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Remap Reform Kicked Off Ballot Again. So What's Next?

Fri, 2016-08-26 13:36


The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday closed the door on the Independent Map Amendment for the 2016 election, but not too tightly.

The ruling majority of justices in their decision singled out one problem with the proposed amendment that put it in violation of the state constitution. Fix that, the court said, and we'd give this another chance.

It has to do with two issues: First, the constitution says citizen-led initiatives like this one "shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects" of the General Assembly. Second, the Independent Map Amendment sought to set up an independent map-drawing commission in which the Illinois Auditor General -- who is not a member of the General Assembly -- would play a role.

"Independent Maps makes the policy argument that upholding the circuit court's finding that the plaintiffs were entitled to judgment on the pleadings will 'make it largely impossible to make meaningful reforms in the redistricting process.,'" writes Justice Thomas Kilbride, writing for the four Democrats on the court. "We respectfully disagree. The Auditor General is not the only potential nonlegislative actor capable of filling the duties outlined in its proposal."

Later, Kilbride writes, "Our decision is not intended to reflect in any way on the viability of other possible redistricting reform initiatives." (The full decision is here.)

Two years ago, the court was more explicit in ruling that term limits are not a subject that citizens can impose via a ballot proposal. (The court also had rejected a citizen-led term limits effort in 1994.) Thursday's decision hints that absent the auditor general in the process, redistricting reform might make it onto a general election ballot.

But given the tremendously arduous process necessary to get any ballot initiative before the court -- it starts with gathering a minimum of nearly 300,000 verifiable voter signatures -- another Independent Map-style effort for the 2018 election is anything but certain.

"The Supreme Court rules give us the opportunity to seek rehearing and our legal team is weighing that option," said Dennis FitzSimons, chairman of Independent Maps. But  FitzSimons' statement did not indicate optimism. "...In short, the system is broken, and the way this Court interprets the Constitution seems likely to prevent its repair."

The Illinois General Assembly could place a redistricting reform amendment onto the 2018 with three-fifths majority votes in the House and Senate. Lawmakers are not restricted in what they can amend.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has spent the summer giving speeches that emphasize the heavy public support for redistricting reform and legislative term limits. He wants the General Assembly to act on both when it returns to Springfield a week after the November election.

But there is virtually no chance of either being taken up in the Legislature, where Democrats hold three-fifths majorities and where its most powerful member -- House Speaker Michael Madigan -- has been the state's most vocal and adamant opponent of both.

But Madigan is taking a gamble by fighting to preserve the current map-drawing system, in which Democrats have substantially boosted their power with maps they drew in 2001 and 2011.

Under the Illinois Constitution, new district maps following each U.S. Census are passed much bills in the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor. This is no problem when the House, Senate and governor's office all are controlled by a single party. But if there are two parties involved, it's a different story. If the House, Senate and governor can't agree on a map, the constitution calls for creation of an eight-member commission with four members of each party to hash it out.

If the commission can't agree, "Supreme Court shall submit the names of two persons, not of the same political party, to the Secretary of State (who) shall draw by random selection the name of one of the two persons to serve as the ninth member of the Commission," says the state constitution.

The luck-of-the-draw option was inserted in the 1970 constitution because the framers believed it would force compromise. They had faith that state leaders would never leave a decision as important as drawing district maps to an all-or-nothing gamble.  Instead, the parties have opted three times to go for the luck of the draw.  Democrats won in 1981 and 2001. Republicans won in 1991, and their map helped win them the majority in the House for the 89th General Assembly (January 1995-January 1997). Those were the only two years between 1983 and today that Michael Madigan was not Speaker of the House.

Should Rauner run for and win re-election in 2018 and the system remains as it is, Republicans will have a 50-50 shot at drawing the new map in 2021.

Next: Soaring premiums, fewer choices on Illinois Obamacare exchange

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Poll: IL Voters Want More Spending on Mental Health, Drug Treatment

Thu, 2016-08-25 16:07
Historically, stigma weighed heavily on individuals struggling with mental illness or drug/alcohol addiction or both. In the '70s and '80, families easily shunned and abandoned relatives who were under psychiatric care, embarrassed by their existence. Politicians acted scarcely better.

But over the last 30-years, persistent advocacy and political trench warfare by committed mental health care and addiction treatment activists have demonstrated effective therapies exist and have helped reverse the tide of negative public opinion.

In fact, in recent years after mass-shootings, a broad bipartisan consensus of lawmakers has loudly embraced increased investment in mental health care as a long-term strategy to deflect potential shooters from horrific crimes - (though after individual, inner city shootings a bi-partisan embrace of tougher gun crime prison sentences has been the typical public policy response) - and that has undoubtedly helped change public opinion.

In Illinois, spending more on mental health care is a big winner among voters, according to a new poll.

A July 26 automated poll commissioned by The Illinois Observer of 826 likely voters finds that 70.1% back "investing more money in mental health care" while just 11.5% oppose "investing more money." That's a net +59 points. Wow. 18.4% are undecided.

