an end to the systemic neglect of children of color. More recently, proponents of corporate education reform have become adept at wrapping themselves in these concerns, while promoting policies that have devastating effects on public school students and their communities. Common Core is no exception to this.

From Politico last week came word that Common Core proponents have realized that they are losing the battle.

"We're so good at all our statistics and data and rational arguments ... [but] emotion is what gets people feeling passionate," Oldham said. "It may not be the most comfortable place for the business community . [but] we need to get better at doing it."

This message seems to connect with Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which has received Gates Foundation funding to evaluate the Common Core, as well as general operating grants. Politico again:

"We've been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn't work," said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a leading supporter of the standards. "There's got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do."

Step one: Get Americans angry about the current state of public education.

To that end, expect to start hearing from frustrated college students who ended up in remedial classes even though they passed all their state tests and earned good grades in high school. "These kids should be as mad as hell" that the system failed them, Petrilli said."

While we agree that students ought to mad as hell, we have different views of reasons why.

Let's stipulate that either side of this argument is capable of emotionally based arguments that sometimes stray from the facts. And let's try to look at the facts.

How will the Common Core standards and associated curriculum and tests affect the next generation of students? In particular, how will it affect those who have done poorly in the past on standardized tests, primarily African Americans, Latinos, English language learners, and special education students?

The primary argument coming from Petrilli seems to be that these students are now being poorly served because they are being allowed to graduate without having been adequately prepared for college. As evidence for this, we are being presented with the rates of students that require remediation. When Arne Duncan was in Massachusetts recently, he shared the following statistics: "Frankly Massachusetts is being out-competed by the majority of children in many other countries."

The secretary offered this sobering statistic to underscore his point: "Forty percent of your high-school graduates are taking remedial classes when they go to four-year universities. That's a staggering number ... Four in 10 of your high school graduates aren't ready for college."

Award-winning New York principal and author Carol Burris offered a slight correction to his numbers:

"Twenty-two percent of the students who attend four-year state universities in Massachusetts and 10 percent of the students who attend the University of Massachusetts take at least one remedial course. That group (students who attend four-year public colleges) comprises 28 percent of all high school graduates in the Commonwealth.

Thirty percent of all Massachusetts graduates attend private four-year colleges. Although I could not find remediation rates for such students, we know that nationally 15 percent of students who attend not-for-profit four-year colleges or universities take remedial courses.

Using the above, I estimate that the percentage of students in Massachusetts who attend four-year colleges and take remedial courses is roughly 17 percent, not the 40 percent that Duncan claimed."

Acknowledging that there are students in community college who should also be factored in, Burris continues:

"If we combine the three rates (public 4-year, private four-year and two-year public colleges), and include all of the non-traditional students who attend two-year colleges in the mix, the remediation rate is approximately 29 percent."

Burris further pointed to a national study conducted by the Department of Education which found the nationwide remediation rate to be only 20%. This same study shows that this 20% (for the year 2007-08) is actually a significant decline from the 26% of students that took such courses in the 1999-2000 school year.

So let's look at the solution that proponents of Common Core are pushing. They wish to put in place significantly more difficult tests, which far fewer students will pass. Recent reports of the process used to set cut scores revealed that the test designers were not only focused on what the teachers involved in the process thought students ought to know. Instead, they took into consideration how many students answered questions correctly...

"The process of setting a scoring "scale" and cut scores for an annual test, based on all-important, predetermined goals, is an entirely different animal that is not easily described. In fact, the panelists met to set the 1-4 cut scores after students took the first new tests in spring 2013 and the raw data was in.

"It's like you're jumping over a hurdle that's 2 feet high, but after you jump they say it was 3 feet and you missed," said Cary Grimm, another panelist who is math chairman for the Longwood school district on Long Island.

Tina Good, coordinator of the Writing Center at Suffolk County Community College, said her group produced the best possible cut scores for ELA tests in grades 3 to 6 - playing by the rules they were given.

"We worked within the paradigm Pearson gave us," she said. "It's not like we could go, 'This is what we think third-graders should know,' or, 'This will completely stress out our third graders.' Many of us had concerns about the pedagogy behind all of this, but we did reach a consensus about the cut scores."

Ignoring pedagogy (read: sound teaching practices), the Pearson-dictated focus was placed on the numbers, the cut scores, which had an immediate and apparent effect on the achievement gap.

As Carol Burris and one of us (Alan Aja) explained in the Washington Post analyzing the results of the 2013

"In 2012, prior to the Core's implementation, the state reported a 12-point black/white achievement gap between average third-grade English Language Arts scores, and a 14-point gap in eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) scores. A year later enter the Common Core-aligned tests: the respective gaps grew to 19 and 25 points respectively (for Latino students the eighth grade ELA gap grew from 3 to 22 points). The same expansion of the gap occurred in math as well.

...the percentage of black students who scored "Below Standard" in third-grade English Language Arts tests rose from 15.5 percent to a shocking 50 percent post-Common Core implementation. In seventh-grade math, black students labeled "Below Standard" jumped from 16.5 percent to a staggering 70 percent. Students with disabilities of all backgrounds saw their scores plummet- 75 percent of students with disabilities scored "Below Standard" on the Grade 5 ELA Common Core tests and 78 percent scored "Below Standard" on the 7th grade math test. Also, 84 percent of English Language learners score "Below Standard" on the ELA test while 78 percent scored the same on the 7th grade math exam.

