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Sterling And Bundy's Real Mistake Wasn't Being Racist

Thu, 2014-05-01 14:31
The problem with Cliven Bundy isn't that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist. He invokes the crudest stereotypes, like cotton picking. This makes white people feel bad. The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state's rights. Oafish racism leaves no escape hatch, as when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond's singularly segregationist candidacy.

Working the Dark Side

Thu, 2014-05-01 13:26
Ten years ago, photos of the crucifixion -- and worse -- were released to the American public. The media still call it "the Abu Ghraib scandal," as though, oops, the awkward repercussions for Team Bush were the torture photos' primary horror.

No one talks about "the Auschwitz scandal." The depth of our moral wrong has yet to be plumbed.

Ten years later . . . the hooded man with arms outstretched, electrodes attached to his fingers, revisits the national conscience. Iraq is in a shambles. The prison itself was closed in mid-April because Sunni insurgents are too much of a threat in the region. We wrecked and contaminated two countries in reckless pursuit of revenge and national interest.

Ten years later, a 6,300-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on the U.S. detention and "enhanced interrogation" program is due to be released, or partially released, at some point in the near future -- pending declassification, i.e., censorship, of its findings by the White House and even the CIA itself.

McClatchy DC, to which portions of the still-secret report were leaked, recently reported: "The investigation determined that the program produced very little intelligence of value and that the CIA misled the Bush White House, the Congress and the public about the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques, committee members have said."

In other words, the pain and degradation we inflicted on detainees -- including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, extreme stress positions, wall-slamming and so much more ("working the dark side," as Dick Cheney infamously put it) -- yielded little or no information we were actually able to use. We tortured, we strip-mined, these men and women for nothing.

While I can appreciate the irony and outrage of all this, I cringe at its superficiality. Torture's OK if it gets good stuff, like in the movies? The ends actually do justify the means, and the only "scandal" here is the inadequacy of the end results our torture program coughed up?

Here's the thing. We have no innocence in this matter. We are a nation founded on the premise that the ends justify the means. Ten years after the glaring inhumanity of the "enhanced interrogation" program went public with the release of some ghastly photos, we haven't as a nation acknowledged the depth of their revelations. We've been working the dark side all along.

A decade ago, an organization called Historians Against the War released a publication, "Torture, American Style," which addressed all this. Scapegoating and dehumanization have always been tools of the trade of statecraft. The Abu Ghraib photos do not represent a departure from the past. In them, technology finally catches up with our own eternally classified secret self and reveals it in stark relief. There's no escaping it.

Margaret Power, in her introduction to "Torture, American Style," outlines the cruelty zones the publication examines. The list is by no means exhaustive, she points out. It includes the following:

A. The U.S. prison system. "The physical, mental, and sexual abuse glimpsed at Abu Ghraib is part of the daily experience for two million people caged in American prisons," she writes. For example, here in Chicago, where I live, a police commander was convicted in 1991 of presiding over the torture of several hundred criminal suspects.

B. Vietnam. During that disastrous war, the U.S. government "imprisoned those Vietnamese it considered 'the enemy' in tiger cages, subjected them to physical abuses, deprived them of food and water, and, as if all that was not bad enough, poured lye on them to burn and scar them," Power writes.

C. Latin America. Our involvement in our "backyard" over the decades has included collusion with and training of torturers in both military and police forces in many of the countries south of our border. The notorious School of the Americas has long stood as a symbol of such involvement.

D. Slavery. Remember that? It was a way of life in the United States for a long time, and even after it ended, the dehumanization and repression of African-Americans continued. Lynchings were so common in the South they inspired a song, "Strange Fruit," which Billie Holiday turned into a soul-haunting hit.

There's a lot more darkness in the American past than this, of course, but it's enough for now. Ten years, ten years. I think again of the man in the black hood, covered with a black blanket, standing precariously on a box with his arms outstretched in terrifying imitation of a crucifixion. The man's pain is palpable. This is our enemy.

"Some believe that those who torture do so simply to extract information from the captured enemy," Power wrote. "This is not entirely true, as the examples of Abu Ghraib, the tiger cages in Vietnam, and the treatment of slaves and prisoners in this country show so clearly. Torture is used to degrade, humiliate, and destroy both the individual who is being abused and members of his or her community who care about and feel connected to the victim of torture. It is a weapon used by those in power to maintain themselves in power."

Ten years ago, we finally had a clear look at ourselves. That's the beginning of salvation.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at

Washington Wizards' Dynamic Backcourt Duo Of John Wall And Bradley Beal Is Making Waves

Thu, 2014-05-01 11:15
Before the Washington Wizards captured Game 5 in Chicago on Tuesday to close out their first-round playoff victory, the Wizards hadn't won a postseason series in nine years. And it was just their third playoff series win since their last appearance in the NBA Finals … in 1979. A lottery spot during the NBA Draft was something of an annual tradition for the Wizards.

But now, thanks to a wonderfully talented young backcourt, the team finds itself an upstart in the not-so-scary-after-all Eastern Conference. John Wall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, and Bradley Beal, drafted third overall in 2013, have both taken the next steps in their young careers.

For Wall, the question has never been about his natural gifts -- they are limitless -- but rather his winning demeanor and how much he cared. The role of a point guard is to be an extension of his head coach. For much of his career, Wall flashed greatness but overshadowed it too often with turnover-riddled play and errant shot selection. He also couldn't extend the defense, because he couldn't shoot. All of that started to change during the second half of last season, but his improvement this season has been even more impressive. The 23-year-old averaged career-bests in points (19.3), assists (8.8) and perhaps most impressively, three-point percentage, up from 27 to 35 percent. In the series against Chicago, he played excellent one-on-one defense against D.J. Augustin, who shot 11-50 with the exception of a breakout Game 2. Offensively, Wall proved even better. The first-time All-Star, while inconsistent shooting the basketball, led the team to four wins by cutting down his turnover rate and greatly increasing his assist-to-turnover ratio; the true mark of a growing floor general.

"I think me just playing with people that wanna win and know the game being with me helped my IQ," Wall recently told's Scoop Jackson. "It's changed a whole lot. How I'm reading and seeing the game now. … I've changed a whole lot, man. I've grown a lot, matured."

For all his growth however, Wall desperately needed to be flanked in the backcourt by another robust talent. And Beal, not surprisingly, has been just that. Throughout the draft process, the silky shooting 6-foot-5 guard was often compared to Ray Allen. Such lofty expectations are challenging to meet, but Beal has done his best to show why they were set so high. Only 20 years old, the guard out of Florida has displayed a sterling scoring ability (his 17 points per game rank second only to Wall), and dynamic playmaking in the open floor. Better yet, as a knockdown shooter who converts over 40 percent from distance (tied for 20th best in the league), Beal has become an ideal floor-spacer for the naturally attacking Wall. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he's also improved his efficiency in the half-court from his rookie year.