In the legislative district of State Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago), who is being targeted by Democrats in November, voters are nearly as equally supportive of increased expenditure for mental health. An August 1-2 automated survey commissioned by The Illinois Observer of 548 likely 2016 voters in McAuliffe's district finds that 66.9% support more mental health funding and 13.6% oppose or a 53-point net positive on the issue. 19.5% are undecided.

Those are some eye-ball popping numbers.

Voter support for investing more money in drug treatment is less dramatic than compared to mental health, but still startling from the perspective where voters stood barely two years ago.

The new poll says that 55.4% of likely voters support investing more money to "provide treatment to individuals struggling with drug addiction, such as addiction to heroin" and 27.2% oppose. 17.4% are undecided.

However, in 2014, on the edge of an unfolding heroin epidemic in Illinois, voters were in an ungenerous mood.

According to a May 12, 2014 automated poll commissioned by the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health (IABH) (formerly Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association) few Illinois voters wanted to spend money on drug treatment even with a heroin crisis exploding.

The poll of 534 likely voters, conducted by Strive Strategies of LaGrange, found that only 24.4% supported "increasing state government funding for drug treatment to fight the Illinois heroin crisis" and 40.4% opposed the idea. 35.2% were undecided.

It's public opinion whiplash.

"Two years ago voters were unprepared to spend money to fight the emerging heroin crisis," said IABH COO Eric Foster. "But in the ensuing two years, the heroin conversation and the perception around the issue is being transformed as the crisis has expanded to every community and deepened as deaths have mounted and as bipartisan coalitions of lawmakers here in Illinois and across the country have fought to respond.

"Even 2016 presidential primary candidates addressed the issue."

In McAuliffe's district support of more money for drug treatment stands at nearly half of voters, 46.7%, backing increased funding and 30.4% opposed. 22.9% are undecided.

Voter support for increased funding for mental health care and addiction treatment comes as the Rauner Administration has placed behavioral healthcare at the "center" of its human services "transformation" plan and as a key component of its criminal justice reform ambitions.

While behavioral health serves as a strategic policy centerpiece for the governor, funding for both programs has retreated.

In Fiscal Year 2016, state addiction treatment contracts issued to community providers, with money coming from the state's general revenue fund for drug treatment, were cut 25% from FY 2015 levels. Mental health care contracts saw a 21.8% cut. In 2017, addiction treatment contracts had 21.4% reduction and mental health got a 26.7% cut.

Insiders note that "some" of that money was "shifted" to Illinois' Medicaid system to provide behavioral health services, but they argue that that provides no benefit to large non-Medicaid eligible populations served by non-profit community providers. And advocates point out that it is notoriously difficult to track behavioral health money from one budget year to the next once that money is shifted into the larger Medicaid pot.

Budget cuts to mental health and addiction treatment are, however, not a recent phenomenon. The state legislature cut addiction treatment funding by 40% between FY 2009 and FY 2015. Mental health suffered a similar budgetary fate, getting cut by approximately 30%, during the same period.

The social stigma falling on those struggling with either mental illness or addiction has been rapidly lifting with public opinion swinging sharply in favor of public support for care and treatment. For those folks working to recover, that is swell news.

For elected officials, they must be alert on the campaign trail to the political stigma of cutting those programs that voters now strongly embrace. Otherwise, they may find themselves shunned, abandoned in November and beyond.

davidormsby@davidormsby.com

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

5 Stadium Names the White Sox Should've Chosen Instead of Guaranteed Rate Field

Thu, 2016-08-25 11:28


The Chicago White Sox are having a bit of an identity crisis.

After starting the 2016 season looking like an aggressive playoff contender, the wheels came off. Now, White Sox fans will have to make another adjustment. Starting Nov. 1, the South Side stadium no longer will be known as U.S. Cellular Field and instead, will be named Guaranteed Rate Field in a sponsorship deal. Guaranteed Rate is the name of a national mortgage company based in Chicago.

The name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and Guaranteed Rate ran into a bit of bad press recently. Earlier this year, a judge ordered the company to pay $25 million in an alleged loan diversion scheme.

Can @WhiteSox mascot called the Guaranteed Rat be far behind? https://t.co/ET5OPx5eOg via @RebootIllinois #guaranteedratefield

— Matt Dietrich (@MattReboot) August 25, 2016


So if not Guaranteed Rate Field, then what? Glad you asked, dear reader.

Here are the five names we think would be a bit more befitting.

Have any better ones in mind? Tweet us at @rebootillinois with your top pick!

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

U.S. Farmers Risk Losing Everything Because Of Absurd Immigration Rule

Thu, 2016-08-25 06:35

Three years ago, Fishkill Farms owner and operator Joshua Morgenthau found himself facing a situation that is every farmer’s nightmare.


It was time to prepare his 100-acre fruit and vegetable farm’s cherries and strawberries for harvest, but the workers he’d hired for the job weren’t there to help. His employees were many miles away in Mexico, waiting for the green light to enter the U.S. and get to work.


