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Who's My Main Man? My Plumber, Of Course

Thu, 2014-09-11 05:48
I had to smile when a colleague emailed that she had to work from home that day because she needed to wait for the plumber. She's a virgin home owner, which is to say that when she and her husband bought their first house just a few months ago, she hadn't a clue what bidding adieu to a landlord meant. Mostly what it means is that you spend a lot of time waiting for plumbers.

I have a long-standing relationship with my plumber. I have this relationship, in part, because I have a septic tank and teenagers who enjoy liberal use of triple-ply toilet paper. I long for the good old days when TP was something that adorned trees at Halloween instead of my kids using half a roll of it per bathroom visit.

Another reason my plumber and I are close is hair conditioner. We use it. I won't mention the face cleanser with the little ground up beads that the FDA or someone just banned, but I use that too. Each of these scum-causing, drain-clogging beauty products is good for a couple of plumbing house calls a year.

Hair: that's another big ticket item that brings my plumber and I close. Every member of my family, save my husband, has it (hair) and we apparently shed a fair amount of it every time we shower.

Yes, I have clogged toilets and drains; a hot water heater that makes noises when nobody but me is home to hear it; and a septic tank that does what septic tanks do, which is make you yearn for city sewers.

Of all the various servicemen who come to my house on repair calls, it is my plumber who is the most interesting. (Our former electrician with the image of his dead dog tattooed on his leg was interesting, but in a different way.) My plumber, well, he's like the relief pitcher that comes in to win the big game. When the plumber is coming, I join the dogs -- our ears perked up waiting for the sound of his truck coming up the driveway, our eyes glued to the door, waiting for him to walk through it so we can pounce. Our joy that he is finally there is tangible and we are so glad he's "home" that we wouldn't dream of showing attitude about what took him so long to get there.

The plumber we had in our previous house would often not show up on the day of the appointment. When he did come, he always left a tool or two behind. I came to see this as a dog marking his territory; my husband said it just spoke to our plumber's conviction that he would be returning shortly to fix something else. For sure it served as an explanation of why he often didn't come on the day of the appointment: He was busy driving around collecting his tools.

I actually like my new plumber much more than the guy who forgot his tools all the time. I would never in a million years write about either plumber negatively in a Yelp review. But there is something I don't understand: If it's possible for a reporter to get where she has to be to interview someone at a certain time, why is that not possible for a plumber? We both have the uncertainty of traffic and not knowing what awaits us on the other end.

I remember once as a cub reporter being sent over to a family's house to ask for a photo of their son who had just died tragically. I walked in and while suspicious of me at first, the grief-stricken Mom began to tell me stories of her son's life. To cut her off and leave would have been rude so I sat there for two hours listening. When the doorbell rang for a floral delivery, I made my break.

"You've been so kind to stay and listen to me," the Mom said. "Thank you for that."

So every time the plumber is late, I just envision that the customer ahead of me must have needed him to listen. And if you don't think talking to the plumber is cathartic, you just haven't owned a home long enough.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Public Spaces Where You Can Smoke Keep Disappearing

Wed, 2014-09-10 19:43
Chicago has banned smoking in public parks and watersides as the number of places that permit public smoking continues to dwindle.

The Chicago Park District board on Wednesday evening passed new rules that apply the city's smoking ban to public parks and harbors. The ban, effective immediately, expands existing rules against smoking at restaurants, bars, beaches, and within 15 feet of park field houses and playgrounds.

Rules passed in January by the City Council included e-cigarette devices in the indoor smoking ban. Traditional cigarettes, pipes, cigars and newly legal medical marijuana are also included in the latest ban.

The ban may have huge implications for some of nation's biggest outdoor music festivals that call Chicago home, including Lollapalooza, The Pitchfork Music Festival and Riot Fest, which kicks off this week. Those festivals and several others take place on Chicago Park District property. Representatives from all three declined to discuss the ban, RedEye reported.

Violation of the new ban can earn smokers fines up to $500. City officials said that the ban won’t be strictly enforced until signs are posted and an awareness campaign is out, the Sun-Times reports.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has supported a smoking ban as part of his "Healthy Chicago" initiative. Anti-smoking advocates noted that beyond the negative health consequences, litter from cigarettes and other smoking paraphernalia was significant in tipping public opinion.

Ninety percent of people responding to a four-week survey by the American Lung Association said "they do find litter from tobacco products to be a major problem in Chicago parks," DNAinfo Chicago reports.