In Game 2 against Chicago, Beal became just the 10th player age 20 or younger to score at least 25 points in a playoff game, joining names like Magic Johnson (twice), Carmelo Anthony (twice) and Kobe Bryant.

"This year, he’s more mature already," Wizards head coach Randy Wittman told The Washington Post. "I think he’s added to his game and he can do more off the dribble, get to the free throw line. He’s just not a spot up three-point shooter. … I think those are the strides that we’ve seen, as well as we’ve talked about John’s first couple of years in the league and what he’s done. If those guys stay committed in continuing to improve their games as they move forward, we’ve got a lot to be excited about.”

Both Wall and Beal are improving defenders and excellent athletes who possess different skill sets that play off of one another very well. Look around the league and you will find a cadre of young guys in the backcourt with unbridled potential. And yet, none -- not even Golden State's duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson -- appear to have the same cohesion and potential as the pair in Washington. Wall will continually need to fight the image that he's more pizazz than substance, and Beal must further his driving ability in the half-court, but for the first time in a long time (sorry Gilbert), the future of pro basketball seems awfully bright in D.C.

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

Even Opponents Of Legal Marijuana Wouldn't Call The Cops On A Pot-Smoking Neighbor

Thu, 2014-05-01 10:26
At least half of Americans support legalizing marijuana, recent polls have shown. But even among Americans who think the drug should be illegal, few are so strongly opposed that they would report a pot-smoking neighbor to the police.

According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, Americans support legalizing marijuana by a margin of 50 percent to 32 percent. But the number of people who would call the cops on a neighbor is much lower than that. Only 16 percent said they would report their neighbor to the police if they saw that person smoking marijuana in their home or yard, while 70 percent said they wouldn't do that.

Even Americans who think marijuana should be illegal were unlikely to take that step. Among opponents of legalized pot, only 34 percent said they would call the police on their neighbor for smoking weed, while 47 percent said they would not. And although Republicans oppose legalizing marijuana by a 53 percent to 29 percent margin, they also said by a 56 percent to 27 percent margin that they wouldn't call the police on their neighbor for smoking it.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of legalization supporters said they would not call the police on a neighbor for smoking marijuana -- although a 7 percent minority must really hate their neighbors, saying they would call the police even though they think the drug should be legal.

Overall, the 16 percent of Americans who said they would call the police on their neighbor for smoking pot was fewer than the number that would report a neighbor for playing loud music late at night (31 percent) or even for letting their dog run around the neighborhood off a leash (25 percent). By contrast, 80 percent said they would call the police if they suspected someone in the house was being physically abused.

Americans were somewhat more likely to say they would call the police if their neighbor was growing marijuana in their home or yard than if they were merely enjoying it there. Even then, though, only 34 percent said they would report it, while 48 percent said they would not.

But this, it seems, is where opponents of marijuana legalization draw the line in terms of turning a blind eye to their neighbors' activities. Proponents of legalization said by a 70 percent to 14 percent margin that they would not call the police over a neighbor growing marijuana, while opponents said by a 63 percent to 23 percent margin that they would. And while most Democrats and independents would look the other way if their neighbor were growing weed, Republicans said by a 52 percent to 31 percent margin that they would not.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted April 24-25 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.

55 Colleges Face Sexual Assault Investigations

Thu, 2014-05-01 10:22
Facing mounting pressure from lawmakers, sexual assault survivors and activists, the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday released for the first time a comprehensive list of colleges and universities under Title IX investigation.

Fifty-five higher education institutions are currently under review by the department's Office for Civil Rights for allegedly mishandling sexual assault and harassment on campus in violation of the gender equity law Title IX.

"We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights," Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in a statement. "We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue. I also want to make it clear that a college or university's appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law."

Women who have filed complaints leading to such investigations have long criticized the Education Department for shielding schools under investigation and for not providing enough transparency on the reviews. Prior to the list's release, the department only confirmed when a school was under review upon request, which usually resulted from disclosure by a complainant or the school. The department has typically released information about an investigation after a resolution has been reached.

A bipartisan group of 39 members of Congress in January joined the criticisms, calling for the department to end the "guessing game" about which colleges are under investigation.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also expressed concern about keeping the investigations under wraps, telling The Huffington Post in April, "I think some questions need to be asked about what is the value of keeping these investigations closed until they have been concluded."

As stipulated Tuesday in a report from the White House Task Force on College Sexual Assault, the OCR will update the list regularly and make it available to the public upon request. Title IX complaints involving sexual violence cases shot up from 17 in Fiscal Year 2012, to 30 in 2013 and 37 in the first half of FY 2014 alone.

The Huffington Post previously tracked all colleges known to be under Title IX review. If a college was not on the list, it was because the complainant, the school or the federal government had not disclosed that an investigation was underway.

Survivors applauded the move but want to ensure the department is still taking steps to protect the anonymity of survivors so they don't face retaliation on campus by peers or administrators.

"It's a great first step towards transparency, but we hope that there will be an increased effort on behalf of the OCR to also support those that are filing complaints," Andrea Pino, a complainant against UNC-Chapel Hill and co-founder of End Rape on Campus, told HuffPost. "Announcing an investigation can open survivors to retaliation, and it's important that the OCR also take emphasis on providing survivors an option to opt out of having their investigation announced if it could endanger them, especially in small institutions where anonymity is less of an option."

A group of student activists under the name of Ed Act Now were denied a complete list of Title IX investigations underway when they met with the Education Department in 2013, according to Alexandra Brodsky, co-founder of the survivor advocacy group Know Your IX.

Brodsky, who helped spark an investigation of Yale University when she filed complaint in 2011, said the department's reasons for withholding the information varied from taking too long to put documents together to worries about hurting a university's reputation too much. She called the release Thursday an "exciting" development that shows the White House task force has listened to student demands.

"It allows the public to hold schools accountable, it allows us to hold the Education Department accountable when we see a school being under investigation for years with no conclusion," Brodsky said.

If a college is found to be in violation of Title IX after a federal investigation, it often leads to some form of a resolution with the Education Department, which can entail rewriting policies, requiring staffing changes or other mandates. In some cases, the Education Department can refer the matter to another agency, such as the Department of Justice, or move to cut off a school from all federal funding. No higher education institution has ever lost federal funding due to Title IX violations.

The list of colleges and universities under federal Title IX investigation for alleged mishandling of sexual assault and harassment on campus appears below the map.

