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Athletes Take a Stand for Mike Brown

Wed, 2014-08-27 15:57

I cannot tell you how many TV and radio shows in the last couple of months have invited me to come on to criticize current athletes for not speaking out on crucial issues that affect our society as a whole.

They tried to get me to publicly bad-mouth Dwight Howard after he deleted a "Free Palestine" Tweet from his account.

They tried to get me to disparage all current athletes and label them all as cowards during the whole Donald Sterling madness, which prompted me to write this article on the Huffington Post.

These critiques of athletes are not new. They have been articulated for years, in barbershops, bars, social media, various articles and blogs, by the everyday fan to the most celebrated scholars. But many still are misguided and inaccurate.

The recent fatal shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has hit all of us, including athletes. When a national tragedy occurs such as the case of Brown -- the young black unarmed teen who was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson -- it affects everyone, especially those who have kids. Mike Brown was shot a total of six times -- twice in the head and four times in the arms -- a preliminary, private autopsy revealed.

Many question how someone could be struck in the middle of their right palm unless their hands were up? In addition, why would a police officer shoot someone in the top of the head... and then leave him lying dead in the street for hours? Some view the shooting as a public execution.

This is a parent's worst nightmare. Couple this with the apparent mishandling of the situation by the St. Louis Police Department. As I write this, a whole two weeks after Brown was killed, Officer Wilson has gone into hiding. His social media accounts have been deactivated. Wilson hasn't been charged with anything, but put on paid administrative leave in an undisclosed location.

This has resulted in two weeks of unrest; police clash with demonstrators in what resembles a war zone in a foreign country; bully tactics by the St. Louis Police Department demonize the victim and attempt to justify the shooting with the release of an unrelated video in order to attack Brown's character.

People are searching for answers. An entire community hasn't had the chance to breathe following the Eric Garner choking incident by the NYPD. Many are still healing from the death of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and countless others. USA Today released statistics showing that a white police officer kills a black person nearly two times a week in the United States.

Many black parents are forced to have "The Talk" with their kids at a much younger age than anticipated; how they will be viewed in society, how to react to the police when you are stopped (not if but when); how they will be treated if they commit a crime vs. if someone else commits a crime; how the world is simply not always a fair place.

As President Barack Obama addressed the nation for the third time on the tragedy of Mike Brown's death, the violence that has occurred and the overall issues that need to be addressed -- which include excessive police force and the people's right to assemble peacefully -- he condemned those breaking the law, reassured them that he understood their frustrations, ensured that he was doing everything he could to bring about justice, and spoke to the overall issue: "In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear."

This tragedy did not fail to hit home for many athletes as well. For some reason, people seem to think that the problems and issues of society don't have the same effect on athletes. People seem to think that there is an imaginary bubble that we all live in that protects us from any harm. That simply is not the case. Countless athletes -- and entertainers, rappers, professionals, activists, authors, journalists -- stand in solidarity with Brown and the people of Ferguson, Mo.

A group of players from the Washington Football Team (and, yes, I referred to them by that name for a specific reason -- out of respect to Native American people), in a show of solidarity before their preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, came through the tunnel with their hands up, referencing that Mike Brown reportedly had his hands raised in surrender when he was killed. Safety Brandon Meriweather said that the team's defensive backs decided to do this together as a group.

"We just wanted everybody to know that we supported Michael and acknowledge what happened in Ferguson. It was all our idea, something we decided to do as a group just to show our support," Merriweather told USA Today Sports.

Safety Ryan Clark said: "Brown could have been any of us. That could have been any one of our brothers or cousins... When you get an opportunity to make a statement and be more than a football player, it's good."

Earlier this week, wide receiver Pierre Garcon posted a photo on Instagram of he and over a dozen other players from the Washington Football Team also with their hands up in the submission pose. He included the hashtags #handsUpDontShoot We are all #MikeBrown.


— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 14, 2014

Kobe Bryant tweeted a link to an ABC news story about racial tensions in Ferguson.

Allen Iverson Tweeted this with an Instagram link of himself wearing a T shirt that said Mike Brown.

The people who criticize an athlete "tweeting" support as being meaningless don't understand the power of social media. Kobe Bryant has 5.5 million followers. Allen Iverson has 780,000-plus followers on Twitter. With just a stroke of a button, they can send out a message to millions of people who are hanging on their every word. That's power.

I asked two of my former teammates with the Washington Wizards, Larry Hughes and Jahidi White -- both of whom are from St. Louis -- how they feel.

Larry Hughes:

I feel our community's frustration. Even as a successful young black male there is an uneasiness in the presence of law enforcement. Growing up in this country, I know at anytime the situation can turn negative.

Jahidi White:

There is still this disconnect between young African-Americans and law enforcement that hasn't changed. There's this distrust between us and those who have sworn to "PROTECT and SERVE US. The prevailing sentiment from law enforcement is that every individual that fits in our demographic should be viewed as dangerous and unlawful rather than the citizens that we are first and foremost. Most of the time we are not afforded the same kind of due process that is guaranteed to all under the constitution. The innocent until proven guilty clause very rarely applies to us. I feared for my life just like I know that Mike Brown feared for his staring down the barrel of the gun of the people who are sworn to keep us safe.

How can it be said that this is the land of opportunity for all when this perception that our lives are less valuable then those of other races exists? This may sound a little extreme but we are left with no other alternative when these INCIDENTS keep occurring and the perpetrators very rarely face justice.

I have a radio show on Washington DC's WPFW FM 89.3 with political and sportswriter Dave Zirin called The Collision, "Where Sports And Politics Collide." We had Syracuse legend Derrick Coleman and Kentucky Wildcat legend Derek Anderson on to discuss the Mike Brown situation.

Derrick Coleman:

They try to character assassinate our children and show them in a whole different light to make it justifiable and say this is why he got shot. Over some cigarillos? The police officer didn't even know anything about that.

We who live in Black Communities across America understand the situation with the police. We have never looked at them to protect and serve. It's just in recent years it's been brought to the forefront through social media.

We have to change the landscape of what is going on in Urban America and until that happens we are going to continue to have outbursts like we're having with our youth and the police department.

Derek Anderson:

All these policeman can easily use a taser. If you're quick enough to pull a gun you can use a taser. You don't have to shoot anybody. If you and me are having a confrontation and you're bigger than me and I pull out a taser I can eliminate the situation. You won't die. I can easily eliminate any threat of you hurting me. The police can do that -- they choose to not do that and they are getting the backlash for it and it's going to continue to get worse. Something is going on bigger than what we are seeing. We just have to pay attention to it.

A tragedy such as this doesn't escape athletes. Contemporary black athletes are capable of carrying on the tradition of their brave brothers and sisters before them who led their teams to victory on the field and led the way in challenging racial disunity and injustice in the world outside the athletic arena (all while potentially facing the petty and insipid criticism of reactionary media).

Unfortunately, that criticism has come from all quarters, including sympathetic ones in television and in print. The New York Times columnist and author William C. Rhoden argued in his book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves, that contemporary athletes fail to speak out or otherwise act on issues of importance to their communities.

He wrote:

Now that they occupy a position where they can be more than symbols of achievement, where they can actually serve their communities in vital and tangible ways, while also addressing the power imbalance within their own from a position of greater strength, they seem most at a loss, lacking purpose and drive....The Black Athlete has abdicated their responsibility to the community with treasonous vigor.

Let me first say that I enjoyed Rhoden's book and found it to be a very informative history of the black athlete in America. It touched on the unfortunate paths and states of mind that have overtaken the realities of some black athletes of today. I agree with his position that "making the evolution to be a completely free man is realizing that racism is more virulent and determined than ever before." In fact, I think the book is a must-read for all athletes -- if only to serve as an example of what not to become.

That being said, I respectfully disagree with the overall notion that the black athlete today is simply "lost," as Rhoden labels us in his book.

He said that athletes are isolated and alienated from their "native networks," and are "increasingly cloistered into new networks as they become corporatized entities... excised from their communities as they fulfill their professional responsibilities and disconnected from the networks of people, in many cases predominately African-American, who once comprised their 'community' (p. 177). This leads to a general ignorance of the issues impacting a vast majority of African-Americans across the country."

This couldn't be further from the truth. And painting the entire, illustrious roster of current black athletes with this broad brush of ridicule, one that leaves no room for exceptions, is just wrong. If he had said "some" black athletes of today, I wouldn't have had an objection. But to say "the contemporary tribe," as he calls us, "with access to unprecedented wealth is lost," is completely inaccurate.