Without enough hands to weed and prune the delicate crop, Morgenthau’s berries were at risk of rotting on the vine. Worse, he knew there was little he could do but wait and hope he didn’t lose his whole crop in the meantime.


Each year, Morgenthau employs eight seasonal migrant workers who travel to his farm in New York’s Hudson Valley through the labor department’s H-2A temporary agricultural worker program. The process of obtaining their H-2A visas had been relatively painless for the previous five years. But this time, he says the department changed the file number of his application without any warning. 


That meant he had to refile all the applications, creating “hours and hours and hours of more paperwork and hassle for us” and delaying the workers’ arrival by more than a month.


As a result, the farm’s cherry and strawberry production took a hit that season. His team of migrant and domestic workers were unable to make up for the decreased harvest preparation time.


“We managed to get it picked, but it was still kind of a mess,” he told The Huffington Post.


Despite setbacks like this one, the visa program is essential to Morgenthau’s farm. He works with the same employees each year and described them as “part of the farm family.” He credits them with being experts at operating the machinery specific to the crops he grows.


The H-2A program was created in the 1990s to help agricultural employers bring temporary foreign workers into the U.S. to do seasonal work that domestic workers cannot or are not willing to do. As part of the program, employers are required to offer certain wages, plus transportation and housing when necessary. The H-2A visa holders live and work in the U.S. for several months at a time but are not considered immigrants, and the program is not seen as a pathway to citizenship.


This so-called guest farm worker program is far from perfect. It has been criticized for being easy to abuse, with some employers neglecting worker safety and stealing wages while facing little recourse. However, those familiar with the visa program describe it as the industry’s sole legal option for getting temporary farm work done. 


The farming industry still relies heavily on undocumented workers, who are estimated to make up about half of the country’s 2.5 million hired farm hands, according to the Labor Department. The temporary visa program is responsible for just a fraction of the overall agricultural workforce.


Yet the program is growing increasingly popular ― due to the domestic labor shortages ― forcing more farmers to contend with a chaotic and heavily bureaucratic system that puts their crops in jeopardy. At the same time, calls to improve the program are being sounded by farmers and immigration reform advocates alike.



The U.S. has cracked down on the use of undocumented laborers coming into the country, resulting in a widespread labor shortage in agriculture and ballooning demand for H-2A visas. This has also meant more administrative delays in processing visa applications.


Delays of even a week can result in major crop losses for farmers. Delays of a month or more can be devastating. 


Morgenthau was able to save his harvest in 2013, the year his workers were delayed, but he knows just how easily things can fall apart. “We’re lucky to have never lost an entire crop,” he said.


Others aren’t so fortunate.


A number of farmers in Georgia reported six-digit losses this year due to delays in visa processing. Another farmer, in California, watched as one-third of his Napa cabbage rotted in the field while he waited for the H-2A workers to arrive.


Last year, a State Department computer glitch delayed workers on the West Coast, causing millions of dollars of lost revenue. Elise Bauman, executive director at Salem Harvest, a food recovery group that partners with dozens of farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, saw the fallout of this glitch firsthand. She and her team worked with just three strawberry farms in 2015, but she estimated seeing some 100 acres of the wasted berries with her own eyes.


“They have to be handled and harvested at exactly the right time, otherwise you get a pile of mush,” Bauman said. “Very delicious-tasting mush, but it’s not attractive.”


These issues will only compound as the visa program continues to grow. Visa applications increased by 40 percent over the past five years, according to NPR. Last year, 140,000 H-2A visas were granted. In the first half of this year, visa issuance is up another 17 percent over 2015.


type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related + articlesList=571e58fae4b0d912d5ff48d0,5798d388e4b02d5d5ed3b695,5609a0ebe4b0af3706dd66d9,576be8c4e4b065534f490c1f

The H-2A program’s issues have sent the farming industry into crisis mode, vocally criticizing the program’s backlog of visa applications and emerging as a somewhat surprising proponent of immigration reform.


In an April news release, the American Farm Bureau Federation warned of rotting fields of crops resulting from H-2A delays. Those delays, the organization says, could be avoided if the program were revamped.


So far, there hasn’t been much action on that advice.


In June, a bipartisan group of Congress members calling for H-2A reform sent a letter to the Labor Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services leaders, asking them to streamline the guest worker visa process. Their effort has yet to gain traction.  


In a media call organized by the pro-immigration reform Partnership for a New American Economy earlier this month, AFB president Zippy Duvall called for a more flexible and efficient visa program for migrant farmworkers. One solution Duvall has offered would be filing paperwork for the program electronically. Currently, paperwork must be processed through standard mail.


Failure to act, Duvall warned, would threaten the nation’s food supply.


“We’re coming to a point where the American people need to make up their mind if they want to import their food or import their labor,” Duvall said.


Other voices are calling for bigger changes. 


Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, which represents farmers in California, Arizona and Colorado, took his call for reform a step further. Beyond streamlining the H-2A program, he would like to find a way to keep some of these temporary farm workers in the U.S., instead of sending them back to their home countries when their visas expire.


