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Here's What Happens When You Fool Around On Train Tracks (VIDEO)

Wed, 2014-07-30 09:22
A train engineer in Indiana thought he killed two women when they disappeared under his 100-car coal train earlier this month.

Dramatic video released this week shows the two unidentified women clambering to get out of the way as the engineer throws on his emergency brakes. Miraculously, they survived with little more than a stubbed toe.

They were allegedly trespassing on Shuffle Creek Bridge, northeast of Bloomington, on July 10, according to WTHR. Once they realized there was a train barreling toward them, they had two options: Jump and face an 80-foot fall to the ground below, or lie down on the tracks. Apparently, they chose the latter.

"When the train stopped, the two women crawled out from under the engine, started running this way," Eric Powell with Indiana Railroad told WTHR. "He yelled back and asked them, 'Are you OK?' One yelled she had stubbed her toe, [but was] otherwise fine. I'm sure their nerves were as shattered as his were."

Before they made contact, however, the train engineer had feared the worst and called authorities. The women fled, but police later caught up to them and they'll likely face charges, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Indiana Railroad released a statement reporting that 908 people were killed in the United States by trespassing on railroads in 2013, and 38 of them were in Indiana. All railroad tracks are private property. Don't follow in these ladies' footsteps.

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Climate Change Lawsuits Could Again Haunt Illinois Cities

Wed, 2014-07-30 09:05
Farmers Insurance may have withdrawn its recent climate change lawsuit against 98 local Illinois governments, but anxiety over future suits is simmering among Chicago-area communities.

Cook County local government attorney Michael Del Galdo, who represented nine suburban Cook communities named in the suit filed by Farmers Insurance, argues that Farmers' legal challenge may represent a new litigation front for Illinois cities rather than a one-off legal occurrence.

"Farmers' climate change suit, as outrageous as it was, should be taken seriously as a potential legal strategy by insurers and other business interests to foist their legal liabilities onto towns and taxpayers for weather related damages, arguing it was 'climate change'," said Del Galdo, who is the town attorney for Cicero and other Cook suburbs.

What to do?

Del Galdo says that the Illinois legislature should act to protect communities against future suits.

"The Illinois legislature should indemnify towns and cities against liability for negligence relative to climate change," Del Galdo says.

Farmers Insurance, whose May 2014 suit included Cook County, the City of Chicago, and dozens of suburban communities, based its legal action on the heavy rains and flooding that occurred April 17-18, 2013, causing damage in at least 600 homes in the Chicago area.

Farmers Insurance laid the blame on climate change and used climate change planning against local officials.

That took some stones.

The lawsuit stated that in 2008, Cook County, the City of Chicago, and other municipalities had "adopted the scientific principle that climate change has caused increases in rainfall amount" and to help address the problem had adopted the Chicago Climate Action Plan.

After an outcry from local officials - with whom Farmers has other lines of insurance business or with whom the firm was seeking new business - the insurance giant withdrew the suit a month later, sources say. But its action set off warnings to local governments from experts.

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, believes that the suit set "an extremely bad precedent".

"I think that the claims of climate change are going to be used in the financial world by anyone who can claim it as, you know, a hook to either claim some damages or avoid responsibility for damages," said Ebell.

A former member of President Barack Obama's Climate Adaptation Task Force also warned of the legal risk to communities.

"It's a long shot for the insurance companies, but it's not completely implausible, and if you have enough cases like this going forward it might build some helpful precedent," said Robert Verchick.

An legal scholar also sounded the alarm to local governments saying that they may be found negligent in the future for climate change.

"Lawsuits like this are really good at putting municipalities and other entities that are building in dangerous areas on notice with regards to the impacts of climate change," said Maxine Burkett, associate professor at the University of Hawaii Law School.

Del Galdo, who represented Berwyn, Cicero, Melrose Park, Riverdale, Broadview, Chicago Heights, Hazel Crest, Markham & Steger in the suit, said that the Farmers' suit was a "shot a across the bow" of municipalities and he is warning state lawmakers that they need to strengthen Illinois' municipality tort immunity law.

"Farmers' lawsuit was a shot across the local government bow," said Del Galdo. "The next climate change suit may not be voluntarily withdrawn, and communities could be forced settled for huge amounts of taxpayer money. That's why lawmakers must strengthen local government tort immunity."

The mayor of one of the communities targeted by the Farmers' suit agrees with Del Galdo.

"The Farmers suit is likely only the first, not the last of its type that we are going to see," said Melrose Park Mayor Ronald M. Serpico. "The General Assembly should consider strengthening the local tort immunity statute to protect us against climate change lawsuits."

Even if a suit settles or flops, small towns face big bills defending themselves - with taxpayers picking up the tab.

Will any lawmaker take the lead?

This column was adapted from an earlier article in The Illinois Observer.

Cubs Catcher John Baker Pitched A Scoreless Inning And Then Scored The Winning Run (VIDEO)

Wed, 2014-07-30 08:40
Having run out of relief pitchers heading after 15 innings, the Chicago Cubs turned to backup catcher John Baker to take the mound. And boy did it pay off.

The 33-year-old did just about everything in the 16th frame. First, he pitched a scoreless inning that included a walk and a double play. Then in the bottom of the 16th, Baker stepped up to the plate and drew a six-pitch leadoff walk. Three batters later, Baker was standing on third with the bases loaded and just one out. Chicago's Starlin Castro lined out to right field, but it was deep enough to allow Baker to tag up and score the winning run.

Baker became the first position player to earn a win since Chris Davis did so for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 and only the fourth to do it since 1968. He also happened to earn the win in what turned out to be the longest game in Cubs history.

"I was having trouble not smiling on the mound. You never get opportunities to do things like this," Baker said after the game, via the Associated Press. Baker also said the last time he pitched might have been in college. "It was the Cape Cod League. I believe I had like a 27.00 ERA, but I was getting squeezed from what I remember."

Here are a couple other fun facts about Baker's performance.

John Baker the first position player pitcher to win and score the game winning run since Rocky Colavito 8/25/1968. Run scored in 6th.

— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 30, 2014

John Baker is the first player to pitch and catch for the #Cubs in the same season since Malachi Kittridge in 1896.

— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) July 30, 2014

A Moment Of Peace Today at 12:30pm EST on HuffPost Live

Wed, 2014-07-30 08:22
'With every drop of blood shed, our hearts harden until they turn into stones to be used as weapons. And so we invite you to A Moment of Peace to ease the hardened heart.'

HuffPost Live will air 'A Moment of Peace' today at 12:30pm EST, host hosted by Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani with Executive Religion Editor Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Imam Imam Shamsi Ali, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, and Buddhist Teacher Sharon Salzberg.

Follow the link here for A Moment of Peace

HuffPost Religion Editor Rev. Paul Raushenbush wrote a blog about A Moment of Peace, in which he explains:

With every drop of blood shed, our hearts harden until they turn into stones to be used as weapons. And so we invite you to A Moment of Peace to ease the hardened heart. We will not be talking about blame or strategy or even negotiated cease-fires. Instead we will be inviting people to drop in on HuffPost Live from around the world to use this opportunity to engage in the moral and spiritual exercise of peace and dialogue. In the face of tragic news and creeping pessimism, we will observe A Moment of Peace.

Together, we will remember the humanity of those whom we have been calling enemies, invoke the power of compassion that the great traditions of the world teach us, and have a conversation about how we can have dialogue that is truthful while still remaining open to hearing another view. But, most importantly, we want to bring people of different perspectives, religious traditions, and "sides" together for simply A Moment of Peace.

Please join us today at 12:30.