Grown-Ups Use Legos To Re-Create Famous Movie Scenes That Will Blow You Away

Wed, 2014-09-10 17:24
When grown-ups get their hands on Legos, the results can be magical.

Currently the world's largest toy maker, Lego has an adult fan base that accounts for an estimated 5 to 10 percent of sales. Among those fans are members of the Sweden-based Lego-lovers group Swebrick, which recently wrapped its annual building contest.

Some of the submissions to this year's “AFOL vs. AFOL” (Adult Fans Of Lego) competition were nothing short of masterful. The theme, "Plastics From the Past," challenged members create cinematically faithful Lego versions of “any scene from an ’80s movie or TV show featuring a vehicle.” Participants put together their creations, photographed them and uploaded them to the group's online forum, where members voted to crown a 2014 champ.

Members of the six-year-old community regularly share pics of their creations, hold meet-ups and offer each other tips on building, buying and collecting. Those who take part in the group's contests -- including the Sept. 6 "Plastics From The Past" event -- must use regulation Lego bricks that are unmodified (no painting or cutting allowed) and aren't part of an existing branded series such as Lego "Star Wars."

The former Swebrick chairman, who goes by the online handle Etzel87, won this year's competition by creating the "You killed the car" scene from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," complete with flying bits of Lego glass from the garage windows and the horrified looks from the Lego Ferris, Cameron and Sloane.

In case you need a refresher, here's that scene from the 1986 classic:

Pretty good, huh?

Other submissions included scenes from "Blade Runner," "Spaceballs" and "Alien."

Check out some of the best entries (below), then browse the rest at the Swebrick website.

h/t Gaper's Block

5 of the Most Exciting Cities in Illinois

Wed, 2014-09-10 16:56
Despite the Movoto real estate blog calling some places in Illinois boring for their nonexistent nightlife and sparse food offerings (plus corn fields and flat expanses won't hold many people's attention for long), the blog also named some of the most exciting places in Illinois -- the state has some happening areas!

Movoto made the list by ranking the 100 most populous cities in Illinois, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, on the following criteria:

  • Most nightlife and live music venues per capita

  • Most active life options per capita

  • Fewest fast food venues per capita

  • Highest percentage of non-fast food restaurants

  • Highest percentage of residents ages 18 to 34

10) Downers Grove Population 50,000.

Nightlife: 39th
Music venues per capita: 13th
Active life options: 14th
Fast food venues: 37th
Non-fast food options: 15th
Youth population: 81st
Attractions: Movoto recommends the restaurants Taste, Los Dos, Chama Gucha Brazilian Steakhouse, and Borrowed Earth Cafe.

9) Bloomington Population 79,000.

Nightlife: 7th
Music venues per capita: 12th
Active life options: 34th
Fast food venues: 71st
Non-fast food options: 52nd
Youth population: 12th
Attractions: Movoto recommends Laugh Comedy Club, Rosie's Pub, Entourage Lounge, C II East Lounge and Ottodog. Additionally, both Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University are located in or near Bloomington.

8) Edwardsville Population 25,000.

Nightlife: 12th
Music venues per capita: 5th
Active life options: 26th
Fast food venues: 80th
Non-fast food options: 48th
Youth population: 7th
Attractions: Edwardsville is home to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Movoto recommends the music venues Laurie's Place and Wildey Theater.

7) Champaign Population 83,000.

Nightlife: 3rd
Music venues per capita: 15th
Active life options: 37th
Fast food venues: 75th
Non-fast food options: 34th
Youth population: 6th
Attractions: Champaign, along with its sister city Urbana, is home to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Movoto recommends bars such as the Tumble Inn Tavern, the Blind Pig Pub, Mike N Molly's, and Cowboy Monkey.

6) Carbondale Population 26,000.

Nightlife: 2nd
Music venues per capita: 25th
Active life options: 60th
Fast food venues: 48th
Non-fast food options: 16th
Youth population: 1st
Attractions: Carbondale is home to Southern Illinois University's main campus. Movoto recommends the bars Pinch Penny Pub, PK's, the Blue Martin, and the Cellar, as well as the restaurants Newell House and Thai Taste.

See the top five most exciting places in Illinois at Reboot Illinois--you might be surprised to see which is number one. (Plus, find out which Illinois city ranks as number one in nightlife fun.)