The book's subtitle, The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete, indicates that Rhoden is fully convinced that the modern-day black athlete's willingness to advocate for social and economic justice for all black people has diminished since the 1960s -- and perhaps disappeared, and that there currently exists a "vacuum of leadership" that has led to black athletes becoming a "lost tribe."

There is a common myth about black athletes and social activism. It is that our disconnection from the black community and the retaliation black athletes face from reactionary sports media has fractured the "common cause" that once united all black athletes when they stood for causes for social justice. Many contemporary sports writers and analysts agree with Rhoden's assertion that after centuries of black athletes who faced the most dire consequences -- loss of livelihood and death threats -- we have now entered a period where an unspoken code encourages contemporary black athletes to avoid "rocking the boat" lest they risk losing their lucrative sponsorships and opportunity to compete professionally.

For black professional athletes who do remain connected to the black community in significant ways, Rhoden focuses on the harsh reprisal that they are likely to face at the hands of a largely white, reactionary sports media (p. 209). Also at the root of the problem for contemporary athletes, Rhoden outlines, is the threat that engaging in causes and issues that management might consider politically unsavory would consequently lead to the loss of earnings potential.

However, as seen with Garcon, the entire Washington Football team's secondary, this prediction did not prove true. They didn't receive any ridicule from the team for injecting themselves into a national tragedy and using the company logo to do so.

Now for the brave Twitter trolls who hide behind their keyboards, that's another story. Unfortunately, the same people who are quick to criticize athletes for not using their various positions as platforms to speak out on various current issues will be the same ones to bombard them with vicious attacks when they do. Some fans simply do not respect the opinions of athletes and view them as simple entertainment. Some want them to simply be seen and not heard -- to simply shut up and play. However, not everyone is affected by those "brave" social media trolls who lurk in the corners of blog comment sections and Twitter.

Again, I have tremendous respect for Rhoden and I feel that Forty Million Dollar Slaves should be required reading for every athlete beginning in high school. It gives us a history in knowing the tremendous sacrifices that were made for us. It gives us an account of the athletes that have come before us to lay the foundation so that we can have the opportunities we have today.

The decisions made by Garcon, Merriweather and the entire secondary of the Washington Football team to publicly stand in solidarity, the passionate statements made by Missouri natives and former Washington Wizards White and Hughes, and by Coleman and Anderson should not be dismissed as singular and nominal. These are not the actions of a group that is, "isolated and alienated from their native networks" or someone possessing an "ignorance of the issues impacting a vast majority of African-Americans across the country."

Rhoden and those who criticize black athletes for a lack of social consciousness should recognize, with the same vigor and thorough analysis, the efforts of contemporary black athletes who improve their communities and stand up for what they believe.

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Steve Carell And Stephen Colbert Perform 'The Obvious Song' Together At Second City In 1993

Wed, 2014-08-27 14:35
Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert are funny on their own, but put them together and they're truly sublime. (This should come as a surprise to exactly zero people.) Here's further proof that these two are an incredible comedic powerhouse. In 1993, they were both part of a revue called "Take Me Out to the Balkans" on the stage of Second City.

Check out Carrell and Colbert performing "The Obvious Song," along with castmates Paul Dinello and David Razowsky.

[h/t Splitsider]

33 Days to More Well-Being: A Special Offer for HuffPost Readers

Wed, 2014-08-27 13:59
Wherever I go around the world, I see the same hunger to live our lives with more meaning and purpose and less unnecessary stress and burnout. This is the goal of a new online course being offered by the University of Santa Monica, which I'm delighted we have arranged to offer free for HuffPost readers. Entitled "33 Days of Awakening Through Loyalty to Your Soul," the class is designed to teach us how to nurture a sense of well-being, joy, purpose and fulfillment. Of course, there are going to be challenges along the way, but as the course's founders, Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick, show, there are ways in which many of these challenging moments can in fact strengthen and reaffirm our sense of purpose and well-being instead of taking us off-course.

Each day brings a new lesson with a different theme, along with a new skill or habit. One of my favorites is "Perception Checking" -- a way of managing to slow down a conversation so we can truly and meaningfully engage with another person rather than staying on the surface, half-distracted (or at least ready to be) by anything that moves, or beeps, or tweets. Another is practicing responsibility in choosing our commitments. This is one that really resonates with me, since I often have problems with how much I add to my to-do list. My habit of saying yes to too many things led me, when I turned 40, to do something of a "life audit," during which I realized how many projects I had half-committed to in my head -- such as learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook. (It's true: I can't cook. I sadly missed that gene from my Greek mother.) Most remained unfinished, and many were not even started. Yet these countless incomplete projects drained my energy and diffused my attention. It was very liberating to realize that I could "complete" a project by simply dropping it -- by just eliminating it from my to-do list.

On the flipside, I also learned how satisfying it is -- magical, even -- when we set our intentions on the goal of implementing a new habit for a certain period of time. We all aspire to have a richer experience in our day-to-day lives, but all too often we save what we really want for a later day -- a day that, too often, never comes. So the tools offered in the course that can help us commit to what we really want right now can be transforming.

The University of Santa Monica course also has its own version of what I describe as the need to evict the obnoxious roommate in our heads, that critical voice most of us know so well that puts us down and amplifies our insecurities and doubts. Even our worst enemies don't talk about us the way we talk to ourselves. "Negative thoughts," the course teaches, "are a way of leaking your precious life energy." And by teaching us to deal with such thoughts, the course helps us evict that obnoxious roommate.

Nothing is more powerful in making this happen than creating a daily practice and reinforcing new habits. And what I love about "33 Days of Awakening" is that it's specifically designed to help us cultivate these habits so that we can view ourselves and the world with more awareness and more gratitude.

Each day's email has a theme: clarifying our intentions, accepting what we cannot change, putting our thoughts in writing to help us forgive ourselves and others, writing out a gratitude list, dropping grudges and -- my favorite -- realizing that the way we deal with the issue is the issue. Each day of the course guides us to set an intention based on that day's lesson, supported with meditations, videos, podcasts and other resources that help us go deeper on the day's theme. Ron and Mary, who have been dear friends of mine for many years, usher us through the course with their distinctive humor, fleshing out principles with stories from their own lives and from the lives of past students. Their message goes straight to the core of our collective hunger for meaning and purpose. Simple practices can be profound. When we incorporate these daily practices and techniques into our lives, it becomes possible to reconnect with ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. Information about the course, which begins Sept. 8, is here.

For How He Lived: Remembering James Foley

Wed, 2014-08-27 13:43

Before James Foley died at the hands of the Islamic State, he was a well-known war correspondent who felt a duty to cover the front line. Over his career he had been held in captivity, released to his family only to return of his own accord to the battlegrounds of the Middle East. He had seen a friend gunned down before his eyes, and touched countless lives with the stories he told. But before all of that, he was a teacher returning to school, and just beginning to see journalism as the new direction his life needed.

Jim Foley started his journalism career in the winter of 2007, getting his first taste of Medill's graduate program with Stephan Garnett and Noah Isackson's Journalism Methods course. He began in the dead of winter.

"We like to call it 'boot camp,'" said Garnett. "It's where they learn the basics of journalism, and then actually put it into practice in the second half of the class." Garnett didn't aim to soften the class for his students, instead striving to convey to them the perils and hardships of the profession as best he could.

"I tell them that this class is going to be a test of how well they're gonna function as journalists," he said. "And I use an analogy, I say that basically I'm gonna grab you by the scruff of your neck and throw you in that lake out there, and see if you can swim to the other side of it. And some of you will swim, and some of you will sink."

The course's daily newsroom model pushed students to first come up with stories, then to write them quickly and efficiently. To get to know Chicago, every student chose a neighborhood to cover throughout the quarter. 

"For us, we all kind of go into different tracks, and take courses and electives differently," said Peter Holderness, Foley's classmate that first quarter. "Because then what we have in common is we all start in this methods course. So while there might be a hundred people in the cohort, the twelve or fifteen people that you spend that first quarter with are really your introduction to the professional world of reporting, and those are the people that you're gonna stay in touch with the most."

Rachel Zahorsky, another classmate who quickly went on to become friends with Foley, called the class "nerve-wracking."

"Medill's a really good school," she explained. "You paid a lot of money to be there, and this is it. College is over. You want to make a career as a journalist."

With strenuous assignments and the ever-looming "Medill F," sometimes that could seem a daunting challenge.

