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Antonin Scalia Rules Deep Dish Is Not Pizza

Mon, 2014-02-17 04:01
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is no stranger to controversial rulings, and he's just issued an opinion that might be his most divisive yet: Chicago deep-dish shouldn't be called pizza.

It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza," he said Friday night in the Windy City, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Don't worry, Chicago. Scalia's opinion, delivered at the Union League Club of Chicago’s 126th annual George Washington’s Birthday celebration, is non-binding and doesn't carry the full weight of the court (or even the weight of a deep dish from Uno or Lou Malnati's).

But it's clear Scalia is an originalist in more ways than one. Back in 2011, he explained why he believes a Chicago deep dish should be called "a tomato pie" and not pizza.

"Real pizza is Neapolitan [from Naples, Italy] It is thin," he was quoted as saying. "It is chewy and crispy, OK?"

Scalia has also called New York pizza "infinitely better" than Chicago's, but we should note he may be suffering from a bit of judicial bias. He was born in New Jersey and moved to New York at the age of 6, where he remained through high school.

But even without Scalia's opinion, deep-dish pizza has been hitting hard times. In December, a survey by the online ordering website GrubHub found that only 9 percent of all orders in Chicago are for deep-dish pizza.

And last year, 'Daily Show' host Jon Stewart railed against deep dish.

"Let me explain something, deep-dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza. It's not pizza," Stewart explained in perhaps the only example of him agreeing with Scalia on anything. "It's a f***ing casserole!"

When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent the 'Daily Show' crew some deep dish, Stewart released a video showing that even a dog wouldn't eat it.

So, we have to ask...

NBA All-Star Game 2014: East Rallies Past West 163-155 Behind MVP Kyrie Irving (PHOTOS)

Sun, 2014-02-16 22:40
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Eastern Conference finally stopped Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin — then stopped their losing streak at the NBA All-Star game.

Kyrie Irving had 31 points and 14 assists and was voted the game's MVP, Carmelo Anthony made an All-Star record eight 3-pointers and scored 30 points, and the East rallied for a 163-155 victory over the West on Sunday night. "It's a great honor," Irving said. "We had a few MVPs. Everyone out here today is an MVP."

Durant and Griffin each finished with 38 points, four shy of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star game record. But the East scored the final 10 points to pull out a game it trailed by 18.

Irving scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as the East ended a three-game losing streak. LeBron James had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

"The superstars of our league were just telling us to compete on every play," Irving said. "Trying to play as much defense as possible. You know, sticking to our game plan. We had a game plan going in and we executed."

Griffin shot 19 of 23, while Durant finished with 10 rebounds and six assists.

But the West was shut out after Durant's 3-pointer gave it a 155-153 lead with 1:59 left. Indiana's Paul George made three free throws, Anthony nailed his final 3-pointer, and James scored to make it 161-155. George closed it out with two more free throws and finished with 18 points.

This Man Didn't Have Valentine's Plans This Year. So He Did Something Way Better Instead.

Sun, 2014-02-16 13:02
A 25-year-old Chicago man didn't have a sweetheart this Valentine's Day and went out of his way to spread some love and pay it forward instead.

To give back to the homeless men he says he passes every day as he goes about his daily routine in Chicago's Loop, Peter Vitale bought them breakfast, coffee and a heart-shaped box of Valentine's chocolates -- and posted the video to YouTube in an effort to help inspire others.

"Aren't they the ones who need love the most? Need hope the most?" Vitale's video reads.

The men in Vitale's video include AJ, who has been homeless since May; Joseph, who's been homeless for over four years and John, a 54-year-old who has been on the streets for three months.

"I just wanted them to know, you know, we walk past [them] every single day, but someone out there cares,” Vitale told NBC Chicago. “I wanted to inspire a little bit of hope for them you know?”

(h/t Reddit)

Moving To A City Is Not As Popular As It Used To Be, Census Study Reveals

Sun, 2014-02-16 11:38
The chic apartment in the always-awake city or the roomy colonial with the nice backyard? Well, despite what you may personally choose, there's a trend towards the latter these days.

Whatever the reason, be it a need for a little more space, a less-expensive lifestyle or just the desire for some quieter surroundings, Americans still love the suburbs and are willing to leave the city to be there. According to the Census Bureau's most recent release on inter-county migration, which looked at flows between different counties by using data from the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, many people are packing up their urban homes and moving out.

And, as seen in the table below, which shows the 25 largest net annual population flows or pairs of counties with the largest number of people moving from the origin to the destination, minus people moving in the other direction, the movement is hitting even the nation's largest metros like New York and Los Angeles.

Still, we don't think that that popular cities will ever lack an influx of new residents eager to try out city life. Whether or not they decide to plant roots there, however, might be up for debate.

H/T Business Insider

University Of Chicago Student Found Dead Inside Dorm Room

Sun, 2014-02-16 01:34
The body of a University of Chicago student was discovered inside his dorm room on Saturday afternoon, The Chicago Tribune reported.

A resident of the dorm located the body after several students reported smelling a foul odor.

The 20-year-old male was found lying face down on the floor of his room in the International House, the student newspaper The Chicago Maroon reported. The body was in a decomposed state.

At this time, the student's identity has not been released. Cause of death is unknown, pending an autopsy.

According to the police report, the student's university keycard was last used on Feb. 7.

Kickstarter Hacked, Site Says Some Data Stolen

Sat, 2014-02-15 17:17
Hackers breached the crowdfunding website Kickstarter and made off with some user information, the site revealed on Saturday.

In a blog post, Kickstarter's CEO Yancey Strickler wrote that though the hackers didn't obtain any credit card data, they did gain access to other information about Kickstarter's members, such as usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers. The site did not divulge details about the hackers' methods.

"On Wednesday night, law enforcement officials contacted Kickstarter and alerted us that hackers had sought and gained unauthorized access to some of our customers' data," the blog post reads. "Upon learning this, we immediately closed the security breach and began strengthening security measures throughout the Kickstarter system."

Kickstarter "strongly" recommends that all users change their passwords. The site, which allows people to fund projects ranging from independent films to gadgets for custom rewards, has over 5 million members.

"We're incredibly sorry that this happened," Strickler wrote in the post. "We set a very high bar for how we serve our community, and this incident is frustrating and upsetting. We have since improved our security procedures and systems in numerous ways, and we will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come."