Women who made their mark on Illinois government

Wed, 2014-07-30 07:41
Even though the residents of Illinois are 49 percent male and 51 percent female, the legislative body that represents Illinoisans, the General Assembly, is 31.6 percent women and 68.4 percent male. The means Illinois has the seventh-most gender equal state legislature in the country, and more gender equal than the United States Congress, which is 18.5 percent female.

Legislatures can still be representative without matching the exact demographic breakdown of its constituents. But what would Illinois government look like with more women involved?

A 2011 study from the University of Chicago suggests that women who are involved in politics tend to be better at "logrolling, agenda-setting, coalition building, and other deal-making activities" than male policy makers. And League of Women Voters of Illinois Executive Director Mary Shaafsma said that though Illinoisans value a generally well-qualified candidate more than the candidate's gender, sometimes "women bring a different level of thoughfulness that men don't always."

Women have been getting involved in Illinois politics for as long as women have been able to vote (and even before, as champions of women's suffrage). Lottie Holman O'Neill was elected as an Illinois state representative in 1922 and then went on to be Illinois' first female state senator in 1950. Women have been playing important roles more recently as well: State Attorney General Lisa Madigan is Illinois' first female attorney general and is currently the most senior state attorney general in the country.

Democrat Madigan is up for reelection in November, challenged by Republican Paul Schimpf. Though Madigan is generally seen as having solid support throughout the state, Schimpf paid for a poll that he says shows he is a legitimate threat to her reelection. In it, 46 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Madigan and 37 percent said Schimpf, which is a smaller gap than a Reboot Illinois poll found in June--51 percent for Madigan and 35 percent for Schimpf.

This Is How To Save Your Hair From The Effects Of Summer

Wed, 2014-07-30 06:00
Come Labor Day, your hair will probably be in need of some TLC. Yes, weeks of sun, waves and chlorine can leave your locks looking less lively than when the season started. That's why I emailed Kattia Solano, stylist and owner of the New York City's Butterfly Studio Salon, for tips to repair your strands and protect them against the elements in the future.

Here's Solano's list of the biggest summer hair problems and solutions on how to beat the heat.


Humidity is the root of flyaways, so you have to put moisture back into your mane to tame it. Proper conditioning is important, especially on the ends of your hair. It's also best to brush when your hair is still wet, so the bristles don't damage the cuticle while you're detangling.

For frizz relief on the go, use Oribe Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray, a light, Miami-tested formula that shields hair so styles appear extra smooth.

To combat frizz for months at a time, try a professional process like the Cezanne Perfect Finish Keratin Smoothing Treatment, which is packed with ingredients like keratin, a silk protein called sericin, botanical extracts and vitamins. "Infusing those into the cuticle of the hair leaves it shiny and sleek," says Solano.

Flat Hair

Building body starts in the shower with the right shampoo and conditioner. To fight flat hair use Fekkai Full Blown Shampoo and Full Blown Lightweight Foam Conditioner , which gently cleanses and moisturizes hair with ginseng and lemon without weighing it down.

To style, layer products for lasting volume. Add Kerastase Resistance Gelee Volumifique to towel-dried hair and blow dry with a round brush, pinning each section around Velcro rollers. After the hair has completely cooled, mist it with L'Oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray Strong Hold to lock everything in place.

If your hair is still looking limp despite all the right preparation, a quick and easy way to build it up again is with a product like Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray. "Flip your head upside down, apply the texturizer and blast hair with a blow dryer," Solano says. "Then, twist hair into a loose bun on the top of your head (secure it with a chopstick so there are no dents), and let it cool. After 10 minutes, shake out your hair and apply a few more spritzes to the roots for big, glamorous body."

Dry Hair

Styling tools like curling irons and flat irons are often to blame for fried hair, so prep your locks properly with a protectant like Nexxus Pro-Mend Heat Protection Styling Spray, which acts as a barrier to absorb heat and prevent dryness and breakage. "Never start your tools at the highest setting," Solano adds. "450 degrees is just too hot for almost everyone."

"The key to repairing dry hair is conditioning," says Solano. Start by applying a small amount of conditioner to split ends, wrapping them in a towel and letting them soak for 10-15 minutes while you're in the shower. For a more serious moisture fix, soothe your strands by trying a hair mask like Shu Uemura Art of Hair Moisture Velvet Nourishing Treatment with camellia oil and lipids for 5 minutes two to three times a week. And if you're more of a DIY type, raw, organic extra virgin coconut oil does the trick and smells great, too.

Oily Hair

The sultry weather of summer can cause strands to get stringy and oily faster than usual so be mindful about how -- and how often -- you wash.

"Avoid shampoos that will weigh your hair down and opt for those like Rahua Voluminous Natural Shampoo , which includes ingredients like lemongrass, green tea and citric juices that work together to cleanse and purify," Solano says.

To avoid shampooing every day, soak up grease with a dry shampoo like Klorane Dry Shampoo with Nettles, which is specifically formulated to quickly absorb oil in 25 seconds and leaves hair looking and feeling refreshed.

You'll also want to skip conditioner at the scalp and focus on the bottom half of your hair so you're not adding to the problem. Solano's tip: pull hair into a ponytail and condition only the part that falls from the elastic.

Chlorine Damage

Chlorine can really wreck your hair by drying it out and leaving it green, so prep your hair before you take a dip. To cut down on the amount of chlorinated water your hair absorbs, coat it with a silicone-based product like John Frieda Frizz-Ease, which works to keep chemicals from penetrating the strands. Simply wetting your hair with tap or bottled water before you jump in the pool also helps.

After your swim, rinse you're hair with apple cider vinegar or a mix of carbonated water with citrus juice to remove chlorine and clarify the hair. Then clean your strands with a gentle shampoo, such as MALIN + GOETZ peppermint shampoo.

Fading Color

Sunshine is known to fade color and highlights, so don't leave the house without applying a protectant to your hair first. Try Shu Uemura Art of Hair Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Oil which contains natural UV blockers, but you can also whip up a homemade concoction by diluting your favorite lotion or sunscreen with a little water in a spray bottle and spritzing your strands before you head out for the day.

You don't necessarily need to go to the salon to keep colors bright, either. A gloss such as John Frieda Colour Refreshing Gloss will counteract fading in the comfort of your home.

Or more simply, you can pul your hair back into a low bun to limit sun exposure.

Take that, summer!

Which Law Schools Are Worth Getting Into?

Tue, 2014-07-29 19:43
If you've looked into going to law school at all lately, you've heard about the debate on whether or not you should even bother.

Well, if you are set on going, our friends at FindTheBest came up with a couple of rankings that show you where to go -- or not go -- if you want a job along with your J.D.

Best Law Schools for Employment | FindTheBest

Attending the law schools at the University of Chicago, University of Virginia, New York University, Stanford, Duke or any of the Ivies, and you're nearly guaranteed employment after graduation. Of course, being some of the highest ranked law schools will make that a little difficult.

FindTheBest also noted a few where their grads' aren't doing as well.

Bottom Law Schools for Employment | FindTheBest

Obama Won't Legalize Pot Just Because The New York Times Told Him

Tue, 2014-07-29 19:09
The White House has responded to New York Times editorials this week supporting marijuana legalization, saying ending U.S. pot prohibition isn't the "silver bullet solution."

The Office of National Drug Control Policy staff, while acknowledging the criminal justice system needs reform, argues in a blog post published Monday night that a series of Times editorials that began Sunday "ignores the science" and "fails to address public health problems" associated with a possible increase in marijuana use.