“We want to take care of the workers who are with us,” Nassif said. “They have experience, families and roots here. We want to keep those people [here] and protect them. We want some sort of legal status for them.”


In 2013, Nassif backed legislation sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that proposed a new “blue card” program that would make temporary workers in good legal standing eligible for a legal status, allowing them to stay in the country and granting them a path to citizenship. The bill passed in the Senate but did not come up for a vote in the House after being blocked by Speaker John Boehner.  


In the absence of action in Washington, some believe employers in the industry should be doing more to offer better wages and conditions to their farmworkers, Bruce Goldstein, president of the Farmworker Justice advocacy group, argues.


“If employers want to retain their workforce and attract workers to their jobs, they collectively need to improve their reputation,” Goldstein told HuffPost.


Due to many farmworkers’ undocumented status, Goldstein argues, they silently endure subpar working conditions and pay, fearing that they’ll be reported or fired if they complain. 


The average seasonal migrant farmworker is paid between $12,500 and $14,999 a year. Most lack health insurance and many work far more than 40 hours a week. (By contrast, someone working full time for the federal minimum wage earns $15,080 a year.)


Guest farm workers are supposed to earn more under the temporary work program. H-2A wages are set by the Labor Department and vary from state to state ― between $10.59 and $13.80 an hour ― based on state minimums and typical wages for domestic farm workers in the region. In Washington state, for example, the minimum wage for H-2A workers is $12.69 an hour. That’s significantly more than the state’s minimum wage of $9.47.


Some research has raised questions about whether visa-holding guest workers fare much better than unauthorized workers, however. An Economic Policy Institute study released last year found no significant difference in pay or conditions between the two groups.


As of now, farmers are able to get away with this. While advocates like Goldstein believe some employers are treating their workers fairly, the ones who aren’t continue to hinder their progress. And they need to be held accountable.


“There are many employers that comply with the law, but they are being undermined by the companies that want to reduce their cost and increase their profitability by cheating workers,” Goldstein said. “We need to create a law-abiding agricultural sector to benefit both the farmworkers and the employers that comply with the law.”



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BuzzFeed has reported that the H-2A visa program and its sister program for short-term non-farm workers (H-2B) suffer from a host of other abuse problems. The Labor Department found that between 2010 and 2014 almost 1,000 companies had violated H-2 laws; however, fewer than 150 employers were banned from hiring guest workers through the program.


Still, some farmers believe the H-2A program is overburdened with regulations and expenses.


Dan Fazio, president of the Washington Farm Labor Association, connects farmers with migrant workers. He, too, described the H-2A program as flawed, but said he’s seen its popularity with participating farmworkers firsthand.


“Is it ideal to take a person from one country and bring them to another country to work? I don’t know,” Fazio said. “But I do know that the people coming to Washington state love the program and when their six months here are done and they go back, they make sure they’re on the list to come back next year.”


A lack of alternatives might have something to do with this popularity — and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.


But the lack of progress doesn’t mean the industry has to start from scratch to arrive at a solution, said Luawanna Halstrom, an agriculture consultant who previously served as president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers and has worked with a number of national and state organizations.


She’s hopeful that a fix is on the horizon — and it may not be as complex as it might initially seem.


“People are working with this old horse because it’s all they’ve got,” Halstrom said. “It can be a good program if we could reformulate it and figure out how to make it work.”


A revamped program would be welcomed by Morgenthau, too. Another delay like 2013’s might not turn out as well next time.


“The system should be streamlined,” he said. “When you have the whims of a bureaucracy and a heated political debate that could determine pretty quickly a positive or negative outcome in terms of being able to work with the qualified employees you have been working with, it’s just one too many variables to stomach.”


―-


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.


More stories like this:


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This Slaughterhouse Will Let You Watch What Actually Happens Inside

Thu, 2016-08-25 05:00

If you google the term “slaughterhouse photos,” the results tend to have certain adjectives connected to them — “shocking,” “heartbreaking.” Even, simply, “horror.”


There is a good reason for that, of course. Many meat-packing plants have been criticized not only for practices that torture the animals processed there but for conditions that endanger and exploit their workers. 


Evidence of such abuses is typically only obtained through undercover videos publicized by animal rights groups. Such videos, accompanied by the advent of industry-backed “ag-gag” laws that seek to prosecute those responsible for them, have given the entire industry a reputation of secrecy that runs counter to the food movement’s increasing interest in how the food we eat is made.


The Vermont Packinghouse, based in a North Springfield, Vermont, facility that previously produced Ben and Jerry’s Peace Pops, does things differently. 


The plant, which opened for business two years ago, prides itself on its transparency and appears to be one of the nation’s only examples of a glass-walled slaughterhouse.


The plant’s owner, Arion Thiboumery, says he wouldn’t have it any other way. He welcomes tours of the facility, which specializes in “niche” meat markets including organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed products, for anyone who is interested. All you have to do is call ahead and set a time.


“We feel like we’re proud of what we do here and we want everything to be above board,” Thiboumery told The Huffington Post. “We’ll tell you about how the animal was raised and we’ll talk about how it died. We’re not embarrassed about it.”



