Subscribe to CNC Huffpo feed
Chicago news and blog articles from The Huffington Post
Updated: 8 hours 26 min ago

Former Reporter Poses The Question We Must All Ask Ourselves About Negative News

Tue, 2016-07-19 09:19

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible);

When Michelle Gielan was working as a local and national news reporter, she covered her share of tragic stories. But in her years as a television journalist, one particular story stuck out and made Gielan question everything about how tragedy is covered in the media.


Gielan was working in Chicago at the time, and was assigned to cover the funeral of a young girl who had been an innocent bystander caught up in deadly gang violence.


“A stray bullet from gang gunfire had blasted through the living room window of the house, and inside there was a birthday party going on. The bullet hit this little girl in the head... She was one day shy of turning 11 years old,” Gielan says. “The night that this happened, we did the typical story: emotional, crying interview with the mother, we interviewed kids whose lives would never be the same because they just witnessed their friend die and then we talked to community leaders about this failing side of town. We put this sensational story on the news.”


A week later, Gielan was covering the girl’s funeral. That’s when, sitting in the pews of the church, she saw a different story emerge.


“There was this beautiful community surrounding this family and supporting them through times of challenge,” she says. “And what I physically saw before me was a group of women, presumably the other mothers from the neighborhood, and they were surrounding this mother and swaying together to songs of prayer while hugging her.”


The moment sparked an epiphany for Gielan.


“It was just beautiful,” she says. “We could talk about the fact that there’s pain and tragedy here, but there’s also hope and optimism and resilience... One story leaves us activated. The other leaves us paralyzed.” 


It is the elevation of positive news stories and hope, she continues, that holds true power.


“What would happen if we talked about that stuff on the news?” Gielan asks. “How would that transform the community? How would that transform the world?”


Another story from Gielan:


Now a positive psychology researcher, Michelle Gielan explains how happiness is a choice

-- 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.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg On Donald Trump: Unprecedented Or A Supreme Court Norm?

Fri, 2016-07-15 17:05

While Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg apologized for her remarks on Donald Trump last week, politicians and the media who did backflips to criticize her are rewriting history. Strong, opinionated women, like "The Notorious RBG," are always criticized. She spoke what many people already feel about the utterly unqualified Donald Trump. Her comments deserve a deeper analysis beyond subjective punditry or sanctimonious Tweets.




Strong, opinionated women, like 'The Notorious RBG,' are always criticized.


It is worth watching Lawrence O'Donnell's piece taking the issue out of the headlines and putting it in context. There has been clear precedent for Supreme Court involvement in elections prior to Justice Ginsburg's opining.



The first justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, ran for Governor of New York twice during his service. Three other Supreme Court justices ran for presidential nominations while serving and continued to serve after they lost their campaigns. As O'Donnell points out, a surprisingly erroneous Washington Post piece said, "Supreme Court experts I've spoken to were unaware of any justices getting so directly and vocally involved -- or involved at all, really -- in a presidential campaign." Staying out of political campaigns is actually a recent tradition, despite what the media is yelling.



In 2000, Justice Antonin Scalia was the justice who stopped the recount in Florida with an unprecedented injunction favoring George Bush. He then was one of the five Republicans on the Court who overruled the Florida Supreme Court and installed George Bush in the White House. The vast majority of the 5-4 decisions since the Justice Rehnquist era, when Republicans had the Court majority, have not deviated from GOP orthodoxy and favoritism. For instance, the Citizens United decision overwhelmingly results in more financial support on behalf of Republican candidates.



In 2004, it was public knowledge that Justice Scalia had a friendly and personal relationship with Dick Cheney, and yet would not recuse himself on a case involving the then-vice president. "In a 21-page memorandum filled with scorn and with lessons in the ways of Washington, Justice Scalia wrote that if people assumed a duck hunting trip would be enough to swing his vote, 'the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined,'"(New York Times).



The media states again and again that the Supreme Court stays out of politics, but actions speak louder than words. Justice Samuel Alito has not attended a State of the Union since President Obama critiqued the Citizens United decision in 2010.



Public or not, how has having no personal opinion ever been an expectation of a Supreme Court justice? How would that expectation be at all plausible or rational? Gary Legum writing for Salon says,

The idea that [Justice Ginsburg] has 'crossed the line' or shattered some previously unspoken and unbroken pact America has with its Supreme Court judges that they stay away from politics is overblown... For us to continue pretending that the third co-equal branch of our government can somehow remain immune to the highly polarized atmosphere of the other two is to infantilize the American public.



If we are comfortable enough labeling our Supreme Court justices as either "liberal" or "conservative"... If we are so comfortable with assuming that an established and accomplished judge such as Merrick Garland, for instance, with a long resume of impartiality on the bench is nothing more than a political football to be tossed around by Republicans... If we are truly happy to accept these labels and partisan plays with the Supreme Court, is it actually surprising or so wrong that a distinguished, 23-year-serving justice should hold a personal opinion? The actions of Justice Scalia are lauded and Justice Ginsburg is immediately criticized. There is one big difference -- Ginsburg is a woman.

-- 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.

'Seagan' Diet Suggests It's Not A Crazy Idea For Vegans To Eat Seafood

Fri, 2016-07-15 09:57

The way chef Amy Cramer and author Lisa McComsey describe it, this makes perfect sense.


The co-authors of 2013’s popular The Vegan Cheat Sheet are back at it again with their newest cookbook and resource for eaters looking to adapt to a plant-based lifestyle. But this time around there’s an octopus in the room: The duo is making a case for incorporating seafood into a diet otherwise free of meat or any other animal products.


Cramer and McComsey are aware their stance on seafood, which generally does not have the best environmental reputation, might be tough for some eaters — particularly ethical vegans — to swallow. But their new book, Seagan Eating, makes a strong case for those looking for a healthier diet but unable to go “whole-hog” vegan to take the plunge — so long as they stick to sustainably-fished, low-mercury seafood.


But how can we know our seafood of choice has been ethically sourced? It can be complicated. But in Seagan Eating, Cramer and McComsey present a helpful, detailed guide to separating the “good” catches from the “bad.”


And what about those of us who have no idea how to cook the stuff? The duo also outlines a number of straightforward recipes and tips for the previously uninitiated and fish-phobic among us to feel more comfortable buying and preparing seafood.


The Huffington Post recently spoke to the co-authors to learn more about the benefits of living “seagan.”


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.



This whole idea  identifying as “vegan” while also eating seafood  is totally contrary to why many people choose to go vegan. And seafood doesn’t have a good record environmentally either. How do you respond to folks who simply can’t reconcile this?


Amy Cramer: We absolutely honor and admire them, the ethical vegans. We became vegans for health reasons, but this is absolutely not for ethical vegans. As far as the environmental issues go, basically that was one of the reservations for us to write this book. Like, OK, so you can eat fish, but which fish? Which fish aren’t becoming extinct, which are being safely caught and aren’t being overfished? Which fish have less mercury and other contaminants? Answering those concerns was one of our main motivations with this.


Lisa McComsey: We staunchly promote eating only sustainably-caught fish but, as you know and we mention in the book, meat is terribly harmful to the environment for many different reasons. If you look at it, if everybody became vegan and stopped eating meat, the environment would be much better off.


GrubStreet just ran a piece about how most foods are either bad for you or bad for the world at large and the “rules” on this are always changing. How does this idea of “good” fish and “bad” fish to eat fit into that paradigm?


LM: Eating has gotten so confusing and so complicated, and even in researching for this book, I just threw my hands up and said, “We just can’t eat anything!” We are knowledgeable and have always been very health conscious. We really study this field and can imagine for people who don’t have that knowledge, it can be overwhelming.


But we’re really promoting getting back to the basics. Eat your fruits and vegetables and have some fish, too. Of course, we want to be careful about where that fish comes from and whether something is organic and what you eat that’s organic or not. That’s why we have a whole section on reading labels, because many people don’t understand them.



It’s my perception that many people, in the U.S. especially, are sort of fish-phobic, especially if they didn’t grow up eating it — why do you think that is? If that’s you, how do you overcome that?


LM: I think people are afraid it will taste fishy. That’s something I hear from my non-fish eating friends. As with anything else, I would suggest easing into it. Amy has created really great recipes for this book, so maybe you can try some shrimp bisque or crab and spinach enchiladas where the fish is a little bit hidden and it’s not like you’re just diving into a slab.