"The New York Times editorial team failed to mention a cascade of public health problems associated with the increased availability of marijuana," the blog post reads. "While law enforcement will always play an important role in combating violent crime associated with the drug trade, the Obama Administration approaches substance use as a public health issue, not merely a criminal justice problem.

"Any discussion on the issue should be guided by science and evidence, not ideology and wishful thinking," the blog post continues. "We will continue to focus on genuine drug policy reform -– a strategy that rejects extremes, and promotes expanded access to treatment, evidence-based prevention efforts, and alternatives to incarceration"

The Office of National Drug Control Policy, citing scientific studies, argues that marijuana is addictive, impairs development of brain structures, hurts academic performance in school-aged children and poses the threat of drugged driving on roadways.

The blog post also argues that legalizing weed would neither eliminate the black market for marijuana, nor guarantee that states will reap substantial revenue from retail marijuana sales.

"The White House should be commended for standing with the science -- not political ideology," Kevin Sabet, co-founder of anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told The Huffington Post. "But we shouldn't be very surprised. The White House has repeatedly said they stand with the science on this issue. And the science says that marijuana can be addictive for one in six teens, it doubles the risk of a car crash, and it significantly increases the risk for losing IQ points and is connected to mental illness."

The New York Times editorial board argued that, after weighing legalization, the scale tips in favor of ending the ban. The Times acknowledges concerns about certain forms of marijuana use, including that by minors, and advocates restricting sales to those under age 21.

"There are no perfect answers ... but neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol," the Times writes. The newspaper says the concerns are outweighed by the "vast" social costs of marijuana laws.

Mason Tvert, communications director for marijuana policy reform group Marijuana Policy Project, fired back, saying President Barack Obama still has "some 'evolving' to do when it comes to marijuana policy."

"The White House is clutching at straws to make its case that marijuana should remain illegal, and the hypocrisy is as glaring as ever," Tvert said. "President Obama has acknowledged that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer, yet his administration somehow maintains the position that marijuana is just too dangerous to allow responsible adult use. ... Nobody thinks ending alcohol prohibition was a bad idea, and it should come as little surprise that most Americans think it would be wise to do the same with marijuana prohibition."

To date, Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Twenty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and about a dozen more states are considering legalization in some form. Still, federal law considers all uses of marijuana illegal, classifying it alongside heroin and LSD as one of the "most dangerous" drugs.

Declining Diversity in Higher Education

Tue, 2014-07-29 16:25
The numbers say it all. Diversity is declining in higher education across the United States.

I do not mean there are declining numbers of women. Nor do I mean there are declining numbers of African-Americans or Blacks, Asian-Americans or Hispanics. I also do not mean that there is a shift to a more homogenous age group attending college. As far as I can tell from various data sets, representational diversity is not declining, though access certainly remains a problem for higher education.

What I mean is that the range of diversity of the higher education ecology is declining at the institutional level, and this concerns me.

A few examples?

• According to the Women's College Coalition, "in the 1960's, there were more than 200 women's colleges in the U.S. Now there are fewer than 50."

• While many institutions of higher education in the United States began as single sex men's institutions, today only three non-religious institutions are regularly identified as men's only: Wabash College, Morehouse College, and Hampden Sydney College

• Institutions sometimes known as "coordinates" include various arrangements that segregate male and female students. Their number has also declined, including most famously the shift of Radcliffe to a research institute and the admission of women to Harvard. More recently, the closure of Sophie Newcomb in New Orleans was attributed to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Currently, there exist eight coordinate colleges, each organized somewhat distinctively, including the University of Richmond, Columbia/Barnard, Yeshiva/Stern College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Minnesota (each of which has its own president).

• The disappearance of liberal arts colleges seems to be occurring as well. While not all instances have involved closure of institutions, curricular change has definitely meant fewer appear in the category of liberal arts institutions now than in 1990.

What has caused this? Well, some of the root causes are positive ones on the face of it. Once anti-catholic sentiment declined and Roman Catholics were allowed into other organizations, the need for a separate set of institutions may have declined. Once women were admitted elsewhere, the need for women's organizations appeared to decline. Formerly men's colleges that are now co-educational often made that change for reasons associated with social justice (though legalities and dollars perhaps matter as much). The impact may be multiplicative, meaning that these and other forces combined to lead to a decline in the number (or stability) of, for example, Catholic women's institutions. Add race to this equation or other previously excluded religious groups such as Jews, and we see the loss of some kinds of institutions. Or, they become at-risk.

It may also be that other forces are at work. For example, in her book Different, Youngme Moon argues that our tendency to use comparison groups to drive our metrics may mean that we have homogenized. Just look at mission statements across our sector. Why does the notion of "excellent, interdisciplinary, international, creation of responsible citizens through service learning and close faculty/student interaction" seem so familiar? Because it is.

Here we might also consider the impact of a widening -- and deepening -- trend to focus on work force development as a goal for education, on rising costs, and the decreasing public funding of higher education. Each of these shapes the "market" and its declining diversity. So, too, do some very important positive initiatives to help students who move from institution to institution; helping ensure transfer credit is a good thing, though doing so badly can decrease the distinctive educations various places offer. And, of course, the notion of "scale" means that very small institutions face threats to their viability, despite being models of what larger institutions call "learning communities" and tout as "high impact" practices.

Of course, not all of the story of today's higher education is about a decline in diversity. Over the years, we have seen increases in the number and strength of community colleges and public liberal arts colleges, for example. And, we have come to identify, for example, Hispanic Serving Institutions as well as coalitions that have high Pell eligibility. There are other changes as well. For example, where once there were no accredited for-profit higher education institutions, now these exist. And, there are online courses of various sorts as well as calls for un-college (alongside un-schooling and homeschooling). The rise of Muslim and Buddhist education in the United States, too, enhances the diversity of the American (and global) educational ecology.

And yet, the landscape of higher education today seems pretty homogenous. It seems more homogenous than when I entered college, when I began my Ph.D., and when I became a faculty member. This strikes me as not merely a complaint of the geezer in me but a loss of something distinctive about American higher education.

What can we do? What ought we to do?

Chicago's Top Chefs at the Screening of <i>The Hundred-Foot Journey</i>

Tue, 2014-07-29 16:20
"Food is memories," states characters Hassan, played by Manish Dayal, and Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon, early in the new romantic foodie movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey. We all intrinsically know that food is memories - just think of your favorite childhood candy to let a rush of physical and mental sensations come running back - and this is why the audience was so swept away by the film during a private screening last week in Chicago. Beautiful shots of food markets and in-kitchen culinary feats, not to mention the ever-lovely images of Southern France, made this movie an endearing and tender story, and a joy to watch.

Based on the award-winning book by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey is about an Indian family that moves to Southern France to a less than warm welcome, particularly from a local restaurateur, Madame Mallory, played by Helen Mirren. When she learns that they are opening an Indian restaurant opposite her Michelin Star establishment, she becomes particularly outraged. However, over time, the common love of food and the gifted culinary sensibilities of Hassan, one of the elder sons, melts the icy war and cultural barriers, and more than one romance ensues.

The success of the movie, produced by Steven Spielberg, Juliet Blake and Oprah Winfrey, is that it serves to remind us of the joy of eating together and the connection that food can bring to families, communities and love affairs. The movie allows all these relationships to flourish, and, in addition, fosters a different kind of love altogether: the one between the audience and the movie, which reminds us what it means to be present in daily life and our natural surroundings.

Many of Chicago's best chefs attended the screening in support of the film and the co-sponsoring charities of the screening: The Trotter Project, Common Threads and Pilot Light. Chef Bill Kim, of restaurants Urban Belly and Belly Q and who was in attendance, knows all about bridging the cultural gap through food. "It comes with my marriage to a Puerto Rican woman and trying to bridge Asian and Latin together. People always thought that it is difficult.... but we live it every single day."