"You're learning a whole new trade, and a whole new skill, and there's so much uncertainty," she said. "And finally, you're also very excited to be there, because you're gonna spend the whole year, you know, living your dream. I mean, training to be a journalist. What could be more awesome than that?"

"I'm not trying to scare them," said Garnett, "although later on some tell me they were terrified. But what I basically do is I just give them the reality of this profession. I tell them that you must realize that journalists can sometimes get hurt, or killed on the job, that when something terrible happens and everybody is running away from it, the journalists are running to it."
"Jim came up to me after that class and shook my hand and said, 'I think I'm really gonna enjoy this class.'"

According to Jim

James Foley was a tall man, easily clearing six feet. 

"I remember the first thing I thought was, 'What a damn good-looking guy," said Garnett. "Very handsome, but he wasn't impressed with it. Which I found impressive." Garnett said that his appreciation of Foley's character and professionalism only grew throughout the class, as Foley pitched idea after idea for stories to cover in Chicago. 

Foley's classmates shared that appreciation.

"He just never had the attitude that he was so much better, or that he was so great, or that he was this hotshot reporter," said Zahorsky. "He just did his job, and he did it really well."

But more than that, Foley's classmates remembered him as someone who cared, a quiet and calming presence in the sometimes-frantic newsroom. Some of it likely came simply from age.

"I was just in my 30's," recalled Holderness, "and so was Jim, which made us both a little bit older than some of the other students there. And so we both had already done some things in our life, and went to journalism a little bit later."

Before attending Medill, Foley studied history at Marquette University in Milwaukee. After college, he moved on to a career in teaching. 

"He taught inmates at Cook County Jail," recalled Garnett, referring to the Cook County Sheriff's Office program where Foley taught language arts. "I mean, I teach at Medill. I teach some of the brightest, sharpest, classiest people out there. I can't imagine what it's like to teach at Cook County Jail. But Jim did it."

Foley also taught in Phoenix with Teach for America, and in college he volunteered at a local school in Milwaukee. Eventually, his writing and a strong desire for social justice led him to Medill, where he hoped to tell the stories of those who couldn't on their own. 

"He had a passion for creative writing," recalled Jeremy Gantz, a friend of Foley since their first quarter in Garnett's class. That fall, he and Foley and two other classmates would live together in Washington, D.C., during their quarter spent studying in the nation's capital. 

"He was really into hip-hop," said Gantz, "like socially conscious hip-hop. I remember him, when we were living in DC, he would write raps. He had notebooks, that was something I really remembered about him. He would scrawl down ideas." 

Foley's friends described him as thoughtful, engaged with the world around him, and constantly seeking a way to change the things he thought were wrong. He chose to both live and report in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood during his first quarter at Medill, a place where others in his position might have felt ill at ease. 

"This was a man who championed the underdog," recalled Garnett. "For instance, one of the stories that he did, along with a partner in Journalism Methods, was a story about a playground that was proposed to be built right next door to a factory that had a list of serious EPA violations." Garnett said that the parents who lived nearby were upset and worried for their children, but lacked the influence and social standing to make a difference.

"Jim and his partner went in and did that story. They talked to the EPA and found out what those violations were, and talked to the parents, and they even got into the plant and talked to the plant manager." 

It was hard to miss Foley's sense of social justice, and he wasn't afraid of letting people know what he thought.

"He actually started castigating the manager of this plant, and telling him, you know, 'Do you realize that what you're doing is putting the people in this community at risk?'" Garnett said that it was most likely unprofessional, but didn't seem to care. 

"That was Jim. He spoke his mind. He felt that this was wrong, and he was gonna let this guy know it. Even if it jeopardized this interview. That's just the way he was, you know, he was fearless. Both in what he did and in what he said."

Foley's thoughts began to turn to war-related reporting after a class he took in Washington, D.C., on covering conflicts.

Intro to Conflict

"I think it was probably our favorite class in D.C., because it was such a close-up look," said Gantz, recalling the course's special, insider feel. "We heard directly from a number of national security professionals, and people who cover the military for a living, people who really know how it works. I know we both felt really lucky to have that."

"We actually took this conflict zone training class, sort of a simulation and experience on a former farm in Virginia." Gantz said he saw the wheels start to turn in Foley's head, and knew that his friend was thinking about making a career out of what they had learned there.

Not long after receiving his degree, Foley embedded with the U.S. Army, where he worked to bring stories from the front lines back to the audience he knew in America. 

"He would send me, occasionally, things that he'd done," said Garnett, "and I mean, the guy was in his flak jacket and his helmet, and he was right there with the troops dodging bullets. And I would comment on how dangerous this was, and he said 'Yeah, well that's where the story is.'"

Many of Foley's classmates also continued to follow his work, after graduation. 

"I really stayed more in touch with him when he embedded with soldiers and when he started blogging," said Holderness, who now works at the Chicago Sun-Times. Rachel Zahorsky also closely followed Foley's career, remembering the impression that he made on her during the program. 

"Any time he posted something to his blog, or any time there was something about him in the news, I definitely always read it, followed up on it, cared about what was going on in a different way," she said. "And I think most of our classmates did as well."

"You just always want to cheer on someone you think is doing something amazing," she said.
In April of 2011, Foley was captured and imprisoned for 44 days by Libyan forces. After his release he returned to the United States, where he spoke on Medill's campus and started to reconnect with friends and family, but he always felt a pull to return to the wars.

"He faced this dilemma," remembered Gantz. "He was offered this job, an editing job, by GlobalPost, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to take it. And I very emphatically told him that he should take the job. He should not go back abroad, he needs to sort of process everything that had happened, get some distance, be with his family. And not rush back abroad into Libya."

His friends believed that much of his desire to return stemmed from the death of Anton Hammerl, the South African photographer who died reporting alongside Foley in Libya. But they also suspected that Foley's reporting overseas had touched on something fundamental to who he was, and kindled a passion that would never burn out in captivity.

"So when he was offered the job, you know, there must be a part of him that was like 'You know it's so hard to get a real staff job. It's safe. I should really take this.' But then," Gantz said, "there was a part of him that didn't want to do that. And I told him what I thought, and he did take the job. But he didn't have it for that long." One of the last times that Foley's friends would see him was at Gantz' wedding. 

"Jeremy had a lovely gathering in Maine, and I think we kind of didn't expect that Jim would make it. We all knew that he was a little bit shell-shocked. But Jim showed up, looking a little bit out of his element, but overjoyed to be around friends and family."

To many, however, it was evident from the start that Foley simply had to go back to Libya.
"I was worried," said Garnett. "And I told him the last time I saw him that I was worried. I remember his response. 'I'll try real hard to spare you a heart attack.'" In his talk at Medill, Foley described his experience while embedded with the Army, and his decision to leave the protection of his U.S. base.

"Do I really know the Iraqi people?" he wondered. "Do I really know an Afghan? Well, I know an Afghan who's a translator for the U.S. Army, feeding questions that I'm asking to a local Afghan." Like that very first class in Medill, Foley just had to know who the real people were.

"So the idea of the Libyan revolution is journalists literally embedding with rebels. And that's essentially what we did." Even after his capture and release, he still felt the urge to return.

"There was no doubt, no hesitation," said Zahorsky. "That was his job. He truly believed in telling those stories, and making people care. He connected with people, and cared about people, but he also made others care too." Foley was calm, grounded, but also a restless participant in what he considered important to the world.

"He was not going to be satisfied, I think, staying behind a desk and helping to edit copy while other people were reporting," said Holderness. "I think he returned, and just was never able to settle in to a life that wasn't life or death all the time. He knew that people were experiencing that, and he knew that we weren't getting that story, as an American audience, and I think that he felt compelled."

Holderness reflected that it was one of the great ironies of the media world, that it needs reporters like Foley now more than ever, yet the number of outlets with the resources to protect and pay them grows smaller all the time. 

"So Jim is one of those intrepid souls who sent himself out into the world and those dangerous places where he thought that important things were happening," he said. "I will always remember him as someone who made easy connections with people, big smiles, and a goofy laugh. A wild passion for the world that you could sense within his eyes and sort of feel with his enthusiasm. When Jim went for it, he went all the way. And I think that's a reasonable way to remember him."

This post was originally featured on

The Hidden Concerns Behind Northstar's Firing

Wed, 2014-08-27 13:39
Northstar Lottery Group, the company Gov. Pat Quinn chose in 2010 to be the first private entity in the country to administer daily lottery operations, has been fired.