Read an email regarding the hack from Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler to the site's members below:

Time to Thrive

Sat, 2014-02-15 09:11
Below is the speech Ellen Page delivered at Human Rights Campaign Foundation's inaugural Time to Thrive conference.

Thank you Chad, for those kind words and for the even kinder work that you and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation do every day -- especially on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people here and across America.

It's such an honor to be here at the inaugural Time to THRIVE conference. But it's a little weird, too. Here I am, in this room because of an organization whose work I deeply admire. And I'm surrounded by people who make it their life's work to make other people's lives better -- profoundly better. Some of you teach young people. Some of you help young people heal and to find their voice. Some of you listen. Some of you take action. Some of you are young people yourselves... in which case, it's even weirder for a person like me to be speaking to you.

It's weird because here I am, an actress, representing -- at least in some sense -- an industry that places crushing standards on all of us. Not just young people, but everyone. Standards of beauty. Of a good life. Of success. Standards that, I hate to admit, have affected me. You have ideas planted in your head, thoughts you never had before, that tell you how you have to act, how you have to dress and who you have to be. I have been trying to push back, to be authentic, to follow my heart, but it can be hard.

But that's why I'm here. In this room, all of you, all of us, can do so much more together than any one person can do alone. And I hope that thought bolsters you as much as it does me. I hope the workshops you'll go to over the next few days give you strength. Because I can only imagine that there are days -- when you've worked longer hours than your boss realizes or cares about, just to help a kid who you know can make it. Days where you feel completely alone. Undermined. Or hopeless.

I know there are people in this room who go to school every day and get treated like shit for no reason. Or you go home and you feel like you can't tell your parents the whole truth about yourself. Beyond putting yourself in one box or another, you worry about the future. About college or work or even your physical safety. Trying to create that mental picture of your life -- of what on earth is going to happen to you -- can crush you a little bit every day. It is toxic and painful and deeply unfair.

Sometimes it's the little, insignificant stuff that can tear you down. I try not to read gossip as a rule, but the other day a website ran an article with a picture of me wearing sweatpants on the way to the gym. The writer asked, "Why does [this] petite beauty insist upon dressing like a massive man?"

Because I like to be comfortable. There are pervasive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that define how we are all supposed to act, dress and speak. They serve no one. Anyone who defies these so-called 'norms' becomes worthy of comment and scrutiny. The LGBT community knows this all too well.

Yet there is courage all around us. The football hero, Michael Sam. The actress, Laverne Cox. The musicians Tegan and Sara Quinn. The family that supports their daughter or son who has come out. And there is courage in this room. All of you.

I'm inspired to be in this room because every single one of you is here for the same reason. You're here because you've adopted as a core motivation the simple fact that this world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another. If we took just 5 minutes to recognize each other's beauty, instead of attacking each other for our differences. That's not hard. It's really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives.

Then again, it's not easy at all. It can be the hardest thing, because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. I know many of you have struggled with this. I draw upon your strength and your support, and have, in ways you will never know.

I'm here today because I am gay. And because... maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.

I also do it selfishly, because I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I'm standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of that pain. I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.

There are too many kids out there suffering from bullying, rejection, or simply being mistreated because of who they are. Too many dropouts. Too much abuse. Too many homeless. Too many suicides. You can change that and you are changing it.

But you never needed me to tell you that. That's why this was a little bit weird. The only thing I can really say is what I've been building up to for the past 5 minutes. Thank you. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for giving me hope, and please keep changing the world for people like me.

Happy Valentine's Day. I love you.

'Once In A Lifetime' Ice Caves Form On Lake Michigan Shore

Sat, 2014-02-15 08:28
If you trek to the Lake Michigan in the next couple weeks and hike along the frozen shore, you might find yourself standing on top of miles of spectacular ice caves.

Photo by Tom Auch.

Tom Auch, a photography teacher at Northern Michigan College in Traverse City, Mich., did just that this week. On Tuesday, he and a videographer friend, George Meredith, followed a dirt road near Leland to the lake, then hiked along the shore as it gradually rose. At some point, they were able to climb down the icy ledge, and found themselves looking at 20- to 30-foot-tall caves, some as big as garages.

Auch got the tip about the ice caves from a resident who told him he had to go see the phenomena for himself, so they set out early in the morning with the temperature below zero degrees.

"We walked out onto Lake Michigan another half of a mile to get perspective. Each one seemed to have a little hole in the top exposing blue sky through ice," he told The Huffington Post. "They had stalactites and stalagmites. … We found over a dozen spectacular caves and as we looked north and south along the shores of Lake Michigan, we could see that there were many more, for miles and miles that we didn’t experience."

Photo by Tom Auch.


The Great Lakes have more ice cover than anytime in the last 20 years and are quickly coming up on the 1979 record of 95 percent cover. The deep freeze has given travelers an opportunity to see some remarkable spots: Lake Superior's frozen surface has meant visitors can reach the Apostle Island ice caves for the first time in several years. About 4,000 people have been trekking to the remote Wisconsin area to see those the jaw-dropping sight each weekend, according to the Associated Press.

The Lake Michigan caves aren't quite as remote or far north, though the Leelanau Peninsula -- what Michiganders call "the pinkie finger" of the state, is quiet in the winter. Auch came to Traverse City from Los Angeles, where he had been a stockbroker, and had only meant to stay a summer with his parents. Instead, he found his own house, a teaching job he's held for the last 15 years, and a wife.

A self-described nature-lover, Auch talked of exploring his new home in all seasons, as well as the rest of the world. Of all the places he's seen in his travels, he said, the ice caves were one of the top three most incredible experiences.

Photo by Tom Auch.

The trek is dangerous, he warned, though not impossible. On the hike, he said, the ice was more than a foot thick and had sharp shards sticking out. He fell several times and said ice cleats, which attach to the bottom of shoes and keep you from slipping, are essential. But he thinks it was well worth to see the caves.

"It's really something I've never seen before. … Truly, once in a lifetime."

Photo by Tom Auch.

Video by George Meredith.

H/T UpNorthLive.com.

Public Backs College Football Players' Grievances, But Not Their Union

Sat, 2014-02-15 07:42
Fewer than one in three Americans believes that college football players should have the right to form a labor union, even though most are highly sympathetic to the grievances aired by pro-union athletes, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows.