Chicago, recognized as a city of neighborhoods with restaurants that celebrate and heighten cuisines from around the globe, has been an important city for making cross-cultural connections over food. Chef Matthias Merges of Yusho, A10 Hyde Park and Billy Sunday restaurants and Board President of Pilot Light was also in attendance. He certainly knows all about melting hearts with food. "There are a few tangible examples in our lives today which bridge the cultural gap more directly and effectively than food and sharing in the pleasures of the table. Preparing food in a kitchen then serving at a table with others - be it with family or friends - creates an intimate opportunity to slow down and reconnect with the joys of life."

Perhaps famed Chef Art Smith, co-founder of Common Threads and in attendance at the screening, said it best. "Food is peace. Food is love. Food is something that we call can agree upon. We all love to eat. My life has been as a chef for very important people, as well as cooking for multitudes of people in our restaurants across the county. A little food goes a long way. It is important to realize, when all else fails, feed them. I have a favorite saying, 'When you want people to come, feed them. When you want them to stay, feed them more. You want to change bills or you want to change people's minds, feed 'em a lot!' "

The Hundred-Foot Journey opens in theaters August 8th and is truly a gem for the whole family.

Six of the Coolest Illinois Roadside Attractions

Tue, 2014-07-29 15:25
Summer is the perfect time to go on a road trip in Illinois, which is home to many parks, historical sites, and for those who are brave enough, creepy roads. Illinois not only has cool destinations, but also some awesome roadside attractions. We're bringing you a list of Illinois roadside attractions that were ranked as "Major Fun," courtesy of, so you have an excuse to get out and stretch your legs on your next Illinois road-trip.

Dungeons & Dragons Park
After the death of his nineteen year-old son Jeremy "Boo" Rochman, Barrett Rochman bought 3.5 acres of land near his home to build a memorial Dungeons & Dragons themed park in honor of his son, and avid D&D player. The park opened in 2005 and contains an extensive castle, sculptures of fantastic creatures and gardens.

Address: 31 Homewood Drive, Carbondale, IL
Hours: 8 AM- dusk
Admission: free, donations welcome

World's Largest Cross
Standing at 198 feet tall, 113 feet wide and made with over 180 tons of steel, this cross not only can withstand winds up to 145 miles an hour, it is two feet taller than the famed Groom Cross. The cross itself is surrounded by interactive monuments of the Ten Commandments, in addition to church music. There is a small theater at the Effingham Cross Welcome Center that documents the construction of the cross.

Address: 1900 Pike Ave, Effingham, IL

Super Museum
The Super Museum, located in Metropolis, the home of Superman himself, houses Jim Hambrick's Superman collection, which he claims is the world's largest. Hambrick started his collection in 1959 and the museum houses everything from Reeves' original Clark Kent eyeglasses and the phone booth used by Kirk Alyn, the first film star to portray Superman. Superman spin-offs, such as Superboy and Supergirl, even have their own galleries.

Address: 517 Market St., Metropolis, IL
Hours: 9 AM - 5 PM daily
Admission: Adults $5

Superman Statue
Also located in Metropolis, home of Superman, this 12-foot-tall, projectile-proof bronze Superman Statue was funded by the town after plans for a $50 million Superman-themed park and 200-foot statue were shut down over two decades earlier. The current statue replaces a 7-foot-tall fiberglass statue that was placed in the town square in 1986.

Address: Superman Square, Metropolis, IL

Leaning Tower of Niles
Built in 1934 by businessman Bob Ilg, The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-sized replica of The Leaning Tower of Piza (94 feet tall and 7-foot-4-inch tilt versus 177 feet tall and a 13-foot tilt). The building was originally designed as a utility tower designed to hide water filtration tanks. The plaza surrounding the tower was renovated in the 1990s to include a fountain and a reflecting pool, in addition to other amenities.

Address: 6300 Touhy Ave., Niles, IL

Miniature Golf in a Funeral Home
This nine-hole mini golf course is located in the basement of Ahlgrim Acres, a family-owed funeral service. The course has been operating informally since the 1960s and includes headstones and coffins as obstacles and screams and spooky music for ambiance. The course is offered as part of the funeral package at Ahlgrim's, but outside organizations also use the course regularly.

Address: 201 N. Northwest Hwy., Palatine, IL
Hours: 9 AM- 9 PM, Daily
Admission: Free

Check out six more roadside attractions at Reboot Illinois, including a tug-of-war on a scale of epic proportions.

NEXT ARTICLE: 31 Must-See Historic Sites in Illinois
Top 10 Creepiest Roads in Illinois
15 Illinois inventions that changed the world
25 Fun Facts about Illinois
What is the most popular tourist attraction in Illinois?
12 fun places to take the family in Illinois

9 Inspiring Quotes About Wisdom That Will Change The Way You See Your Life

Tue, 2014-07-29 15:21
We get it. Life can be hard.

One moment, you can feel the profoundness of your own life's purpose in every aching atom of your body. Then, suddenly, you're at a loss for just about everything: words, identity, creativity, inspiration. It leaves you feeling confused, alone and like there's nowhere left to go. But we're here to tell you, and we hope you take this to heart: Life, with all its challenges, setbacks, absurdities and tragedies, can still be beautiful and fulfilling.

And if you won't take our word for it, we know a few people who might be a little more convincing. Below, inspire yourself with nine quotes from the world's wisest leaders and change the way you look at your life:

This Is Your Brain on Legal Drugs: Let's End the Drug War With a Minimum of Casualties by Following the Science

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:44
Human beings sometimes have a troubling inability to hold two thoughts in mind at the same time. This is true not only when the two thoughts contradict each other but even when they simply appear to be in conflict with each other but actually aren't. And nowhere is there a greater need for us to get past this tendency than when discussing the ongoing war on drugs and the growing movement for the decriminalization of marijuana. It should be possible to say both that:

1) The drug war is an all-out disaster that has inflicted an untold amount of unnecessary human suffering. Therefore, as a first step toward ending this failed war, we should continue with the movement toward the decriminalization of pot.

And that:

2) There is scientific evidence of the dangers of pot on the development of adolescent brains, and for users of any age who end up abusing the drug. So, as we decriminalize, we should take every step possible to minimize the harm.

Those two positions are not actually contradictory, but in the polarized, zero-sum world that passes for policy debate right now, many act as if they are.

For the last 15 years I have been writing and speaking about the imperative of ending the disastrous war on drugs. In fact, in 2000, when I organized shadow political conventions to spotlight the major issues that neither political party was seriously addressing, the failed war on drugs was one of the three issues that we chose (growing inequality and the need for campaign-finance reform being the other two).

So it is definitely cause for celebration that the drug war, at least when it comes to pot, is finally deescalating. And after years of slow progress, the issue is gathering momentum. On Sunday The New York Times, in the first installment of a six-part interactive editorial, called for an end to prohibition. "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana," the editorial states. "We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times's Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws."

It's about time, as the drug war has been one of the worst domestic-policy catastrophes in American history. The human toll has been staggering. Drug offenders make up fully half of our massive inmate population. Of those, nearly 28 percent are locked up for marijuana-related offenses. In 2012 some 658,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, and fighting marijuana use alone costs federal and state governments $20 billion a year. And the targets of the war on drugs have disproportionately been people of color. African Americans, for instance, make up 14 percent of habitual drug users yet constitute 37 percent of those arrested on drug charges.