Local media have chronicled the company's failure to meet project revenue targets each of the past three years. (In his article about the events that led up to the "divorce," Crain's Chicago Business reporter Greg Hinz wrote that "the proverbial final straw may have come last spring, when reports came out that the firm was running $716 million short of its revenue target nine months into fiscal 2014.")

But all the coverage of Northstar's underperformance and of the increasingly insistent calls by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, to sever ties with the company have missed two aspects of the privatization process that raises unsettling questions about whether the contract should have been awarded at all.

Natalie Craig, managing editor of the Columbia Chronicle, caught the first one.

In an article posted shortly after the news broke about Northstar's dismissal, Craig broke the news that that the Lottery Control Board, an independent advisory group, violated Illinois Lottery law each year from 2009 to 2012 by failing to hold the legally required amount of meetings.

(Full disclosure: Natalie is a student in the investigative reporting class I'll be team-teaching this fall. Along with colleagues, I helped edit the piece.)

For those who are keeping score, that time span covers the years during the privatization process as well as the first 15 months of Northstar's administration -- a period highlighted in the following YouTube video featuring Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler:

Craig explains that the board is an advisory body composed of five members, which advises the lottery superintendent and the director of the Department of Revenue on lottery operations. It's also responsible for advertising and promoting the lottery.

It's required by law to meet four times per year.

A Chronicle analysis of 10 years of board minutes revealed that it met or exceeded the number of meetings every year from 2004 to 2008.

In 2008 the group discussed the issue of privatization during one of its six meetings.

Board member Jonathan Stein said privatization would provide a short-term solution for the state's financial problems, but would hurt the state's financial return in 10 years, Craig wrote.

Because of this, Stein opposed the state's moving toward privatization.

Those were the last recorded words about privatization by a body that's designed to be the people's voice.

In 2009, the board met three times, and only once with a quorum.

In 2010, it met just one time, early in the year, and then not again until late 2012.

"As a result, citizens did not have a critical form of legally required input on one of the most consequential decisions in lottery history," Craig wrote.

Quinn's office declined to respond to numerous calls from Craig about the impact of this legal violation.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office was similarly silent about the consequences of the board's failure.

But John Kindt, an emeritus professor emeritus of business administration at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, was far more forthcoming.

"The situation doesn't pass the smell test," he told Craig.

Another little-discussed component of the privatization process also had a questionable odor: the actions of Northstar's parent companies GTech and Scientific Games.

The proverbial mother and father of the outfit Quinn hired and then fired are each behemoths in the global lottery industry in their own.

The companies are two of four Platinum sponsors of the World Lottery Association, a trade group that has helped boost Lottery sales across the planet from $227 billion to $284 billion in the past five years, according to the World Lottery Almanac.

In 2007, Bruce Golding of the Journal News detailed GTech's long history of scandal around the globe around the globe.

"Bribery allegations led a co-founder to quit his job as chairman. Its lobbyists have run afoul of the law in several states, including New York," Golding wrote. "Former government officials have received lucrative consulting contracts. And in summer 2006, an investigation in Texas found that the company, GTECH Holdings Corp., doled out tens of millions of dollars -- some of which went to foreign lottery officials -- to expand its business in South America, Europe and the Caribbean."

In a similar vein, Scientific Games was linked to one of North Carolina's biggest political scandals, involving payments to then-Lottery Commissioner Kevin Geddings.

The bigger point is that even if the companies had sterling records, a strong argument could be made that their corporate child should not receive a dime of public money.

That's because the two companies and former arch rivals, which control the vast majority of the instant ticket market in the United States, bonded together to bid for the contract Quinn ultimately awarded to Northstar.

In another industry, this would would be like Apple and Microsoft forming a smaller company and receiving millions and millions of public dollars.

Like Kindt said about the Lottery Control Board, it doesn't smell right.

At all.

Hinz quoted Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman as saying the state is finalizing a path to move on, improve profits and increase funding for education and economic development across the state.

But answering the troubling questions raised by Craig's revelations about the Lottery Control Board and the awarding of a major public contract to the corporate child of two lottery titans should be a prerequisite before that forward movement occurs.

Chicago Transit Authority uses taxpayer dollars to transport themselves

Wed, 2014-08-27 12:34
A new report by the Better Government Association found that the Chicago Transit Authority's retirement plan and healthcare trust spent almost $60,000 on trips to pension conferences around the country over the last four years, according to CTA public documents.

According to the BGA:

The newly released records show the agency's expenses include more than $20,000 on a six-night trip to Hawaii for five people in 2010, $4,400 on a three-night trip to New Orleans for two people in 2011, $7,500 on a four-night, four-person trip to San Diego in 2012 and about $12,000 on a four-night trip to Las Vegas for six people in 2013.

CTA officials who went on the trips defended them, saying the experiences were worth the money and important for educating their top officials about what the current best practices are in running pension funds.

According to the BGA:

CTA employees contribute roughly 10 percent of their salaries to the pension fund while the transit agency - or, in other words, the taxpayer - contributes about 20 percent of any given employee's salary into the same pot. Investments play into how much the fund grows.

While the CTA tries to figure out how to fund its pensions, everyday Illinoisans are also trying to figure out how to fund their retirements and lives. New unemployment figures for July have been released by the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the year overall, many Illinois metropolitan areas, including Chicago-Joliet-Naperville and Champaign-Urbana gained thousands of jobs, but others, such as Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, lost jobs over the same period. See the job numbers broken down by county and city at Reboot Illinois.

Jackie Robinson West Returns To Hero's Welcome In Chicago

Wed, 2014-08-27 10:27
CHICAGO (AP) -- The ballpark gleams, exactly as the home of the Little League World Series national championship team should.

Free of graffiti and absent so much as a kid's initials carved in the grandstand benches, Jackie Robinson Park is outfitted with a digital scoreboard and mechanical pitching machines. It sits in a middle-class neighborhood of brick one-story homes and manicured lawns on Chicago's South Side.

While the words "South Side" are often shorthand beyond Chicago for gangs, shootings and poverty, the people who live here see a more nuanced picture.

"These are middle-class families," said Jamieson Clay, a relative of Joshua Houston, the pitching and hitting hero of the U.S. final win. "Ninety percent of the boys have both a mother and a father at home with them and the fathers are playing a pretty active role in their sons' lives."

The beloved Jackie Robinson West All Stars, Chicago's first all-black team to claim the U.S. title, will be feted Wednesday with its own parade. Then they will assume their new roles in the city as models for how to keep vulnerable kids out of trouble.

Some people close to the team chafe at the story being portrayed as another example of sports rescuing young men from dire circumstances.

"This is not some fairytale about ducking bullets," said Bill Haley, director of Jackie Robinson West, which his father founded in the early 1970s. "The story is we are the national champions."

One boy has two parents who are both Chicago police sergeants, while a second boy has a dad who is a Chicago police officer. The father of another is a Union Pacific railroad engineer.

Residents say violent crime isn't as prevalent as other South Side neighborhoods because the community keeps a close watch outside their windows. It's therefore no surprise that the park is in such pristine condition, they say.

"The community looks out for it," said Shabaka J-El, 67, who grew up in the neighborhood where his mother still lives. "This (field) is sort of sacred."

The team united Chicago, which is still one of the nation's most segregated cities. Televised games last weekend were the most-watched telecasts in the city, with 623,900 viewers Saturday and 810,500 on Sunday. Mayor Rahm Emanuel organized all-city watch parties. Fans lined up Tuesday to buy 7,000 team T-shirts at a South Loop sporting goods store ahead of the parade.

The team's poise under pressure delighted a city worn down by gun violence.

"For the city of Chicago, so much is happening and people are forming views of young African-American men. These 14 boys just stand out," Clay said. "There's greatness if you cultivate it and make it happen."

The team is built around a core of longtime baseball families, Clay said. Joshua Houston has older brothers who play high school and college baseball. His father is the team's pitching coach.

Of the Jackie Robinson West players who attend Chicago public schools, most attend magnet and charter schools, which indicates that their parents made the effort to enroll them in those special programs.

"The same parents who get their kids involved with Little League are the parents who get online and go through this somewhat burdensome process of enrolling them in the magnet schools," said Michael Reynolds, a sociologist at NORC at the University of Chicago who has researched poor inner-city schools on the south and west sides.

The team also underscores the fact that Chicago is home to a significant middle-class black community on the South Side, Reynolds said.

"In every school you see kids doing really, really well and it's always the case that the parents are very involved," Reynolds said.

At the park, people couldn't say enough about the poise the boys showed under the most intense pressure imaginable.