That level of openness attracted New York-based photographer Everett Meissner. Often attracted to subject matter “off the beaten path,” he became curious about slaughterhouse workers and sought out facilities near a small secondary residence he maintains in Vermont. His search led him to Vermont Packinghouse, just a few hours’ drive away from his second home. 


When Meissner arrived at the plant earlier this year, he met with Thiboumery and got a quick tour of the space before being told to go ahead and “do your thing.” Nothing was off limits, which came as a surprise to the photographer.


“I was kind of blown away by their open-door policy,” Meissner said. “The feeling you get at these other places is that it’s happening behind closed doors and you don’t look past the gate.” 


The images show the facility’s workers involved in various points of the process of breaking down an animal, as well as a group of college students that was visiting the site that same day.


One shot, one of Meissner’s favorites from the collection, captures a female student’s visual reaction as she watches a cow being processed, its reflection visible in the glass of the viewing window.


(More photos below.)


The frankness of the operation was appreciated by Meissner, who admitted he is among those carnivores who hadn’t given much thought to the slaughtering process that’s responsible for providing his food. 


“If you’re a meat eater, you have to accept that at some point the animal does have to get killed,” he said.


Thiboumery’s approach to his business appears to be catching on. He said the company’s business is experiencing rapid growth and high demand. But his operation of some 50 employees is still dwarfed by the size of the large producers that dominate the industry.


While some of the industry’s key players are beginning to dip their toe into “niche” markets by offering antibiotic- and hormone-free lines, he doubts many of them will embrace transparency in a similar way.


He wishes they would.


“Death is a part of life,” Thiboumery said. “When we acknowledge that, bring care to it and aren’t just trying to shove it into some dark corner and make it go away, I think it actually makes us more human when we do that.”



―-


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Here Are 11 New Illinois Laws You Should Know

Wed, 2016-08-24 13:37
There are a lot of new state laws that recently went into effect, including some pretty important ones you might not have heard much about in the news.

The laws address things like youth unemployment, 3D mammogram insurance coverage and animal protection, to name a few.

Here's a list of 11 notable and new state laws to help you stay up-to-date.

1. Southern Illinois University and Alcohol (SB 2824)



Alcohol now is allowed to be served or sold at Southern Illinois University events in buildings that are controlled by the board of trustees for the university. Also, students between 18 and 21 are allowed to taste but not completely drink alcohol while enrolled in a fermentation science class.

2. Chicago Fire Pension Fund (SB 2820)



The Chicago Firefighter Board of Trustees is now allowed to engage in "financial transactions that involves securities lending."

3. Lottery Scratch-Off Discontinuation (SB 2397)



The discontinuation of the Quality of Life scratch-off has been extended from the end of 2017 to the end of 2025.

4. Autism Awareness (SB 345)




A law called the Autism and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions Awareness Act allows insurance companies to more easily cover therapy people on the autism spectrum might require.

5. The Global Scholar Certification Program (HB 4983)



This law establishes the State Global Scholar Certification Program to reward certain public high school graduates who have achieved a level of competence in the global sphere.

You can see the rest of the list of new laws here.

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Obama Gave Chance The Rapper This Career Advice

Wed, 2016-08-24 13:07

President Barack Obama gave hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper a bit of career advice during a recent White House event.


In an August interview with GQ magazine, the artist said he joined other celebrities like DJ Khaled, Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj at the White House in April to discuss the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and criminal justice reform.


“At the end [of the meeting], everybody takes a group photo, and he’s signing stuff. And he keeps pushing me to the back, and I’m like, ‘I don’t understand why he won’t sign my shit.’ And he makes me wait till the end, and then he brings me up to his office, and we had a really good conversation about what I was working on. He told me I needed to start selling my music,” Chance says.


“He’s a good man. Even if he wasn’t president, if his ass worked at, like, Red Lobster, he’d be just a good man working at Red Lobster,” the Chicago rapper added.


Chance’s third mixtape, “Coloring Book”, was released exclusively on Apple Music this spring and according to him it’s in heavy rotation at the Obama’s residency.


“Oh yeah. They’re bumping ‘Coloring Book’ hard up there. If you go up there, you’ll probably hear ‘Coloring Book.’ This is not a joke at all,” the artist said.


“Malia listens to ‘Coloring Book,’” he added, referencing the president’s oldest daughter. “And I send them stuff sometimes. I haven’t seen Malia since I was a kid. I think [Malia and Sasha] were both in school the day that I went up there recently, but Barack was talking about it. Or, uh, President Obama was talking about it.”


One of Chance’s tracks, “Acid Rain,” is featured on the president’s Spotify summer playlists.


On Tuesday, the 23-year-old rapper took to Twitter to clarify that he will not be at ESPN’s town hall about race relations after a rumor was started that he would be in attendance.


In a series of tweets, Chance wrote about “the responsibility of all media outlets to correctly label all killings by 1st responders as what they are: Murders.”



I saw some publications report that I'll be at the @espn forum about athletes' and celebrities' responsibility to speak on issues. Not true.

— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) August 23, 2016



@espn but since I won't be there let me just say a few thoughts on "responsibility".

— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) August 23, 2016



@espn it is the responsibility of all media outlets to correctly label all killings by 1st responders as what they are: Murders.

— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) August 23, 2016



@espn it is the responsibility of all first responders to deescalate unlawful situations and restore peace without committing murder.

— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) August 23, 2016



@espn and it is the responsibility of athletes and celebrities to say all that out loud whether at a forum, on twitter or at work.

— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) August 23, 2016


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Illinois Voters Beware: Deceit Season Is Here

Wed, 2016-08-24 11:53
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

It's deceit season. Voters beware.

An envelope arrived last week from Friends of Marty Moylan. The letter inside was dated Aug. 16th and in big type, it read: "Petition to Crack Down on Child Sex Abuse."

"As a father, husband and state Representative, I take accusations of sexual abuse and assault very seriously, especially when it involves children," Moylan's letter began.

I don't know about you, but I'm guessing we'd have a hard time finding anyone who would say differently.

"That's why I was appalled" the letter went on, "to learn that former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert would not be charged with sexual crimes he allegedly committed against children as a wrestling coach."

Now, wait. What was the date on this letter again? Hastert was sentenced at the end of April.

Moylan's just now getting around to telling his constituents he's outraged? The letter goes on to say he pushed for bills to change the statute of limitations, but they have not been signed into law. Therefore, Moylan's letter says, he's asking me to sign his petition calling on Springfield to pass a law immediately. That sentence was bolded and underlined. Where do we go to sign the petition? Not to Moylan's government website. No, we're supposed to sign at www.martyforstaterep.com or we can call a phone number.

Moylan might very well be upset there's a statute of limitations for child sex assault. He was added as a co-sponsor to a bill that sought to end the child sex abuse statute of limitations a week before it passed out of the House to the Senate. Still, this letter also is plainly an attempt by him to get updated contact information from people who live in his district as he runs for re-election. I've heard about a few of these types of petition appeals lately.

Moylan did not do anything wrong that I'm aware of. In fact, the letter notes it was not paid for by taxpayers.

But to hook people who are worried about child sex abuse and angry about Republican Hastert into giving contact information so you can hit them up with appeals to vote for you is disingenuous.

Beware who's asking for what information and where it's going.

It's time also to pay particular attention to what you read. Just because something looks like a newspaper does not necessarily mean it is unbiased and produced by professional journalists. My Des Plaines neighborhood now gets the "North Cook News" on a weekly basis, while a portion of Springfield is having the "Sangamon Sun" delivered to homes. Political activist, former governor candidate and conservative radio host Dan Proft is financing the weekly newspapers -- through his Liberty Principles PAC -- in areas with competitive legislative races. There are a total of 13 such partner publications listed on the North Cook News website.

If you dig deeply enough on the website or in the print product, you will find this: "We believe in limited government, in the constructive role of the free market and in the rights of citizens to choose the size and scope of their government and the role it should play in their society. Funding for this news site is provided, in part, by advocacy groups who share our beliefs in limited government."

Jackie Spinner, of Columbia Journalism Review, first brought this effort to my attention in March. Proft told her then that mainstream news media "pretend that they are just objective scribes detailing the passing scene, and they're not. Everybody has a perspective. Everybody has an agenda. I'm transparent about mine."

In my role here, I get to share my view in spots clearly labeled as commentary. Sometimes, I critique Republicans; sometimes Democrats. Other times, I keep my opinions out of reported stories. You might have trouble understanding that Proft's publications are not likely to share negative information about Republican state legislative candidates running in the general election.

As I told Spinner last spring, "It looks to me like a piece of campaign literature masquerading as a newspaper."

I'm an equal-opportunity critic. A few days ago, there was much ado in the state comptroller's race when a reporter gave the candidates a pop quiz on multiplication. This is supposed to be relevant because the comptroller keeps the state's checkbook. Republican Leslie Munger failed and Democrat Susan Mendoza did not. Trust me, the elected comptroller will have computers and qualified state employees doing the math. If the quiz made you realize there was a comptroller election, then it did some good. But you should make your voting decision on more than a gimmicky pop math quiz. And every time you see, hear or read about journalists covering candidates and campaigns, ask yourself whether what they're doing really is relevant and will help you decide who best can solve the challenges we face.

That's what we should be doing: helping you vote well.

Next: 11 new state laws you should know

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Pearl Jam Stops Wrigley Field Show As Eddie Vedder Has Obnoxious Fan Tossed Out

Tue, 2016-08-23 22:04



Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder called the band to a halt in the middle of a song at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on Monday night to have an unruly fan ejected. 


“Hey! Hey mister! Hey, hey, get your finger out of that woman’s face motherf-” he said, cutting off the start of a R-rated word. “Hey mister ― all the the fingers are pointing at you.” 


It’s not clear what the person was doing, but fans cheered as Vedder ordered the fan to “clear out” and waved as security took him away. 