So while we fight to change our drug laws, let's do so with a full understanding of the science. The effects of marijuana are not easy to study; people don't use it in the clean ways it's studied in labs. But we do know that in addition to marijuana providing relief to people undergoing chemotherapy and those suffering from glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and AIDS, among other conditions, there is clear evidence of the harmful effects on adolescent brains and on those who become addicted to it.

So let us not make the mistake -- the same one that climate-change denialists have been making -- of ignoring the science that we are afraid will weaken our position. Indeed, as we move toward legalization, let's put the science front and center. One of the worst things about the drug war is the way its proponents ignore the facts in favor of dogma. Let's not make the same mistake as we move toward legalization.

While we can't be certain about what lies ahead, we can take what we know now -- from the science on marijuana, from the market forces already in play and from our past experience with how marketing and market forces played out with tobacco and alcohol -- and at least try to create a system that anticipates and minimizes the inevitable downsides.

Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA and a co-author (along with Jonathan Caulkins, Angela Hawken and Beau Kilmer) of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, is worried that in our haste to get out from under the ills of a horrible drug war, we're not really thinking about what comes next.

"At the moment," he told me, "we're stumbling toward a commercial system, which I think of as the second-worst option, with only continued prohibition having worse likely outcomes."

To begin to understand this point, let's look at some of the recent scientific findings, the most notable of which has centered on the effects of marijuana on young people. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience in April, conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, showed how smoking marijuana, even occasionally, physically changes the young user's brain structure. "The results of this study indicate that in young, recreational marijuana users, structural abnormalities in gray matter density, volume, and shape of the nucleus accumbens and amygdala can be observed," write the authors.

Dr. Anne Blood, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and one of the senior authors of the study, provided some context on the region of the brain where these abnormalities occurred. "These are core, fundamental structures of the brain," she said. "They form the basis for how you assess positive and negative features about things in the environment and make decisions about them."

Dr. Staci Gruber, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who has also conducted studies on what marijuana does to the brain but was not involved in this particular study, had this advice for young people:

Don't do it early -- prior to age 16. That's what our data suggests, that regular use of marijuana prior to age 16 is associated with greater difficulty of tasks requiring judgment, planning and inhibitory function as well as changes in brain function and white matter microstructure relative to those who start later.

These findings are particularly worrisome because, as a 2013 study led by Gruber points out, "[m]arijuana use continues to rise, and as the perceived risk of [marijuana] approaches an all-time historic low, initiation of [marijuana] use is occurring at even younger ages."

There have also been at least two studies showing how marijuana use can impair working memory, one published in Schizophrenia Bulletin in 2013, and another in 2012. "Impairment of working memory is one of the most important deleterious effects of marijuana intoxication in humans, but its underlying mechanisms are presently unknown," wrote the authors of the latter study, published in the journal Cell, which also noted that "long-term depression is associated with impairment of spatial working memory."

A 2014 study led by Dr. Rajiv Radhakrishnan of the Yale University School of Medicine concluded that while "it should be remembered that the majority of individuals who consume cannabis do not experience any kind of psychosis," acute exposure can "produce a full range of transient symptoms, cognitive deficits, and psychophysiological abnormalities that bear a striking resemblance to some of the features of schizophrenia." Adolescent marijuana users, the study found, face an increased risk of developing such outcomes later in life. And for those suffering from existing psychotic disorders, marijuana use was found to "exacerbate symptoms, trigger relapse, and have negative consequences on the course of the illness."

There have also been studies showing direct links to depression. One from 2011 by researchers in the Netherlands found that for young people who are genetically predisposed to the condition, "smoking cannabis leads to an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms."

And a 2012 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that "the most persistent adolescent-onset cannabis users evidenced an average 8-point IQ decline from childhood to adulthood." The same effects were not found for users who began later in life. And more worrisome was that, for those who had started early, the negative effects continued even after they stopped using. "Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents," the study states. Or, as study researcher Madeline Meier, of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, told CBS, "Parents should understand that their adolescents are particularly vulnerable."

Co-author Dr. Richie Poulton, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, summed it up: "For some it's a legal issue, but for me it's a health issue."

As it should be for us all. Treating it as a legal issue has caused devastating harm. But ignoring marijuana's health risks will lead to young people using pot without being fully informed and educated about the risks of lifelong damage.

But the public's understandable eagerness to end the drug war has outpaced awareness of potential problems to come. According to a Pew Research Center poll from last year, while for the first time a majority of all Americans want marijuana legalized, for millennials the number is 65 percent. And the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 60 percent of high-school seniors don't see the harm in routine marijuana use, and over a third said they'd smoked it in the prior 12 months. In 1993 only 2.4 percent of high-school seniors said they used marijuana daily; by 2013 the number was up to 6.5 percent. And over 12 percent of eighth graders said they'd tried it. As use has gone up, so has the concentration of THC found in most marijuana. "Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And in recent years 97 percent of new marijuana users have been 24 years old or younger. Clearly, young people are going to be the primary market for a legal pot industry.

Most of them won't abuse the drug when it's decriminalized, but some will. How many? Well, there's been research on this too. Kleiman and his co-authors write that, right now, about 4.4 million people meet the clinical definitions for either marijuana dependence or marijuana abuse. They also report on the work of epidemiologist James Anthony, who estimates the "capture rate" (the rate of people ending up dependent on a drug after trying it) for marijuana to be around 9 percent, compared with 15 percent for alcohol and 16 percent for cocaine. But when Anthony and his colleagues looked at those who began using marijuana before turning 25, the rate jumped to 15 percent. And an Australian longitudinal study with nearly 2,000 participants found that 20 percent of those who began using marijuana in their teens showed signs of dependence at 24.

And the fact that from 2013 to 2014 -- after marijuana was decriminalized in Colorado -- applications to the University of Colorado-Boulder increased by 33 percent, compared with a 2-percent increase the previous year, suggests that legal weed can have a magnetic pull on young people (even if some of the increase is due, as administrators claim, to the adoption of the Common Application).

Marijuana, according to Kleiman, was involved in 350,000 drug-treatment admissions in 2009, a number that has quintupled since 1992. And the majority of those were teenagers and young adults, with those below 21 accounting for nearly half of the admissions.

So the big challenge, as we go forward into a commercial marijuana market, is how to protect the most vulnerable: adolescents, young people and those of any age who are likely to end up abusing marijuana. And that's the problem with the current, laissez-faire way in which decriminalization is happening: There's a perverse incentive by those marketing marijuana -- already a multibillion-dollar industry -- to get people hooked. As Marijuana Legalization puts it:

The more-than-weekly users account for more than 90 percent of marijuana demand. That has a frightening implication: if we create a licit industry to grow and sell marijuana, the resulting businesses will have a strong profit incentive to create and sustain frequent and abusive consumption patterns, because the heaviest users consume so much of the product. So if we create a licit market, we should expect the industry's product design, pricing, and marketing to be devoted to creating as much addiction as possible.

This could lead, as Kleiman put it, to "a cannabis industry whose commercial interest is precisely opposite to the public interest" the way, over decades, we have had a tobacco industry and an alcohol industry whose commercial interests have been precisely opposite to the public interest.

Kleiman continues:

So from the perspective of cannabis vendors, drug abuse isn't the problem; it's the target demographic. Since we can expect the legal cannabis industry to be financially dependent on dependent consumers, we can also expect that the industry's marketing practices and lobbying agenda will be dedicated to creating and sustaining problem drug use patterns. The trick to legalizing marijuana, then, is to keep at bay the logic of the market -- its tendency to create and exploit people with substance abuse disorders. So far, the state-by-state, initiative-driven process doesn't seem up to that challenge.