Rilan Betts, the playground supervisor at the park, sees similarities with the park's namesake, the man who broke Major League Baseball's color line nearly 70 years ago.

"This is going to change a lot of perceptions, about the poise of African-American males," he said. "To know these kids are going through another cycle of what Jackie Robinson went through is great.

Guzzardi Undecided over Mayoral Endorsement

Wed, 2014-08-27 08:24
State Rep-elect Will Guzzardi, who has quickly emerged as a progressive rock star for clobbering State Rep. Toni Berrios in the March Democratic primary on Chicago's near west side, caused eyebrows to twitch a few weeks ago over what appeared to be an endorsement of a Karen Lewis mayoral bid.

"This morning, famed historian and American Civil Rights Activist Timuel Black and Progressive Activist State Rep. Will Guzzardi fanned and further spread the flames of The Karen Lewis For Mayor Movement at a fundraiser entitled "Bagels for Karen" at the home of Susan and Mike Klonsky," according to an August 4 post on the Karen Lewis for Mayor Facebook page.

An endorsement?

Not so, says Guzzardi.

Asked about the post, the lawmaker-to-be told me that it was "overzealous".

"I've not made any endorsements," said Guzzardi whose victory over Berrios, backed by both House Speaker Michael Madigan and her father, Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios, was powered, in part, by a powerful independent voter precinct operation, the type of political muscle IVI-IPO used to possess before it morphed into a questionnaire-from-hell book club.

In fact, Guzzardi claims that he is undecided on whether he'll make any endorsement even after the field of candidates is in place.

"I haven't figured that out yet," he said.

Still, Guzzardi headlined the Lewis event in his legislative district. Additionally, the CTU disclosed on August 4 a $5,000 contribution to Guzzardi, actions that likely fueled speculation about his intentions.

Guzzardi explained that the Lewis event, which was "packed", was borne of "frustration" with events in the city and a desire to assess the political impact of the perceived unease.

"There are a lot of people frustrated with the direction of the city," said Guzzardi. "I'm really interested to see how that frustration will play out."

He also admitted to his own angst over Chicago's future.

"I'm definitely frustrated with the way things are going in the city," Guzzardi said. "Huge swaths of the city are ignored."

The ex-Huffington Post-Chicago associate editor pointed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to close six of the city's mental health centers as a key grievance of his, a decision that hit hard the heavily Latino district that Guzzardi will represent in Springfield.

"There are now no bi-lingual mental health centers in the city," Guzzardi stated.

Despite the inescapable rise in 2015 mayoral election attention, he insists that his priority is November.

"My focus is November," Guzzardi said. "I think that any progressive public policy is in jeopardy if Bruce Rauner is elected."

Guzzardi says that he is marshaling the energy of his precinct operation to back the "Raise Illinois" minimum wage campaign, an effort to push likely Governor Pat Quinn voters to the polls.

"Our organization in the 39th District is already out knocking on doors," said Guzzardi who held his first canvass a couple weeks ago with 25-30 field volunteers and has a second canvass planned for early September.

He is not only marshaling foot soldiers, but also cash.

In the second quarter - even though he has not even a token GOP opponent in the fall - his campaign account was boosted by hefty donations from organized labor: $10,000 from AFSCME, $15,000 from the Illinois Education Association, and $15,000 from SEIU. Those contributions helped put his cash-on-hand at $92,000, an astonishing sum for someone who has yet to enter the General Assembly and much more dough than many currently endangered House Democrats.

While Guzzardi is planning his next minimum wage canvas, Emanuel was recently in New York City showcasing his support for a minimum wage hike and basking in the glow New York's newly minted progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, and his family with the aim of sending a message to progressives back in Chicago, like Guzzardi, "Hey, I'm on your side."

Could Emanuel's embrace of a minimum wage increase, for example, help draw Guzzardi's support in 2015 or least neutralize his opposition?

Hard to know.

Emanuel has not yet bothered to speak with Guzzardi since his win nearly six months ago.

"I've not spoken to the mayor," said Guzzardi. "I look forward to a conversation with him and I would urge him to adopt policies that serve all of our communities."

No call to a guy who not only won big but who also increased Chicago voter turnout in a non-presidential year?

You gotta be friggin' kidding us.

A photo op with Mayor de Blasio under the crystal chandeliers of Gracie Mansion is all well and fine - but - how many precinct workers does the mayor of New York have in Chicago's 39th House district?

Moreover, the voters that helped elect Guzzardi are also the voters whose support Emanuel has lost, according to the new Chicago Tribune poll. Perhaps a photo-op with a Chicago progressive - maybe, let's see, like - Guzzardi! - might play well with Chicago progressive voters.

Nevertheless, Guzzardi's professed indecision on a mayoral endorsement may not be just a pose, because he disclosed Tuesday that he has substantially committed himself to working in behalf of 45th Ward Alderman John Arena's reelection.

"I will do something considerable for Alderman Arena. He's ruffled some feathers," Guzzardi said. "I look forward to supporting him in a big way."

That may be Rahm's best endorsement news yet.


David also edits, with the help of Capitol Fax's Rich Miller, The Illinois Observer: The Insider, in which this article first appeared.

19 Eerie Photos That Put America's Problems In Plain Sight

Wed, 2014-08-27 06:43
Seeing an abandoned home can be a bit creepy. But seeing one that represents the decline of an entire way of life? That should elicit an even more solemn reaction.

Nineteen pictures of abandoned homes shared with The Huffington Post by photographer Seph Lawless offer just such a sobering look at many of America's rural communities. Earlier this year, Lawless published a book, Autopsy of America, that documented the decline of the U.S. economy in memorable portraits of abandoned malls and empty factories. His ongoing project, also called "Autopsy of America," aims to raise awareness of the struggles faced in the Deep South and Rust Belt regions.

"We hear about the crisis that plagues inner cities and urban areas but seldom hear about what's happening in southern cities and rural areas," Lawless told HuffPost in an email, pointing to struggles such as high unemployment and poverty. "It would surprise and disappoint most people."

Lawless said abandoned homes have a unique ability to evoke an emotional reaction in viewers, especially houses that have "a deep sense of void and depth." Many of the houses in his photos have the appearance of having been suddenly left behind, some with clothes still hanging up or books lying open.

"Everyone can relate to a home and I think a growing number of Americans fear losing their home," Lawless said, adding that he risked arrest to get some of the photos. "It's very frightening and sobering for most people to see."

In the photos below, you can see the location of each home and the approximate year it was abandoned:

For more of Lawless' work, check out his website or his social media accounts.

6 Ways Men and Women Are (Mostly) Different

Wed, 2014-08-27 06:37
We both want it all. Beyond that, research finds we have less in common.

I've spent most of my career as a psychologist examining the differences, as well as the similarities, between how men and women approach life, and the experiences that make up that life: How they work, how they parent, how they love. (And, yes, whether they ask for directions.) And while you may recognize yourself in some of the following general dichotomies, you very well may not. That's the beauty of human nature:

She wants it all. So does he. When we talk about how men and women define success, we often generalize: Women want balance, or to "have it all." Men want status, and its symbols -- houses, cars, stuff. But that's not the whole story. One recent survey found the ambition gap a little narrower than previously thought. More than half of women turned down a job due to concerns about its impact on the work-life balance. But so did more than half of men. And two-thirds of both sexes felt they could "have it all." Both genders, meanwhile, ranked the qualities of career success in this order: Work-life balance, then money, and then recognition.

She wears her heart on her sleeve. He tucks it away. If I've heard this once, I've heard it a thousand times: "He can't connect emotionally." It's a universal complaint among women, it seems (along with unequal pay for equal work and the difficulty finding the perfect pair of jeans). But what I've found is that most of the women who say this are confusing love with the expression of love. While for women the two may be one in the same, for men they often aren't. The truth is, both men and women feel; they just express it differently, if they express it at all. Women are often fine with sharing every last emotion in part because, for them, it's a way of stress relief. Men, though, are more likely to "put on a mask" to conform to long-established societal expectations -- and because the expression just doesn't bring them the same sort of physical satisfaction.

She fights. He takes flight. Perhaps this sounds familiar: A bad day for her ends in tears and a desire to rehash what went wrong and who did what, followed by a plan for how to "fix" it. For him? A short outburst, and then, end of discussion -- a night of TV or a glass of scotch. This is entirely common: Studies show that women and men experience and respond to conflicts at work in very different ways. Women tend to feel conflict more deeply, reporting higher levels of work stress, tension, and frustration than men. And so they respond by working harder. Men, on the other hand, are more inclined to call in sick or otherwise "check out." (And if you've ever tried to have a serious conversation with a male partner, only to witness his eyes glaze over, you know this response isn't limited to conflicts at the office.)