Last month, football players at Northwestern University announced that they had filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that enforces labor law on unions and employers. If the board allows the election to proceed, the players could vote to establish the first labor union in college athletics.

The new poll finds that 48 percent of Americans think college athletes should not be allowed to form unions to bargain over medical coverage and the terms of their scholarships, as the Northwestern players wish to do, while only 30 percent of Americans said they should be allowed to do so.



But far more support players in some of the goals the players hope to achieve by unionizing. By a 51 percent to 32 percent margin, most said that colleges and universities should be required to cover medical costs for former players if those costs stem from participation in college athletics.

By an even greater margin, 73 percent to 14 percent, most said that colleges and universities should be required to honor -- and not allowed to withdraw -- athletic scholarships for students who are injured and unable to play.

The Northwestern case could theoretically drag on for years due to the difficult legal question at its core: Should college football players be considered employees of their schools? The Northwestern players, who are backed by the United Steelworkers union, are likely to argue that their scholarships establish an employer-employee relationship. The NCAA has already said that it strongly disagrees with that position.

Most Americans also reject that argument, saying by a 63 percent to 20 percent margin that college athletes are not turned into employees simply by virtue of receiving high-priced scholarships that are contingent on their participation in their sport.

If the Northwestern players manage to unionize -- and if the campaign spreads to other schools -- it could dramatically change the dynamics of big-time college sports. Although the Northwestern players are not explicitly calling for wages, representatives of the proposed union have said the athletes want the ability to negotiate over how financial benefits such as health care coverage and athletic scholarships are administered.

Some critics of the NCAA establishment, including players at other schools, have argued that college football players should be paid wages. In the HuffPost/YouGov poll, the majority of respondents did not agree: Only 24 percent said college athletes should be paid, while 59 percent said they should not.



The aversion to unionization by college athletes may have an ideological component. The idea of letting the players unionize was rejected 71 percent to 14 percent by Republicans and 48 percent to 28 percent by independents. But Democrats, by a 43 percent to 33 percent margin, said college athletes should be allowed to form unions.

The poll also found partisan division over requiring colleges to pay certain medical costs for former players. The idea was supported by Democrats 65 percent to 19 percent, and by independents 47 percent to 33 percent, but Republicans were opposed 46 percent to 38 percent.

On the other hand, the idea of prohibiting colleges from taking scholarships away from injured players was very broadly approved. Eighty percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents said colleges should be required to honor those scholarships.

In 2012, California became the first state to pass a law protecting the scholarships of some athletes whose college careers end due to injury sustained while playing their sport.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Feb. 1-2 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.

Obama On California Drought: Climate Change Threatens The Nation

Fri, 2014-02-14 19:26
LOS BANOS, Calif. (AP) — Warning that weather-related disasters will only get worse, President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. must rethink the way it uses water as he announced new federal aid to help drought-stricken California.

Obama drew a clear connection between California's troubles and climate change as he toured part of a farm that will go unsown this year as the state faces its worst drought in more than 100 years. Even if the U.S. takes action now to curb pollution, the planet will keep getting warmer "for a long time to come" thanks to greenhouse gases that have already built up, Obama said. "We're going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for. We're going to have to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for," Obama said.

After arriving in California on Friday afternoon, Obama met with community leaders at a rural water facility before announcing more than $160 million in federal financial aid, including $100 million in the farm bill he signed into law last week for programs that cover the loss of livestock.

The overall package includes smaller amounts to aid in the most extreme drought areas and to help food banks that serve families affected by the water shortage. Obama also called on federal facilities in California to limit water consumption immediately.

"These actions will help, but they're just the first step," he said. "We have to be clear. A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, are potentially going to be costlier and they're going to be harsher."

He urged Congress to act swiftly on Democratic legislation backed by California's senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, that would pour $300 million into emergency aid and drought-relief projects, upgrade city water systems and water conservation, and speed up environmental reviews of water projects, among other steps.

The president also announced that the budget he'll send to Congress next month will include $1 billion for a proposed "climate resilience fund" to invest in research and pay for new technologies to help communities deal with the impact of climate change. The proposal is likely to face stiff resistance from lawmakers wary of new spending and divided on the subject of global warming.

Later Friday, Obama was meeting Jordan's King Abdullah II at the Rancho Mirage estate Sunnylands for talks covering the Mideast peace process, Syria and other issues. It's unusual for Obama to host world leaders outside of the White House, though he did hold a two-day summit at Sunnylands last year with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Obama planned to spend Presidents Day weekend at the estate and was expected to make use of its golf course. He traveled without first lady Michelle Obama.

The White House has been closely watching the California drought, which follows a year of the lowest rainfall on record. The drought has also brought to a head political warfare over the state's water resources that feed major cities, the country's richest agricultural region and waterways that provide habitat for endangered species of fish.

No longer can the U.S. afford to think about water as a competition between the nation's agricultural and urban areas, Obama said earlier at a water facility in Firebaugh. With overall water resources expected to diminish significantly in the future, he said, the country must find better ways to cooperate.

"We are going to stay on top of this because it has national implications," Obama said.

Farmers recently learned they will not be receiving irrigation water from the State Water Project, a system of rivers, canals and reservoirs. They anticipate a similar announcement later this month from federal authorities who operate a similar system called the Central Valley Project.

Federal officials, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, earlier this month pledged $34 million to help farmers and ranchers conserve scarce water supplies, improve irrigation methods, head off erosion of unplanted fields and create better ways to water livestock.

The Republican-controlled House recently voted to address the drought by rolling back environmental protections and temporarily halting the restoration of a dried-up stretch of the San Joaquin River, work that is designed to restore historic salmon runs. Farmers would prefer to have the water diverted to their crops instead.

Environmentalists and Democrats oppose the bill, and the White House has threatened a veto, arguing that the measure would not alleviate the drought but would undo decades of work to address California's longstanding water shortages.

___

Associated Press writer Scott Smith in Fresno, Calif., contributed to this report.

___

Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

More Toxic Chemicals Damaging Children's Brains, New Study Warns

Fri, 2014-02-14 18:50
The number of industrial chemicals, heavy metals and pesticides proven capable of derailing normal brain development -- and robbing children and society of dollars, IQ points and future potential -- has doubled over the last several years, according to a new paper published Friday.

Dr. Philippe Grandjean, one of the co-authors, suggested that the world is facing a "silent pandemic" of "chemical brain drain."