When a student scores in the Below Standard category of 1, there is a good chance that her or his answers were mere guesses, or that the test was so difficult, they simply gave up. How do such tests help nine year olds who are struggling to learn English, or poor students starting school without the advantages of pre-school and the enriched experiences that affluence brings? How do we advance the cause of equity by giving them the message: You are "below standard" and not on the road to be ready for college?"

This same pattern, as I (Anthony Cody) discussed here, is evident in tests being used for granting GED certificates to students who did not graduate from a regular high school. In the state of Washington, this test is so difficult that the number of students earning GEDs has plummeted. And Carol Burris and John Murphy point out that New York state is on track to impose a similarly difficult high school exit exam on future students.

Thus we have proponents of civil rights bringing us a set of standards and tests that -- so far -- are having the effect of WIDENING the achievement gap, and putting GEDs and high school diplomas out of reach for many of our students. And their justification for this devastating reform is that otherwise students will need to take a remedial class in college?

Once again, we have a lazy, irresponsible approach to reform. Make the tests harder, and pretend you have done something to "bring students into the mainstream." But we are stuck in this mechanistic, punitive, test, punish and reward paradigm. Forget about the myriad challenges facing students due to poverty and wealth inequality; realities that disproportionately affect blacks and Latinos. Forget about addressing the funding inequities within the schools themselves. Forget about the reality of "stereotype threat," whereas students viewed by society as "cognitively inferior" (read: blacks/Latinos) are more likely to be come self-fulfilling prophecies, consciously or subconsciously under-performing on culturally-biased tests already pre-designed to set them up for failure. Forget about what William Darity, Jr., Darrick Hamiton and Alan Aja argued in the Huffington Post is the real curricular atrocity, which is a dual, segregated "ability grouped" curricula, whereas white children are more likely to be taught in an enriched, inter-disciplinary setting. Focus instead on setting a "higher bar" through more high stakes testing, and demand that everyone clear it.

Education is and always has been a civil rights issue. Children of color deserve far better than they are getting now. There is no halcyon era in the past when our schools were doing just dandy in this regard. But there was a time when we had a societal awareness that poverty was a pervasive and pernicious source of educational problems. There was a time when federal funds were not awarded based on competition between states, but on the needs of their students. There was a time when the Federal government promoted -- even mandated desegregation, rather than promoting semi-private charter schools that accelerate it.

Our challenge is not to go back to 1975, however. Our challenge is to learn from the successes and failures of the past five decades, and chart initiatives that address the opportunity gap, and build success, self determination and stability in our communities.

There are real reforms we could implement that would have an effect on achievement of African American and Latino students, and that of English learners and special education students. We could raise the level of funding in poor communities so it is equal to the spending in wealthy ones. We could provide reading specialists, like the ones that help children overcome dyslexia as early as the pre-K years. We could reduce class sizes, and restore librarians, both of which are associated with better outcomes for students. We could train teachers and schools to de-track segregated curricula through culturally-relevant pedagogies and practical non-test based universal enrichment models.

We could provide a focus on authentic projects, connected to the real world in which our students live.

These decisions ought to be made in local communities, with the direct involvement of students, parents and community leaders. What we need is adequate resources, and a shift away from top-down management via tests and standards. In this context, the corporate under-written Common Core standards and tests are at best, a distraction, and at worse, add grievous insult to injury.

This is a modified version of a piece originally posted in Living in Dialogue.

Man Fatally Shot Outside Nas' Lollapalooza After Party

Mon, 2014-08-04 16:39
A 32-year-old man was gunned down early Sunday outside an unofficial Lollapalooza after party at a nightclub in downtown Chicago.

According to DNAinfo Chicago, Martrell Ross was found fatally shot in an alley near Bodi nightclub about 3:50 a.m. A second gunshot victim, a 21-year-old man, was also found on a sidewalk nearby. The 21-year-old man was taken to an area hospital in serious condition.

Bodi -- which was open until 5 a.m. -- was holding an unofficial Lollapalooza after party at the time of the shooting, slated to be hosted by rapper Nas. Witnesses told WGN the men had been arguing inside the nightclub prior to the shooting.

Responding police officers saw a man fleeing the scene on foot and fired at but did not strike him, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The two men wounded near Bodi were among four people killed and 22 wounded over the course of the weekend in Chicago, which has been back in the spotlight for its violent reputation since more than 60 people were shot over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Despite recent criticism over how the city has responded to the surge in shootings, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy defended his department at a Friday City Council hearing, noting progress the city has made and blaming the media for "a steady drumbeat of shootings, shootings, shootings, murder, murder, murder," DNAinfo's Ted Cox reported.

Where Was the Diversity at Bruce Rauner's Companies?

Mon, 2014-08-04 14:56
It's a campaign. So people expect pandering to be somewhat commonplace. So maybe I shouldn't be offended by Bruce Rauner's pandering to minority communities.

But I am.