So getting rid of horrible drug laws (a good thing) doesn't mean we shouldn't replace them with rules and regulations to minimize a new and different set of harms. The key is to do it now and not wait for a few decades -- and a lot of suffering -- to pass before we fix problems that could have been avoided. For example, take the story of the tobacco industry. In 1960 the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act was enacted, allowing the FDA to regulate hazardous substances, but tobacco wasn't considered a hazardous substance at the time. So it wasn't until the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 that warning labels were required. And it wasn't until 1971 that broadcast advertising for tobacco was prohibited. Now there are regulations of all kinds aimed at limiting the tobacco industry's ability to target young people. For instance, tobacco companies can't, with their brand name, sponsor musical or sporting events, nor can they sell T-shirts and hats with cigarette brands on them.

But at least in the case of tobacco, the delay in setting up a framework to minimize harm was partially because it took a while for the science to come in. With marijuana the science is here. It's complex, and there will always be skeptics (as there still are in climate science and even tobacco, until recently) challenging the results, but we need to start including, in both our policy discussions and our reporting, the scientific findings we already have, especially because there are ways to limit the potential downside, including keeping the price of pot high, undercutting the political leverage of the burgeoning marijuana industry, protecting young people from marketing techniques we know they're susceptible to and educating the public about not just the medical benefits of marijuana but the possible negative consequences.

After many years of a horribly destructive and wasteful war on drugs, we are finally poised to bring an end to this shameful chapter in our country's history. But, as we look ahead to the next chapter, it's our collective responsibility to keep the science at the forefront of how we roll out legalization. We can learn a lot from the long history of trying to mitigate the harm of tobacco and alcohol. We don't need to make the same painful mistakes again.

Working Out From Your Office Desk Is About To Get A Whole Lot Simpler

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:29
By now, the research on the subject has made itself painfully clear: Sitting all day at a desk job is not at all good for you.

While many have used this knowledge to pursue a number of options -- including standing desks, treadmill desks and other setups -- to try and solve this health issue, many of the possible solutions come with a high price tag or take up too much space, not to mention office managers often need to be on board with an alternative desk arrangement.

Twenty-three-year-old Arnav Dalmia knows the obstacles well. After he graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in economics, he moved on to an office job. It was there where he noticed his health was declining -- he was frequently tired and felt lethargic -- despite no other change in his diet or exercise routine. He realized then that sitting all day at the office was taking its toll.

The result of his dilemma is Cubii, a unique under-desk elliptical trainer that Dalmia has developed along with two former U of C classmates, Ryota Sekine and Shivani Jain.

On Monday, a Kickstarter campaign for the Cubii ended after raising almost $294,000 from over 1,000 backers -- more than three times its initial fundraising goal. The campaign marks Kickstarter's most-funded Chicago design project of the year so far.

While other products -- like the DeskCycle -- have also attempted to offer under-desk exercise solutions for the office, Cubii is different from its competitors. For one, Dalmia says their product has been designed to offer a range of motion that is less distracting to users and others nearby and won't result in banged-up knees from hitting the underside of the desktop. The product -- which will weigh about 25 pounds -- also comes with a handle, making it easily movable but still sturdy.

Cubii's range of motion should result in fewer bruised knees than other under-desk fitness options.

Another thing setting Cubii apart is Bluetooth technology that allows users to sync up their at-work exercising with fitness-monitoring apps, as well as a "green wellness" element that allows users to charge their cell phones using the energy derived from the workout. The Cubii team estimates users will be able to burn about 120 calories an hour using the adjustable-resistance device.

The enthusiastic response to the Cubii Kickstarter came as a surprise to Dalmia, considering his team is relatively green when it comes to the product world.

"None of us on the team are engineers or designers, we're all fairly young and we had set out to make this physical product right out of college," Dalmia told HuffPost. "That was our biggest challenge."

The Cubii will retail for $349, though it is currently being offered for a $299 Kickstarter pre-order price. Dalmia is aiming to have them available for purchase by next January.

Study Finds Historically Gay Neighborhoods Straightening

Tue, 2014-07-29 12:26
There goes the gayborhood?

New research from University of British Columbia sociologist Amin Ghazian has found that historically gay neighborhoods in the U.S. are becoming increasingly less queer.

Specifically, the study found that the number of gay men living in traditionally queer areas has dropped eight percent, while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 percent.

These areas reportedly include Chicago's Boystown, San Francisco’s Castro district, New York's Greenwich Village and Atlanta's Midtown, just to name a few.

According to Ghazian, there are a number of intersecting factors for this shift, including gentrification, changing attitudes among queers and the gradual folding of gays and lesbians into the mainstream.

"The study also identifies new demographic trends, including unexpected clusters of same-sex parents around desirable schools in traditionally straight [neighborhoods] and the emergence of districts for LGBT people of [color]," UBC News reports. "The findings also show that same-sex households exist in a record-high 93 per cent of U.S. counties."

What do you think about this shift? Is it necessarily good or bad? Let us know in the comments below.

Drivers Got High On Federal Weed For A Stoned Driving Study

Tue, 2014-07-29 11:44
For several months in 2013 and 2014, federal researchers administered free marijuana and alcohol to a group of people and set them loose in a driving simulator -- all in the name of science.

In what may be the most comprehensive study yet of cannabis' effects on drivers, around 20 volunteers, all between the ages of 21 and 55, got high on weed grown at the University of Mississippi, home of the federal government's only sanctioned marijuana farm. On some occasions, the volunteers were also given small amounts of alcohol. Once sufficiently high and/or buzzed, the subjects then performed a series of tests in the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa as researchers looked on.

"It's a very big, complex study and the very first ever of an illicit drug affecting driving in the world's most advanced driving simulator," Marilyn Huestis, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a research arm of the National Institute of Health, told The Huffington Post.

Subjects in the simulator sat in a complete car and "drove" as a 360-degree realistic world was projected on the domed walls around them. Researchers at the NADS had previously developed programs to test the distractive effects of texting and cell phone use, and the sedative effects of alcohol, but Huestis and University of Iowa engineers had to specifically design environments for the cannabis driving test, since it was the first of its kind.

"There were six different driving sessions in this huge simulator," said Huestis. "We designed many different situations, including an urban portion with crowds and lights, a highway section and a rural section -- all with a lot of divided attention tasks. There are issues of deer coming out on the roadway, people coming out on the crosswalk, directions telling drivers to turn at certain locations, as well as cars approaching and passing."

Throughout the study, Huestis and her team collected blood and saliva from the drivers to determine their level of intoxication.

Because the University of Iowa is a smoke-free campus, researchers were forced to vaporize the cannabis for the test subjects to inhale. All of the participants were given the same amount of cannabis -- approximately one joint's worth -- and all of the cannabis was of the same mid-level potency. The subjects in the study were all "occasional" marijuana users who had used cannabis at least once a month, and no more than three days a week, during the three months prior to the beginning of the study.

States that have laws regulating the use of marijuana often administer THC-blood tests to determine a driver's level of impairment. Generally, drivers found to have THC in their bloodstream at a level of five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood are considered "under the influence" and may be subject to penalty.

In Colorado, which permits the use of both medical and recreational marijuana, a driver is presumed to be too impaired to drive if his or her THC-blood level is higher than five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood, although the driver can rebut that charge and possibly overturn it in court. In Washington, where medical and adult-use marijuana are also legal, a driver found with a THC-blood level of five nanograms or more is automatically charged with being too impaired to drive.

But unlike blood-alcohol level, which is directly correlated with one's inability to drive, THC-blood levels don't necessarily indicate a clear level of impairment.