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In Chicago, Hoops Tournament Helps Heal, Provides Hope

Wed, 2014-09-10 16:09
Almost three years ago, I joined Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church on his weekly community walk on the South Side of Chicago. Father Pfleger is a long-time family friend and activist in the Chicago community. He and my mother bonded years earlier in their fight for the poor and the disenfranchised in society. When I joined the walk that hot summer evening, Chicago was being projected as the murder capital of America. As we walked the streets, young men and women were coming from everywhere to greet us. Some joined us on the walk and others just watched and waved. As we continued to talk to the young men and some of the community leaders, I posed this question: If Father Pfleger and I brought you together for a game of basketball promoting peace would you show up? The immediate response was yes.

The question was the seedling of an idea. Our goal was ambitious. We wanted to give the young men a chance to get to know each other on and off the court. If we could bring them together, along with the community, around a game of basketball, we could break down some of the territorial barriers that have been created by simply not knowing your neighbor.

Shortly thereafter, the PEACE game/league was developed. Father Pfleger and St. Sabina Church on Chicago's South Side hosted the tournament. It gave us an opportunity to bring young people together in a safe environment for play and sharing knowledge. From my personal experience and belief, it is very difficult to hurt someone you play with daily. When we played together we were able to free ourselves from the historical weight and heaviness of the labels that had been ascribed to us because we were poor. Now with eyes our wide open we were able to see each other as brothers, neighbors and friends. We saw a person to play with, not run from.

At the first PEACE game, Chicago Bulls stars Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson coached the teams. NBA officials and Chicago natives Danny Crawford, James Capers Jr. and Marc Davis officiated the games. NBA current and former players Sonny Parker and his son Jabari Parker, Bobby Simmons, Quentin Richardson, Will Bynum and Jannero Pargo attended, as well as J'Marcus Webb of the Bears. Noah's foundation, Noah's Arc, along with companies like Connor Sports saw the potential and promise of bringing communities together and have remained partners in this endeavor. They have shown an impressive commitment through the work they continue to do with this game/league and with communities around the country. Joakim's foundation has become a steady pillar in the community. He continues to work with the youth in Chicago year round.

His foundation is focused in two areas: arts and sports. Through the programs they offer they help kids recognize their full and positive potential in life. The commitment and love he continues to show to our kids should be applauded. Connors Sports has and continues to be a good corporate citizen. They have taken a lead role in helping Father Pfleger organize the yearly PEACE tournaments. Through their participation and steadfastness, other corporate partners have begun to participate.

On September 20, we will host the third Annual PEACE Game at St. Sabina Church. The game/league has expanded throughout the past three years and, in addition to basketball, Father Pfleger and St. Sabina Church now offer life skills classes, mentoring, GED classes, employment training, and internship opportunities with corporations. The success stories are immeasurable. Many are working, some are getting their GEDs and others are getting the training and life skills they need to secure good jobs. Most importantly, the crime rate has gone down in this area. These young people now know they have a place to go to develop life skills and life lessons.

Seeing the young men from the PEACE game/league and the kids that I work with through the Windy City Hoops program with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I remain inspired and encouraged by their resilience. I remember walking the same sidewalks when I was young, just like the young men we see today. I remember nothing came easy.

I remember my mother's zeal to protect us and all the children in the neighborhood. In an era where blame is abundant, and solutions are rare, I am reminded of the many mentors and community leaders who provided a refuge for me and my brothers and sisters.

I am grateful that I had mentors like Sonny Parker and Danny Crawford. I met both of them when I was 12 years old. None of us knew at that time we would all make it to the NBA. Danny Crawford and Sonny Parker were older, but they always took the time to share their wisdom and knowledge about life. They were never too busy to check on me. They always wanted to know how I was doing and they never failed to ask about my mom.

When Sonny made it to the NBA we were all so proud of him. I remember when he came home for the summer, he played in the annual summer league held at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys and Girls Club on Chicago's west side. We were so excited to see "P Funk," which was Sonny's nickname in the neighborhood. After he scored 46 points and lit up the opponent I was waiting for him outside to get a autograph. P Funk not only gave me a autograph, he gave me his gym shoes, too. Then he asked about my mom. Now I have come full circle. When I see Sonny's son Jabari, the newest NBA sensation drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks from Chicago, I ask the same question, his dad asked me: "Jabari, how are you doing ... Are your mom and dad OK?"