I previously wrote about the lack of diversity at GTCR, the private equity firm founded and run by Bruce Rauner. To recap -- out of 51 people on the GTCR staff website -- I found:

0 African Americans
1 Latino (a)
3 Asians
6 Women

Recently, perhaps in response to this and other criticism, Mr. Rauner tried to drive a wedge with minority groups by speaking at an event at Chicago State University. He made sure to discuss economic and educational opportunities for African Americans, while claiming that he is the one who would deliver for them.

Then Mr. Rauner, as his campaign phrased it, put "his own money where his mouth is," by promising a one million dollar investment in a South Side community credit union during a closed-door campaign event.

His newfound "advocacy" for supporting minority-owned businesses as a political candidate begs the question: what was Bruce Rauner's record when it came to his investments and appointing well-qualified minority and women leaders to his companies' boards?

I went back to research GTCR's numerous boards of directors at its current investments. If the chairman of this firm cared about diversity and supporting minority communities, surely his record would prove it.

Out of the 199 board members slots that are listed through GTCR's website and their companies' websites, I found:

3 African Americans
3 Latino (a)
13 Asians
17 Women

So, the facts are that neither Bruce Rauner's company, nor the companies GTCR owns, are diverse.

Keep in mind, as Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington pointed out, Mr. Rauner has prided himself on his unique ability to attract, recruit, and retain talented executives. He says he wants to run Illinois like his businesses.

Yet - out of more than 199 plum board positions - he "couldn't find" any more than three African Americans?

Could Bruce Rauner's record of inclusion and diversity at GTCR and its companies speak to the truth of the matter?

It sure looks like he doesn't value diversity until it's time to count votes.

Robert T. Starks is Professor Emeritus at Northeastern Illinois University's Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies in Chicago. He studies and teaches Black Politics and Black Studies.

10 Of Your Favorite Artists Pick The Song Of The Summer (Spoiler: It's Not 'Fancy')

Mon, 2014-08-04 14:37
Sorry, folks, but summer is almost over. With just a handful of weeks left before Labor Day, the battle for Song Of The Summer is dead and buried. We killed it with our "Fancy" puns and think pieces.

But things are looking up. While at Lollapalooza this weekend, HuffPost Entertainment asked some of the big names on the bill which tracks they had been playing on repeat this summer. André Allen Anjos of RAC picked an old Fleetwood Mac jam. Killer Mike had a sweet, sweet story about listening to a boombox on Coney Island. Two groups even picked the same one (hats off to Caribou!). Here are 12 songs that were the soundtracks to these artists' summers:

Bombay Bicycle Club: "Can't Do Without You" by Caribou

"As a band that's what we've been listening to in the van a lot, but before we get on stage we get our sound engineer to put on 'Turn Down For What' and that really gets us pumped up for the gig. Then we start punching each other." -- Jack Steadman

Run The Jewels: "Criminal Minded" by Boogie Down Productions and "God Bless Our Love" by Al Green"

"I have a weird one: I have a really clear memory of going to Coney Island as a kid and hearing 'Criminal Minded.' A friend of mine had a boombox and had 'Criminal Minded' and playing it on the beach by the boardwalk. That was one of my biggest summer moments because that record changed my life in a lot of ways and I was hearing it for the first time." -- El-P

"My current jam is 'God Bless Our Love' by Al Green. Before I left for tour I'd watch my girls sleep and just play that like four times because I'm going to be gone for the next month." -- Killer Mike

Jenny Lewis: "Red Eyes" by The War On Drugs

"I could opt for Weird Al's version of 'Fancy,' but I think the song of the summer is 'Red Eyes' by the War on Drugs. That's the one."

Betty Who: "I Want To Get Better" by Bleachers

"I didn't get to see them at Lolla! I’m so sad I didn’t get to watch them ... it's just so much fun."

Fitz & The Tantrums: "Dangerous" by Big Data ft. Joywave and "Call Your Girlfriend" by Robyn

"I think my song of the summer right now may be Big Data’s 'Dangerous,' Big Data and Joywave, I should say. -- Noelle Scaggs

"I have twin 5-year-old daughters that are turning me on to music all the time. That swedish artist with 'Call Your Girlfriend' ... Robyn!" -- John Wicks

Cut Copy: "Can't Do Without You" by Caribou

"That Caribou tune. It's just killer." -- Tim Hoey

RAC: "Everywhere" by Fleetwood Mac

"I've always been into Fleetwood Mac, but this summer I got into one of their records, 'Tango In The Night.' It's so good and there's this song, 'Everywhere.' Obviously it's not some underground track, but it kind of clicked for me this summer. I've had it on repeat quite a bit." -- André Allen Anjos

Chromeo: "Pompeii" by Bastille

"But if you close your eyes!" -- David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel, singing simultaneously

Kate Nash: "Hold My Breath" by D. Wing

"Just great summer vibes."

Grouplove: "Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones

"And I've been really into silence recently, which is not that inspiring ... that's my side project." -- Hannah Hooper

7 Primaries You Should Watch This Week

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:58
WASHINGTON -- Since Congress has left town for its five-week recess and focus is turning elsewhere, this week's elections across the country will be met with an even higher level of scrutiny.

Six states have primaries over the course of six days: Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington on Tuesday; Tennessee on Thursday; and Hawaii on Saturday.