"We have an ethical duty to protect the next generation," he said. "In particular, the next generation’s brains."

As a medical student in the 1970s, Grandjean remembers watching a young Japanese teenager, Shinobu Sakamoto, on the TV news. Sakamoto struggled to walk and talk, but was determined to let the world know about her people's plight. Many in her fishing village of Minamata had unknowingly consumed seafood heavily tainted with methylmercury. Her mom had done so while Sakamoto was in her womb.

"I was shocked, as they didn't teach us anything about the effects of pollution on human health" in medical school, recalled Grandjean, chair of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and an adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. "That was the moment I decided to do something about it."

Grandjean has spent the decades since investigating chemicals capable of damaging the developing brain. He started with lead, then mercury. "Every time I turned over a stone, I found something new," he said.

The line-up has now grown to a dozen "bona fide brain drainers," said Grandjean. That's twice as many chemicals as he and co-author Philip Landrigan, chairman of the department of preventative medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, listed in their first review of the science in 2006.

Joining methylmercury, lead, arsenic, PCBs, toluene and ethanol, according to the authors' updated list, are manganese, fluoride, DDT, chlorpyrifos, tetrachloroethylene and polybrominated biphenyl ethers.

The consequences of exposure in the womb or during the first years of life to any of these heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, flame retardants and other industrial compounds may not always be as obvious as they were for Sakamoto. But the effects on society, experts warn, can be profound.

An estimated one in six children in the U.S. is now affected by a cognitive or behavioral disorder, and that rate appears to be on the rise. Experts suggest that increases in the number of kids with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for example, can't be explained by increased awareness or surveillance alone. Environmental pollutants are among the suspects.

Still, the new paper's concerns go much further.

Reduce one child's IQ by five points and the difference may be imperceptible. The child might be just a little slower to learn, a little shorter of attention and a little less successful on tests and at work -- which economists estimate could equate to $90,000 in lost lifetime earnings.

Reduce the average IQ among all children in the U.S. by five points, however, and the impact is striking: About half as many members of that generation will be "intellectually gifted," twice as many will be "intellectually impaired," and billions of dollars of productivity will be lost. And that doesn't take into account the costs of diagnosis, treatment, special education, incarceration and other indirect costs, such as an estimated rise in traffic accidents attributed to more distracted drivers.

A potential shifting of the bell curve should ring alarms for policymakers, business leaders and parents alike, experts say. They add that the current list of chemical culprits likely represents just the tip of the iceberg.



"The number is going to increase. Right now, it's just a matter of not having data available," said David Bellinger, an expert in children's environmental health at Harvard, who has found associations between three of the brain poisons -- lead, methylmercury and organophosphate pesticides (a class that includes the newly added chlorpyrifos) -- and drops in the combined nationwide IQ of 23 million, 17 million and 0.3 million points, respectively.

Adding to the problem, Bellinger added, is that "the regulatory process in this country is inherently conservative: You have to prove something is bad [before you can ban it] rather than prove something is good [before you can authorize it]."

Representatives of the chemical industry, meanwhile, called the new paper "flawed."

"The authors focus largely on chemicals and heavy metals that are well understood to be inappropriate for children's exposure, highly regulated and/or are restricted or being phased out," the American Chemistry Council told HuffPost in an emailed statement. "They then extrapolate that similar conclusions should be applied to chemicals that are more widely used in consumer products without evidence to support their claims."

The industry group further emphasized that its members "go to great lengths to ensure products are safe."
 
Most of today's knowledge about chemicals and their effects on the human brain is based on the study of adults -- typically those who have suffered occupational exposures or tried to kill themselves. With these data, scientists have tallied a total of 214 neurotoxic chemicals. Another thousand chemicals have been shown to be toxic to animals' brains, while thousands more have yet to be studied for neurotoxicity.

Science has come a long way since Grandjean’s medical school days, when his professors taught that the fetus is well protected inside the mother’s womb. Scientists now know that hundreds of chemicals can course through umbilical cord blood.

But proving that a specific chemical can harm a child's growing gray matter is extremely difficult and time-consuming, which experts suggest is why the list currently stands at only 12.

"The default assumption is that if it's not good for the adult brain, it's even worse for the child's," said Bellinger.

Timing is critical. At certain times while the baby is still inside the womb, brain cells are added at a rate of 250,000 every minute -- with each neuron migrating to a specific location in the brain, where it begins building intricate networks with other cells. During the first few years of a baby's life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second.

"The brain has to go through very complicated and delicate stages of development that have to happen at the right time and in the right sequence. If that doesn't happen, you don't get a second chance," said Grandjean, who has recently published a book on the topic titled Only One Chance.

"That kid is stuck with that brain the rest of his or her life," Grandjean added.

Some children may be more at risk than others, noted Bruce Lanphear, an environmental health expert at Simon Frasier University in British Columbia. "If you grow up in an impoverished neighborhood, you could be exposed to lead, airborne pollutants, tobacco smoke and high levels of pesticides," he said. "Each of these can chip away at learning abilities or elevate risks of ADHD."

What's more, some of these chemicals may magnify the effects of others. Lead, for example, has been shown to cause more harm in children who are also exposed to tobacco smoke or manganese.

Sheela Sathyanarayana, a pediatric environmental health expert at Seattle Children's Hospital, noted at least a few things that parents and expecting parents can do to reduce potential neurotoxic exposures inside their home. She recommended avoiding fish known to contain high levels of mercury, such as tuna, as well as minimizing dust, removing shoes when coming indoors and keeping windowsills clean.

She also welcomed the paper's recommendation of a new agency -- much like the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer -- that could coordinate research and grade the evidence for a chemical's propensity to wreak havoc on the developing brain.

Some progress has already been made, including the newly adopted Minamata Convention on Mercury, which addresses human activities contributing to widespread mercury pollution and was inspired by the tragedy in Sakamoto's village. But, as Grandjean noted, even chemicals long-banned in the U.S., such as chlorpyrifos, are still turning up inside American homes or being exported to developing countries.

"This is like climate change," he said. "We just can’t afford to do this experiment. Once we finally get enough evidence, it's too late."

Grandjean added his fear of a potentially ironic "vicious cycle."

"If the next generation does not have the cognitive skills that we hope they will have," said Grandjean, "they will not be able to clean up after us ... or care for us."