  • Arizona State University

  • Butte-Glen Community College District

  • Occidental College

  • University of California-Berkeley

  • University of Southern California

  • Regis University

  • University of Colorado at Boulder

  • University of Colorado at Denver

  • University of Denver

  • University of Connecticut

  • Catholic University of America

  • Florida State University

  • Emory University

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • University of Idaho

  • Knox College

  • University of Chicago

  • Indiana University-Bloomington

  • Vincennes University

  • Boston University

  • Emerson College

  • Harvard College

  • Harvard Law

  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst

  • Frostburg State University

  • Michigan State University

  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

  • Guilford College

  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

  • Minot State University

  • Dartmouth College

  • Princeton University

  • City University of New York - Hunter College

  • Hobart & William Smith Colleges

  • Sarah Lawrence College

  • State University of New York at Binghamton

  • Denison University

  • Ohio State University

  • Wittenberg University

  • Oklahoma State University

  • Carnegie Mellon University

  • Franklin & Marshall College

  • Pennsylvania State University

  • Swarthmore College

  • Temple University

  • Vanderbilt University

  • Southern Methodist University

  • University of Texas-Pan American

  • College of William & Mary

  • University of Virginia

  • Washington State University

  • University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

  • Bethany College

  • West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Chicago Police Plan Surge In Street Patrols To Combat Violence

Thu, 2014-05-01 09:50
CHICAGO (AP) — With the number of shootings in Chicago already climbing with the temperatures, police are being dispatched by the hundreds on overtime to high-crime neighborhoods, parks, public housing buildings and other spots around the city to combat the spike in crime that comes every summer.

"The summer months is our busy season ... and we have to ramp up our response to violence in the city," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press. McCarthy said that the effort, called "Summer Surge," is similar to what he did last summer when as many as 400 officers working overtime were sent to high-crime areas every day, an expensive initiative that helped drive the cost of police overtime to $100 million last year. That effort won widespread praise as a big reason why the number of homicides dropped to 415 — still tops in the nation but nearly 90 fewer than were recorded in 2012.

McCarthy has said he doesn't expect to spend that much money on overtime this year, but the City Council has set aside about $70 million for overtime and McCarthy said that Mayor Rahm Emanuel "has made it very clear if we need more overtime for more initiatives, he will find a way to fund it."

This year, he said, the Chicago Transit Authority, the city's Park District and the Chicago Housing Authority will help pay for the overtime for the officers, with the department saying that more than 100 additional offices will be assigned to those spots on weekdays, with more than 200 more officers assigned there on weekends and more than 300 additional officers assigned there on holiday weekends throughout the summer.

Though the department has been planning this effort long before the spring, Wednesday's announcement comes after three consecutive weekends in which at least 30 people were shot and at least 16 people were killed. Among those were a woman who was shot to death in front of her home after attending a fundraiser for an anti-violence group and a 14-year-old girl who was shot and killed Monday, allegedly by another 14-year-old girl on the city's South Side in what police say was a fight over a boy.

In that case, more details emerged during a court hearing for one of three people arrested after Monday's shooting of Endia Martin. The Cook County State's Attorney's office said prosecutors alleged that 25-year-old Donnell Flora got on a bus and delivered a handgun at his niece's request, knowing that she was going to be involved in a fight. Flora allegedly took the gun after his niece shot Endia in the back and another girl in the arm, and attempted unsuccessfully to discard it.

Flora is, like his niece, charged with murder. A third suspect, another juvenile, is also in custody charged in connection with the shooting.

McCarthy said the case provides a "classic example of the cycle of violence... that exemplifies what we are up against," explaining that Flora is a known gang member who did not cooperate with investigators after a shooting in 2010 left him in a wheelchair.

McCarthy, who has long complained about the ease with which illegal guns find their way into the city and into the hands of people willing to shoot them, said investigators were still trying to determine how the gun that was reported stolen from a car on the city's South Side two weeks ago made its way to a street.

To help break the cycle of violence, McCarthy said the department has expanded its "custom notifications" effort launched last year in which officers knock on the doors of gang members to warn them — and their family members — that the shooting has to stop. This effort, which includes giving gang members information about social services and even includes setting up meetings with the parents of murder victims, has been expanded throughout the city.

McCarthy said what was a pilot program when it started last year is now the largest initiative of its kind in the United States.

Veterans Still Can't Discuss Medical Marijuana With Their VA Doctors

Thu, 2014-05-01 09:08
On Wednesday evening, the House voted down an amendment that would allow veterans the opportunity to discuss medical cannabis as a form of treatment in states that have legalized the substance for medical purposes.

Introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the amendment would have altered the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to allow qualified veterans easier access to medical cannabis in the 21 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana.

The Department of Veterans Affairs currently bans physicians from recommending state-legal medical marijuana to veteran patients.

Blumenauer’s amendment wouldn't have allowed VA doctors to prescribe or provide medical marijuana to veteran patients, but it would have allowed for the physicians to have open discussions with their patients and kept VA funding from being used to implement medical marijuana prohibition. The amendment text, via Blumenauer's office, read:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement Veterans Health Administration directive 2011-004 with respect to the prohibition on "VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program."

The amendment was killed by a 225-195 vote. However, Blumenauer said that despite the loss, the vigorous debate and close vote was a signal that progress was being made on medical marijuana issues.

"There was a spirited and very strong floor debate in support of the amendment," Blumenauer said. "The move toward making marijuana reform less of a partisan issue was underscored as there were more Republicans voting for the amendment than Democrats voting against. And, with probable votes of members who were absent, it’s very likely the vote total in favor or my amendment would’ve been 200 or more."

Twenty-two Republicans joined the 173 Democrats who voted in favor of the amendment, while 18 Democrats joined the majority of Republicans who voted against it.

"It’s inexplicable and inexcusable that VA doctors can’t answer their patients’ questions and give their best advice," Blumenauer added.

The VA estimates that as many as 20 percent of soldiers who recently served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to The Associated Press. Scientists have speculated that marijuana could help veterans suffering from PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression.

Earlier this year, the federal government signed off on a historic study looking at marijuana as a treatment for veterans with PTSD. The study will examine the effects of five different potencies of smoked or vaporized cannabis on 50 veterans suffering from PTSD.

Currently, there are nine states that allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for PTSD-related symptoms.

How To Never Get Hangry Ever Again

Thu, 2014-05-01 07:48
Hanger, the treacherous combo of hunger and anger, is no joke. If you're one of those people who always seems to be hangry, you know it can make you super irritable and ruin a perfectly good day. You can blame your hanger on low blood sugar -- a drop in your sugar, or glucose, levels means a drop in your energy and self-control, fueling those moody, food-seeking binges.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) even linked being hangry to a rise in aggression amongst spouses, specifically when a spouse's blood sugar/glucose levels were too low. Or, as Vox put it, "low blood sugar makes you a monster."