One of the Democratic Party's few competitive Senate primaries will be decided in Hawaii, while Republican Sens. Pat Roberts (Kan.) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) appear to have fended off challenges from more-conservative primary opponents.

Those accustomed to having a Rep. Dingell will probably continue having one -- John Dingell (D-Mich.), who is retiring after 59 years in Congress, will most likely be succeeded by his wife, Debbie. On the Republican side, an anti-abortion rights representative who pressured both his ex-wife and a patient who was his mistress to have abortions will see if voters have forgiven him for his hypocrisy. In another Republican race, a former Santa Claus impersonator and reindeer farmer could be booted out of Congress after just one term.

Here's a look at the key races The Huffington Post is watching:

KANSAS SENATE: In Tuesday's marquee Senate contest, Dr. Milton Wolf, a radiologist and President Barack Obama's second cousin once removed, is trying to dislodge Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). After it was revealed that Wolf in 2010 posted and mocked his patients' graphic X-ray images of fatal gunshot wounds and other injuries on a now-disabled personal Facebook page, Roberts' campaign capitalized on the controversy by running statewide television spots highlighting reports about the subsequent state medical board investigation into Wolf's conduct. Roberts has faced criticism as well; he was hit with questions about his residency after The New York Times wrote about how he owned a home in Alexandria, Virginia, but not one in Kansas. Though Roberts' approval rating took a hit after that report emerged, he is expected to prevail over Wolf, which would be a disappointment for tea party-affiliated groups like The Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund.

KANSAS-4: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) has benefited from seeking re-election where Koch Industries is based, in the backyard of billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch. Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who represented the district from 1995 to 2011, has faced attacks from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (though he once also benefited from Koch largess) and the Club for Growth, which has been sending out emails highlighting Tiahrt's "Wasteful Earmark of the Day." Tiahrt, who has a predominantly conservative voting record, has been hitting Pompeo from the left in the hopes of picking up some momentum.

MICHIGAN-3: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) appears to have weathered a primary challenge from businessman Brian Ellis. Groups like the U.S., Michigan and Grand Rapids chambers of commerce hoped to knock off one of the Republican establishment's biggest irritants by backing Ellis, while Amash's dependable conservative vote garnered him strong backing from the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. Amash's leadership in attempting to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records also won him fans across the aisle. Ellis didn't hesitate to turn the primary nasty, running ads calling Amash "Al Qaeda's best friend" and someone who “voted to allow gender-selection abortions." Recent polling shows Amash ahead by a wide margin, so the Chamber of Commerce seems destined to be stymied in this race.

MICHIGAN-11: One of the country's stranger primaries will be settled Tuesday in this suburban Detroit district. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) won almost inadvertently in 2012 after former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) failed to qualify for the Republican primary ballot and ultimately resigned his seat. Bentivolio, a former reindeer farmer and Santa Claus impersonator, has been polling poorly against attorney David Trott, Michigan's so-called "foreclosure king," who has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

TENNESSEE SENATE: In a rare Thursday primary, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is expected to survive a challenge from state Rep. Joe Carr (R). Those hoping for an upset argue there are parallels between this contest and the House primary between Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and professor David Brat: Carr -- like Brat -- has been promoted by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, and he has run television ads -- as did Brat -- attacking his opponent for supporting immigration reform. However, conservative outside groups haven't spent much on Carr's behalf, and Alexander remains popular in the state.

TENNESSEE-4: Don't count out Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.). The anti-abortion rights physician is known for having encouraged an ex-wife to have two abortions, for pressuring a patient he had an extramarital affair with to undergo the procedure and for being fined by the state's medical authorities for having affairs with patients. Yet the scandal-ridden representative could still eke out a primary victory Thursday against state Sen. Jim Tracy (R). DesJarlais, who has struggled with fundraising and who was recently diagnosed with neck cancer, has said his past is behind him, and the conservative district's voters may agree. Tracy has done all he can to resurrect the abortion scandal by running television ads arguing DesJarlais' conduct has made him an ineffective congressman.

HAWAII SENATE: A deathbed wish has had lasting implications in this Senate contest. Just before he died in 2012, popular former Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) requested that Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) to serve out the rest of his Senate term. Abercrombie instead chose his lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz (D), who on Saturday will fight to defend his seat. Schatz has picked up endorsements from Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a host of other progressive groups and unions. Hanabusa, meanwhile, has the backing of EMILY's List, a group that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. Since Hanabusa has trailed Schatz in the majority of recent polls, she worked to tie Schatz to Abercrombie, who may lose his own primary.

Malia Obama Watches Chance The Rapper At Lollapalooza (PHOTO)

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:50
Turns out R. Kelly wasn't the only famous Chicagoan to drop in on a Sunday night set from Chance The Rapper that closed out this year's Lollapalooza.

First daughter Malia Obama was spotted with three pals -- and two hulking security guards, according to the Sun-Times -- during Chance's performance.

Clad in an on-trend sunflower print romper and sporting a fresh braid, the 16-year-old easily blended in with the rest of the young crowd. Even so, a few attendees spotted the first daughter (who reportedly told several people she wasn't allowed to take pictures with them).

One intrepid audience member did get a snap with Malia in observance of the golden rule of teenage summer fun: Pics or it didn't happen.