In Case 'I Love You' Gets Boring, Here's How To Say It In 10 Different Languages

Fri, 2014-02-14 16:59
On a day like today, "I love yous" abound. By why stick with the original when you can tell your loved ones that you love them in 10 different ways?

Read on to learn how to say "I love you" in different languages -- including Spanish, German, Turkish and Russian. You wordly charmer, you.

Note: Links to pronunciation videos are attached to the phonetic spelling.

Russian



(yeah teh-byah loo-bloo)

Portuguese



(eiu chee ah-moh)

French



(zh tem)

Mandarin



(wuo ai ni)

Spanish



(tay key-air-o)

German



(ech lee-beh dech)

Italian



(tee ah-moh)

Turkish



(see-nee see-vee-your-dum)

Hindi



(mai tumse pyaar karta/karti hoon)

Swahili



(nee-na coo-pen-duh)

All images Getty/Raydene Salinas

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Beth Whaanga's Powerful Breast Cancer Portraits Lost Her 100 Friends, But Could Save Many More Lives

Fri, 2014-02-14 16:46
Beth Whaanga posted images of herself after breast cancer surgery on Facebook, hoping to share her story and urge others to take preventative measures.

What she didn't expect was the vitriolic responses from some of her Facebook "friends" -- and the subsequent outpourings of support she received when the photographs went viral.

(Some images below are NSFW and may be considered graphic.)

Whaanga, a nurse and married mother-of-four from Brisbane, Australia, was diagnosed with breast cancer on her 32nd birthday. After finding out that she carried the BRCA2 gene, a genetic mutation that put her at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, Whaanga underwent a double mastectomy last November, as well as a hysterectomy, lymphadenectomy and melanoma lumpectomies. Instead of hiding her scars, she chose to speak out in order to help others affected by cancer.

"Your scars are a physical or emotional representation of a trial you've been through," Whaanga told The Huffington Post in an email. "They show that you came through the trial and survived."

She teamed up with friend and photographer Nadia Masot to photograph her post-surgery body in a series of portraits called "Under The Red Dress."

"I really felt during the shoot I wanted to portray [Whaanga's] strength and resilience, but also have her vulnerability and pain come across," Masot told The Huffington Post in an email. "She was unafraid of me pointing the camera at her exposed body, scarred as it is. She was confident in sharing it with me, and I think that came across."



Introducing the photographs on her Facebook page, Whaanga wrote:
WARNING: these images are confronting and contain topless material. They are not in anyway meant to be sexual. The aim of this project is to raise awareness for breast cancer. If you find these images offensive please hide them from your feed. Each day we walk past people. These individuals appear normal but under their clothing sometimes their bodies tell a different story. Nadia Masot and I aim to find others who are willing to participate in our project so that we might show others that cancer effects everyone. The old and the young, age does not matter, self examination is vital. It can happen to you.



Despite Whaanga's explanation, some people took issue with the images. Hours after the photographs had been posted, over 100 people had de-friended Whaanga on Facebook, and several reported the album to Facebook for violation of the site's photo policy. (Facebook has contacted Whaanga to inform her that they will not be removing the images.)



"The feedback that I've received was that people felt that the medium was not appropriate for these images," Whaanga told HuffPost. "They were also concerned about the graphic and confronting content of the images."

These objections, however, seem almost petty in light of the project's goal: raising awareness about cancer and encouraging people to make their health a priority.

"These photos remind the viewer to be vigilant about checking their bodies and to be more aware that this could and and possibly will happen to you," Whaanga told HuffPost.



"If the 'Under The Red Dress' project helps one man, woman or family deal with their battle with cancer, or helps one person in their preventative journey, than I'm very happy," Whaanga told HuffPost.

Learn more about the Under The Red Dress Project here.

The TIF Illumination Project at One Year

Fri, 2014-02-14 16:43
On February 12 of 2013, the night of the State of the Union, a town meeting was held at the Chopin Theater in Chicago's Near West Side. The subject was tax increment financing. Despite the complexity of the topic and the competition from President Obama, some 230 people packed the theater to hear a journalist, an academic and an activist discuss TIFS.

The TIF Town Meeting was the launch of the CivicLab's TIF Illumination Project.



The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Illumination Project is an effort of a group of volunteers in Chicago to investigate and expose a decades-old municipal finance scheme that annually extracts almost 500 million dollars of local property taxes and places that money in a program controlled by the mayor. This program has dispensed billions of property tax dollars to major U.S. companies (Walmart, Target, Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, United Airlines, Willis Insurance) to well-heeled developers of Loop office towers and to a collection of connected developers throughout the city.

This program has been a source of controversy here for years but is not readily understood by Chicagoans. It is decidedly not a public process and the rationale behind what projects are selected for subsidy in the name of "community development" is not apparent or available for any community to debate or participate in. Chicago has a notoriously corrupt and opaque government with numerous local councilmen having been sent to prison. The city was ruled with an iron hand for 43 years by the father and son Daleys, and the Democratic machine had a firm lock on local government for almost one hundred years. This is a tough town for civic engagement, government transparency and grassroots urban policy planning.

A Tax Increment Finance district is created by the City's Department of Planning and Development. It is a tool to capture property taxes from all properties inside the district. A TIF is usually created to build some project in a "blighted" community that the free market won't support. The developer seeks a gift of cash and/or land to do their project because it is deemed to be a public good. A snapshot is taken of the value of the properties inside the district and how much property taxes they are paying. The TIF district captures all INCREMENT from all those properties for 23 years. The money captured by the TIF is effectively "off the books" from the annual public budgeting process.

Since TIFs first appeared in Chicago in 1986 they have captured over $5 billion in property taxes.



The TIF Program has taken on significant political and civic import because it diverts and disperses property taxes. In Chicago about 54 cents of every property tax dollar collected by the city is supposed to go to the Board of Education. Other units of government that rely on property taxes for significant parts of their budget include the public libraries, the public parks, the city colleges, the county government and the city, itself. So any entity that steps in and skims, so to speak, hundreds of millions of property tax dollars annually is a grave threat to the finances of local government. Currently Chicago has 154 TIF districts covering about 32 percent of the city. No other city in America has so many special taxing bodies.