I have experienced and seen the impact of sports and the healing power of play. Both can positively affect the energy and interests of young men and women. However, sports alone should not be the answer. We must provide our youth with a holistic educational and recreational experience. Growing up, my mother and father reinforced the role of education in our lives. They believed education was the pathway to success.

Chicago makes headlines these days because of the violence infecting our city. Still, beyond the headlines, the majority of communities throughout the country are filled with loving and caring families of young men and women who have dreams of becoming president or CEOs of their own start-up business. They dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses or policemen who actually serve and protect.

Things will not get fixed overnight in Chicago. But it is heartening to see the impact that athletes can have working with community leaders. It is even more moving to see young men and women take a stand against the violence in their communities and work toward a better future.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility and duty to insure that our youth are healthy, safe and educated. So become a mentor, get involved in your community. Join us in Chicago on Saturday, September 20 at St. Sabina Church for the 3rd annual Peace game/league. I am excited about the season and even more excited about the future of our kids.

This was originally posted here on on September 8, 2014 with an introduction from David Aldridge.

7 Charged In Brutal Machete Attack Caught On Surveillance Video At Train Station

Wed, 2014-09-10 15:18
Seven people, three of them juveniles, are facing charges after allegedly surrounding two brothers at a Chicago train station and attacking one of them with a machete.

The incident, which was captured by a CTA surveillance camera, took place about 12:30 a.m. Monday. A 26-year-old man and his 17-year-old brother were waiting for a CTA Brown Line train at the Kedzie Avenue stop in a usually quiet neighborhood on the city's Northwest Side, according to WGN.

The siblings were approached by a group of seven people who, police say, told them to flash gang signs, ABC Chicago reports. When they refused to do so, saying they were not members of any gangs, police said one member of the group pulled out a machete and struck the 26-year-old in the head multiple times.

The attack stopped when a train pulled into the station, at which point the group dispersed. They were apprehended shortly thereafter.

Eighteen-year-old Mario Elvira, who allegedly brandished the machete, has been charged with robbery, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and trespassing on CTA property. He is being held on $450,000 bail, according to DNAinfo Chicago.

The rest of the adults in the group -- Jean Salvatierra, 23; Kevin Ramirez, 19; and Kevar Preston, 20 -- all faced the same charges as Elvira, while all but one of the juvenile suspects avoided the robbery and aggravated battery charges, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The 26-year-old victim sustained a wound 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches deep and was taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital. He was last listed in stable condition.

Fast-Draw Morality

Wed, 2014-09-10 14:51
"So you want to disarm cops LOL yeah that's an intelligent thing to do the gang bangers would love that surely they will unilaterally disarm too."

I'm used to semi-anonymous sarcasm by now, like this The Huffington Post comment beneath a recent column I wrote on the militarization of the police and the possibility of disarmament, and I have no interest in "fighting it out" with the guy. But there it is, perfectly preserved: an impulse homage to Big Fear, wrapped in unexamined certainty. This is fast-draw morality, made in Hollywood.

I take this moment to highlight it because it's so typical and, for that reason, the first line of defense of the status quo of violence: this instant acceptance of the idea that our enemies are continually stalking the perimeter of our lives, waiting to invade, to commandeer our way of life the moment we lower our weapons.

This instant reaction to any questioning of the use of armed force to maintain safety and "peace" not only shuts down the discussion but hides all the consequences of violent self-defense, including the creation of the very enemies we fear (e.g., the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and the hemorrhaging of sanctioned, official violence backwards into our own lives.

Violent force and temporary dominance of a situation may occasionally serve a larger end, but the permanent maintenance of this mindset has us stalled in a state of endless embattlement, both at home and abroad. Fear has us locked into a bad story: that violent dominance over our enemies is our only hope. In actuality, our only hope is embracing a larger story: that all humanity, and all of life, is connected. Finding that connection is often what requires courage.

What if policing, for instance, were more about finding that connection than exerting authority? In point of fact, I'm sure that it is. However, as police departments across the country militarize and, in the process, disengage emotionally and spiritually from the communities they protect -- acting like armies of occupation rather than humble servants of the common good -- incidents of unnecessary violence escalate, widening the gulf between police and the public. Factor in the nation's endemic racism and even the simplest, most harmless situations often spiral completely out of control.