AC: Fish is such an amazing and healthy source of fat and protein and omega-3 fatty acids, I think the best way to get over that is education. So we really try to get across which fish you should eat and how you should eat it. It’s best to keep it simple. Fresh fish when cooked well is not fishy. And there are some fish that are much more mild than others that help you start to develop a palate for it.


There are so many new words we are increasingly using to describe what we do and don’t eat, and often those terms — climatarian, reducetarian and now seagan — involve sustainability. Why do we need all these?


AC: It’s hard to find a name for what you are and it’s fun to say “I am this.” and hopefully people will understand. I think “seagan” fits a huge need for vegans who want variety and, for health reasons, they now realize they can eat this. For regular people who want a healthy diet and want to maximize their health, they now can order the salmon at a restaurant instead of just ordering the vegetables. I think there’s a need for all these terms. For climatarians, one of their big things is trying your best to buy everything locally to reduce your impact on the environment. Everyone should do that.


LM: Some of these diets do sound so ideal and there are so many people in our country who don’t have access to that, so that’s really key to the type of diet that works for you, too.


AC: And canned seafood is a great resource for people who don’t have access to fresh. If you look at tuna, canned light skipjack tuna is great, as a matter of fact. You can find that in most grocery stores and keep it in your pantry.



There’s so much conflicting information out there about what we should and shouldn’t be eating in general — what is one overarching thing both of you hope people will take away from reading the book?


LM: Getting back to the basics is so critical. Just eat all your fruits and vegetables and legumes and that should be the main part of your diet. If you can’t buy fresh, frozen is great. And get to know your local fish monger because that person is a wealth of information. When you go to buy fish, you don’t have to think about whether it’s sustainable or where it came from — they should know all that. That’s key.


AC: Spend all your time in the vegetable aisle and buy whatever you want. Eat the rainbow, grab some nuts, beans and whole grains, then walk over to the fish counter. Sometimes you may know your fish monger or you may not. But smell it, pick it out and cook it up. Wrap it in foil with a splash of wine or whatever vegetables you want and it’s done.


―-


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.

Mourning the Blue: A Different Perspective

Thu, 2016-07-14 16:34
It's been a very emotional 48 hours in America and the Monday morning quarterbacking, present company included, about the events that took place in Dallas; costing five civil servants their lives, adds to the stress.

Let me state, my commentary is not intended to discount anyone's opinion. I just so happen to have experience and perspective where most people don't. For literally a third of my life, I have served the public as a first responder. My entire life, I have been a Black man in America, whose experiences are the same as another man of color.

With that said, many question why police used a "bomb robot" to kill the assailant, after negotiations broke down and this person continued to shoot from a sniper's perch. Some argue the killer had a constitutional right to a jury and trial, while others feel, if you shoot and kill cops, without surrender, all bets are off.

The former are mostly of the opinion that police officers knew what they signed up for and the danger that comes with the job. I find that interesting because even first responders are trained to take calculated risk; a risk is very high, yet still, we take it

I wonder if those same people who say the cops knew what they signed up for, would feel the same way, if it was their husband, son, father that was killed

Would they go on camera and say they knew what they signed up for? Would they say they shouldn't have blown up the killer because he had a constitutional right? Not likely...

I'm sure they would grieve the loss of their loved one and be glad the killer was neutralized.

If we just put ourselves in the shoes of others every now and then, we probably can avoid a lot of the misunderstanding.

-- 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.

What It's Like Growing Up With First Responder Parents

Thu, 2016-07-14 16:00

I am an only child, but I have always had a fourth family member living with me, my mom, and my dad. No, it wasn’t another human or a pet, it was a pager. I grew up with first responder parents. My father is a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and my mother is a volunteer EMT with the local First Aid Squad. With all the tragedies happening to first responders around the country, I want to shed some light on what it’s like being a child from a first responder household.

Being a first responder means you serve at a moments notice, not when it’s convenient for you. It means that you spend a lot of extra hours going through training, having meetings, and serving your community. These people put themselves into dangerous situations because they want to help, not because they have to, or because they get paid to do it. My parents don’t get paid at all.


Over the years I have learned to live with a pager or should I say pagers. We have 2 pagers down stairs, 1 pager up stairs, as well as a pager in my Dad’s car. My parents also have it set up to receive phone calls with a corresponding email for an emergency, just in case they aren’t near one of their 4 pagers. You learn to live with the fact that the pagers will inevitably interrupt conversations, meals, and family gatherings. As soon as it goes off you know you better be quiet so they can hear what kind of call they are about to respond to, or you will get “shushed”.

I’ve had many dinners cut short due to an emergency they needed to run off to, and can’t even tell you how many times a call has come through while we are driving somewhere and my parents whipped the car around, drove right to the scene, and left me in the car.

I’ve spent many school nights spent in the truck bay doing homework while my parents completed mandatory training or attended their monthly meetings. While I used to be a little kid who became easily annoyed by all of this, I have become an adult who is very understanding and thankful to have selfless people like my parents in this world.




My parents have run into burning houses to save people and animals, they have been exposed to chemicals and diseases, pulled unconscious people out of totaled cars, brought people back to life through CPR, been swung at and spit on by drunk people, and have seen more dead people than they can count. I’ve experienced my dad being stationed during 9/11, while I, as a nine year old sat at the first aid building watching the news with my mom scared my dad wasn’t going to come home.  During Hurricane Sandy both my parents spent their time working at the shelter the First Aid provided, helping the community, instead of taking care of themselves and our house which was affected. They’ve left a lot of parties, Christmas mornings, and Thanksgiving dinners to fight fires, and save lives.

I’ll never forget my parents running out of the house during a state of emergency blizzard to help a man who was having a heart attack. They pulled out of the driveway and weren’t even 5 feet past our house when the car got stuck in the snow. That didn’t stop them. They left the car and ran through the snow to the scene 2 blocks away, met up with the ambulance and helped the patient in need.

I have two of the hardest working parents who give back more to their community as volunteer first responders than most people do in their lifetime. In this time of criticism towards first responders and the false media perceptions surrounding them, it is difficult for me to understand why so many individuals do not see the hard work, the empathy, and the selflessness that goes into these first responders daily responsibilities.

I just want to thank my parents, as well as all of the other first responders who give their time and their safety to helping others. I have grown up learning to give appreciation to these people and that is something that will never change. When you come across one of these men and women, please take a moment to let them know how much you appreciate their hard work. While they do not do it to be recognized, they definitely deserve to be. So next time you want to negatively criticize a first responder, think of all their hard work, sacrifice, and most importantly that persons family who is sitting at home anxiously waiting for them to come home.


-- 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.

Let's Celebrate The One-Year Anniversary Of The Iran Deal Instead Of Undermining Its Progress

Thu, 2016-07-14 08:42
This Thursday, we mark the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The importance of this agreement cannot be overstated. The P5+1 -- the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany -- spent enormous time and effort to address one of the most pressing dangers of our time: the possibility of a nuclear Iran. This hard-fought agreement demonstrates the power of diplomacy. The JCPOA ensures that Iran will never have access to a nuclear weapon.

Since the signing of the agreement, Iran has removed over two-thirds of its centrifuges. Iran has reduced its stockpile of fissile material to less than 300 kilograms -- a reduction of 98 percent. The remaining material is far below the level of enrichment needed to create a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency continues to aggressively and intrusively inspect and monitor Iranian facilities, and the core of the Arak reactor has been filled with concrete, rendering it unable to produce the material needed to develop or create nuclear weapons.

In exchange for these significant Iranian concessions, the U.S. and its P5+1 partners have fulfilled our obligations. This includes the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions. However, contrary to what opponents of the nuclear deal would have you believe, this has not created a windfall for Iran. Instead, as Secretary Kerry said in April, Iran has received roughly $3 billion in sanctions relief, far short of the feared $150 billion. What's more, these are unfrozen Iranian funds - not taxpayer dollars.

At the same time, the U.S. has not abandoned holding Iran's feet to the fire on issues outside of the JCPOA. In January, the Administration levied addition sanctions against Iran's ballistic missile program. Sanctions remain in place for their support of terrorism and their human rights abuses.

The JCPOA has made the world safer. The deal ensures that Israel does not have to live with the threat of a nuclear Iran in its backyard. Many Israeli military and defense officials are now openly supportive of the JCPOA. Former Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon, said on June 16, that because of the JCPOA, Iran's nuclear program, "has been frozen in light of the deal signed by the world powers and does not constitute an immediate, existential threat for Israel."

Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives remain determined to undo all of this progress. This week, they are bringing a series of bills to the floor that are designed to undermine and undo the agreement that made us safer. They are wasting our time on wrongheaded legislation in the last week before the House takes a seven-week break. At a time when the country faces significant challenges from gun violence to Zika, Republicans are refusing to act on issues of importance. Instead, they are dangerously politicizing our safety and the safety of our closest allies, while ignoring their responsibility to the American public.

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is time for Republicans to stop playing games with our safety. The JCPOA is working -- preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. It's time for the Republicans to start working too.

-- 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.

Schools Are Racing To Test Their Water For Lead

Wed, 2016-07-13 16:26

It may have started in Portland, where elevated levels of lead were found in the drinking water at two public elementary schools last month. High levels were later detected in more schools.


Schools in ChicagoAtlantaD.C. and other school districts across the country have seen similar results from water testing in recent months.


With school out for summer and the ongoing Flint water crisis still looming on the minds of administrators and parents alike, many districts are moving to test their drinking water for signs of lead contamination. According to The Washington Post, at least one prominent testing firm is experiencing high demand and is already booked through the start of the school year.


Under current federal regulations, only 10 percent of schools nationwide ― those that rely on water supplies independent of any community utilities ― are actually required to test their water.


Some state lawmakers are moving to change that. In New York, the state legislature last month approved a bill that would be the nation’s first to mandate that public schools test their drinking water for lead. It is currently awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature. Similar legislation has also been proposed in North Carolina. And in May, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered mandatory lead-in-water testing at the state’s schools.


This is important progress in the fight against lead exposure, which can cause brain and nervous system damage, hearing issues, reduced IQ and a myriad of other issues, particularly in children. But there’s reason to remain skeptical, experts say.


One of those experts is Yanna Lambrinidou, a Virginia Tech researcher who has been studying water contamination for many years and in 2010 co-authored the paper “Failing Our Children: Lead In U.S. School Drinking Water in the journal New Solutions.


The Huffington Post recently spoke with Lambrinidou about this summer’s surge in testing and what solutions there might be for the massive problem.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


How much of what is happening now with all this testing is being done to appease parents in the short term vs. working toward a viable long-term solution?


It’s hard to tell for sure. One thing that seems more clear to me is that we seem to be at a crossroads between two paradigms of thought about lead in drinking water. I think the paradigm we are in right now, and that we tend to be in as a nation, is the paradigm that was created by the EPA and by the Lead and Copper Rule that allowed for some lead to flow out of taps that people drank, while at the same time, schools and water utilities can claim that all is OK and that lead is a problem that’s under control.


That same paradigm seems to neglect the scientific evidence that lead in drinking water tends to release sporadically, so that a one-time test at one tap is not always going to capture worse-case lead in water levels at the tap. This paradigm is more of a regulatory compliance, check-the-box paradigm and less of a public health, protective paradigm that would surrender to the inconvenient but non-debatable truth that no lead in drinking water is safe for human consumption.


On one hand, I think this [testing frenzy] is very, very good and long overdue. But where I start to see a little bit of trouble is when I see that there are scientifically unsubstantiated assumptions that guide the way in which the water is being sampled, how the results are being interpreted and how remediation takes place.


I would really like to see a shift to a new paradigm where we accept that as long as there’s lead-bearing plumbing in school water systems, we ought to presume that taps that are not outfitted with a filter, or where there’s no alternative source of water, can expose our children to lead. And we need to address that. Whether it’s intentional or not, using this old paradigm can result in false assurances of safety that are not really backed by the science.



Why do you think this old paradigm on lead in our water has been so prevalent and difficult to break away from?


For many contaminants in drinking water, it’s very natural for a one-time test to do the trick. You find out if you have an opportunistic pathogen, and it’s either there or it isn’t. So the lead issue requires a little bit of mind-bending on our part to realize that lead in water doesn’t work that way. Lead in water can leach from plumbing at very different rates, and those rates can change in response to multiple different factors, so a one-time test can catch it or miss it.


I think there’s a value to conducting thorough testing, especially when every drinking water tap is tested. I know that some schools conduct this testing and just sample a small number of taps at every school, as if that will be representative of what’s happening at every tap. Every tap has its own plumbing materials and configuration, so unless you sample each and every tap, you really can’t generalize from that.


That’s where there’s a leap that seems to me is risky and can leave our children vulnerable ― precisely because this one-time sampling can miss worse-case levels of lead. Usually schools avoid sampling on a Monday morning — in fact, sometimes in their sampling protocols it says something like how water should not be stagnant for more than 12 hours. That’s OK, but it all depends what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to achieve compliance with some regulatory standard and trying to check a box that allows you to tell your parent community you’ve done the right thing, these measures are justifiable. But if you’re really trying to protect the children that attend the school, sampling first thing on a Monday morning — after water has been sitting stagnant over the weekend — could give you some valuable information.


So how do we begin to move forward toward a new paradigm of thinking that is in line with the science of lead in water?


Maybe we can learn something from the experts in childhood lead poisoning and lead paint. There’s a presumption there that lead in the paint does exist if the building was built before a certain year that varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I think it’s only reasonable to say this presumption [of lead in the water] should be adopted in schools as well, because it’s not even a hypothetical. Our schools do have lead-bearing plumbing. Period. They do. We know they use lead and brass, so the children drinking that water are vulnerable to exposure.



function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible);

School districts like Chicago’s — which is on the verge of bankruptcy — have come out recently and said they will spend “whatever it takes” to address this. But it sounds like the best ways to do so could be quite pricey, and many districts don’t have the resources. What are cost-effective steps districts should be taking?


Different school districts, of course, are going to need to decide the cost benefits for themselves given what their specific issues are. Some school districts, like Baltimore, switch to bottled water, and other districts are using filters.


There is at least one school in D.C. (and maybe more) that has four designated drinking water taps, and all the kids know that they go to those four taps and they fill up their water bottles for the day. Those taps have filters on them and they stay on top of replacing the filters. I think this “solution,” if you will, is not a bad idea because expecting all these schools to replace their plumbing right now seems impractical. The money isn’t there. But to wait until the money is there leaves our children vulnerable, and I think no parent is willing to accept that. 


Do you think parents will accept some of these solutions that fall short of school districts completely replacing plumbing systems? 


Sadly, the history of lead in drinking water in schools shows that it’s usually the parents who corner the schools into testing and informing the school community about the issue and remediating for lead in water. It’s the parents and sometimes teachers who have led the fight for transparency and accountability and ensuring that proactive measures are taken to protect children from exposures. I personally tend to give a lot of credit to the parents for even bringing us to the point we’re in today. 


What do you make of the legislation bubbling up in New York, North Carolina and elsewhere that would make testing mandatory for public schools? Would this legislation even be enforceable or is it too early to tell?


I think these states ought to be applauded, but at the same time I do have concerns about legislation that seems to reflect more of the old paradigm of thinking on lead in water. Where there is a requirement for periodic testing, I think “periodic” is a vague term and I know the New York bill talks about first-draw sampling, which we know is likely to miss high lead. I think the idea is that this sampling will be used to identify taps that are considered unsafe and separate them from the taps considered safe, and this kind of diagnosing of taps is, I think, problematic. 


Unfortunately, despite what I imagine are everybody’s best intentions to address this issue, these efforts are going to fall short and keep parents assured that lead in water in their children’s school is being addressed. In reality, it’s only being suboptimally addressed.


What should people concerned about this be doing right now to make sure children aren’t still being exposed?


I have the feeling that the leaders in making this shift of paradigm are going to need to be the parents. Paying close attention and educating ourselves about this issue and equipping ourselves with the right information is going to be quite critical. Having enough information to look critically at the legislation being passed in our state or being held up as a model for other states to follow is quite critical.


This is not to criticize these initiatives. I certainly applaud them, but we need to ensure that what we end up putting in place is a proactive approach to this that agrees with and reflects the current scientific understanding of how lead in water works.


―-


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.

Reboot Illinois Joins the Pulitzer Prize-Winning PolitiFact Team

Wed, 2016-07-13 16:04
Illinois never has been more polarized. Our nation never more divided. This campaign season is unlike any other before it. Against this backdrop, in the instant age of the internet, claims and counterclaims, charges and countercharges fly faster than the human brain can process them.