“Ma’am, you’re OK? Yeah? You’re good?” Vedder asked the woman. “That’s a good man, taking care of your woman, and then she was taking care of herself too pretty good.”


The band then resumed the song “Lukin.” 


Here’s a look at it from another angle:





It wasn’t the show’s only unusual moment. 


Former Chicago Bulls star and Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman ― a noted Pearl Jam fan ― carried Vedder during the band’s performance of the song “Black, Red, Yellow.”



Eddie Vedder & Dennis Rodman Red, Black, Yellow #PJWrigley #pearljam pic.twitter.com/wSBv3NLaUz

— yael (@yaelant) August 23, 2016

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Computers Are For Girls, Too

Tue, 2016-08-23 15:42
I remember three things about my first computer science class in college. First, improbably, the professor was named Ramm, as in "random access memory." Second, the class was about processors, and I only had a vague idea what a processor was. Third, it was the last computer science class for most of my female classmates, who quickly decided they'd rather major in something else.

I never would have guessed that my time as a computer science student would turn out to be pretty much the high water mark for women in the field. The percentage of computer science majors who are women has gone down from 37 percent in 1984 to just 18 percent today. In other words, on average my daughters are half as likely to major in computer science as I was 30 years ago.


My daughters are half as likely to major in computer science as I was 30 years ago.


But the young women in this video are defying these odds -- they're pursuing careers in computer science and dismantling stereotypes about the field. I love hearing them talk about the sense of empowerment and joy that coding brings them. Kimberly got a standing ovation from her high school English classmates when she demonstrated a book review app she made. Kayla is preserving and sharing the rich history of her community with an app that customizes multimedia walking tours. Courtney helped design the landing legs on a rocket when she interned at SpaceX!



The gross underrepresentation of women in computer science is not just a problem for the girls who are left out. It's a problem for all of us, because we're not benefitting from the creativity girls have to offer. There's a mountain of research showing that diversity makes for better companies and better products -- that we're more innovative when we work in teams with different kinds of people -- yet the gender diversity in tech has been getting worse for decades.

One reason why is that somewhere along the way, society decided that computers are for boys. Or, as Aishwarya says, "guys in hoodies." And this toxic stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, virtually guaranteeing that computer science is indeed a male-dominated field.

First, since girls aren't supposed to be into computers, they aren't exposed to computer science when they're young, and even if they are, they often aren't encouraged to pursue their interests in the field. That helps explain why only 22 percent of the high school students who take the AP computer science exam today are girls. Kayla didn't know she wanted to be a computer scientist until she'd already started a totally different career, in library science. It was only when she started training staff to use the library's software that she realized she might be interested in making software herself, so she went back to college for a second time to be a computer scientist. Kimberly had never heard of computer science until she saw it was one of the classes she could take at her local community college.


The gross underrepresentation of women in computer science is... a problem for all of us.


The idea that computers are for boys doesn't just keep girls out of the field, though. It also drives women out. A host of implicit biases affect the way tech companies recruit, train, and promote--and make it easier for men to get ahead.

Luckily, there are great organizations like the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), whose mission is to increase the number of girls and women in tech. NCWIT and groups like it aim to make it easier for girls to discover that they love computers--and make it easier for women who love computer science to make a career in it. Eventually, as more and more girls choose this path, it won't seem like computer science is just for boys.

Aishwarya, Courtney, Kayla, and Kimberly all talk about the excitement of using code to turn an idea into a piece of software that can change the world, of creating something important from nothing. Let me tell you, it is a terrific feeling. Kayla says it makes her feel like "superwoman." I hope everyone gets the opportunity to feel that way.

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Here's Another Reason To Be Worried About Bottled Water

Mon, 2016-08-22 15:41

The bottled water industry is in the midst of a banner year.


Bottled water sales are set to outstrip soda sales in the U.S. for the first time since the Beverage Marketing Corporation began tracking the industry in the 1970s, according data the firm released earlier this month. 


On one hand, this could be viewed as a public health victory, especially since industry leaders say rising health concerns linked with the consumption of sugary, calorie-laden sodas are largely driving the trend.


But there is also a more potentially disturbing explanation for bottled water’s surge in popularity, these same leaders say: Consumers are fearful of what’s coming out of their taps, thanks to public health crises like the ongoing situation in Flint, Michigan, and America’s immense and underfunded water infrastructure challenges more broadly.


Critics of the bottled water industry point out that these increased sales represent the privatization of something that has generally been recognized as a public good. There is an incredible amount of waste generated along the way, and plenty of thorny questions about the ethics of water sourcing come up.


One of those critics is Gay Hawkins, a professor at Western Sydney University and the co-author of the 2015 book Plastic Water: The Social And Material Life of Bottled Water.


There is “no good news” in letting beverage companies ― like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which each benefit from the rise in sales through their own water brands — take control of America’s drinking water, Hawkins argues.


The Huffington Post recently spoke with the professor about what can be done.


Were you surprised to see this recent news that bottled water sales are surging past soda in the U.S.?