J chillin with Malia Obama✌️

— Sarah (@cleaaaaver) August 4, 2014

James Brady, Former White House Press Secretary, Dies At Age 73

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:38
Former White House Press Secretary James Brady has died at the age of 73, according to a statement from his family.

"We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Jim 'Bear' Brady has passed away after a series of health issues," the statement said. "His wife, Sarah, son, Scott, and daughter, Missy, are so thankful to have had the opportunity to say their farewells."

Brady served as press secretary under President Ronald Reagan. In an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981, Brady was shot and left permanently disabled.

Brady became an advocate for gun control after he was shot, spending years pushing for the Brady Bill, which requires a five-day waiting period and a background check before a prospective buyer can purchase a handgun. That bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Brady's family addressed his advocacy efforts in the statement released Monday:

Jim touched the lives of so many and has been a wonderful husband, father, friend and role model. We are enormously proud of Jim's remarkable accomplishments -- before he was shot on the fateful day in 1981 while serving at the side of President Ronald Reagan and in the days, months and years that followed. Jim Brady's zest for life was apparent to all who knew him, and despite his injuries and the pain he endured every day, he used his humor, wit and charm to bring smiles to others and make the world a better place.

Over the years, Jim inspired so many people as he turned adversity into accomplishment. Whether working to prevent others from becoming victims of gun violence, mentoring his Sigma Chi brothers, or working to improve the lives of Americans with disabilities, Jim used his many talents and can-do attitude to make a difference in the lives of others. We believe with all our hearts that he did.

While we mourn the loss of our Bear, we take comfort in the time we had with him and the marked impact he had on us and so many other lives. He will forever live on in our memories and in the powerful example he set for all of us.

Brady's legacy lives on in the nonprofit organization the Brady Campaign -- made up of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence -- that pushes for gun control. Brady's wife Sarah serves as Chair of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The White House also honored Brady with a press briefing room bearing his name.

UPDATE: The Brady Campaign released the following statement on Brady's death:

We are heartbroken over the passing of James Brady. We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Sarah, and the rest of his family as we mourn the loss of our dear friend and a true American hero.

Jim never gave up fighting and never lost his trademark wit despite suffering a traumatic brain injury after being shot in 1981 by a mentally unstable young man attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Since then, he and Sarah have worked tirelessly to pass legislation that makes it harder for criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns.

Because of Jim’s hard work and the policy that bears his name—the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act—an estimated 2 million gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people have been blocked. As a result, countless lives have been saved. In fact, there are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible for saving as many lives as Jim.

Known to many as ‘Bear,’ Jim inspired millions with his strength, courage, perseverance and legendary sense of humor. He was also a great personal inspiration to me and my family. When my brother suffered a traumatic brain injury after a shooting at the Empire State Building, Jim and Sarah demonstrated that it was possible to turn a terrible tragedy into real change, and were a big part of the reason I chose to dedicate my own life to preventing gun violence.

I am deeply proud to have called Jim Brady a friend. He will be missed dearly by everyone at our organization, which proudly bears his name, and by a nation that has been made better by his life.

Jim will always remain one of our greatest inspirations as this organization continues to lead the fight for a safer America.

UPDATE -- 5:14 p.m.: President Barack Obama released the following statement on Brady's death:

Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former White House Press Secretary James Brady on his passing. Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service through the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Since 1993, the law that bears Jim’s name has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim.

Every day, reporters and White House staffers walk past a plaque marking the day in 2000 that the White House Briefing Room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It reads, “May his courage and dedication continue to inspire all who work in this room and beyond.” Those words will endure, as will his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s wife Sarah, who has been Jim’s steadfast partner in advocacy, and their children Scott and Melissa.

This story has been updated with the family's statement on Brady's death and more information on his advocacy work.

Illinois State Lawmaker LaShawn Ford Pleads Guilty To Tax Fraud

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:06
CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois state Rep. LaShawn Ford pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax fraud Monday at a federal court hearing in Chicago.

The Chicago Democrat pleaded guilty to one count of delivering a false federal income tax return for 2007 as part of a plea deal. The misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Ford had earlier pleaded not guilty to far more serious charges - eight felony counts of bank fraud and nine counts of submitting false information to the bank. But prosecutors said Monday that they would dismiss all the felony counts at Ford's sentencing on Nov. 11.

Each of the original counts carried a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and up to $1 million in fines.

A felony conviction would have resulted in Ford losing his seat in Springfield. His future in the Illinois Legislature was not immediately clear.

Prosecutors alleged that Ford made false statements to a bank to get a $500,000 increase on a line of credit starting as early as 2005.

According to prosecutors, Ford told the now-failed ShoreBank he would use the money to rehabilitate investment properties, but that he actually used the funds for expenses such as car loans, credit cards, casino payments and his 2006 election campaign.

Rauner proposes service taxes in Illinois

Mon, 2014-08-04 11:51
Unlike his opponent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner said he favors allowing the Illinois income tax to fall to 3 percent by the end of his four-year term should he win in November. Rauner also said he thinks many services in the state should be taxed just like goods. His proposed plan would add 32 professional and business service taxes. Rauner has said that taxing these services would generate more than $600 million.