And the intensity and volume and velocity of those claims only will increase as we catapult through the calendar toward the Nov. 8 election and the aftermath that still leaves our state and local officials needing to pass a budget and replenish depleted public pension plans.

That is why we're happy to let you know we're here to help you sort out the truth.

Today, we are thrilled to announce Reboot Illinois is joining the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact team. Reboot Illinois now is the exclusive home of PolitiFact Illinois, partnering with the world-renowned news operation to prosecute political speech, find the facts and determine in transparent fashion whether the claims and counterclaims of Illinois' officeholders, public figures and pundits are true.

"Politicians be warned, the Truth-O-Meter has made it to Illinois," said PolitiFact executive director Aaron Sharockman. "We're thrilled to have a partner like Reboot Illinois, who already has a track record of holding the state's political establishment accountable. The addition of PolitiFact will only further help Illinois voters this fall and in the years to come."

We launched Reboot Illinois in 2012 with the mission of empowering Illinois citizens with news, views, fast facts and tools to help them take ownership of their governments. We've done that by simplifying complex topics, presenting candidate scorecards and creating our Sound Off tool that helps you easily send a message to state officials.

Our partnership with PolitiFact is a tremendous affirmation of the work we've done and an incredible opportunity to help Illinoisans cut through the rhetoric, spin and double talk that clutters the internet, our airwaves and our conversations.

We begin cutting through the clutter today. Gov. Bruce Rauner repeatedly has been saying Illinois has lower family incomes today than it did 17 years ago because of the actions of Democrats led by House Speaker Mike Madigan. What does our research show? And where did it land on the PolitiFact Truth-o-Meter? You can find the answers in our first PolitiFact Illinois fact-check.

As PolitiFact Illinois, we will research and rate newsworthy claims and assertions made by politicians, public figures and pundits in Illinois directly or in their campaign materials in the same prize-winning, transparent and rigorous fashion as the national PolitiFact team. Our work will join theirs in a national database. It also will form the PolitiFact Illinois database and will live on the Reboot Illinois website as well.

Launched in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Times to fact-check the 2008 presidential campaign, PolitiFact was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize in national reporting the following year. Its reporting and Truth-O-Meter are regularly cited by politicians, pundits and celebrities and we're pleased to broaden its reach to Illinois, as the 18th state in the PolitiFact family.

PolitiFact reporting aims to be fair and transparent. We'll rigorously dig into assertions by Republicans, Democrats and non-partisan officeholders and pundits. It's common for fact checks to include links to many sources used to analyze an assertion. This transparency gives readers power. You can judge for yourself the quality of our work.

PolitiFact stories focus on verifiable statements, not opinions. PolitiFact's team understands, too, that context is key. We always will try to get the original statement in its full form and, when possible, will seek out original sources. While the reporting is thorough, transparent and meticulous, PolitiFact is recognized for the way it simplifies and rates its conclusions about the truth of a statement with the "Truth-O-Meter," a measurement that acknowledges most statements and political speech contain shades of gray.

Truth-O-Meter rulings are determined by a panel of at least three editors, who review the reporting and determine what ruling will be applied.

There are six possible PolitiFact rulings. The definitions of each follow:

True -- The statement is accurate and nothing significant is missing.

Mostly True -- The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Half True -- The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

Mostly False -- The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

False -- The statement is not accurate.

Pants on Fire -- The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

Our fact-checking of claims and political rhetoric will help Illinoisans see the truth and appreciate the full context of statements they see and hear. We expect it will help citizen-voters make better-educated choices about the politicians who work for them.

Our politicians and public officials might not always appreciate our PolitiFact work, but there's never been a more important time to stop, dig into the research and hold them accountable. We all should be able to see the unvarnished truth in that.

Read our first fact-check: Is it true when Bruce Rauner says Illinois family incomes lower today than 17 years ago?

-- 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.

Reboot Illinois Joins the Pulitzer Prize-Winning PolitiFact Team

Wed, 2016-07-13 16:03
Illinois never has been more polarized. Our nation never more divided. This campaign season is unlike any other before it. Against this backdrop, in the instant age of the internet, claims and counterclaims, charges and countercharges fly faster than the human brain can process them.

And the intensity and volume and velocity of those claims only will increase as we catapult through the calendar toward the Nov. 8 election and the aftermath that still leaves our state and local officials needing to pass a budget and replenish depleted public pension plans.

That is why we're happy to let you know we're here to help you sort out the truth.

Today, we are thrilled to announce Reboot Illinois is joining the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact team. Reboot Illinois now is the exclusive home of PolitiFact Illinois, partnering with the world-renowned news operation to prosecute political speech, find the facts and determine in transparent fashion whether the claims and counterclaims of Illinois' officeholders, public figures and pundits are true.

"Politicians be warned, the Truth-O-Meter has made it to Illinois," said PolitiFact executive director Aaron Sharockman. "We're thrilled to have a partner like Reboot Illinois, who already has a track record of holding the state's political establishment accountable. The addition of PolitiFact will only further help Illinois voters this fall and in the years to come."

We launched Reboot Illinois in 2012 with the mission of empowering Illinois citizens with news, views, fast facts and tools to help them take ownership of their governments. We've done that by simplifying complex topics, presenting candidate scorecards and creating our Sound Off tool that helps you easily send a message to state officials.

Our partnership with PolitiFact is a tremendous affirmation of the work we've done and an incredible opportunity to help Illinoisans cut through the rhetoric, spin and double talk that clutters the internet, our airwaves and our conversations.

We begin cutting through the clutter today. Gov. Bruce Rauner repeatedly has been saying Illinois has lower family incomes today than it did 17 years ago because of the actions of Democrats led by House Speaker Mike Madigan. What does our research show? And where did it land on the PolitiFact Truth-o-Meter? You can find the answers in our first PolitiFact Illinois fact-check.

As PolitiFact Illinois, we will research and rate newsworthy claims and assertions made by politicians, public figures and pundits in Illinois directly or in their campaign materials in the same prize-winning, transparent and rigorous fashion as the national PolitiFact team. Our work will join theirs in a national database. It also will form the PolitiFact Illinois database and will live on the Reboot Illinois website as well.

Launched in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Times to fact-check the 2008 presidential campaign, PolitiFact was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize in national reporting the following year. Its reporting and Truth-O-Meter are regularly cited by politicians, pundits and celebrities and we're pleased to broaden its reach to Illinois, as the 18th state in the PolitiFact family.

PolitiFact reporting aims to be fair and transparent. We'll rigorously dig into assertions by Republicans, Democrats and non-partisan officeholders and pundits. It's common for fact checks to include links to many sources used to analyze an assertion. This transparency gives readers power. You can judge for yourself the quality of our work.

PolitiFact stories focus on verifiable statements, not opinions. PolitiFact's team understands, too, that context is key. We always will try to get the original statement in its full form and, when possible, will seek out original sources. While the reporting is thorough, transparent and meticulous, PolitiFact is recognized for the way it simplifies and rates its conclusions about the truth of a statement with the "Truth-O-Meter," a measurement that acknowledges most statements and political speech contain shades of gray.

Truth-O-Meter rulings are determined by a panel of at least three editors, who review the reporting and determine what ruling will be applied.

There are six possible PolitiFact rulings. The definitions of each follow:

True -- The statement is accurate and nothing significant is missing.

Mostly True -- The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Half True -- The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

Mostly False -- The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

False -- The statement is not accurate.

Pants on Fire -- The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

Our fact-checking of claims and political rhetoric will help Illinoisans see the truth and appreciate the full context of statements they see and hear. We expect it will help citizen-voters make better-educated choices about the politicians who work for them.

Our politicians and public officials might not always appreciate our PolitiFact work, but there's never been a more important time to stop, dig into the research and hold them accountable. We all should be able to see the unvarnished truth in that.

Read our first fact-check: Is it true when Bruce Rauner says Illinois family incomes lower today than 17 years ago?

-- 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.

Chicago Singer Takes Us to 'HEAVN'

Tue, 2016-07-12 17:08


After a hellish week, soulful Chicago singer Jamila Woods provided much needed musical healing with her debut solo album HEAVN.

On her Soundcloud, Woods gives the following description of the album:

HEAVN is about black girlhood, about Chicago, about the people we miss who have gone on to prepare a place for us somewhere else, about the city/world we aspire to live in. I hope this album encourages listeners to love themselves and love each other. For black and brown people, caring for ourselves and each other is not a neutral act. It is a necessary and radical part of the struggle to create a more just society. Our healing and survival are essential to the fight.