And in the era of the cellphone video, we now have ringside seats to such incidents. In an altercation that occurred last January in St. Paul, Minnesota, the video of which recently became public, Chris Lollie, who is African-American, was approached by a police officer as he was sitting in a seemingly public space in a downtown skyway, waiting for his children to get out of daycare. The officer, who had been called by a local merchant, asked Lollie for his ID. He refused to cooperate, claiming he had a perfect right to sit in a public space and wait for his children.

What happened next was absurd -- of course. An incredibly minor matter went haywire, as both parties insisted on their right to do what they were doing. The police officer wanted her questions -- who are you? what are you doing here? -- answered. Lollie refused. At one point, as the officer started to explain why there was a problem, he interrupted her: "The problem is I'm black, that's the problem. No, it really is, because I didn't do anything wrong."

Two more officers eventually joined in, grabbed hold of the man and, when he defended himself, tasered him. As this was going on, the daycare class let out and Lollie's 4-year-old daughter saw the whole thing. Lollie was arrested, charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of a legal process. In July, all the charges were dismissed. The officer who initially confronted him has since left the force.

I highlight this incident not to judge either party in the altercation but, rather, to note the futility of maintaining even superficial order with us-vs.-them tactics. The situation degenerated into a gang confrontation in a high-school cafeteria, as both sides felt disrespected and refused to back down -- or, more relevantly, refused to access a better strategy for handling things. The police in particular, as professional keepers of the peace, should have done so. To that end, this video would make an excellent training film in what not to do.

Lasting peace cannot be built on an us-vs.-them foundation, even -- or especially -- when it's backed up by armed force.

"So you want to disarm cops LOL . . ." etc., etc. Advocates of nonviolence and human dignity push on through the empty sarcasm. It helps to know we're not alone. Two years ago, the BBC News Magazine published an extraordinary article by Jon Kelly about the unarmed police of the UK. Two female police constables in Manchester had just been killed in the line of duty and a number of people began wondering if more officers shouldn't be armed. (In 2012, about 5 percent of the officers in England and Wales were authorized to use firearms.)

Remarkably, the call for arming the police did not come from within the ranks. "But one thing is clear. When asked, police officers say overwhelmingly that they wish to remain unarmed," Kelly wrote.

He quoted Peter Fahy, the Greater Manchester chief constable: "We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot."

Kelly added that "arming the force would, say opponents, undermine the principle of policing by consent -- the notion that the force owes its primary duty to the public, rather than to the state, as in other countries."

Policing by public consent! Every community should have such a relationship with its peacekeepers, armed or otherwise.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


Grilling Of 100-foot-long Bratwurst Is Frankly Just A Practice Run

Wed, 2014-09-10 12:03
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — About 50 people volunteered to carefully grill a 100-foot bratwurst without burning or breaking it at a bar in Illinois.

Silver Creek Saloon hosted the practice run Tuesday to prepare for the city's 200th anniversary celebration, where the volunteers will attempt to grill a 200-foot-long bratwurst, the Belleville News-Democrat ( ) reported. The Bicentennial Oktoberfest Weekend Celebration is set to be held Sept. 19-21 in downtown Belleville. On Tuesday, Larry Schubert, who made the 60-pound sausage, led the effort to unroll it onto a specially made 100-foot metal trough. Volunteers exercised more caution after practicing in August with a 50-foot bratwurst that broke in several places because it was turned too quickly and the grill was too hot. Organizers walked around to inspect and fix splits in the meat.

A nearby baking company will make a 200-foot-long bun to go with the bratwurst when it's grilled at the community event on Sept. 21. Donations will be collected from people who want to eat a piece of the bratwurst. Proceeds will benefit local food pantries.


Information from: Belleville News-Democrat,

Clean Machine

Wed, 2014-09-10 12:03
Factory. Hold that word in mind for a moment and it is likely to evoke images of a gritty industrial landscape: smokestacks and foul air, railroad freight yards, steaming mills and roaring machinery -- places no family would want in their neighborhood.

But a factory is not inherently a dirty, brutish, destructive neighbor. The whole point of a factory is to be fundamentally creative, and one designed to celebrate life can produce an abundance of ecological and social benefits. Consider Method's new manufacturing facility on Chicago's South Side. Using renewable energy and clean materials to make safe, healthy products, the factory is designed to be a generative, supportive neighbor that honors community history. Its location, the historic Pullman District, is famously associated with a model development in which industry and community worked side-by-side; it was designed that way. And by design, Method will continuously improve upon the relationship between the factory and its surroundings, offering a positive, hopeful future for the company and the neighborhood.