Fortunately, hanger can be stopped. The Huffington Post reached out to registered dietitian and blogger Dawn Jackson Blatner for a few tips on warding off hanger.

As the research from the spousal study tied being hangry to dipping levels of glucose (a type of sugar), we wondered if simply eating snacks from this list of glucose-rich foods could be a quick solution. Could ketchup packets be used as a hanger super cure?

Unfortunately, no (and luckily, Blatner dissuaded us before we tried it out). The key: snacks. But there are right snacks and wrong snacks.

Despite the lack of glucose, don't just stuff your mouth with sugar to fight off hanger.

Simple carbohydrates, or simple sugars, are broken down quickly by the body, meaning you won't stay satisfied for long. So what should you do if you feel hanger coming toward you like a wrecking ball, hours before your next real meal?

Eat the right snacks, specifically ones with a combination of...

"High water content and fiber for fullness," notes Blatner. Focus on fiber.

These are the foods with "staying power," she notes. Check out "healthy proteins."

Here are a few combinations Blatner specifically suggested:

Mango + Pistachios

Apple + Almonds

Bananas + Walnuts

Cherry Tomatoes + String Cheese

But Blatner also notes that you shouldn't just wait for the hanger to hit you to start problem solving. Before you get to the tipping point where snacks are required, you can take some preventive measures. Extinguishing the hanger fire unfortunately isn't as easy as "stop, drop and roll" (although hangry people may feel like collapsing and rolling on the ground), so instead, focus on timing your meals to avoid the feeling altogether.

Blatner says it's important to consider food "ratios," or choosing meals that are going to keep you full and prevent you from the dreaded sugar crash. In her words:

Aim for balanced meal ratios. Each meal should have protein, whole grains and colorful produce with healthy fat. When you eat this way, energy and fuel are like a time-released vitamin, slowly trickling into your system for hours. When you don't eat balanced ratios, energy levels are more like a roller coaster of a quick up and crash down. This works for satisfaction and energy because the grains give immediate fuel/energy, protein and fat have staying power, and the water and fiber in the vegetables give fullness and much-needed vitamins and minerals.

Timing is also critical, says Blatner. If you plan three solid meals roughly four to six hours apart into your day, then you're well on your way. As she explains, "meal-skipping or going too long between meals is why you see hangry people!" So don't skip meals or you're going to have a hangry time.

Image background for "Protein" slide: Flickr user mrlins. All other images Getty unless otherwise noted.

7 Gripes I Have With The World

Thu, 2014-05-01 05:50
Life, overall, is pretty sweet. Aging turns out not to be the demon I feared. Largely, I'm happy and healthy and know how to throw the car in reverse for those times when I'm not. But on a recent nasty commute home, I thought of 7 things that would so sincerely improve life for midlifers (at least this midlifer):

1. Enough with the tip jars.
I'm an original member of the Big Tippers Club. I like good service and believe that rewarding it encourages it. I'm less interested in my waiter's name than I am his knowledge of the menu but nevertheless, I believe that competence is worth tipping. I also understand that restaurant owners have convinced us that it's our responsibility to make up the difference when they underpay their staff.

What I don't understand is tip jars. What "service" is being provided exactly? No one is refilling my water glass, replacing my fork when I drop it, asking me if everything is OK. All they are doing is, well, the job they were hired to do at the salary they agreed to do it for.

I encountered a tip jar recently at a taffy shop in Newport Beach, California. When you walk in the store, you take a little basket and fill it with as much taffy as you want. Then you bring it to the one cashier who weighs it and tells you how much you owe. What service did this unsmiling clerk who couldn't muster so much as a "thank you" think I should be tipping her for? Yet there was a tip jar with a little happy face on it and a couple of bills sticking out to shame you into feeding it. What exactly is the difference between tipping Miss Un-smiley Face and tipping the guy in the 7-Eleven when I buy a quart of milk? Same exact principle.

2. Starbucks needs an express lane.
I understand that Starbucks is selling you a lifestyle, not a cup of coffee. They basically are charging you rent for parking at a table with your laptop for an hour and sipping your overpriced drink that went cold long ago. I'm actually OK with the overpriced part -- it is what it is -- but I don't ever get to linger.

I catch my coffee on-the-go, usually when I'm running late and didn't have time to make it myself at home. On those days, I would like the barista to actually hustle it up a bit. No need to greet me, ask me how I'm doing, inquire if the sun is out, etc.

Starbucks needs to recognize that not everyone comes in for the community. Some of us are there for the caffeine. An express lane that gets you in and out in under five minutes, please.

3. Free shipping (both ways) should be the law.
I love for many reason,s but chief among them is that they offer free shipping both ways. I order multiple pairs of the same shoes in different sizes and send back the ones that don't fit. I have availed myself of this service so often that my UPS driver claims if I actually knew my shoe size, he'd be out of a job.

4. Parking should be a right, not a privilege.
Neighborhoods should not be allowed to issue permits to residents and then tell the rest of us tough noogies. Unless those residents want to take on the costs of street repairs and street cleaning, I want to be able to park there. They bought a house, not the public street in front of it.

5. All beaches must be free and accessible.
This is actually a variation on neighborhoods that issue parking permits to residents. Good for you for being able to afford a beachfront house. Please don't assume you own the beach, though. I want to be able to put my blanket down on the sand right next to your deck and if you don't like it, I think what should be moved is your deck not my blanket.

Where the real crime comes in, though, is when storms mess things up for you around the old homestead and then you come crying to the rest of us taxpayers to help you out.

I'll go one better: Why shouldn't everyone just be able to drive up, park and walk out on the beach? I hate paying $12 to park at a California state beach. I pay enough in taxes to maintain the beaches. Charging high fees like that accomplishes just one thing: it means the families for whom $12 is a lot of money can't come to the beach.

6. Hotels need to stop charging those silly resort fees.
A hotel recently charged us $25 a day as a resort fee. The place wasn't actually a resort and the fee, they explained was for "free" WiFi, "free" self-parking and a "free" daily newspaper that we had to go to the front desk to retrieve. Since we were paying $25 a day for it, I'm not sure why they considered it free. And had we said we didn't care about the WiFi, were fine parking in the street, and that they could keep the newspaper, would the fee have been waived? Nuh-uh. My husband says the fee was also for "breathing the air in the room."

If a hotel wants to charge more, just raise the room rate instead of burying an extra bite in the fine print. Tell me the price upfront and let me decide if your hotel is worth it to me.