Formerly one half of the dynamic R&B duo M&O, Woods is pursuing her solo career, and has been featured on songs from notable hip hop artists such as Macklemore, Chance the Rapper, Add-2, and others. Check out the project here.

-- 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.

Natural Hair Creates A More Inclusive Beauty Standard

Tue, 2016-07-12 16:46


"Your hair is nappy. Your hair is too rough, too thick, too hard to manage. And you're so tender-headed!"

Now you know, my mom and I were anxiously awaiting my sixth birthday so we could finally throw a relaxer in my hair, and all parties involved could be free of the pain of having to care for it. How beautiful would I look when I walk into school with straight hair, like everyone else?


I remember the excitement... What I remember more vividly, is how painful getting a relaxer actually was.

I remember the excitement of knowing that I would look like my mom and all the girls in my class. What I remember more vividly, is how painful getting a relaxer actually was, and how I was taught to bear and grin through the pain, if I wanted to have beautiful hair. The burns on my scalp always healed before the next relaxer, and I no longer had to actually style my hair, I just wore it down all the time.

From the age of 6 to 25, I relaxed my hair, never knowing there was another option for me... until I found YouTube.



For the first time in almost 20 years, I had been exposed to a community of Black women who no longer had their hair relaxed and taught others how they, too, can grow out and style their hair naturally. The more videos I watched, the more inspired and confident I became, enabling me to embark on this same natural hair journey experience for myself.


From the age of 6 to 25, I relaxed my hair, never knowing there was another option.

I've been natural for six years now, and because of my decision to share my natural hair experiences through digital media, I started my own website, KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.com, where women with natural hair can receive education, product recommendations, tutorials and additional support they need to care for their hair and their children's hair. When I see my 2-year-old daughter loving her natural hair, I see the importance of being positive role models and mentors in our children's lives. She has me to look up to in defining as she defines what her own beauty is. And, I want to be able to support other moms in being role models for their daughters, because we weren't taught how to appreciate the beauty of someone else without questioning our own beauty.


Our voices are creating a more inclusive standard of beauty.

The overwhelming amount of support I received from my husband, family and friends is what kept me going, even when being natural got tough. There were many times when I was frustrated with my hair texture and the lengthy styling process, but I found comfort in knowing that there are so many women going through similar experiences. And, collectively our voices are effecting changes in creating a more inclusive standard of beauty. Everyday that we learn more about our hair and document our experiences publicly is another day we support a Black woman who is nervous about finally coming into her own and accepting her natural hair.

---

This post is part of HuffPost's My Natural Hair Journey blog series. Embracing one's natural hair -- especially after years of heavily styling it -- can be a truly liberating and exciting experience. It's more than just a "trend." It's a way of life. If you have a story you'd like to share, please email us at MyNaturalHairJourney@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.

NBA Free Agency Winners And Losers

Tue, 2016-07-12 12:35



Whether or not you enjoy the NBA, you can’t deny the reality that no other league does free agency quite like it does. And that’s not even counting the spectacle that is the NBA draft


This has become even more undeniable with the inflated salary cap ― which will raise to a staggering $108 million for the 2016-17 season. 


The 2016 version of the NBA’s “second season” has been a whirlwind of utter madness. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers.


Winners


Warriors



No need to get cute here. Landing a top-three NBA player who at 27 years old is just now entering his prime will make you a winner any year. Kevin Durant shocked the world when he chose to head west and join forces with Steph Curry and the record-breaking 73-win Warriors ― the same Warriors that vanquished Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals. From a basketball standpoint, landing KD is pure nirvana. The flexibility he provides for Steve Kerr to go small ― Durant at the four and Draymond Green at the five ― is a counterpunch to Cleveland’s small lineup, and anyone else’s for that matter. To put it simply, all the shots that Harrison Barnes (now a Dallas Maverick) missed during the finals will now go to Durant. Moreover, Golden State now possesses perhaps the three best shooters in the world. That’s a scary thought.


What’s also scary is the highway robbery GM Bob Myers pulled off by inking veteran center Zaza Pachulia to a three-year, $15 million deal. The sentiment around the league is that adding Durant is a severe blow, but stealing Pachulia ― an excellent team defender and rebounder ― is an absolute dagger.


Pacers


Indiana may not be able to beat the Cavs just yet, but it certainly narrowed the gap between itself and Boston, along with Toronto. The trio of Thad Young, Al Jefferson and Jeff Teague all represent upgrades, particularly for a team that ranked 17th in field goal percentage last year. Young’s presence as an athletic, two-way wing who can play off of Paul George is a coup given the influx of wings needed in today’s game. Jefferson may not even start, but he’s the rare NBA big who can still get a bucket with his back to the basket. And Teague, who is just 28, has firmly cemented himself as a tier-two lead guard, a significantly better player than George Hill.


Celtics 



Al Horford may not do anything at an elite level, but he does a whole lot of things really well. Horford’s diverse skill set ― shooting, passing, rebounding ― will allow Brad Stevens to run even more great offense and have the confidence in a reliable defensive center, despite Horford not being a rim protector. Boston has used this summer to build for now (think Horford) and in the future (think about the seemingly endless assortment of draft picks). Danny Ainge has to be thrilled knowing that he has a dynamic young backcourt featuring Avery Bradley and All-Star Isaiah Thomas, both of whom suffered injuries in the playoffs. Thomas will especially benefit from playing with a four-time All-Star center like Horford, who is just 30.


Every Single Free Agent!


We’ve seen our fair share of inflated contracts before: Jerome James, Erick Dampier and Adonal Foyle all come to mind. And yet, never before has it been so fortuitous to be an NBA free agent. Take career backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova. The Aussie tested the market last summer, only to find scant interest and resign for one year and a measly $1.2 million with the Cavs. Now, after seeing a reduced role with the world champs, Delly inked a four-year, $38 million deal in a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee. Delly’s former teammate, 7-foot-1 center Timofey Mozgov, signed a $64 million deal with Jim Buss and the rudderless Lakers. That’s the same 29-year-old Mozgov, by the way, who played all of 25 minutes versus the Warriors throughout the entire finals.


Then we have Evan Turner, a fine NBA guard by any metric but hardly an offensive ace. Turner, though, signed for $70 million with Portland over four years. And of course, how could we forget Barnes? After a miserable postseason in which the 24-year-old endured severe shooting dips across the board, he was rewarded with a max contract worth $94 million with Dallas. 


Mike Conley Jr.



Five years, $153 million: It’s the single largest contract in league history! It doesn’t belong to LeBron, or MJ, or Bird, or Magic, or Kareem, or Kobe.


It belongs to Michael Alex Conley Jr.!


This is hardly an indictment of Conley ― he’s a terrific NBA point guard. But 153 million bucks to a guy who’s never made an All-Star Game? I get it: The All-Star Game is about the fans and I’ve long lobbied for the 28-year-old Conley as an upper-echelon triggerman. But, even at his best, is Conley a top-20 NBA player? As we said, pure insanity. 


Losers


Any Player Not From This Era



The further you go back, the worse it gets. Think about Bill Russell. The guy won 11 championships ... 11! He made $24,000 ― throughout his entire rookie season! How about Oscar Robertson? The one player in history to average a triple-double. Not much different than Russell. Magic Johnson, the architect of the Lakers’ famed Showtime dynasty, and perhaps the greatest player ever, for that matter: He famously signed a 25-year, $25 million contract. It was an unprecedented move in 1981. Even in today’s dollars, that’s peanuts to current NBA players.


Thunder 



If signing Durant makes you the definitive winners, then losing him surely makes you the definitive losers. Such is the harsh reality for Sam Presti and the OKC Thunder. In the span of weeks, the Thunder has gone from one of the few real title contenders to playoff hopefuls, wondering if perhaps it needs to deal Russell Westbrook before he surely walks as a free agent next summer. The truth of the matter for the Thunder is that all of this could have been avoided if management hadn’t been so thrifty with its money. OKC didn’t want to pay James Harden and has been paying for that error in judgment ever since. Think about this: Presti dealt a perennial All-NBA player long before he could even legally drive a rental car. Durant, a once-in-a-generation type of talent, is now gone, and soon, so too will be Westbrook. In other words: Close the book on this team.


Daryl Morey 



Nobody has been more critical of the Houston Rockets GM than me. And it’s about to get worse. How in the world can Morey justify spending $133 million on two players (Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon) who have missed a combined 173 games over the last three seasons? It’s inexplicable.