She has lots of friends. He has, well, fewer. No matter how sure you are that men spend their free time complaining about the women in their lives, science says otherwise. Men have fewer friends than women, on average, and those friendships are different. They confide in each other less. They don't talk. Instead, they "do stuff" -- golf, ski, drink. Is it that men don't want close relationships with their pals? Not at all. One study found that when asked about what they'd like from friendships, men are just as likely as women to list things like emotional support, ability to confide in the person, and having someone to care for them. But they sure don't get that from other men in real life. They are conditioned from an early age to believe that friendships are "girly." So they leave them to the girls.

She multi-tasks. He's laser-focused. Many years into my marriage, I'll still initiate an important conversation with my husband while doing at least one or two other things -- cooking dinner, catching up on the news, driving to visit a friend -- and he will invariably ask to have the conversation later, at a time when I'm less otherwise engaged. The research finds that men aren't as skilled as women at dealing with more than one problem or task at a time. One study found that women perform 70 percent better than men at juggling more than one task at a time. So when he asks not to be interrupted, he's not being brusque: It's simply how he operates best.

She regrets. So does he. Our society has mixed opinions on regret: Some view it as a useless, awful feeling that can lead to depression and stagnation. Others argue that, harnessed appropriately, regret can in fact be useful in moving us forward. Either way, it's an emotion experienced equally between the sexes -- though not quite similarly. Studies show that men tend to regret things they hadn't done, while women regretted things they had.

All of this being said, it's important to recognize that the qualities men and women share, or don't, are fluid and ever-changing, and prone to shifting with time, experience, and relationships. We're not stagnant beings. That is to say, keep picking up his socks and someday he might just pick up yours.

An Unlikely Sliver of Hope from Ferguson

Wed, 2014-08-27 05:53
Sometimes we should be thankful for things that did not happen.

Soon after Michael Brown was gunned down by police in Ferguson, Missouri, news filtered out that the security cam video from a convenience store had allegedly caught him trying to shoplift cigarillos. A desi-looking store clerk had apparently tried to prevent him.

It was a troubling image.

Amidst all the hell breaking loose in Ferguson, here was one more old scab to pick at -- immigrant-black tensions in small towns and inner cities. The hazy cam screen captures from the store reinforced those fears. The store clerk was slightly built. The customer holding him by the collar was a much larger man. Though the storeowner Andy Patel later told the St Louis Post-Dispatch no shoplifting or robbery had occurred in his store the screen-grab encapsulated a story of suspicion, tension and conflict.

We have seen this storyline before. With Korean shopkeepers in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, for example. Four white police officers beat up a black motorist named Rodney King. But when riots broke out after the verdict, armed Korean shopkeepers were the ones standing guard against looters in front of their stores. Korean-black tensions were high. A year earlier a Korean storeowner had argued with a 15-year-old African American girl he thought was stealing a bottle of orange juice. He had shot her and security cameras showed her still clutching a two dollars in her hand. "I think the black people are jealous of the Koreans," Carl Rhyu a member of the community's security force candidly told the New York Times. "They're lazy; we are working hard. They're not making money; we're making money." It was a prejudice many had but rarely shared in public.

If any good came out of the horror of Ferguson it was this: It didn't turn into a black vs brown issue.

Ferguson's South Asian population is miniscule but storeowner Mumtaz Lalani tells Suman Guha Mazumder of India Abroad that of the 30-50 minority owned small businesses, at least a dozen are desi-owned. Lalani's own store was burned and looted. But he said so were other stores. "So it is not only that our community was targeted" he said.

"The violence affects an entire community, including all of its citizens," Anil Gopal, president of the St. Louis Asian Indian Business Association tells India Abroad. "Therefore I would not turn this into an issue about Indian Americans only."

But it could easily have become one. Desi storeowners are highly vulnerable. They run small convenience stores in crime-ridden pockets of inner cities and small towns. Miscommunication festers across a language gap. They are an easy target for robberies and violence because they have cash in their registers. Often they do not even report thefts. Sometimes it's because they think the police will not care beyond filing a cursory report. Sometimes it's because the clerk himself might not have his immigration papers in order. "A convenience store clerk, often a Patel or someone of Indian-origin, is killed in a robbery every few months somewhere in America," writes Chidanand Rajghatta in the Times of India. Though the Ferguson store altercation was not fatal or armed, it can be writes Rajghatta:

In July this year, Rahul Patel, 26, was shot dead at a family run liquor store in Montgomery, Alabama in a suspect robbery attempt. In June, Satish Patel, who was working at the Phillips 66 off of Highway 59, just north of Beltway 8 in Humble, Texas, was shot dead by three masked gunmen who stormed inside just before midnight in yet another robbery attempt. In December 2013, Lexington police charged an 18-year-old man with murder and robbery in the fatal shooting of store clerk Parag Patel of A&M Beverage, another botched robbery.

Martin Luther King Jr. might have drawn inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi but closer to the ground desi-black relations have always been complicated. "There is no racial conflict between blacks and Indians or other South Asians," Lalani tells India Abroad. That was probably a bit of wishful thinking. Prejudice and suspicion run on both sides even as there are points of convergence.

In the 1970 census 75 percent of Indian-headed households identified as "white." Immigrants carry their own racial baggage with them to America. African Americans resented many immigrants and white women for taking fuller advantage of the opportunities afforded to them thanks to the affirmative action. "If you're a newcomer, 'an outsider', it's always been clear that the way to become an American is to join the general prejudice against African Americans," wrote Hugh B. Price, president of the National Urban League. African Americans complain that South Asian cabdrivers in New York routinely refused to take them as passengers. But cab drivers say it's not about race, it's about going into far away crime-ridden neighbourhoods. Cab drivers carry cash, like liquor store clerks, making them especially vulnerable noted CNN. Palash Ghosh writes in International Business Times cabbies "are caught in a vortex of prejudice in which they are both the victim and perpetrators of racism and discrimination."

Media, of course, is always more interested in the story about racial conflict where there are sides and tensions and head butting. That is regarded as the unfiltered "reality" while coming together across racial lines is regarded as "NGO-dreaming." Sometimes NGOs too go overboard in trying to "brownwash" an event to project an idealistic vision of racial solidarity. Or they rush to embrace the issue with such fervor the real victims get left out the picture. Deepa Iyer who headed the South Asian Americans Leading Together makes that important point in The Nation.

She points out stories that clearly indicate that, "Latinos, Asian and Arab-Americans are no strangers to police violence and profiling based on skin color, accent, language, immigration status and faith." But while calling for different groups to come together to reform discriminatory police practices, Iyer is clear that "African Americans in Ferguson must remain the primary voices and decision-makers calling for action to address the murder of Michael Brown." Finding common ground with a tragedy and co-opting it are very different things.

Ferguson will not miraculously break down racial barriers and create a multicultural Kumbaya moment. But it drives home a simpler point about race relations in America. Despite all the suspicion and prejudice, in hardscrabble towns and neighborhoods, the chances are the shop-owner will be South Asian or a Korean and the customer could be African American or Latino. When a group vents its anger it might be ironically against those very stores that serve them because they are the ones on hand. But after the shattered glass is swept from sidewalk, they are still all in it together for better or for worse. And if anyone rebuilds the neighborhood it will be all of them.

"Can we all get along?" Rodney King had famously and rather helplessly pleaded during the LA riots. America is nowhere close to that and King himself is dead. But while he might have despaired at how little has changed when it comes to police and accountability in the 20 years since the LA riots, he might have found a glimmer of hope as well in Ferguson.

Anil Gopal, the president of the St. Louis Asian Indian Business Association and a 21-year resident of Ferguson tells India Abroad that "a lot of black people came to help the (desi) community. They came out in droves to help clean up the neighborhood, and helped the victims clean up their stores. Some of them even kept vigil outside the store as long as they could to protect the stores."

Perhaps not a great leap in race relations, but in times of great strife when so many things seem to be stuck in old patterns, every small step counts.

Yes, Race In The Little League World Series Matters

Tue, 2014-08-26 18:36
Before Jackie Robinson West players took this year's Little League World Series by storm, it had been 31 years since an all-black team had participated in the tournament. Amid the Chicago team's soaring achievement -- earning the American championship before losing the world championship game to South Korea -- many viewers online (and on our own site) emailed, tweeted and commented in anger, disgust or just plain confusion that such a fuss was made over the team's racial makeup.