No, that is playing out everywhere. The way the beverage companies see it, there is a major attack on their market for selling dangerously oversweetened beverages. The way in which they respond to that is the introduction of a substitute market, which is water. All of this sort of implicitly says, OK, if you’re not reaching for a Coke, reach for a branded water instead. They don’t want to see their overall market share decline, so they’ve had to create other beverage lines that will cope with this. 


I think it’s depressing to the extreme to think that there could be any positive hype about people reaching for water rather than Coke if you acknowledge the fact that they’re still reaching for a plastic bottle. If you want access to drinking water, you shouldn’t have to access that through a single-use [polyethylene terephthalate, the most common type of plastic used in water bottles] bottle, which is creating phenomenal waste problems around the world. If we’re committing to public health, what states and governments should be doing is intensifying people’s access to free water in public. We should see more water fountains everywhere, and they should be clean and readily available all over urban space. They should really be providing a genuine alternative to sweetened beverages.



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Situations like Flint are contributing to this. Recently, a new report found that 6 million Americans are dealing with PFOA and PFOS, industrial chemicals, in their water. There are justified reasons for people to be suspicious of their tap water, so how does that factor into this?


This is a tragedy, a failure of governing and a failure of the state. Flint should be ashamed of itself for taking taxes from people and not being able to meet its basic minimal obligation — to provide its people with the means of life which is safe public water, of course.


Beverage companies see a state failure as a market opportunity. If people are losing trust in public water, they say, “Here is our chance to insert branded bottled water into this state of uncertainty and make people think this is the only water people can trust.” I think this is directly connected to the fact that beverage companies are creating doubt and manipulating public disputes about water quality to their own advantage.


Let’s face it, it’s pretty hard for a beverage company to turn water into water. We’re getting access to water in a cheap, sustainable way through a massive, networked infrastructure of pipes. Sure, that costs a lot of money to provide, but it’s nothing like the kind of money that goes into making single-use bottles. You have to do an immense amount of work to turn water into a commodity. Exploiting insecurity and doubt about existing forms of supply and generating incredible branding strategies that create all these new qualities for water — “untouched,” organic and all the other bullshit — help create this brand platform that turns water into something that radically differentiates it from the ordinary old stuff coming out of the tap. But really, it’s still just water.


How does the U.S. compare to other countries in terms of this? Situations like Flint aside, why are we leading the way on this trend? 


I don’t want to be an expert on the U.S., but it’s pretty hard to promote government as a good thing there. It’s crazy the kind of anti-government sentiments I’ve heard from the U.S. All of us couldn’t function every day without government. Roads, traffic lights, being able to turn on the tap — all these things that we take for granted connect us as a community.


Government creates and maintains the common interest of the greater good. Water is at the heart of that and is something that should not be privatized. It’s something that we need to share and we need to collaborate in protecting. I think we need a much more vigorous defense of the public good and why governments matter, and why governments are central to protecting the commons, and water is part of the commons. 



Possible solutions like tougher environmental and water safety regulations and improved funding for infrastructure are complex issues that can bogged down in politics. What can we do about this now? 


There are some fantastic campaigns against bottled water, very impressive citizen-led campaigns to defend public water and demand access to water fountains in public, demanding that water supplies including aquifers or surface water be protected in the common interest. There’s a whole lot of strategies communities can engage in, but governments really need to step up here and really need to understand they’re in the business of providing services to populations and water supplies are the first one they need to insure and get right. 


Outsourcing this and letting beverage companies step in and appear as the new model for infrastructure is a very depressing and troubling scenario. Governments need to realize that if they hand over their water supply to a beverage company, they’re left with managing the externalities of that market — clearing up and taking away those discarded bottles and managing the hard waste generated from that is incredibly unsustainable and more expensive than providing proper infrastructure in the first place.


Some government entities, like Baltimore schools, are coming to the conclusion that given concern about lead or other issues, using bottled water instead of repairing a system is cheaper. What do you make of that?


That’s a really disturbing picture, but it’s one that beverage companies would love because they are now becoming the trusted infrastructure. If you let the public infrastructure become run down to the point where the amount of money to fix it and improve it is astronomical, that failure of the state just sets this opportunity for others to step in.


Do you think the bottled water boom will continue in the immediate future? Or could we be heading toward a bust? 


I thought a couple of years ago there was evidence to show that bottled water was declining in European markets as a direct result of some really powerful activism. The marketing of refillable portable bottles certainly had an impact. The other thing that happened was a lot of public or semi-public water infrastructures started re-branding and asserting to their populations that they are providing safe water that’s cheap and universally accessible. They had to engage in branding to compete with Coke and Pepsi, but it was quite successful in rebuilding trust in public water.


It worked in Europe, where there is still a lot of commitment to government. In the States, I don’t really know. If people don’t have that experience of accessing safe water when they turn on the tap, I can’t blame them for looking after their own interest and trusting a beverage corporation. But the only way you could address this is to engage in good governance of water and to say to your population your water is safe, we are investing in infrastructure, so celebrate what a shared water economy can do. It’s celebrating what we all have in common, and that is the need for water.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 



Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.

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