Oh, and don’t forget that both Anderson and Gordon ― equal as defensive matadors ― were rewarded with four-year deals. Morey is undoubtedly an innovative thinker and he’s made stellar decisions in the past ― i.e. trading for Harden and drafting Chandler Parsons ― but the Rockets are quickly heading to mediocrity after being on the doorstep of the finals just two short years ago.


Bulls


This is not about Derrick Rose. Both sides needed a fresh start. But if we know anything about Jerry Reinsdorf, it’s that he doesn’t want to rebuild. We learned that in the early 2000s, and history is repeating itself in 2016. The Bulls, who missed the playoffs last season, made a colossal mistake by signing native son Dwyane Wade to a two-year, $47.5 million deal. It’s not that Wade doesn’t have any good basketball remaining on his 34-year-old legs. He proved to us last season that he remains one of the premier two guards in basketball. The Bulls, however, are not winning with Wade, just as they weren’t winning without him. In addition, they now possess a backcourt of Wade and Rajon Rondo (who quietly put together a productive season in Sacramento), neither of whom will ever be confused with knockdown perimeter jump shooters.


To win in today’s NBA game requires shooting ― guards that can stick it and bigs who can extend the court ― and Chicago not only brought in two guards who can’t shoot 3s, but it also traded its best shooter in Mike Dunleavy Jr. in order to clear cap space for Wade. What’s more is that executives John Paxson and Gar Forman dealt Pau Gasol, easily their best passer and best shooting big.


Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com, ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out my SiriusXM Radio show Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. ET on Bleacher Report channel 83.

-- 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.

Coming Out: Life After Ball

Tue, 2016-07-12 10:44
My life coach once told me that "Success is an illusion". At the time I wasn't sure if I believed her, but those words have been etched in my memory ever since. The more I've excelled apart from football, the grander the illusion has become that it's been without struggle. That couldn't be further from the truth.

At times I've gone days without leaving my house. Not even to check the mailbox or grab a bite to eat. Feeling so empty and devoid of purpose, I couldn't see the point in doing anything. When my schedule forced me, I'd slowly get into uniform, grab my helmet and take on the day. Be it on set for production, the writer's room, or even a meeting for some new and exciting potential project. By game time I transformed and was ready to play, but when the dust of each duty settled, I either felt great about what I'd done or utterly incomplete.

Truth is, I haven't shared the full scope of what it's like to transition after football. Since retirement, I've become a ray of hope for players faced with the reality of life-after and what it looks like to live out your passions with no major or lasting effects from the game. Although I have no regrets of leaving and have enjoyed this second phase, the transition has been challenging for me too.

My biggest fear after playing was being one of those guys who couldn't let go. Living the rest of my life a shadow of who I was in my twenties. As a result, I distanced myself so far from football I have a hard time even remembering who I was. Having little recollection of the Big Ten Player of the Year that wore No. 5 for the Illini. Driving the tunnels of Pittsburgh without even glancing over at Heinz Field, the place where I became a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher for the Steelers. Avoiding a return to Arizona, the place where I re-joined Bruce Arians and the Cardinals in my most enjoyable year of playing in the NFL. I abandoned these moments in my life believing that would help me move forward, and while that's been the case, it's come at the cost of my identity. Leaving me in a personal purgatory between Former NFL running back and Hollywood writer/director. Neither of them feels real.

Football doesn't teach you to embrace your feelings. It actually does the opposite, forcing you to be tough, suck it up and move on. With this, I've realized that even off the field it's hard for players to process their own individual suffering. So when the game stops and you can no longer run and tackle your frustrations away, the negative energy gets bottled up and can show itself in dangerous behavior. Like a blood clot that goes undetected until it's too late, drugs, alcoholism, women, domestic abuse are some of the ways it tends to permeate. For me it was emotional abuse. Like many players who are conditioned to withstand verbal attacks from coaches, I'd say things to the people closest to me without understanding how hurtful they were. Even in moments of encouragement, I couldn't understand why the harsh criticisms had such lasting effects. In my life I was so used to being berated by coaches and fans, who would then turn around and expect me to score the game-winning touchdown, that I became conditioned to withstand what I later learned was emotional abuse. I never took into account that not everyone is conditioned to be calloused. I struggle everyday to learn how to communicate in a way that inspires change, without destroying confidence.

When you've been raised in a locker room and eventually become a part of society, it doesn't feel like reality. Much like coming out of prison, everything feels different. There's really no way to prepare for it. Nothing is congruent with the way you've learned to be. If there's a problem during a game, it's handled on the sidelines. If there's a problem between teammates, it's handled in the locker room. If there's a problem in real life, you ignore it and act like there isn't. Because trying to address anything uncomfortable, is highly uncommon.

In retirement, I've realized the merit athletes build over a lifetime is false. Everything you do professionally is forgotten when your career ends. After being praised for your ability since little league, it's tough to find self-worth when you're no longer "the man". Many people you thought were friends disappear when the home games and parties end. In a conversation with a friend of Junior Seau, he said Junior was a guy who enjoyed the shine. He took care of the people around him and fueled off the love he got from ball. When he retired after 20 seasons and the acclaim was no more, he no longer had an identity. He believes the resulting depression had more to do with Junior's passing than anything else. Through my own experience with the drastic change, I solemnly understood.

I share this to show that even after leaving the game and starting a career in a fun and exciting new field, the transition from football to life-after isn't easy. I'm happier now than I ever was playing in the NFL. Being free to express more than just the physical aspects of my being and experiencing for the first time feelings you're not allowed to have as a gladiator. Starting over is a challenge; much different than preparing to win a game, but one that takes the same level of effort and dedication if you want to win. For the people who thought I had it all figured out, I don't. I've learned it's okay to ask for help, my life coach has taken me further than I could've ever gotten on my own. To the players that have struggled to find a fulfilling life apart from the game, keep fighting. Don't be afraid to reach out to someone. The struggle is real for each one of us. But just like on that field, we'll find a way. We always have. We always do.

-- 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.

An Update On The 'Cheerios Girl' 19 Years After She Told Oprah Her Heartbreaking Story

Tue, 2016-07-12 08:37

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible);

When Kate Collinger was 11 years old, her mother was dying of cancer.


For the last year of her mother’s life, Kate and her family devoted their energy to traveling to places like Disney World and Palm Springs, spending time together and making memories. But as Kate told Oprah back in 1997, a few months after her mother died, it wasn’t any particular adventure that stood out the most from that time with her mom. It was a simple box of cereal.


“We went to Palm Springs on family vacation and she was in bed, but I came home after swimming. She said, ‘Can you get me a bowl of Cheerios?’” Kate said. “I remember that... And about a week before she died, before she went into the hospital, I was in their room sleeping. I said, ‘Mom, will you wake me up if you go downstairs to eat a bowl of cereal?’ She said yes, so at 2 o’clock in the morning, we both went down and we ate cereal together.”


After telling that story on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Kate became known as “the Cheerios girl.”


Her sweet Cheerios moment became unforgettable to those who heard it, including Oprah. Today, Kate is 30 years old, and “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” followed up with her to learn about her journey in the years since losing her mother. 



As Kate describes in the above clip, her life began taking a dark turn during her freshman year of college at Northwestern.


“I was in a deep depression. I wasn’t getting out of bed, I wasn’t showering, I was over-eating,” she says.


So, Kate ended up seeing a psychiatrist, who put her on an antidepressant. “He said, ‘If she’s bipolar, this could flip her,’” she says. “For people who are put on antidepressants who are bipolar, it has the capacity to anti-depress them so much that they’ll be sent into a manic episode.”


That’s what appeared to happen to Kate.


“All of a sudden, I was feeling ‘good.’ I didn’t need therapy anymore. I didn’t really need to eat because I wasn’t really hungry anymore. I didn’t need to sleep because I wasn’t really tired anymore,” Kate says. 


The coed says she also began engaging in risky behavior ― and received a startling wake-up call.


“In November 2005, I took a hallucinogenic drug with a friend and got in a car, blacked out. I wake up and I’m pressing the accelerator of the car, having no idea why I wasn’t going anywhere. I look up and there’s an electrical post about 10, 15 feet from my face,” Kate recalls. “They took me to the hospital, and that was my induction into a 12-Step program.”



That year was also the year Kate was diagnosed with Bipolar I. Today, she says she is focused on making proactive choices each day to live a healthy, balanced life.