These services include printing, janitorial services and many, many more.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday that part Rauner's former firm has money funneled to the Cayman Islands. The country is seen by some as an ideal spot for wealthy Americans to hold money without having to pay the same kinds of taxes they would face in the U.S. Rauner says that he was not trying to stash money (as some Democrats have suggested). A spokesperson said the candidate has met all of his legal tax and disclosure obligations.

There have been no allegations of any illegal behavior by Rauner and the Sun-Times notes the practice is common among American business people. Still, some, such as University of Illinois law professor Richard L. Kaplan, wonder why he would choose to keep offshore investments while running for governor, knowing that it might raise questions for voters about whether the candidate was trying to avoid taxes at home.

The Medical Reason You Should Never Put Your Daughter On A Diet

Mon, 2014-08-04 11:49
Women who were put on diets as young girls are more likely to struggle with obesity, alcohol abuse and disordered eating as adults, according to preliminary research presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.

"We were able to demonstrate that younger age at first diet actually predicted health problems in the future," wrote the study's principal investigator Pamela Keel in an email to The Huffington Post. If corroborated by further investigation, the findings could lead experts to consider "early dieting" as a risk factor for more serious problems, Keel explained.

The Study
Keel and team found that for each year younger at first diet, a woman's risk of these associations became stronger. For example, a woman who first dieted at age 11 would be 14 percent more likely to have an eating disorder, 79 percent more likely to abuse alcohol and 67 percent more likely to be overweight or obese by her thirties than someone who first dieted at 12 years.

Why this association exists remains an open question. Keel, a psychology professor at Florida State University, theorized that food restriction could actually affect neural pathways. "One possibility is that restricting food intake earlier in life may influence brain development in ways that alter sensitivity to rewards, like food and alcohol, that could increase risk for overconsumption and related problems in life," she said.

But like all observational studies, the research doesn't establish causation. It may be that a third factor exists, such as family dynamics or predispositions, influences both early dieting and later behavior with food and alcohol.

Keel and her team surveyed a total of 2,181 college women in 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012 about their health and dieting habits and followed up with the first three groups 10 years later. The timing of the initial surveys provided an interesting snapshot of the most popular diet trends of the era. For instance, 60 percent of the women surveyed in 1982 endorsed low-calorie diets. Ten years later, in 1992, the most commonly endorsed diet was lowfat. In 2012, the most recent survey of college women, participants were all about the low carbohydrate diet.

"The fact that no one diet remained popular across these different generations of women demonstrates that none of these diets are the 'magic bullet' to successful long-term weight loss," the study's co-author Lauren Holland, a doctoral candidate at FSU, told HuffPost. "This shows that it isn’t the type of diet that is related to unhealthy behaviors later in life, but just the act of dieting itself that is associated with unhealthy behaviors."

Of note, the average age of a woman's first diet rose with each generation: In 1982, the average woman was around 14.6 years old when she first dieted. By 2012, the average age was 15.4 years old. Additionally, as time went on, fewer women reported being on diets overall.

Family Influence
Katherine Balantekin, a dietitian and a doctoral candidate at Penn State who wasn't involved in Keel's study praised the research for pointing out that the age of the first diet is a significant predictor that women would be overweight or obese at the 10-year follow up.

During the course of her own study, Balantekin also found that girls who dieted were more likely to reach an unhealthy body mass index over time, compared to those who didn't diet. Her past research also demonstrated that, unsurprisingly, parents play a huge role in the age of a girl's first diet. Balantekin found that when moms encouraged their daughter to diet by the age of 11, the daughters were twice as likely to report dieting by 11; when both parents encouraged their daughter to diet by 11, the daughter was eight times more likely to report dieting by 11 years.

"While parents may be encouraging their daughter to diet because they are concerned about her weight status, findings from my work indicate that encouragement to diet may actually promote weight gain over time in girls who act on the encouragement and diet," wrote Balantekin in an email to HuffPost. "This is a problem given that heavier girls were more likely to report early dieting."

What Parents Can Do
But just because diets in young children can be harmful and counterproductive, that doesn't mean parents can't set boundaries when it comes to healthy eating habits, said Balantekin. Indeed, in the U.S., where more than one-third of children are overweight and obese, those boundaries are needed more than ever before.

So what's a parent to do? Skip fad diets and don't emphasize restriction, Balantekin recommended. More than anything else, parents should model healthy behaviors, like increased exercise, more fruit and vegetable consumption, and less sugar intake.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that because children are still growing and developing, the goal for most overweight and obese children shouldn't be weight loss. Rather, it's simply to reduce the rate of weight gain as they continue to grow taller.

"Children and teens should NOT be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care provider," reads the CDC site for parents.

The One Word In Everyone's Texts/Conversations Right Now

Mon, 2014-08-04 11:47
Not long after noticing friends and coworkers using "slash" in everyday conversation, I started seeing it cropping up everywhere, all the time.

Either spelled out in five characters ("slash") or just one ("/"), I saw it used to tack on subsequent ideas that could have been expressed in other, perfectly conventional ways. But they weren't.

It was invading texts, instant messages, email and even in-person dialogue. The slash was being vocalized where it might otherwise appear in written form, integrated smoothly into audible discussion. Since we aren't yet giving other punctuation the same treatment ("Hello exclamation point" still sounds odd), it didn't make much sense.