In one recent study, six of 25 participants who had consumed marijuana still tested positive for active levels of THC seven days later -- long after they had stopped feeling the effects of the cannabis.

In 2011, Denver marijuana reporter William Breathes memorably demonstrated THC's unpredictable effect on the body. After a night of sleep and not smoking pot for 15 hours, a sober Breathes still tested nearly three times higher than the proposed legal limit.

To add confusion to the matter, in 2013 the Washington state television station KIRO assembled a group of volunteers, had them smoke pot and set them loose on a driving test course to try and answer the question: How high is too high to drive?

Unfortunately, the less-than-scientific results, while entertaining, didn't yield much clarity. One regular smoker of marijuana tested above the legal limit to begin with, yet drove without much of a problem. Two other casual smokers also navigated the course without incident. However, after smoking more marijuana, some of the participants quickly grew less adept behind the wheel.

Huestis said it's important to take into account how often a person consumes marijuana, and that five nanograms per milliliter may actually be too permissive a standard.

"Many occasional users who are not chronic, frequent users can be very intoxicated at one nanogram per milliliter of blood and should not be driving," Huestis said. "Washington state chose five nanograms per milliliter because we showed in our work in chronic, frequent cannabis users -- people who use daily and multiple doses per day -- were less than five nanograms within 24 hours. In Sweden, they have published that if they had used five nanograms per milliliter they would have missed 90 percent of their impaired driving cases. So it's very difficult to say with certainty."

Huestis said that researchers have more than 200 parameters to evaluate from the study and will be examining their findings for more than a year before they announce any conclusions.

The 14 Best Colleges You Can Get Into, According To Money Magazine

Tue, 2014-07-29 11:19
It might be tough to get into the Ivy League, but that doesn't mean you can't get into a good school.

Money magazine's new list released Monday ranks the best schools where students who might not be at the top of their class can get accepted

Each of these schools accept "at least 50 percent of applicants," and the typical admitted student had a high school GPA between 3.0 and 3.4.

Check out the list below to see the top 14 "best colleges that you can actually get into," or head to Money for the full run down.

Here's Proof That Beautiful Art Is Hiding In The Most Mundane Of Places, Even Your Laundry

Tue, 2014-07-29 10:02
Artist Yvette Meltzer is probably not the first person to become hypnotized by the revolving wonder of a packed washing machine. The spinning colors and blurred forms can quickly transform into faces, figures and landscapes, if you stare at the clothes long enough. Any urban dweller cursed with frequenting laundromats can tell you that.

But Meltzer just might be one of the only photographers to turn the turning machinery into a two-year long photographic adventure. Titled "Revolutions," the series is part documentary, part abstract experimentation, capturing a banal moment that stands on its own as hidden piece of art.

The project began one chilly winter in Chicago, when Meltzer decided laundromats might be a great place to search for portrait subjects. According to Slate, the "Revolutions" she caught in motion took her by surprise -- it wasn't until she arrived at her computer post-shoot that she realized how "Rorshach"-esque her passing photos of moving washers and dryers were.

"I enjoy the convergence of color, light, and form whether in the form of a person, place or object," Meltzer writes on her website. "I find that looking through the lens I see images that escape my naked eye."

"Even as a child I wanted to share my vision, asking my family member to 'look at this' or 'to look at that,'" Meltzer explained to The Huffington Post. "Now with a camera I am able to illustrate what it is I see and to share it with others."

Scroll through Meltzer's surprisingly poignant portraits of laundry below and let us know your thoughts on the series in the comments.

Women's Innermost Thoughts About Food Reveal A Culture-Wide Problem

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:38
Chances are, many of the women you know have a turbulent relationship with food.

We are constantly inundated with messages about dieting, and expected to attach moral value to "good" or "bad" foods. Salads are great, and an apparent delight to consume, but things like pasta and desserts are considered an "indulgence."

Women eating in public are subject to commentary from total strangers. In a July 23 feature, HuffPost Women Senior Editor Emma Gray shared her own experience being food-shamed and wrote about the larger implications of publicly policing women's food:
People should be able to walk down the street eating without worrying about comment or harassment from strangers. That seems like common sense. But the sad reality is that for women, eating in public can be fraught with unwanted commentary, sexual innuendo and judgment. Doing so can turn a pleasant evening into an exercise in maintaining a semblance of self-esteem.

While women's food choices are apparently up for public discussion, few women openly discuss their tense relationships with eating.

On secret-sharing app Whisper, women have shared their struggles with food-shaming, calorie-counting and eating-related guilt. These confessions are somewhat disturbing and reveal the complex -- and often negative -- relationship many women have with the food they consume on a daily basis. Yet acknowledging that we have a culture-wide problem is the first step toward finding a solution.

(The images below contain language and graphic descriptions that may be triggering for those who struggle with disordered eating.)

Here are 14 things shared on Whisper that prove no woman is alone if she struggles with food:

Need help? Call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

11 Things You Should Know Before Planning Your Next Trip To The Zoo

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:35
If you're like most Americans, chances are you've visited a zoo. Maybe you've only gone to one on a school field trip, or maybe it's one of your favorite places to go, but whatever the case, zoos are popular in this country. As of March, there were 224 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos in the United States.

As prominent fixtures of American life, zoos are also serious targets of criticism and speculation due to the perceived moral and ethical dilemmas of keeping animals in cages or enclosures under the care of humans. Granted, sometimes zoos actually save animals' lives and help turn around the health of an endangered species. But for all the good, there are still plenty of questionable things that happen at zoos. So before planning a trip to see the newest exhibit at a zoo near you, here are 11 things you need to know.

1. Many zoos claim they are conserving animals, but often times, aren't doing so at all.

Many of the AZA-accredited zoos are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program, which hopes to foster endangered species and promote breeding. However, these efforts rarely prove successful, and sometimes aren't happening at all. David Hancocks, a former zoo director with 30 years of experience, told National Geographic that he thinks less than three percent of a zoo's budget goes towards conservation efforts, with the remaining percent going towards "hi-tech exhibits and marketing efforts to lure visitors."

While some zoos simply don't devote a significant enough of their resources to conservation, the efforts of some of those that claim to be committed to conservation are undermined by disturbing findings about the animals in their own facilities. The Seattle Times conducted an investigation in 2013 that looked at the success rate of "saving" and breeding elephants in 390 U.S. facilities over 50 years. They found that "most of the elephants died from injury or disease linked to conditions of their captivity," such as foot problems from having to stand on concrete surfaces and musculoskeletal disorders from not getting enough exercise. The investigation came to the sobering conclusion that the overall infant-mortality rate for elephants in zoos falls at 40 percent. In public, however, the AZA frequently avoids mention of the health of their captive elephants, instead choosing to tout their broader conservation efforts for the species.

2. On the topic of elephants, 40 percent of all African elephants in U.S. zoos are obese.

And it negatively affects their rate of reproduction. Since a high body mass index in elephants is strongly related to "abnormal ovarian cycles," this issue deeply threatens the initiative to breed more African elephants in captivity. A 2011 report by researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago states that the total elephant population at U.S. zoos needs to average about six births a year to remain stable. However, they currently average just three births a year. Daniella Chusyd, a doctoral student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Nutrition Sciences, speculates that "zoos will need to rethink how they house and feed elephants to reduce the incidence of overweight" animals.

3. The "habitats" most zoo animals are housed in barely even resemble their natural environments.

David Hancocks, a noted zoo architect and advocate, spoke with National Geographic about the man-made enclosures that hold zoo animals and doesn't have great things to say about what he has experienced in his work. He states that zoos have operated under the presumption that they are creating a "landscape immersion design," which is the idea that "the animals should be immersed in landscapes that represented as closely as possible their natural habitats, and that the human visitors should also be immersed in the same replicated habitat, experiencing it with all their senses."