The TIF Illumination Project is an exercise in civic imagination. It's about civic geography and civic mental map-mapping. We set out to answer the question of "What are TIFs doing to MY community?" If you ask a person, "How is life in the Kinzie Industrial TIF?" they will look at you blankly. But if you ask, "How is life in the 27th Ward?" then people can locate themselves and form a response based on their lived experience of that community. We are telling people what TIFs are doing to us a ward-by-ward basis.

Our volunteers have acquired eight different sets of data and using data mining, GIS coding, map making, investigatory journalism and crowd-sourced organizing, we have compiled an unprecedented picture of what TIFs are doing across the city.

We can tell you, on a ward-by-ward basis:

• How many TIFs are in the ward
• How much money they extracted from within the ward last year
• How much money was left in the TIF accounts at the start of this year
• What projects were funded by TIFs inside the ward
• Location of public schools that have closed by the Board of Education
• Location of public schools that have received budget cuts for the current year

We produce a graphic poster showing all this against a map of the ward we are covering plus a general piece that explains what TIFs are. We do a 50-minute presentation that walks through the history and scope of the TIF program and then zooms in to reveal the details of the TIFs in the ward we are visiting.

At the TIF Town Meeting at the Chopin Theater on February 12, 2013, we asked the attendees if they found the information useful. There was a strong response from the audience that this information was a revelation. We then invited folks to return to their communities and organized public meetings -- or Illuminations -- as we call them.

People responded with enthusiasm. The first meeting was in the 6th Ward on March 9 and since then we've been to 24 meetings and have Illuminated 147 TIFs across 24 wards! Over 2,000 people have attended these meetings. All the presentations are archived on our TIF Reports website.

Here is the graphic produced for the TIF Illumination of the 4th Ward (Hyde Park, home of the University of Chicago and President Obama) we did on May 13, 2013.



The piece is designed for ledger size, two-sided, full color. The fold is along the left. The front follows this pattern, with a call out to the residents of the ward we are visiting. We identify the major named neighborhoods inside the ward and produce the TIF district shapes as though they are the culprits on a wanted poster. The headline is derived from looking at one or more TIFs that are entirely inside or mostly inside the ward.



The back of the piece remains the same across all our Illuminations and will be updated for meetings in 2014 to incorporate the latest data. We endeavor to explain what TIFs are using text and graphics.

The piece was produced by Tom Tresser, designed by Carlyn So and based on the data research of Cory Mollet and Bill Drew. There are many others who helped and some would prefer to keep their participation private.

In the graphic we also highlight our original research that revealed that there was a staggering $1.7 billion in all the TIF accounts at the end of 2011 and 2012.

Our first poster went through seven iterations and was reviewed by one of America's most experienced academics in the TIF and local government finance arena. We are constantly testing this work. Is this the best way to explain TIFs? We've translated this part of the poster into Spanish and are working to turn the poster into a comic book and animation.



This section is immediately below the map and contains the final exclusive piece of news that the TIF Illumination Project delivers to communities. We use the same data analysis that got us the basic Illumination to determine how much money was left in the TIF accounts from the in-ward TIFs at the start of the year.

This number is shown in red and asks the provocative question: "What would you do to improve the ward" if you had this money available? In the case of the 4th Ward at the start of 2012, that number was $15.3 million.

The remainder of this section of the graphic explains what the TIF Illumination Project is about and also explains that it is a project of the CivicLab, a new co-working space in the West Loop dedicated to collaboration, education and innovation around civic engagement.

From February to October of 2013 the TIF Illumination Project has Illuminated 147 TIFs across 25 wards in front of over 2,000 people. We continue to get requests to Illuminate the TIFs in ward we did not get to.

Some 2,000 people have attended these events and received a piece of civic education and that is grounded in their community and made clear and powerful via graphics, PowerPoint slides and the narrative of the presenter. We have shown folks who has gotten paid via TIFs and revealed details hitherto kept secret -- including the startling fact that the TIF accounts held $1.7 billion on January 1, 2013.

The net result is that people ask more questions than can be answered. They are angry. They wonder if the city is truly broke, as the mayor claims. They want to know who green-lighted the projects that received so much public dollars and why are essential city services being cut (including the closing of 49 public schools) at the same time?

We launched an online petition to put TIF data on the property tax bills that the county issues twice a year, and beginning in July of 2014, that will happen.

We launched a second online petition demanding that the mayor account for the $1.7 billion and release those funds to the units of government that SHOULD'VE gotten those funds in the first place. Over 3,400 people have signed so far. In an August 2, 2013 editorial headlined "Hand Over TIF Surplus Cast To Chicago Schools," the Chicago Sun-Times agreed with us!

We are delighted that our Illuminations have not shed new light on a major piece of Chicago's financial infrastructure but that our work is impacting public policy.

We are thrilled to see civic indignation evolve into civic imagination as our neighbors are now looking past the corrupt and broken TIF Program toward some new ways of imagining local economic development. We will report on these developments in 2014.

More information on the TIF Illumination Project, including all public presentations made to date , is online at http://www.tifreports.com. More information on the CivicLab and our co-working program is at http://www.civiclab.us.

Man Treks 14 Miles On Subzero Day To Give Fiancée The Perfect Valentine

Fri, 2014-02-14 15:46
It may be the most heartwarming valentine to ever to come out of subzero temperatures.

To surprise his fiancée for Valentine's Day, stay-at-home dad Tyler Morrick braved the cold for more than four hours as he created a massive message to his sweetheart on top of a frozen pond near the home the couple's home in Aurora, Ill.

"Outside of having legal, binding papers saying we are married, in my mind we are already married," he said of Rachel Maschmeier, with whom he has an 18-month-old daughter. "She is my wife, my fiancée, my best friend."

So Morrick went big -- really big -- and walked overnight to spell out "I love you, will you be my Valentine?" in snow about 100 feet wide. The 29-year-old said the idea to don a head lamp and warm jacket and haul to a nearby pond was a "split-second" decision that came to him while working on his motorcycle early Wednesday morning.








Photos courtesy Tyler Morrick

Morrick began writing his valentine by moonlight in what he later learned was -7 degree weather with -19 degree windchill. Completing the message shortly after 5 a.m., Morrick estimated he walked between 13-14 miles in the process.

"I actually lost 4.5 pounds by doing this," Morrick said. "It was cold and very challenging but I told myself if I give up, it's like giving up on our relationship, so there was no option of quitting or even taking a break."