After so much time being delegated to such boring utilitarian functions as dates ("8/30/2014") and fractions ("3/4 cup"), the humble slash mark seems to be getting a linguistic makeover. Anne Curzan, professor of English at the University of Michigan, described the practice among students in her classroom last year. Since then, Curzan told me in an email, she's been studying examples of slash usage on Twitter. The most common use corresponds most closely to "and/or," but she said a fair number are "used to connect one idea to another, perhaps meaning something like 'following up' or as something like a spoken semi-colon." Still, other examples use the slash as a way to indicate "truth values for the elements it connects," Curzan explained. In other words, saying one thing when what you really mean is the next. Like saying you need to rest when what you're really planning is binge-watching TV.

Grammatically speaking, outside of its role as punctuation, the slash also functions as a "coordinator." Coordinators, also called coordinating conjunctions, include "and," "but," "or" and other words that function to link independent and dependent clauses.

English speakers are pretty comfortable with this idea, as Geoffrey Kullum, professor of linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, explained on his blog back in 2010. For example, we might invite our friend/roommate to go see "Boyhood" while planning to stuff our purse/backpack/pockets with cheap candy. Our meaning is clear. The person with whom we share a responsibility for rent is also our friend, and whatever discreet container we bring to the theater will help us avoid paying five dollars for a box of Sour Patch Kids. The slash helps us present alternative descriptions. Kullum suggested, however, that it really only makes sense in "lexical rather than phrasal categories."

Go inside Artist Adrian Nivola's Bushwick home-slash-studio:

— The Cut (@TheCut) July 31, 2014

"With clauses," he wrote, "I think there is no possibility of using it at all: consider 'I think I'm having hallucinations slash someone is playing tricks on me.' Doesn't seem like English at all, does it?" These days, many English speakers would disagree. Curzan explicitly noted that the slash can now be used to connect full clauses.

"The most interesting implication to me," she said, "is that this coordinator is expanding in use ... and taking on new meanings."

Usage guidelines are, of course, still very restrictive in formal writing. When the style guides and writers' handbooks I consulted mentioned the slash at all, they called it "rarely necessary." A 1977 edition of Theodore Bernstein's "The Careful Writer" referred to the simple "and/or" as "a visual and mental monstrosity that should be avoided."

Tell that to anyone who considers themselves a "slash DJ," to indicate their interest in the turntable arts outside of a regular nine-to-five. (Writer-slash-DJ. Financial-consultant-slash-DJ. Animal-whisperer-slash-DJ.) Or to Jezebel editor Kara Brown, who described Robin Thicke's "Paula" as the singer's "most recent album slash lame ass attempt at gaining publicity saving his marriage."

While it'd be difficult to pin down exactly why we started going slash-crazy, it sure seems to correspond nicely with our culture of digital communication. Abbreviated by a lack of time or screen space or both, our technology has allowed instant messaging to flourish, so we might make our always-important thoughts known as quickly as possible.

The slash works as a stand-in, whether written or spoken, helping the writer express multiple ideas without going through the trouble of stringing them together using appropriate grammar, or else risking a series of awkwardly short bullet-point sentences. However strange "I'm going for a run slash walk in the park" sounds to your ear, it gets across the same basic message as the much wordier alternative, "I'm going to run in the park but probably do a fair amount of walking, too, because running is hard." Using "slash" assigned more "truth value" to "walk" over "run." The slash gives us a perfect opportunity to say two or more things at once like this, especially if one or more of those things is our own unsolicited snarky commentary. ("Friendship slash rivalry." "Review slash indictment.")

In digital scenarios where time is of the essence, it might seem counterintuitive that typing "slash" in the written form would so often take the place of the shorter and equally comprehensible "and" or "or" if convenience is such a concern. So maybe it speaks, then, to our comfort with digital communication tools like keyboards and touch screens. Typing is second nature to us, and the slash is an almost mindlessly simple way to link our related thoughts. It's a match made in, um, some factory in China.

Breakfast slash lunch! Yum! @ Max's Restaurant, SM Mall of Asia

— Uriel Yu Medellin (@itsmeuriel) August 4, 2014

But will it stick around?

We can't say. To certain linguists, though, change is actually a great sign. Change means that people are using a language, and using a language keeps it healthy. (There's not a lot of new slang being formed, for example, in Latin.) But everyone owns the English language -- or, maybe, no one does -- and we're not that great at sharing. If it is, in fact, here to stay, some grammar-sticklers will undoubtedly be scandalized at the prospect of a new coordinator, which Curzan called "a category of words that doesn't often show much creativity and/or admit new members."

Top Party Schools 2014-15: Syracuse University Named No. 1 By Princeton Review

Mon, 2014-08-04 11:44
A new champion has been crowned the top party school in the nation: Syracuse University.

Breaking the long-standing tradition of large state schools being named the biggest party schools, Syracuse, a private university in New York, took the No. 1 slot in Princeton Review's annual rankings released Monday.

Syracuse moved up from No. 5 last year, dethroning the University of Iowa, which took the runner-up slot. University of California-Santa Barbara moved to No. 3, and West Virginia University held on to fourth place.