Instead, what ends up happening is animals are forced to reside in habitats that are completely foreign to them, including plastic or concrete trees and illusions of real grass or dirt that masks hard concrete below. In short, Hancocks says, "Everything they touch except their food and feces is unnatural."

4. Which may help explain why many of the movements you see animals make in their enclosures are serious signs of anxiety and depression.

The animals' anxiety and depression is called “zoochosis," which is "psychosis caused by confinement." Erratic behaviors, such as bar-biting and pacing, are not normal and would not happen if the animals were in the wild. Zoos have tried to combat this issue by engaging the animals with activities like puzzles, or giving them toys or food that is a challenge to eat. But this doesn't always work. In her book Animal Madness, writer Laurel Braitman highlights the fact that drugs are often used to calm these problems. Which brings us to our next point...

5. That animal you see may only appear happy because he's on antidepressants.

If you think humans are the only animals who receive counseling and medication, think again. In her book, Braitman tells the story of a polar bear named Gus who resided at the Central Park Zoo in the '90s. For 12 hours a day, he would repeatedly swim figure eights in his pool and stalk children who came to look at him through the glass of his enclosure. This earned him the nickname "the bipolar bear." He was also put on a steady dose of Prozac and received $25,000 worth of behavioral therapy.

The practice of putting zoo animals on antidepressants is startlingly common, according to Braitman. However, the exact number of animals on medication is unknown, since many zoos want to avoid presenting the image that their animals are not "happy" and "content." However, Braitman told Slate, "At every zoo where I spoke to someone, a psychopharmaceutical had been tried." And just this February, at the British Scarborough Sanctuary, penguins were given antidepressants to bolster their moods after becoming distressed dealing with strong weather that included intense winds and lashing rains. While wild penguins would be able to adequately deal with the weather, those who were born in captivity responded with high anxiety and stress.

6. Animals are often moved around different zoos, which disrupts their pack units.

Zoos believe they are doing something good for endangered species when they decide to move an animal from its original zoo and send them to a completely different one for breeding purposes. Yet they often end up disorienting the animals and placing them in upsetting new situations. Some zoos are completely transparent about another motive for moving their animals around. The Milwaukee County Zoo states on their website that one of the reasons they move animals is to keep their collection "fresh and exciting."

In her book, Braitman tells the story of gorilla who was moved from his home zoo to another because he was a suitable genetic match for a potential mate at a different zoo. Once he arrived at his new enclosure, the other gorillas abused him and alienated him to the point where he became so depressed that he lost a third of his body weight. He was then sent back to his original zoo to be nursed back to health, only to be sent to another different zoo to live. When his original zookeepers came to visit him at his new home, the gorilla "ran toward them sobbing and crying."

7. And some zoos refuse to move animals who desperately need to be in a different environment.

Arturo is the last captive polar bear in the world. And he's pretty sad. He lives at the Mendoza Zoo in Argentina and all day he "paces nervously." The problem is that Arturo does not belong in the hot temperatures of Mendoza, where it can get up 86 degrees during the summer. That might explain why the last polar bear in Buenos Aires died in December 2012 during a heat wave.

There is currently a petition with more than 500,000 signatures on asking the Argentine President Cristina Fernandez to move the bear, and even former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has urged people to sign it. However, the zoo director has said that the zoo will not move the bear due to his old age (he's 28) and the risk associated with having to sedate him. Looks like Arturo is destined to live out the remainder of his life in misery.

8. Some zoos don't have the resources to properly take care of their animals.

2013 was not the best year for the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Three animals died and a zebra attacked a zookeeper after he didn't follow proper protocol. When asked about the cause of these issues, the zoo's director credited it to the zoo's lack of resources and the staff being "spread too thin." The cause of death for one of the animals who died, a female red river hog, was due to "improper nutrition." When she arrived at the zoo she weighed 110 pounds. After a year of living at the National Zoo, she died weighing only 79 pounds.

The National Zoo has been charged with a few internal reviews urged upon by Congress to look into the care that is being given to the animals there. In 2003, internal reviews urged upon by Congress to look into the care that is being given to the animals found that the zoo has suffered a "decade-long decline in facilities, animal collection, and quality of animal programs." And in 2013, two internal reports stated that "animal care and overall organization, accountability, follow-up and communication" were "severely lacking" in the zoo's cheetah exhibit. A biologist position that was needed for the cheetah exhibit was left empty for several years due to budget cuts. The job was was finally created by switching an animal-keeper's job to include the responsibilities of a biologist. The Guardian reports that this quick fix was "recommended against," as it would work against keeping "adequate staffing" in tact at the zoo.

9. In fact, some animals have very expensive specific diets that zookeepers hardly understand.

A panda at the National Zoo eating a fruit popsicle in the summer of 2011.

The specific diets that many animals can easily obtain in the wild by themselves have always proven to be a problem for zookeepers. In 1988, a New York Times article highlighted the challenges zoos face when deciding what and how to feed the animals. Oftentimes, zoos must spend a lot of money hiring nutritionists to finesse the perfect diet for endangered species, while horticulturists are brought on to cultivate and deliver specific plants to the animals. For example, one horticulturalist's sole job at the San Diego Zoo is to provide the 16 different species of bamboo that the giant pandas must eat in order to survive.

Because it's virtually impossible (and financially difficult) for zoos to create an exact replica of the animals' natural environment, they have devised ways to infuse specific nutrients and vitamins into pellet-type foods for the animals. These substitutions can have grave consequences. In 2011, after years of feeding gorillas a high-sugar and high-starch diet, the Cleveland Zoo had to desperately start working on a new food plan for their gorillas who were dying of heart failure, a result of heart disease, the number one deadly disease of Western lowland gorillas in U.S. zoos. They have started feeding the gorillas romaine lettuce and "bananas stuffed with multivitamins."

10. The truth is, many zoo visitors aren't interested or aware of the well-being of the animals they're seeing.

A study that focused on visitors' behavior at four different zoos in the Western U.S. with underwater exhibits found that 86 percent of the visitors said they went to the zoo for "social or recreational purposes," and only six percent said they go to a zoo in order to learn more about animals. In another study done on visitor behavior at an ape exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, it was revealed that both adult and children visitors "spent significantly more time watching apes than reading interpretives." The study also showed just how much people antagonize and harass the animals. Of 350 people, 78 pestered the apes by knocking on the glass or expressing other types of "undesirable behavior."

11. If you want to see wild animals, you should seek a place where you can view animals who are not caged.

A mother polar bear and her cub play in the wild in Barter Island, Alaska.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells recently wrote an op-ed in New York Magazine titled, "The Case For The End Of The Modern Zoo," in which he states that the major moral dilemma that seems to exist today with zoos is the idea that they are creating a "double illusion" both for humans and for animals. He writes that "People are convinced that they are seeing animals in something like their natural state and the animals, most of whom have never lived in the wild, are convinced that they are at home."

However, Wallace-Wells emphasizes that the illusion is far worse for the animals, who seem to be somewhat aware that their environments are complete fabrications and are apt to resist the unnatural human interaction they are forced to deal with. He speculates that America could be inching toward a move that Costa Rica just implemented: a plan to close all zoos and "open the cages where animals have been kept."

So, if you want to go see some wild animals who are living outside of cages and as close as possible to how they would in the wild, you should seek out a nature preserve. A good place to start would be visiting The Nature Conservatory's website which lists all the grasslands, coral reefs and habitats you could visit.