7. Memorials on the road.
I am sorry for the pain survivors experience when a loved one dies in a car accident. But what exactly is accomplished by erecting a makeshift memorial on the side of the road? How is marking the spot of death a way of remembering a life? Isn't a cemetery or scattering ashes along the deceased's favorite lake a more fitting place for a memorial?

I admit that handmade roadside memorials -- crosses, flowers, photos of the deceased in happier times -- kind of creep me out. I don't like to think that I am standing right next to where the angel of death visited. So yeah, this one may just be me, but I don't think these memorials serve as a reminder to slow down or don't drink and drive. To me, it feels more like grieving survivors are struggling. And I'm not sure that dealing with that grief in a roadside memorial honors the dead or helps the living.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

How Much Fracking Will Remain Unregulated in Illinois?

Wed, 2014-04-30 18:59
Fracking has begun in Illinois. Governor Pat Quinn's Department of Natural Resources issued a permit for a test well at a site where oil fracking is planned. The well isn't subject to Illinois fracking rules due to loopholes in the law passed last year.

By utilizing methods that require a lower volume of water, and exploiting other loopholes, oil frackers can avoid new regulation. As Illinois State University emeritus professor William Rau writes, that will deny the state tax revenue from those operations, along with other consequences.

Public notice requirements, baseline water testing, insurance provisions, modest environmental protections and setbacks, earthquake mitigation, bans on open pit storage of frack waste water, etc., are all gone. Illinois will become the wild and woolly west of fracking.
The public doesn't yet know how much horizontal fracking will occur outside compliance with the law. Illinois residents are facing a major public safety crisis and state politicians don't seem to notice.

Opposition continues as people learn more about the inadequacy of a law that was written behind closed doors and rushed through the legislature with very little public scrutiny. A recent day of action saw citizens in Chicago and southern Illinois bring accountability to those responsible for the dangerously weak fracking law.

"For sale" signs were placed at the campaign office of state representative Mike Bost, who co-sponsored the law while claiming it would "keep our air clean, protect our water supply and maintain our environment." In fact, the law contains no provisions to limit toxic air emissions that harm the health of those living nearby.

Bost is running for U.S. Congress in Illinois' 12th district. Like many legislators, he mistakenly believed the fracking law was a consensus issue. Now, he's confronted with the reality of people in his district outraged at seeing the law-making and rule-making process up for sale to the oil and gas industry.

Anna, Illinois resident Tabitha Tripp said:

People want clean renewable and sustainable jobs. Illinoisans will be left holding the tab when the boom and bust cycle of fracking and dirty extraction is gone. Politicians like Mike Bost are stuck in the last century. They need to get with it.

In Chicago, a "tour de frackers" visited offices of politicians and organizations responsible for bringing the fracking crisis to Illinois. A notice of violation against people and our environment was issued to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which spent over $20,000 to mislead voters about a fracking ballot referendum in rural Johnson county.

Next, the Heartland Institute was cited for producing embarrassingly offensive attacks against the scientific reality of climate change. And of course, they stopped at the offices of Governor Pat Quinn, who bragged of bringing fracking to Illinois to create jobs and solve the state budget problem.

Quinn isn't bragging about his fracking law anymore. He clearly wishes the issue would go away as he faces frequent public embarrassment during a difficult re-election campaign. But, environmentalists and many southern Illinois residents aren't going to forget Quinn's betrayal before election day. He'll have to stop fracking if he hopes to win back their support.

Historic Mansion Is Shockingly Cheap -- But There's A Big Catch

Wed, 2014-04-30 16:50
An elegant suburban Chicago mini-mansion has hit the market at an almost shockingly low price. But, of course, there's something of a catch.

The Hiram B. Scutt Museum in Joliet, Illinois was built in 1882 and designed by architect James Weese for Scutt, who held a number of early patents for barbed wire. The three-story, 4,960-square-foot red-brick mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been listed at $159,000 after the property was foreclosed on.

The Hiram B. Scutt Museum in Joliet. (Anna Aaron)

The home has something of a dark history, however, and some say it is haunted. In 2004, a 19-year-old man named Steven Jenkins was fatally shot during a party in the home. A few years later, a John Wilkes Booth impersonator named Seth Magosky bought the home and died suddenly there in 2007, just six months after he began work on turning the mansion into a Victorian museum, Patch's Joseph Hosey reports.

Real estate agent Marcia C. Cronin told Patch an energy reader she had come to the home said it was not haunted, but paranormal investigators who have flocked to the mansion over the years would likely disagree. One paranormal group claims the spirits of children, as well as the home's two original owners, can be encountered there.

Inside a parlor room of the home in 2012, when the mansion was still decked out in a Victorian style. (Anna Aaron)

Spiritual observer and psychic reader Edward Shanahan also wrote in 2010 on his Chicago Paranormal and Spiritual blog that the mansion, which also came to be known as "Barb Villa," is very haunted and pointed to compelling videos from multiple paranormal groups as alleged proof.

The home's third floor "doll room" has allegedly been a particular hotspot of paranormal activity.

Inside the mansion's infamous "doll room" in 2012. (Anna Aaron)

Another look inside the "doll room" in 2012. (Anna Aaron)

Whether there's any truth to the haunted rumors, we're thankful all those dolls are out of there today, as evidenced by the listing's photos -- even if we still can't get their creepy little faces out of our heads.

Is It Time for Term Limits in Illinois?

Wed, 2014-04-30 16:39

A proposal from Illinois' top two GOP lawmakers to have a constitutional amendment instituting term limits for the executive branch on the November ballot failed to make it out of the Illinois Senate this week. But while that was going on, a citizen-led and Bruce Rauner-backed initiative to institute legislative term limits was approved by the Illinois State Board of Elections and placed on the November ballot.

All of this raises the question, should Illinois have term limits for our politicians? We have a survey where you can make your view on the topic heard.


And if you're curious about this week's stories, we have a roundup on them plus a look at the shelving of a progressive income tax amendment by the measure's sponsor.


The Most Racist Part Of Donald Sterling's Legacy Can't Be Solved With A Lifetime Ban

Wed, 2014-04-30 16:27
LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life on Tuesday after he was caught on tape saying he didn't want his girlfriend bringing black people to games.

But as ESPN host Bomani Jones eloquently pointed out, this is hardly the worst act of racism that has been attributed to Sterling -- that title goes to his alleged acts of housing discrimination, for which he was sued twice, in 2003 and 2006, the second time by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The first suit, brought by 19 tenants with the help of the nonprofit Housing Rights Center, accused Sterling of forcing blacks and Latinos out of his rental properties, and ended in a confidential settlement in 2005. The second accused him of refusing to rent to African-Americans in Beverly Hills and to non-Koreans in LA's Koreatown. It ended in a record $2.725 million payout to the Justice Department. Sterling denied wrongdoing in both cases.