Morrick says he hopes to inspire others to embrace that same belief that when it comes to love, there's no such thing as giving up.

"I'm setting the bar for these boys that will be coming after my little girl when she gets older," he said.

Morrick called his fiancée "without a doubt the greatest thing to ever happen to me" and said she's "the most amazing mother to our 18-month-old daughter."

"Everyone tells me that she is so lucky to have me and I tell them that I am far more lucky to have found her."

To demonstrate that point, he said, he punctuated the question with a snow angel, to represent "my belief that [Rachel] was sent to me from an angel above." AW!

Illinois' Proposed Medical Marijuana Rules Could Squeeze Out Small Businesses

Fri, 2014-02-14 14:28
Medical marijuana regulations recently proposed in Illinois could be a major buzzkill for the state's entrepreneurs and other small business owners.

Under the proposal from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, legal pot businesses would need approximately half a million dollars in startup costs. The program would require pot dispensaries to pay a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, show proof of $400,000 in assets, pay a $30,000 permit fee and fork over a $25,000 yearly permit renewal fee.

Cultivation centers would be required to pony up a $25,000 nonrefundable application fee, prove they have $250,000 in liquid assets, pay a $200,000 fee once the permit is approved and pay a $100,000 renewal fee.

Additionally, local governments would be able to charge their own dispensary and cultivation center fees.

"Probably 50 percent of the wannabes are now out," Joseph Friedman, a suburban Chicago pharmacist hoping to opening a dispensary, told the Chicago Tribune. "This is going to bring out just the serious players who are well-capitalized and well-credentialed."

Regulators have been slowly hammering out the various rules for potential users, growers and dispensary vendors since the state's medical weed law -- the strictest in the nation -- went into effect earlier this year. Medical marijuana advocates worry the new proposals for dispensaries and cultivation centers could price out suffering patients and ultimately threaten the success of the nascent pilot program.

"This program was designed, proposed and passed to help sick people," Dan Linn, the executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), told The Huffington Post. "But now it seems the state has wrapped itself up in the bureaucracy and this is all going to be on the backs of sick people."

Linn said the some of the high regulation fees will help keep the pilot program cost-neutral for the state and also weed out "the perceived trouble makers" hoping to get rich quick in the medical marijuana gold rush.

The downside, Linn said, is what he calls the "trickle-down" cost to medical marijuana patients. "A lot them are sick and on disability and can't afford the [high price of] legal medical marijuana. You'll see patients who sign up for a card and never use it."

Linn notes that if the fees are passed on to customers and medical weed becomes significantly more expensive than that on the street, dispensaries and clinics won't have enough business. "Ultimately," he said, "that could make or break this program."

Real estate is shaping up to be another challenge for potential medical marijuana businesses, with local governments in the Chicagoland area tinkering with zoning laws that could restrict pot businesses' already limited options.

Other proposed regulations would require medical marijuana patients to be fingerprinted, undergo a background check and pay $150 yearly fee for a special photo ID card, the Associated Press reports.

Regulators will take public input on the proposals until Feb. 27.

Northwestern Student: My Unpaid Internship Sent My Bank Account Into The Negatives (VIDEO)

Fri, 2014-02-14 14:24
Hey interns out there, are you working tirelessly for no pay? Gideon Resnick, a student at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, feels your pain.

The Medill School of Journalism requires its students to participate in a "Residency Program" -- an internship that provides students access to many prestigious media companies. The caveat: most are unpaid.

"The Residency Program that's in the Medill School of Journalism has come under fire quite a bit recently, because of the notion that it is something that you inherently have to do as a journalism student in order to graduate, and something that you don't get paid for that goes toward school credit," Resnick said in a segment on HuffPost Live.

Right now, the university says it's in compliance with the law regarding internships, according to ProPublica, and is continuing a program where employers pay Medill $1,250 for every student placed. But Medill has started asking media companies it works with about whether they would consider paying interns minimum wage.

Last summer, Resnick was in a position most journalism majors are familiar with. He accepted an internship that may not help pay the bills but hopefully would be valuable toward his career trajectory. Though, when the internship is unpaid and located in an expensive city like New York, it can be tough to survive financially.

"I did the best that I could to kind of survive throughout the summer, and by the end of it, I was in the negatives in my bank account," Resnick said. "Ultimately for me it was a really rewarding experience, but I think since then I would never do something that didn't offer pay again."

Watch a clip from the segment above or click here for more.

Want To Drink Like A Famous Person This Weekend? Taylor Swift Does It Like A Princess.

Fri, 2014-02-14 13:21
Happy Friday! Welcome to Drink Like A Famous Person, where we let you bring out your fabulous side in the name of some well-earned R&R. Eschew your regular habits this weekend by drinking like...

Taylor Swift!




We've chosen this starry-eyed songstress especially in honor of Valentine's Day because, as you very well know, T-Swifty is totally in love with love.

Indeed, during the last ten years, she's either dated or somehow allegedly been involved with around 25 different famous and non-famous men. And yet, as her many breakup ballads attest, the poor girl has been pretty unlucky in the love department. She even hosted what she called a "pathetic single girls party" in 2012 -- but not because being single is pathetic. She thinks it's "awesome."

Anyway, how does one drink like the great romantic of our time, Taylor Swift?

"If it doesn't taste like candy and sparkles, I usually don't drink it," she said in a 2012 Esquire interview. Or else wine, "because it makes me feel classy."

And so we give you the Cotton Candy Cocktail. You'll need to loosely fill a lowball glass with cotton candy, then pour one ounce of marshmallow vodka over top. The candy will melt, you'll fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water, add a couple ice cubes and ta-da! Enjoy your sugar rush.

Cheers!





Happy Valentine's Day! Which States Have the Highest Marriage Rates?

Fri, 2014-02-14 13:06


"Love and marriage, love and marriage/Go together like a horse and carriage"

On Valentine's Day, with a nod to Ol' Blue Eyes (Frank Sinatra, in case you didn't know) we look at love and marriage across the U.S. with lists of the 10 states with the highest and lowest marriage rates.

At the top of the list is Nevada, and it's not even close. The Silver State laps the field with a marriage rate more than double the second highest state, Hawaii.

On the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey edges out Mississippi for the bottom spot.

Meanwhile, Illinois makes an appearance on one of these two lists. But is it on the list of highest or lowest marriage rates?