Does it matter that the American championship team consisted entirely of young black boys from the South Side of Chicago? In the context of Little League baseball, the answer is: absolutely.

Last year ESPN's Tim Keown reported that 20 years of structural changes in youth baseball have steered the sport from a democratic everykid game to an increasingly suburban-favored "business enterprise designed to exclude those without the means and mobility to participate." He added that the modern-day industry is rife with elite travel teams, expensive tournaments and exclusive showcases, all of which increase a player's chance of getting noticed by a coach with college scholarship money (or a pro salary) to offer.

"The whole system amounts to athletic red-lining," Keown wrote.

As geographic and financial barriers to entry rose over the years, Little League participation among urban black players largely sank. That trend now registers at the professional level.

The Washington Post notes Major League Baseball was made up of 30 percent black players in the 1970s; other researchers say the figure was closer to 19 percent. Now, just 8.3 percent of all big-league players are African-American, writes the Post.

In 1999, The Little League Urban Initiative was created to reverse the trend of declining black youth participation. Starting in Los Angeles and Harlem, New York, and growing to some 200 teams the following year, the program provided assets like financial aid to qualifying leagues, field development and access to networking and advocacy programs. Jackie Robinson West became one of the teams to benefit from the Urban Initiative.

During this year's Little League World Series, the Chicago team captured the heart of its hometown and attracted a swarm of overdue positive coverage for the side of town from which the boys hail. But perhaps more importantly, Jackie Robinson West players were heralded by the tournament and sport where they weren't always welcome.

In 1955 the, all-black Cannon Street YMCA squad from Charleston, South Carolina, was kept out of the Little League World Series when 61 all-white teams quit the league to avoid integration. Those 61 teams formed the no-blacks-allowed Little Boys Baseball Inc. (later the Dixie Youth Baseball program) and Cannon Street YMCA won their state title by default. But since Little League rules stipulated a team couldn't participate in the Little League World Series unless it had played in a tournament, the young men of Cannon Street were denied their opportunity to play in the championship.

“I felt kind of exonerated,” John Bailey, one of the members of the Cannon Street YMCA who attended Sunday's Little League World Series championship game, told The Washington Post. “To see the boys from Jackie Robinson West represented and do the things we could not do in 1955, I finally felt closure.”

This Rapper Just Won The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge With Marijuana

Tue, 2014-08-26 18:15
Just when you thought all variations on the Ice Bucket Challenge had been exhausted, rapper B-Real from Cypress Hill shows up with a bucket of marijuana.

"I know we're going through a drought with water and all that stuff, so we're going to do it a little different, but I accept the challenge," B-Real, a noted marijuana advocate, says in a video posted last week to Hustla Subs, a hip-hop YouTube channel, just before a large bucket of marijuana buds is dumped over his head.

"Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson -- you've got 24 hours to accept," B-Real says at the end of the video, challenging three other celebrities with well-known affinities for cannabis.

We eagerly await responses from these three.

Donations inspired by the ubiquitous Ice Bucket Challenge -- in which participants pour a bucket of ice water on their heads to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative nerve disease -- have been coming in at an astounding rate since the practice went viral earlier this summer.

As of Tuesday, the ALS Association (ALSA) -- which fights the disease by funding research, supporting people with the condition and corralling federal resources -- had collected $88.5 million toward its efforts, a majority of which had been donated in the past seven days. It's a particularly stunning figure considering that the organization took in just $2.6 million in the same period last year, according to a statement released by the group.

And while B-Real is having some fun with the viral video craze, substituting marijuana for ice water, research suggests that the plant may in fact be an effective treatment for ALS. A study published earlier this year in the journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics found that Sativex, a drug developed by GW Pharmaceuticals that contains both cannabidiol (a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana) and THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that causes the "high" sensation), may slow the progression of ALS symptoms in mice.

There is no known cure for ALS, a condition that affects the nerves and muscles of approximately 30,000 Americans at any given time, according to ALSA. More than 5,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. annually.

Here's Where Singles Are Actually Looking For Love (And Not A One Night Stand)

Tue, 2014-08-26 16:49
Let's be real -- trying to navigate single life in a world dominated by swiping left or right (ehem, Tinder) can be about as much fun as stabbing yourself in the eye.

It's often hard to tell if people are truly looking for love or are more interested in a one-night stand. As it turns out, where they live may have something to do with it.

Clover, a dating app that launched earlier this year, asked 15,000 of their users if they were on the site to look for new friends, hookups, casual dating, or a long-term relationship. They then broke down the results by city and state.

Los Angeles was the most popular city for hook-ups, and New York City topped the list for long-term relationships. See how the rest of the country fared in the infographic below:

Credit: Clover

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eBay State Map Reveals All Your Neighbors' Quirky Shopping Habits (And Yours, Too)

Tue, 2014-08-26 16:12
While you'd like to blame that compulsive purchase of rainbow-colored Adirondack chairs on a moment of mid-winter delirium, the state where you live might actually offer more insight on your shopping habits.

According to an infographic created by eBay, the items people purchased the most over the last year can be categorized by state. Virginians, for example, have purchased their share of patio and gardening supplies, while their neighbors in North Carolina are racking up on baby gear. We're partial to vintage home decor (though eBay has our home state of New York pegged otherwise) and it appears that Arkansas and Illinois residents are into decorating, too.

Check out what your neighbors are buying in the infographic below.

h/t Mashable

Judges Blast Indiana, Wisconsin Gay Marriage Bans

Tue, 2014-08-26 15:53
CHICAGO (AP) — Federal appeals judges bristled on Tuesday at arguments defending gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, with one Republican appointee comparing them to now-defunct laws that once outlawed weddings between blacks and whites.

As the legal skirmish in the United States over same-sex marriage shifted to the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, more than 200 people lined up hours before to ensure they got a seat at the much-anticipated hearing.

While judges often play devil's advocate during oral arguments, the panel's often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble — at least at this step in the legal process.

Attorneys general in both states asked the appellate court to permanently restore the bans, which were ruled unconstitutional in June. Its ruling could affect hundreds of couples who married after lower courts tossed the bans and before those rulings were stayed pending the Chicago appeal.

Gay marriage is legal in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia, and advocates have won more than 20 court victories around the country since the Supreme Court ordered the U.S. government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages.

The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to take up a case, but Utah and Oklahoma cases were appealed to the high court and Virginia's attorney general also has asked the justices to weigh in. Appeals court rulings are pending for Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, while appellate court hearings are scheduled next month for Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, and is expected soon in Texas.

Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, hit the backers of the ban the hardest. He balked when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to "tradition" as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

"It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away," the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same sex marriage, Posner to the Wisconsin attorney, derives from "a tradition of hate ... and savage discrimination" of homosexuals.

Posner, who has a reputation for making lawyers before him squirm, frequently cut off Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, just moments into his presentation and chided him to answer his questions.

At one point, Posner ran through a list of psychological strains of unmarried same-sex couples, including their children having to struggle to grasp why their schoolmates' parents were married and theirs weren't.

"What horrible stuff," Posner said. What benefits to society in barring gay marriage, he asked, outweighs that kind of harm to children?

"All this is a reflection of biology," Fisher answered. "Men and women make babies, same-sex couples do not... we have to have a mechanism to regulate that, and marriage is that mechanism."

Samuelson echoed that, telling the hearing that regulating marriage — including by encouraging men and women to marry — was part of a concerted Wisconsin policy to reduce numbers of children born out of wedlock.

"I assume you know how that has been working out in practice?" Judge David Hamilton responded, citing figures that births to single women from 1990 to 2009 rose 53 percent in Wisconsin and 68 percent in Indiana.

While the judges seemed to push defenders of the bans the hardest, they also pressed the side arguing for gay marriage about just where they themselves would draw the line about who could and couldn't marry.

Would they argue in favor of polygamy on similar grounds, pointing to the emotional toll on children in families with multiple mothers or fathers, asked Judge David Hamilton, a President Barack Obama appointee.

"If you have two people, it's going to look like a marriage," said Kenneth Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. "If you have three or four, it doesn't. ... There's no slippery slope."

Among those following the arguments in court was plaintiff Ruth Morrison, a retired Indianapolis Fire Department battalion chief. She said that because Indiana won't recognize the woman she married in another state as her wife, she wouldn't be able to pass on pension and other benefits if she dies.