The charges made against Sterling were stomach-turning. In response to the 2003 suit, one of his property supervisors testified that Sterling said all blacks "smell" and are "not clean," that he wanted to "get them out" of his properties to preserve his image, and that he harassed tenants and refused to make repairs until they were forced to leave, according to depositions obtained by ESPN The Magazine.

But as alarming as the claims against Sterling are, housing discrimination as a practice is alive and well in America, and can't be solved with something as simple as a lifetime ban.

"For individuals and families, it limits their housing choices, it dictates where you can and cannot live, and that means limited access to other opportunities: educational opportunities, employment opportunities, health care services, other amenities," Fred Freiberg, director of the nonprofit Fair Housing Justice Center, told HuffPost. "It sustains and enforces patterns of racial segregation and poverty concentration, and it creates a whole host of inequalities that we could, frankly, do without."

A 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that overall, minority home-seekers are still told about and shown fewer units than white applicants. In a series of paired tests in 28 metropolitan areas across the country, HUD compared the treatment of a non-white person and of a white person of the same gender and qualifications when each applied for an apartment. The study found that, compared to whites, Blacks were told about 11.4 percent fewer rental units and shown 4.2 percent fewer; Hispanics were told about 12.5 percent fewer and shown 7.5 percent fewer; and Asians were told about 9.8 percent fewer and shown 6.6 percent fewer.

The authors of the study cautioned that their findings have probably understated the problem -- and Freiberg pointed out a number of the study's blind spots in a 2013 response. For one thing, the study only focused on publicly advertised housing. These days, Freiberg says, housing providers looking to discriminate might just rely on word of mouth, or advertise only on websites or in newspapers that target certain ethnic or religious groups. Another issue is that the study only looked at who was shown more units -- in some cases, the minority home-seeker might be shown a greater number of apartments, but only those located in minority neighborhoods.

The government did make an effort to ban housing discrimination with the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act (the law that Sterling was sued for violating). But as ProPublica's Nikole Hannah Jones found in a 2012 investigation, the government has repeatedly failed to punish communities that violate the law.

And even though it's been nearly 50 years since the Fair Housing Act was adopted, segregation is still a reality in American cities. A 2010 analysis of census data by Brown University found:

With only one exception (the most affluent Asians), minorities at every income level live in poorer neighborhoods than do whites with comparable incomes. Disparities are greatest for the lowest income minorities, and they are much sharper for blacks and Hispanics than for Asians. Affluent blacks and Hispanics live in poorer neighborhoods than whites with working class incomes. There is considerable variation in these patterns across metropolitan regions. But in the 50 metros with the largest black populations, there is none where average black exposure to neighborhood poverty is less than 20 percent higher than that of whites, and only two metros where affluent blacks live in neighborhoods that are less poor than those of the average white.

Bottom line: Donald Sterling's racism has been roundly rejected by everyone from Snoop Dogg to the president -- but when it comes to everyday acts of insidious, life-ruining racism, there are many more like him out there.

Disaster Capitalism Takes On Chicago

Wed, 2014-04-30 15:58
Whether it is union organizing, the mafia, gang violence, riots, police brutality or race relations, Chicago has a long history when it comes to violent behavior.

Despite what most media outlets worldwide have been saying, violence in the Windy City isn't exactly breaking news.

Over the Easter holiday weekend, 45 people were shot. The count includes six children. One of those kids, Tymisha Washington, begged for her life, according to DNAinfo Chicago.

"Please don't let me die. I'm only 11 years old. Don't let me die," she told a neighbor.

Predictably, the mayor and the police, along with the people in the communities where the violence is happening, are asking themselves what can be done to stop the violence.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel questioned the values of the people who are hurting their communities with violence.

"It's whether you have values. Values do not matter only in warm weather," the mayor told reporters. "They matter every day."

The mayor is correct in questioning the values of gangbangers, drug dealers and such. However, some of his own "values" can be questioned as well.

Last week, the mayor called a press conference announcing plans to build a college prep high school named after President Obama. The proposed site, which is near where the Cabrini Green Housing Projects once stood, is less than one mile from Walter Payton College Prep.

One can ask why yet another college prep high school is being built north of Roosevelt Road.

The placement of the school is yet another slap in the face to the city's African-American community.

Why can't a school named after the nation's first African-American president reside in the neighborhoods he represented in the state senate? Or nearby where he was a community organizer?

The moves the mayor is making can get people thinking about a term called disaster capitalism.

Disaster capitalism occurs when profits are generated based on the occurrence of a disaster.

Some might say that public housing, along with public education, has been an abject failure in our city. A colleague of mine went as far as to say that "The North Side gets college preps while the South Side gets charters."

Are all options exhausted when the mayor makes these decisions regarding the city?

"Boots on the ground" might be a term that most Chicagoans will have to get familiar with.

Some say the National Guard should get involved to quell the violence. That won't work. Just like the Shiites and Sunnis in the Middle East, the people here won't stop the violence because the military says so. How is a kid from downstate going to know the difference between a gangbanger and a law-abiding citizen? All the mistakes that the military made during Operation Iraqi Freedom will most likely be repeated if the National Guard is brought to Chicago.

After all, we've already seen how that turned out.

The problems the city is having are systemic in nature. These problems will not go away overnight.

Some say the lack of jobs is at the root of the violence. That is a plausible argument. For instance, look no further than the east side of the city where the steel mills once were. When an industry goes down, so does the neighborhood.

For that reason alone, Chicagoans should lay off the Detroit jokes. That might be us if we don't get our s--t together.

Substandard education, the lack of political power and minimal resources are other reasons people like to use when getting to the bottom of the city's problems. However, these conversations are starting to get redundant.

Remember, the city's citizens have had this conversation in the past when things were worst.

According to a 1998 article written in the Chicago Tribune:

"Since 1965, Chicago averaged 768 murders each year. In 1988, the number dropped to 660, but then rose steadily until it reached 940 in 1992, second only to the total in 1974, when 970 were slain. That 1992 figure was even more distressing because, in 1974, the population of the city was significantly larger."

Even though there were more murders way back when, the shootings these days get more attention because of the amount of children shot.

Especially ones from African-American communities.

According to a study done by the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago Research Center, during the years of 2000 to 2010, over 29,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 0 and 19, were killed by a firearm in the United States. The study goes on to say:

"For intentional non-fatal firearm injuries due to assault, black children and adolescents in Chicago are 21 times more likely than whites to be hospitalized and 15 times more likely to visit the ED. For unintentional non-fatal firearm injuries, black children and adolescents in Chicago are 23 times more likely than whites to be hospitalized and 19 times more likely to visit the ED."