“It feels like it’s been a very long road. I’m telling a very different story than I did when I was 11 years old,” she admits. 


Kate’s family and friends, she adds, provide the unconditional love and support she needs to help her through it all, and her late mother is still a big part of that. 


“She passed away almost two decades ago, but she shows up for me when I hear ‘It’s a Wonderful World.’ That was her favorite song, and that comes on sometimes exactly when I need it to,” Kate says. “In the letter she wrote to me before she passed away, she said she’d always be in my corner, cheering me on.” 


Kate may say she’s telling a different today nowadays, but she still believes strongly in the profound power of life’s little moments.


“That inherent feeling I had as a little girl when I talked about the Cheerios experience still is very present for me,” Kate says. “It’s not about the vacations or the money or whatever. It’s about the intimate moment of connection that you have on a daily basis with the world around you.”


She continues, “The magnitude and scope of the relationships and love that I have in my life today ... that’s what’s so profound and important and incredible to me.” 


Another 11-year-old’s inspiring update:


Young ‘Oprah Show’ guest with AIDS shares what life is like 18 years after her appearance

-- 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.

Tony Gwynn's Death From Chewing Tobacco Saved Chris Sale's Life

Mon, 2016-07-11 17:14

Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale, the American League’s starter for the Tuesday’s 2016 MLB All-Star Game, started chewing tobacco back in 2007. But in June 2014, he quit, and he did so for a very particular reason: the death of MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn from oral cancer. 


On Monday, Sale revealed to reporters that he quit the day Gwynn died and hasn’t touched chewing tobacco since. Nine years after quitting, Sale made clear just how much Gwynn’s death affected his life. 


“To say that he saved my life, I don’t think it’s an understatement,” Sale said.  



The revelation surely wouldn’t offend Gwynn. Before his death, Gwynn publicly discussed the negative effects tobacco had on his health, attributing his cancer to a decades-long addiction to chewing tobacco. When he died, however, Gwynn’s doctors wouldn’t definitively say that tobacco was to blame. Even still, he remained convinced that decades of chewing tobacco caused his fatal cancer. Since his death, Gwynn’s family has fought to prove Gwynn right, filing a wrongful death lawsuit against tobacco companies in May 2016. 


Up until Gwynn’s death, chewing tobacco remained entrenched as a baseball player tradition ― a common sight at ball games for over a hundred years. The percentage of MLB players who used it fell from 50 percent in 1994 to an estimated 33 percent in 2014, according to Professional Athletic Trainers Society estimates in line with the MLB’s own numbers.


“When I first started playing, everybody did it,” Red Sox veteran slugger David Ortiz said to The Boston Globe in March 2014. “Now you see fewer guys because everybody knows it’s bad for you.”



Gwynn’s death spurred increased awareness of smokeless tobacco’s dangers, ultimately resulting in MLB banning it from ballparks in March 2016 after years of pressure from anti-tobacco advocacy groups. Because of nicotine addiction and players’ habitual use of chewing tobacco as a playing stimulant, it’s been a hard ban for some players to swallow.


Sale is not alone in his reasoning behind why he quit. In death, Gwynn’s influence as a smart, technical hitter has been overshadowed by what his name now means to anti-tobacco advocates and MLB personnel who want smokeless tobacco out of the game. As Sale knows by now, lives are at stake.

-- 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.

America: We Are Never, Ever, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together

Mon, 2016-07-11 15:30
I'm embarrassed. I'm sick. I'm an ashamed American with a black son. I have an almost indescribable feeling in my stomach. I want to force myself to puke, in a vain attempt to rid the stomach of these aching feelings of tightness, outrage and dread.



The recent, in a long shameful line, of killings by police of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling has once again ignited my social media feeds with expressions of horror and various contagious hashtags. We've seen it all before and we'll continue to see it. The political classes have no will, or even more tragically, no ability to make changes to this systematic race and class oppression, which has been the basis of American democracy since its birth 240 years ago.

It took me having my own black son to actually feel the injustice that I always knew was there. I look at him and experience legitimate adoration. I'd literally do anything for this kid, even though he is a category 5 tornado of destruction. He is what fuels my understanding of the concept of love; a word, which has unfortunately become almost banal, thanks to marketing and terrible "art."



If you take a Marxist perspective on history and society, which I obviously kind of do, you'll realize that the major function of the police is, and has always been, the protection of the establishment and of the system of capitalism itself. The police must make sure us wage slaves don't comprehend our condition. The police must also make sure the bourgeoisie "feel" protected from the "dangers" of the poor and "criminal" classes.

You can't really blame individual police. Most are victims to their culture and often pulled from the lower classes themselves. What you can, and should, blame them for though, is the way they immediately close ranks and put their hands over their ears and eyes when something like this surfaces. Why wouldn't they want to get rid of these fucking awful people, who dirty all their names with this kind of behavior? This kind of expected brutality has always happened, but now everyone has a camera in their pocket.



I've lived in other counties, specifically England and the Marshall Islands, where I know this shit doesn't happen. Which proves that it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to have 1 in every 110 people locked in prison. We don't have to have vast swathes of no-go, no-prospect areas in all our major cities, which are full of only black and brown faces. We don't have to agree with those who pretend lacking empathy is a positive character trait.

Like so many problems in the "western world," these problems seem somehow unique to America. And while these problems continue to be not be addressed, discussed or even acknowledged, I will never live in that place, with my black son, ever again.

-- 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.

Trans Folks Now Have A Safe Space To Recover From Gender Confirmation Surgery

Sat, 2016-07-09 11:27



An incredible new resource is in the works in Chicago, Illinois, that will be a safe space for trans masculine individuals who are in recovery following gender confirmation surgery.


Rhys’s Place is intended to be a location of all-inclusive surgery recovery for trans masculine identified individuals. Currently engaged in a GoFundMe campaign, Rhys’s Place will be an apartment where trans people post-phalloplasty surgery have a place to spend the long recovery period. The initiative is pioneered by Rhys Harper, a photographer who has spent the last several years creating portraits and telling the stories of trans and gender-nonconforming people through “The Transcending Gender Project.”


“I think the most important takeaway for people regarding this space is that many trans people are living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet,” Harper told The Huffington Post. “A space like this is truly groundbreaking -- it will be the first sliding scale place that exists, to my knowledge. There is a surgery recovery retreat called New Beginnings in Florida that hosts top surgery patients, and does provide some food, although it is not sliding scale. The vision for Rhys’s Place is that people will be able to come and access these services even if they cannot pay anything, at all.”


While not a medical facility, Harper told The Huffington Post that Rhys’s Place will function like a “specialized AirBnB.” There will be Netflix, Hulu and HBO, via Apple TV, high speed internet, nutritious meals and people who understand the experience of trans individuals -- all available and at the disposal of patients.


“A space like Rhys’s Place is desperately needed not just in Chicago, but all over. Specifically in regards to gender aligning surgery like phalloplasty, patients need to remain in the area on average for at least four weeks, and sometimes longer depending on surgical complications that may arise. “


The GoFundMe campaign is intended to fund the startup costs for the first year of Rhys's Place. Beyond that, payment for lodging at Rhys’s Place will operate on a sliding scale.


Thank you for this, Rhys.

-- 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.

26 Illinois Schools Make Forbes' Top Colleges Ranking for 2016

Fri, 2016-07-08 13:16


Twenty-six Illinois colleges made Forbes' ninth annual ranking of the best colleges and universities in the country.

In collaboration with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Forbes used data from the U.S. Department of Education, Payscale and its own America's Leaders list to rank a total of 660 schools based on an institution's return on investment, or ROI.

As Forbes notes, its ranking differs from others because it focuses more heavily on what students are getting out of college rather than looking at metrics that got students into a school, such as ACT and SAT scores.

More from Forbes:

Like every college ranking, this list cannot quantify the mystery of picking a college: how it connects to a student's heart and ambitions. But what it does do is connect directly to those looking for a consumer guide to the ROI of every college. In the last four decades tuition and fees have risen 270 percent at public schools and 204 percent at their private counterparts. For those footing a higher ed bill stretching as high as $250,000, the only question is: Is my college worth the investment?

Among the factors Forbes used to calculate this year's ranking are: post-graduate success, student debt, student satisfaction, academic success and graduation rates (you can read more about the methodology here).

Of the 660 schools on the list, here are the 26 colleges and universities in Illinois that made the cut, with national ranks ranging from No. 15 to No. 643.