FIND OUT HERE

You're Not Crazy, Your Cat Is. Here's Why Kitties Do The Weird Things They Do.

Fri, 2014-02-14 11:59
If the Internet has taught us anything, it's that people love cats. And that cats are weird.

While we may joke by saying that a "domestic cat" is an oxymoron -- can you really "own" a cat? -- they have been enjoying a symbiotic relationship with humans for centuries. Yet a lot of cat things are still totally baffling to us. Maybe your cat is just an oddball at heart, but here we'll attempt to explain why.


Why do cats like boxes so much?



For security, mostly. Cats are instinctively drawn toward boxes because they're protected on three sides and can watch what's going on around them through the opening. You can't sneak up and scare your cat when it's in a box. Or so they think.

Remember that cats are also hunters. So when they're hiding out in a box and see something interesting go by, they can spring out and take that thing by surprise. Even if it's much more likely to be your ankle than a potential dinner.


Why do cats purr?



The short answer is that no one's entirely sure, but we have some theories.

Purring is generally associated with positive experiences, like being fed or petted, so it's assumed by most people to be a sign of a happy cat. Kittens learn to purr a few days after birth, researchers suggest, as a way to tell Mom "I'm okay." But cats also purr when they're frightened or injured, so it's not always a way to communicate contentment.

A purr happens when the cat's brain sends messages to its laryngeal muscles -- the muscles around its vocal chords -- allowing them to twitch 25 to 150 times per second, or 25 to 150 hertz. Some research has suggested that sound frequencies in this range can be therapeutic, strengthening bones and providing pain relief.


Why do they knead you?

Biologist John Bradshaw suggests that cats may see you as a "larger, non-hostile" cat. And their behaviors toward humans are driven mostly by instinct, including kneading, which kittens do to their mother's stomachs to stimulate milk flow. It's often thought that adult cats associate the motion with maternal comfort (and food), so they repeat it in adulthood. Not that your cat sees you as its mother, necessarily -- more like a roommate who's super tall for reasons it doesn't understand.

But since cats are also known to knead pillows and other surfaces, another explanation is that the behavior stems from a time when wild cats would pat down foliage to make a bed. Or, since they have scent glands in their paws, kneading may be a way for cats to mark territory.


What's up with catnip?



Catnip is a strange drug for cats. After smelling the plant, which is related to mint, they'll roll around euphorically, chase invisible prey and keep coming back for another hit. It doesn't have this effect on all cats. About 20 to 30 percent don't appear to be affected by the stuff.

But for those that are, researchers believe the compound nepetalactone is to blame. The compound binds to the cat's olfactory receptors -- which is why eating catnip doesn't do much -- to mimic a feline pheromone that makes them go nuts.


Why do cats, unlike dogs, all look really similar?



Dogs come in all shapes and sizes -- from Irish wolfhound to Chihuahua -- while cats, aside from having different colored fur, all look pretty similar to the untrained eye. Of course there are different breeds of cats. We've got Siamese, British shorthair, Maine coon, Manx, Persian, Scottish fold and lots more.

But dogs' genetics are better at mutating, which is how we get so many different types of dogs. Researchers suggest they have what's called a "slippery genome," meaning that their genetic makeup will adapt to mutations (that might otherwise have fatal consequences) relatively quickly. Cats (along with humans and the vast majority of other animals), on the other hand, don't have this ability. So we're stuck with cat breeds we may or may not be able to tell apart.


Are cats natural born killers?

Yep. In the sense that their DNA doesn't differ too much from big cats, anyway. A 2013 study in Nature Communications revealed that big cats -- lions, tigers, and leopards -- share 95.6 percent of their DNA with our fuzzy domestic felines.

According to the study, all cats alive today last shared a common ancestor 11 million years ago. You'd think they would have diverged quite a bit genetically in the ensuing years, but comparing the genome of a Siberian tiger to domestic cats showed few big differences, suggesting cats are all "very well adapted, successful evolutionary machines,” one of the researchers said. Big cats did, however, show several genetic mutations not present in other animals that help them run faster and digest meat better. So in some ways, Fluffy is actually just a harmless -- depending on her mood -- version of a fearsome predator.


Why do cats hate water when they spend so much time cleaning themselves?



You'd think that a notorious neat-freak of an animal would like being cleaned off in a bath, but that's not the case with cats. Some love going for a swim, but most others will try their best to claw everything within reach at bath time. There are a few different hypotheses.

One is that a waterlogged coat doesn't dry quickly and makes cats exceedingly uncomfortable. But it's also possible that humans have simply always sheltered domesticated cats from the elements, so as a species they aren't used to getting drenched. It could be that cats associate water with predators -- even big cats like lions and tigers will stay on land to avoid river-dwelling crocodiles. Or, since cats are also predators themselves, they may have a strong natural aversion to getting wet because the smell they give off (like a wet dog) after a bath is a dead giveaway to prey.

Or they're just weird. But we knew that.


Why do cats hate us?

You may have heard that cats aren't our biggest fans. Unlike dogs, who may wait patiently by the door for their owners to get home, cats tend to show much greater indifference to their human overlords. But also unlike dogs, they've not been domesticated to obey humans' orders.

Humans began to see cats as partners once our ancestors switched to agriculture-based livelihoods, because they were good at catching mice and other vermin. But they were almost never bred for any specific purpose other than hunting or looking pretty. Combine that with the fact that they frequently reproduce with their feral counterparts and you've got a domesticated species that is still, essentially, wild. So maybe it's not that they hate us -- they just don't think they need us.


Why can't you train a cat?



Oh, but you can! Some people have even successfully potty trained their feline companions à la Mr. Jinx in "Meet The Parents." There's even a kitty toilet training seat, dubbed the Litter Kwitter, that helps a cat learn how to do its business with a series of plastic rings covering the toilet bowl. The idea is that over time, the owner will remove each smaller ring in succession, enlarging the opening over the bowl until there's nothing but a regular toilet seat.

Cats may also learn how to do tricks. But remember, they haven't been bred to obey human orders like dogs have, so it can be a bit more exasperating. ASPCA suggests the secret is motivation -- find a treat your cat goes absolutely nuts for every time -- and refraining from any punishment over a misunderstood command. Cats can learn some cool stuff if you've got the patience to teach them!


Why do we buy anything for cats?



Total and complete mystery.

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