"Now Indiana tells us our promises are only good if our spouses are of the opposite sex," Morrison, wearing a fire department uniform, said during a rally ahead of the hearing Monday night.

A voter-approved constitutional amendment bans gay marriage in Wisconsin. State law prohibits it in Indiana. Neither state recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The lawsuits that led to Tuesday's hearing in Chicago contend that the bans violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection guarantee.

Despite the seriousness of the hearing, there was some levity.

At one point, visibly uncomfortable Samuelson struggled to offer a specific reason for how gay marriage bans benefit society. He then noted a yellow courtroom light was on signaling his allotted time was up.

"It won't save you," Judge Ann Claire Williams, a Bill Clinton appointee, told him, prompting laughter in court.

Samuleson smiled, and said: "It was worth a try."

Is Pat Quinn's Reelection in Trouble?

Tue, 2014-08-26 13:31
As the Ilinois governor's race marches ever closer to the November election, both candidates have nine weeks of hard campaigning ahead of them. But Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's road might have gotten just a bit harder, writes Madeleine Doubek.

A report from Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza found that the Illinois Department of Transportation did not follow may not have followed proper anti-patronage rules for much of Quinn's tenure as governor, plus the former transportation secretary said "neither I nor my staff were in a position to reject the recommended positions."

Doubek writes:

"I can just imagine the (Republican candidate Bruce) Rauner ads to come, comparing Quinn to his predecessor and running mate, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving time in a federal prison on corruption charges. Remember the ads Blagojevich used against his Republican opponent, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, dancing the polka with then-imprisoned former GOP Gov. George Ryan? Ah, all's nasty fair game in Illinois politics."

But is Rauner in the clear?

"Quinn's camp suggests Rauner also is ethically challenged because of problems at nursing homes and other companies run by his private equity firm, but it remains to be seen whether that notion sticks. On the other hand, I've heard several Republicans say they still don't feel like they know or trust Rauner or believe he understands and can run a government."

Both candidates had campaign backup from national political leaders this week. Vice President Joe Biden made his way to Chicago to help drum up support for Quinn, while New Jersey Governor and Republican Governor's Association Chairman Chris Christie made his way to Illinois to stump for Rauner. What does the presence of possible presidential candidates mean for the Illinois gubernatorial candidates?

Chris Christie Says Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Is 'Miserably Unpopular,' 'Failed'

Tue, 2014-08-26 13:21
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Monday had harsh words for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), calling him a "failed" governor and accusing Illinois' Democratic leadership of "using every trick in the book" to fend off a challenge from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

Speaking to a crowd of campaign volunteers at Rauner's downtown Chicago campaign headquarters, Christie said Democrats' push for same-day voter registration for the Nov. 4 election in Illinois was a sign that "the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get," the Chicago Tribune reports. Ten other states are moving to allow same-day voter registration this year.

Christie, a potential presidential candidate, went on to call Quinn a "miserably unpopular" governor who has "failed" in his leadership of the state, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Last week the non-partisan State Board of Elections determined that the Green Party had not gathered enough valid petition signatures to put a candidate on the ballot, but Christie claimed the successful qualification of Libertarian candidate is a sign that local Democrats are attempting to stack the deck for their incumbent.

"You people in Illinois make New Jersey people blush," Christie added Monday, the Sun-Times reported. "Every obstacle that can be placed in front of Bruce by the establishment in this state will be placed in front of him. The great news is he's strong enough to overcome those."

While in Chicago, Christie also attended a fundraising event for the Republican Governors Association, of which he is chairman.

Vice President Joe Biden was also in Chicago on Monday and appeared at a minimum wage roundtable event alongside Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as a Quinn fundraising event.

"Governor, if there's anybody I know who starts off with his gut and heart when people are concerned, it's you," Biden said to Quinn after the roundtable, according to NBC Chicago.

The showdown between Quinn and Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist running for public office for the first time, is expected to be one of this fall's most closely contested and expensive gubernatorial races. The latest HuffPost Pollster composite of polling on the race indicates Rauner currently has a seven percentage point edge over Quinn:

Jennifer Hudson Talks Lesbian Rumors And Gay Fans Ahead Of 'JHUD' Release

Tue, 2014-08-26 12:03
When it comes to public speculation on her sexuality, Jennifer Hudson doesn't care what people or the media thinks.

The singer-actress, 32, tells PrideSource's Chris Azzopardi that she faced that type of scrutiny after she appeared on the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards alongside Macklemore and Mary Lambert during a performance of the hit marriage equality anthem, "Same Love."

"People were like, 'Is Jennifer trying to tell us something?' Hey, I wasn't, but if you wanna think that, it's all right with me," she said. "When I got the call [to do that performance], I was like, "Oh my God, I definitely wanna do this. A powerful statement is being made and I wanna be a part of that."

Nonetheless, Hudson admires "the independence and the confidence" of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

"I'm so inspired by that, and I feel like, for me, that is my connection," she said. "I've never understood, gosh, what does the gay community see in me? You know what I mean? Because again, I grew up around a lot of that and that's the world that embraced me first, so that I've never fully gathered."

As for the enduring LGBT appeal of her "Dreamgirls" anthem, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," she noted, "A lot of gay men I've met, they're like, 'In my heart, I am Effie.' I relate to Effie, and I think that's part of the connection. It's a real situation that we all go through."

Hudson is gearing up for the release of her third studio album, "JHUD," on Sept. 23.

Read the full interview with Jennifer Hudson in PrideSource here.

Who Cares If Burger King Is Pro-Gay When It's Hurting Every One of Us?

Tue, 2014-08-26 11:54
I'm really getting tired of companies, politicians, donors and other entities using their support of LGBT rights -- something much easier to do these days -- as a way to pose as progressive, often as a PR move to blunt criticism of a bad record or even nefarious actions. And it's time that LGBT activists stop letting them get away with it. At this point, many of these entities need us more than we need them. Let's demand more.

The latest is Burger King, which only weeks ago unveiled "The Proud Whopper" to support LGBT pride -- receiving accolades from many LGBT activists -- but now is fleeing to Canada, buying up Tim Hortons, following other American companies engaged in so-called tax inversions, all to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Who cares if Burger King wraps its Whopper in the rainbow if the company is hurting the American economy, American taxpayers and American workers, including LGBT workers?

Last week I wrote about GOP megadonor Paul Singer, the hedge-fund billionaire who says he supports marriage equality and has given money to LGBT groups and GOP politicians who already support LGBT rights. But he's done nothing to actually take down the scores of viciously anti-gay Republican politicians -- by, for example, backing pro-gay GOPers in primaries -- and is giving millions to anti-gay candidates via right-wing groups and super PACs. While the super PAC he founded is backing a meager seven GOP candidates who already support LGBT rights -- and getting puffy media pieces written about it, which make it appear as if the GOP is more pro-gay than its record bears out -- he's doing everything he can to make sure the GOP gains more House seats and takes control of the Senate. That will only hurt LGBT rights and all progressive causes.

It's not just Republicans. It was a major triumph when marriage equality was passed in New York in 2011, pushed hard by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and gay activists should be thankful. But in the years since, Cuomo has been less than progressive and has sucked up to big business, hurting workers -- and now isn't even getting endorsed by New York's major labor unions. All the while he and LGBT supporters have used his marriage-equality win to give him progressive bona fides. But budget cuts and diminishing workers' rights hurt all of us, gay and straight, and Cuomo shouldn't get a pass and be allowed to use LGBT rights as cover.

Back in 2012 the largest LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), gave its Workplace Equality Innovation Award to Goldman Sachs, one of the very Wall Street firms that made billions during the economic crisis, in which millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes -- and many still haven't recovered. Among other things, Goldman benefited directly from the government's financial bailouts, getting $2.9 billion alone from its client, AIG, after it received government relief. The award was simply tone-deaf on HRC's part, doing the wrong thing at the wrong time -- but it was the right time for Goldman Sachs and its PR operation, which needed to soften the company's image. As Andrew Beaver wrote at the time:

In 2012, honoring a New York company for being good to its gay employees is like congratulating it for a passing second grade, since New York City has strong anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, and most of New York's banking industry has policies protecting LGBT employees. Let's be clear: HRC honored Goldman for money and prestige on Wall Street.

The fact that Burger King so publicly supports LGBT rights shouldn't matter. We should be past the point of being giddy over a nice wrapper. Corporations that dodge paying U.S. taxes while making billions from American consumers are wreaking havoc. We should all be sending a message to the fast-food giant that it is hurting America -- gay America, straight America, all of America.