Syracuse might be pretty far north, stuck in the cold for most of the school year, but with a strong basketball team and heated rivalries there are plenty of excuses for students to party during the bitter winter.

Iowa held on to a high ranking following their first time on top in a year that featured a viral sensation around "Vodka Samm." WVU, home of celebratory couch burning, fell even further from their No. 1 ranking in 2012 despite their best efforts.

UCSB also defeated some of the dominance by colleges in colder areas from the top of the Princeton Review party school ranking by holding on to it's second place position.

The party school ranking and each of the 61 other Princeton Review lists are based on survey responses of 130,000 students at the schools. The party and sober school rankings are influenced by student answers to questions concerning the use of alcohol and drugs on their campuses, the number of hours they study each day and the popularity of the fraternity and sorority scene on campus.

Princeton Review published the lists Monday in conjunction with the release of its annual guide, "The Best 379 Colleges - 2015 Edition."

See the Princeton Review's top 12 party schools for 2014-15 in the list below:

Got photos or videos to show how hard your school parties? Send tips to

Please Don't Make Us Give Directions To Any Of These Places

Mon, 2014-08-04 11:39
You want to go where?! Well, all right. Here goes nothing.

How Two Of America's Biggest Cities Are Short-Changing Low-Income Students

Mon, 2014-08-04 09:33
In recent years, the public education systems in Philadelphia and Chicago have seen mass personnel layoffs, school closures and frequent budget crises. But a new report from the Center for American Progress shows that it does not necessarily have to be that way.

The report, released in July and written by Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker, details the inequitable education funding systems in a number of states in which the most affluent districts get the biggest share of money, leaving the neediest students with substantially less. Among the students suffering most from unfair school funding practices are those enrolled in the public schools of Philadelphia and Chicago. The research found that funding disparities have placed these two inner city districts at an extreme disadvantage, when compared to the affluent suburbs surrounding both cities.

Describing the inequalities found in many metropolitan areas across the country, the report paints a vivid picture of "affluent suburbs with big houses on tree-lined streets, palatial high schools, top-notch lacrosse and fencing teams and elite orchestras contrasted with nearby urban ghettos replete with overcrowded and crumbling schools, high crime and considerable dropout rates."

Illinois and Pennsylvania are two of the states with education funding systems plagued by these so-called "savage inequalities," or "persistent disparities in local taxable property wealth [that] continue to undermine equity in American education," according to the report. In sum, because education funding in these states comes partly from local property taxes, schools that get the least funding tend to be situated in low-income neighborhoods, where property values are the lowest. In many cases, students in these areas stand to benefit the most from ample resources.

“Fiscally disadvantaged districts are those with higher-than-average student needs for their labor-market location and lower-than-average resources when state and local revenues are combined,” the report reads. “Illinois and Pennsylvania persist in having what are among the worst savage inequalities. As a result, the cities of Chicago and Philadelphia are, year after year, the two most fiscally disadvantaged large urban districts in the nation.”

Two maps in the report show that in Illinois and Pennsylvania, having more low-income students in one area tends to mean less funding for that area's schools:

The distribution of funds to schools in Illinois is broken down below:

One does not need to look hard to see the impact this funding system has had on Chicago and Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love closed more than 20 schools last year and laid off thousands of district employees. Earlier this summer, the district was embroiled in its latest budget battle, and it remains to be seen exactly how that will end.

In early July, the School Reform Commission, the body that governs Philadelphia public schools, adopted a $2.6 billion budget; but the district does not currently know where it will get $93 million of that budget, and it's unclear whether the gap will be filled last-minute by state revenue or cuts to district personnel or programs.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in on the situation during a visit to Philadelphia in July. "This is a system that is desperately underfunded, that is starved for resources, and there is simply no upside there," he said, per The Philadelphia Inquirer. "And to see the personnel cuts, to see the after-school programs go away, the counselors, I just have a simple question: How is that good for children? How is that good for the city, or for the state, or for our nation?"

The Chicago public school district made history last year when it closed nearly 50 public schools, leaving many students to travel longer distances for their education in the notoriously violent city. The city's school board recently adopted a $6.8 billion budget for next year -- slightly higher than the previous year's allotment. However, the new budget has come under fire from critics who say a financial “gimmick” was used to balance out a deficit.

"The budget is balanced only by an accounting gimmick that allows [the district] to book more than 12 months of revenue into a single fiscal year," said a report by the Civic Federation, a government finance watchdog group.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there are also faults in the state’s education funding practices.

Just imagine if Illinois wasn’t 50th -- dead last,” Emanuel said of the state's education funding system, according to CBS Chicago. “What if they were actually doing, on a per-pupil funding, what other states are providing major cities? We wouldn’t have the type of budget deficit we have.”

However, Rutgers study author Bruce Baker said skewed school funding formulas are rarely talked about in debates about school budgets.

“We’ve kind of … taken our eye off the ball. We just don’t want to look at it, just don’t want to touch it,” Baker told HuffPost. “We want to pretend these inequities don’t matter, when that’s just a ridiculous assertion.”

Added Baker: “At face value, it would be unfair to assert that the wealthy suburbs should have that much more than the low-income kids in Philly. … That’s what we're telling Philly and Chicago they have to deal with, even though their drive is uphill and the other guys get to drive downhill.”