Mayor Emanuel may have had all the best intentions when he participated in the docuseries Chicagoland. He knows what certain images can do. The show has scenes of African-Americans, from the teachers' union to community activists, yelling at him. The next scene shows the mayor hugging or a patting a kid on the head. One episode showed the mayor attending a basketball tournament in Auburn-Gresham. What the show left out was that the mayor was roundly booed.

The cherry-picking of images can lead someone to believe that a "white savior" complex is taking place on the show.

Although the CNN show does a good job of showing the effects of institutional racism, some still believe that isn't the problem.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, and several of his colleagues, seem to believe that racism no longer exists.

Chief Justice Roberts once said this about school segregation: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor used Chief Justice Roberts' words when she wrote her dissent expressing her disappointment in the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision last week: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination."

Justice Sotomayor's comments can be applied to what is going on in Chicago.

Racial discrimination is at the root of most of the city's problems. Detractors of that premise often say, "Why can't they get over it?"

In most cases, people haven't been allowed to do so.

Former Illinois State Rep. Facing Child Porn Charges Is Released On Home Confinement

Wed, 2014-04-30 15:43
A former Illinois state representative who allegedly bragged about sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl has been released from jail on home confinement, two days after he was charged with possessing child pornography.

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Keith Farnham to pay a $4,500 bond and remain on house arrest with an electronic monitoring bracelet, WGN reports.

He has not yet entered a plea, according to to ABC Chicago.

The former Democratic state representative from Elgin, Ill. is also prohibited from using the Internet or having any contact with anyone under the age of 18. The Tribune reports that Farnham's wife, who did not appear in court Wednesday, is responsible for alerting the court if he violates his bond restrictions.

The 66-year-old abruptly resigned his seat on March 19 due to what he claimed were serious health issues; Farnham's attorney told WGN his client needs a lung transplant and is being treated for Hepatitis C.

Farnham's resignation came less than a week after federal agents removed several computers and electronic storage devices from his home and office while acting on a search warrant.

The FBI said the devices were later found to have "hundreds of [pornographic] images" on them, and a federal complaint alleges the former state representative used a phony email account to send and receive videos and images of children as young as six months old being sexually abused.

Federal prosecutors say Farnham was ultimately brought down when he emailed videos of young children being abused to an undercover Homeland Security investigator posing as a pedophile, the Sun-Times reports.

While Farnham has not been charged in relation to the alleged molestation of the 6-year-old girl he reportedly bragged about online, he faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing child pornography.

Incidentally, two pieces of legislation Farnham co-sponsored last year were aimed at strengthening penalties for people convicted of possessing child pornography.

Chicago Approves Ban On Plastic Shopping Bags

Wed, 2014-04-30 15:28
Chicago has become the latest U.S. city to approve a ban on plastic shopping bags.

The City Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a partial plastic bag ban in Chicago on Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reports. The proposal was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and passed with a vote of 36-10.

The new ordinance will first go into effect in August 2015, when retailers occupying stores that are more than 10,000 square foot will no longer be allowed to offer plastic bags. The ban will be extended to smaller chain stores and franchises in August 2016, while small independent or non-franchise stores and restaurants will not be affected by the legislation.

Fines run between $300 and $500 each time the ordinance is violated.

Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st), the ordinance's lead sponsor, said a yes vote for the bill was in the best interests of both the environment and the economy, DNAinfo Chicago reports.

Other aldermen didn't see it that way.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) opposed and voted against the ordinance because she was concerned about how the additional costs associated with providing paper bags -- which cost three times the amount of plastic -- may impact her efforts to attract a new grocery store tenant for an empty space in her South Side district, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Grocers are already reluctant to come to my community, and we’re gonna give them more reason by banning plastic bags," Hairston said Wednesday, the Sun-Times reports. "I’m tired of focusing on things that hurt people instead of helping people."

Some retail groups also fear the ban will impact the economy negatively.

"The city council has approved an ordinance that will raise the cost of doing business in Chicago and nothing for the environment," Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said in a statement reported by ABC Chicago. "Driving up expenses for retailers and forcing customers to pay more at the store while not helping the environment flies in the face of the city's goal to make Chicago one of the nation's greenest cities and support companies that have invested significantly in Chicago's neighborhoods."

Supporters of the ordinance estimate that 3.7 million plastic bags are used citywide daily and that between 3 and 5 percent of them become litter, getting stuck in drains and causing flooding, clogging landfills and jamming recycling machinery.

Chicago, NYC, LA and San Francisco Implementing New E-Cigarette Laws

Wed, 2014-04-30 15:26
Residents in Chicago can breathe a little easier. Effective April 29, 2014, E-cigarettes have been added to the Chicago Clean Indoor Air Act. Smoking an e-cigarette is no longer allowed in areas where smoking is banned.

Under the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago was the first of the 20 largest U.S. cities to propose legislation to include e-cigarettes in their clean indoor air law. Following Chicago's lead, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco also introduced and subsequently passed, legislation to add e-cigarettes to their smoke-free laws. All of these cities implemented their laws together -- in April 2014.

It is unprecedented for the three largest cities in the U.S. -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- to implement an important new health law at the same time. Substantial support and technical assistance was also provided by Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the Big Cities Health Coalition, the National Association of City and County Health Officials and of course, our colleagues in other cities.

As of April 2014, a total of 172 jurisdictions have now passed similar laws. Across the country, that number represents more than 38 million residents and hundreds of millions of tourists and visitors being protected by these laws. These numbers continue to increase each week as more cities and towns take action.

Not allowing e-cigarettes to be used indoors is a smart move for cities and towns that want to preserve the health of their community. Laboratory tests have found that the so-called "water vapor" from some e-cigarettes can contain nicotine, benzene, toluene, nickel arsenic, carbon, formaldehyde, acrolein and carcinogens that are only derived from tobacco. Until more is known about these products, limiting their use in indoor areas is just good common sense.

Adding e-cigarettes to smoke-free laws is also practical. People who want to smoke e-cigarettes can continue to do so in the same places where regular cigarettes are smoked, while everyone else can continue to breathe clean air wherever they work, learn and play.

In addition to ensuring everyone has the right to breathe clean indoor air, smoke-free laws create an environment that encourages smokers to quit and discourages kids from ever picking up a nicotine addiction. Legislation to include e-cigarettes in Chicago's smoke-free law will preserve these benefits at a time that e-cigarettes are exploding in popularity among kids.