Like what you see here from Reboot Illinois? Then sign up for our daily email to get more great content right to your email.

-- 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.

Toxic Algal Blooms Aren't Just Florida's Problem. And They're On The Rise.

Thu, 2016-07-07 17:31

By now you may have seen the pictures coming out of many of South Florida’s coastal communities: Many miles of smelly, “guacamole-thick” algal blooms cropping up along beaches and rivers — blooms so big they can even be seen from space


Algal blooms like those currently fouling up many Florida waterways are caused, according to the EPA, by the buildup of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in water. This buildup is primarily the result of excess fertilizer being used in agricultural and home yard settings and then running off into local waterways following heavy rains. Improperly-functioning sewer and septic systems can also be a factor. 


The problem is massive and officials are calling it “unprecedented,” resulting in the closing of beaches and many water-dependent attractions at the height of the region’s busy tourist season. But it’s also something that has been some time in the making.


In the specific case of Florida’s blue-green algal blooms, experts say the catalyst was nitrogen and phosphorous buildup traced back to pollution of Lake Okeechobee, the state’s largest freshwater lake. The lake flows into canals connected to coastal rivers like the Caloosahatchee to the west and the St. Lucie to the east, areas that have both been hit hard by the toxic blooms.



function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible);

Dr. Bill Louda, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton who has been studying and testing the algae, put the situation’s root cause more bluntly: “Basically we’re fertilizing South Florida to death.”


The issue with the blooms isn’t just that they are unsightly and smelly, but also that the algae could be devastating for local economies and ecosystems alike. Algal blooms sometimes produce toxins that can sicken or kill both humans and animals and can produce “dead zones” where aquatic organisms die because the water lacks the oxygen they need to survive. 


“The impact is tremendous,” Louda told The Huffington Post. “We have to stop somewhere.”


Recognizing the gravity of the problem, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency in four impacted counties — Lee, Martin, Palm Beach and St. Lucie — late last month.


On Wednesday, Scott announced that he would propose new funding to address the algal blooms through a grant program helping homeowners living near bodies of water to switch from septic tanks to sewer systems, in addition to supporting communities’ building of improved wastewater systems.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) added his support to Scott’s call for a federal emergency declaration Thursday, calling the situation “a health, ecological and economical emergency.” In a separate news release issued Wednesday, he asked the Centers for Disease Control to “remain vigilant” of the blooms and the impact they can have on the health of Florida residents and visitors, some of whom have already reported headaches, respiratory problems and rashes believed to be linked to the algae. 


Despite the alarm, experts say little can be done to address the problem in the short-term aside from continuing to monitor it.


“You could throw some nasty herbicides or synthetic inhibitors on top of it, but it would kill everything else too, the seagrass, the phytoplankton fish eat,” Louda said. “We just have to let nature take its course.” 



The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already reduced the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee in an effort to reduce the blooms. The USACE confirmed in a Thursday news release that it will continue to discharge water from the lake at its current, reduced rate as conditions in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries have “shown slight improvement.” 


Meanwhile, the region’s “bloom response team,” including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, five water management districts and the state’s departments of health, agriculture and fish and wildlife, told Huffpost via email that they will continue to respond to reports of blooms as they receive them. The team is urging residents to report blooms to the department either through its dedicated website or a new toll-free number. 


And while the effort to address the Florida blooms continues, the problem appears likely to crop up elsewhere this summer. In recent years, record-breaking blooms have formed in coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean, in Lake Erie, in the Chesapeake Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico, where a dead zone has grown to approximately equal the size of the entire state of Connecticut. 


Environmental advocates and scientists alike say the conditions are ripe for algal blooms to continue to become more common.


“No matter what part of the country you live in, there is probably a lake, a river or some body of water near you that will experience some form of harmful toxic algal bloom this summer,” Colin O’Neil, agriculture policy director at the Environmental Working Group, told HuffPost.


And while factors such as climate change are likely a big part of the reason why that’s the case, advocates point to the agricultural industry as the primary culprit.


In a new report released last month, researchers at Environment America, a Boston-based nonprofit, linked the growth of algal blooms and dead zones nationally to pollution caused by large agribusiness companies. 


The report estimates the “manure footprint” of five major agribusinesses — Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill, JBS and Perdue — at nearly 163 billion tons of manure annually. All that poop has to go somewhere.


“These factory farm operations generate so much manure they don’t know what to do with it. And the easiest thing to do is spread it around on crop land,” John Rumpler, the report’s author and senior attorney at Environment America, told HuffPost. “That runs off and can go into nearby rivers, lakes and streams.”


To reduce the amount of water pollution coming from these large farms, the EA report recommends using cover crops and buffer zones to reduce runoff from the growth of commodity crops, as well as using less fertilizer.


In addition, EA supports raising livestock in smaller-scale operations that minimize high concentrations of manure. All of that, Rumpler writes in the report, should be both regulated and incentivized by the EPA and other government agencies.


Until that happens, don’t be surprised if your favorite beach is suddenly closed next weekend.


“This is about where we swim, where we fish, where we draw our drinking water,” Rumpler said. “When you work that back up the chain, you see that the folks that are selling us our food are polluting our water.”

-- 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.

Low Attendance At First Forum Surrounding Chicago Police Department Investigation

Thu, 2016-07-07 14:52

A member of the West Side NAACP speaks at the U.S. Dept. of Justice's first public forum surrounding its investigation of CPD.

Only about 30 people showed up to the first of a series of four forums designed to gain insight into Chicagoans' true feelings towards their police department.

As part of the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights investigation into CPD -- an effort born largely out of public outrage over the controversial Laquan McDonald video -- the forums are supposed to be another means for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to educate the public on the nature of the investigation and get feedback from Chicagoans on their relationship with the police.

But at the June 20 forum at West Side college Malcolm X, few people showed up, leaving one attendee wondering how well publicized the first forum had been.

"What were the methods of outreach that you used to inform the community about this public hearing? 'Cause I'm seeing a lot of empty seats here," said Isaac Lewis, publisher of a west side community news site.

A DOJ representative stressed that the department had sent out notices to over 200 Chicago-based community groups the week prior. The DOJ twitter handle @civilrights first tweeted about the event on June 15, five days before the first forum.


Empty seats at the June 20 U.S. Dept. of Justice forum, the first of four.

The investigation into CPD was prompted by uproar over the release in November of a video depicting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke. The video, which showed McDonald walking away from Van Dyke at the time he was shot, received national attention and sparked criticism towards Illinois State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's handling of the case. At that time, U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon requested a formal investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice in order to determine whether systematic racism plagues the Chicago Police Department.

That investigation, which began in December, has been looking into CPD's systems of accountability, use of excessive force, and racial, ethnic or other disparities in the way officers treat individuals during interactions. The DOJ will also scrutinize the Independent Police Review Authority, a body independent from CPD which investigates police misconduct.

"It's really important for us to hear from you," Christy Lopez, deputy chief of special litigation in the DOJ's civil rights division, told attendees. "We know that our findings will not be either complete nor accurate if we don't get the insights and perspectives of all of you."

Lopez, who's written a brief on the "widespread" issue of police making illegal arrests, most recently oversaw the civil rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department in 2014. That investigation found evidence of both implicit and explicit racial bias present within the Ferguson Police Department.

At the public forum June 20, DOJ representatives said they've already heard from over 400 community members regarding their experiences with the Chicago Police Department. The team has made numerous visits to the entirety of the city's police stations in addition to participating in ride alongs with 60 officers throughout Chicago.

While Fardon was not in attendance, Patrick Johnson, a supervisor attorney at the U.S. Attorney's office, spoke in his place.

"This was a top priority of Mr. Fardon's," Johnson said." He hoped that the investigation would address and start correcting some of the trust that's been eroded between the Chicago Police Department and residents of the city."

The West Side branch of the NAACP, which spoke out multiple times at the forum, raised questions around a pending police union lawsuit which could result in the destruction of a trove of citizen complaints against police going back to 1967. While the unions have maintained the records should be destroyed, legislation introduced in Springfield earlier this year could prevent that.

Johnson responded that the DOJ had written a letter to the city requesting that the records be kept safe at the very least throughout the duration of the DOJ investigation.

Department of Justice officials said they expect the investigation of CPD to be complete before 2017.

Two additional forums remain through the month of July -- for additional details, click here.

This story was reported by Chloe Riley for JTM Legal.

-- 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.