Use of e-cigarettes among youth has doubled between 2011 and 2012. A rapidly growing body of evidence suggests these new devices could be acting as a "starter kit" for youth -- leading a new generation into a lifetime of nicotine addiction and increased use of traditional cigarettes, which would reverse decades of progress. As the New York Times reported last week, the e-liquids behind e-cigarettes are "powerful neurotoxins... [that] can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal."

Even with this new evidence, manufacturers are allowed to market these products directly to youth. While traditional cigarette manufacturers can no longer sponsor auto racing or other events, e-cigarette makers can. Even worse, e-cigarettes come in dozens of flavors that are attractive for our children, like cotton candy, bubble gum, gummy bear and Atomic Fireball.

Last week, the FDA finally proposed new rules regulating e-cigarettes for the first time. This is a step in the right direction, but the proposals will likely be tied up in reviews and possible litigation for months or longer before they will be enacted. And they don't go as far as they should. There are no restrictions on advertisements to youth and no restrictions on the flavors they peddle. Fifty years ago, the Surgeon General issued a landmark report connecting traditional cigarettes to lung cancer -- but it still took decades until Washington passed the necessary laws to protect our children from these products.

We all know it takes a long time to get things done in Washington, D.C. and here in Chicago we aren't waiting. That is why we have been proactive and taken every measure we can to protect our children from the grips of big tobacco and their more modern companion, e-cigarettes.

Under Mayor Emanuel's leadership, Chicago acted, creating innovative policies to protect kids from e-cigarettes. For example, in addition to added e-cigarettes to our smoke-free law, Chicago has moved e-cigarettes behind store counters, out of the reach of kids. Retailers will be required to have a tobacco license. If a retailer in Chicago is caught selling e-cigarettes to children, they will be fined and can have their license revoked. And, uniquely, Chicago is currently the only jurisdiction in the U.S. that has passed legislation to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes within 500 feet of schools.

Chicago is using every possible strategy to help keep our young people tobacco free -- and that effort is paying off. After several years of stagnation in the fight against tobacco, we're starting to see progress again here in Chicago. In 2013, only 10.7 percent of Chicago high school students reported smoking within 30 days -- a historic low, down from 13.6 percent just two years ago. But local jurisdictions can only do so much. The FDA must also do its part, not only by prohibiting sales to kids nationwide but also restricting advertising to youth. This is why Mayor Emanuel has called on the FDA to act with a sense of urgency. The health of our children depends on it.

But in Chicago we don't wait for others to act. We lead. In 2000, one-quarter of all CPS high school students smoked. Today, that number is just above 10 percent. That's leadership. That's Chicago. Today is no exception.

Let The Men Of Online Dating Show You How To Really Woo A Woman

Wed, 2014-04-30 13:47
Courtship in cyberspace demands more than compelling emojis and a self-proclaimed "passion for gourmet cooking." Internet dating is a delicate art of seduction that requires strategy, timing, and not being a "creep."

How does a Nice Guy expect to navigate these choppy waters and stand out among the sea of Internet weirdos, anyway? Don't worry -- we've got some tips.

First, if you want a quality lady, know you have to put in some effort.

You can't be scared to tell her that you think she's special.

And that you'd like to spend time getting to know her.

Wishy-washy gents finish last, so let her know exactly what you're looking for.

Even if your needs are a bit... unusual.

Never hesitate to assert yourself.

Because every woman likes a straight shooter.

After all, confidence is key.

But remember -- a good relationship is rooted in common interests.

So make sure to ask her about herself, too.

Even a simple question can give you amazing insight into her personality.

Or just start off with something more open-ended.

When in doubt, compliment her best assets.

And learn how to showcase your own.

Open up, and tell her what makes you special.

Let your sense of humor shine through!

Don't worry about trying to write the "perfect" message -- just be yourself.

Vulnerability can be a turn-on.

Describing precisely why she caught your eye can show off your romantic side, too.

If you're after a brainy girl, show her you value her intellect.

Or cater to her '90s nostalgia.

In a pinch, just appeal to her most basic animal instincts.

Don't keep your passion a secret, let her know you’d go to the ends of the Earth for her.

Like, literally the ends of the Earth.

Or forgo the drama, and just ask her out already!

Remember, rejection is inevitable in the online dating game. Learn to handle it with grace.

The Onion Is Tired Of Click Bait, And What They're Doing Next Will Explain Everything

Wed, 2014-04-30 13:28
For those tired of skewering the annoyingly successful formulas of listicles and feel-good cliffhanger headlines -- perfected by Buzzfeed and Upworthy, respectively -- it's okay. The Onion plans to take over the heavy lifting with a new site designed to intentionally satirize viral "clickbait."

On Tuesday, The Onion announced the upcoming launch of "Clickhole", a website "putting content and sponsored posts side by side, with barely any distinction between them," the New York Business Journal reports. The site is scheduled to launch in June.

"People will climb into this click hole and find content so interesting they won't be able to keep it to themselves," said "Jim Haggerty," the Onion News Network host played by journalist-actor Brad Holbrook, according to the Journal. "Every post is engineered to be as shareable as possible, so it spreads like a deadly wildfire on social media."

With readers unable to resist stories that will melt your heart (much of it stuff that they'll never believe, but definitely stories only people interested in life-changing news will understand), Gawker notes Clickhole posts will include:

- Quizzes like "Which pizza should I have for dinner tonight? (presented by Pizza Hut)"

- Uplifting personal tales in list forms: "Seven pricks that defied the odds and didn't go into finance."

- The aww factor: A video titled "What this adorable little girl says will melt your heart." (It's actually a cogent explanation of how brands monetize adorable little kids, as spoken by an adorable little kid.)

- And finally, photo slide shows with no words: "Six kinds of hay."

All joking aside, The Onion's move to encroach on the turf of successful viral content creators comes just months after the comedy site ended its print run nationwide.

(And yes, we fully expect Clickhole to come after us too, particularly for headlines like this).

Though Clickhole won't go live until June, the preview site has a feature to help readers prime their trigger finger. Ready. Set. Click!

How 'American' Are You? Let This Quiz Be The Judge.

Wed, 2014-04-30 13:26
When you see a survey proclaiming that a "majority of Americans" do this or that, how often does it accurately describe you? Sometimes, these findings are used to paint a picture of the "average American," a term tossed around in Fox News specials, presidential stump speeches and everywhere in between. But what does it actually mean, and are you one of them?

While no study or figure can truly define one's overall American-ness, we've cobbled together a short checklist of characteristics that describe the majority of the country's residents on a wide range of issues. Some are political, some are personal, some are flat out random. Take the quiz below and find out just how much you have in common with your fellow compatriots. Then, check the answer key at the bottom to find out how we got your score.

Quiz widget by

Find out what made you less American in the answer key!

All photos in slideshow are Getty Images.