That's nothing new for a company that rigorously assesses products and packaging to ensure they are clean and safe. Having long made Cradle to Cradle Certified products, Method sought out my design team to be sure its flagship factory is equally healthy and innovative. Working closely with Method, we designed a clean, simple, effective facility that operates in concert with natural systems, making use of the sun, the landscape, and natural flows of fresh air and water to create a productive and restorative workplace. A refurbished wind turbine and solar arrays will provide more than half the factory's electricity needs while solar thermal panels will provide hot water for factory processes. Local food crops will flourish in a rooftop hydroponic greenhouse. Widespread plantings will restore stands of native oak and hickory. Bioswales and ponds will filter stormwater on site. Indoors, the building will be flush with daylight and fresh air, and a transparent south wall will offer a visual connection to the outdoors. The factory will render visible a positive relationship with the natural world.

Method has also chosen to energetically interact with the South Side community. The factory is an investment in the re-industrialization of Chicago, designed to improve the quality of life for working families. Built on the site of the Pullman railroad car company's long-abandoned lumberyard, it will bring an estimated 100 manufacturing jobs to the neighborhood. Much of the site will be a public park, and its public reach will extend into the community through walkways to shopping, connections to transit, and the flow of fresh, quality food from the rooftop greenhouses. Method's dedication to clean products and production -- 75 percent of its product line is Cradle to Cradle Certified -- guarantees a healthful work place for employees, a lovely public space for Pullman, and safe, delightful products for its customers. A good neighbor indeed.

Method's new factory offers an inspiring model for 21st century industry. It manifests a commitment to ecological and social health that shifts what are frequently seen as marginal concerns to core business principles, a move that effectively supports sustainable economic growth. Method's leaders know that community and company prosperity are closely entwined and that we all benefit when we support the natural world. That's the kind of neighborliness that will re-invigorate our landscapes, our economies and our cities in the 21st century. And a factory in Chicago is helping to show the way.

Quinn and Rauner go head to head for the first time

Wed, 2014-09-10 11:45
One thing came though loud and clear Tuesday at the Pat Quinn, Bruce Rauner debate before the Chicago Tribune editorial board: These two really don't like each other.

To be completely accurate, this was not a debate, but a candidate forum. For all practical purposes, though, it served as a sort of minimally moderated debate, with the two candidates freely going back and forth at each other over the issues that have defined this race. For Quinn, it was Rauner's business dealings and his changing views on the minimum wage. For Rauner, it was allegations of cronyism in Quinn's office and what Rauner says is a failure to resuscitate the state's business climate.

The two spent an hour with the editorial board, and eye-rolling and off-camera hoots punctuated the already lively discussion.

While Quinn and Rauner have appeared at the same events but without interaction previously, the Tribune forum was the first chance for them to argue directly with each other.

See a highlights video at Reboot Illinois and other snippets at the Chicago Tribune.

One major issue discussed during the forum was education reform. Rauner reiterated his support for school vouchers, while Quinn explained that he thinks public education works well the way it is. If Rauner were elected, he has proposed five possible reforms, including expanding school choice for families, improve teacher training, implement merit pay and make college more affordable. See the details of these plans at Reboot Illinois.

10 Things About Instant Ramen You'll Be Embarrassed You Never Knew

Wed, 2014-09-10 10:06
Everyone loves ramen these days. Classic ramen restaurants populate the country's biggest cities, and people love the instant stuff so much they have turned it into a hamburger bun, a lobster roll and even a burrito. We just can't get enough of the salty and addictive noodles.

And as we all learned in college, instant ramen noodles are there for you, waiting to be cooked and ready to be eaten in just five minutes. Here are 10 things you never knew about your favorite go-to food, even if you eat it every day.

1. The first instant ramen was considered a luxury item in supermarkets.

Although today it's considered a college staple and something you eat if you're broke, instant ramen used to be quite expensive in Japan. Momofuku Ando, the creator of Nissin ramen products, invented "Chicken Ramen," an instant snack that could be eaten easily and anywhere in 1958, when he noticed food was scarce after World War II. But when it arrived on Japanese supermarket shelves, it was seen as a very expensive product since fresh udon noodles sold for one-sixth the cost of "Chicken Ramen."

2. It's the best-selling item at Rikers prison.

The commissary at Rikers Island in New York needs to always make sure it is stocked up on Cup Noodles. It sells for 35 cents and, according to the New York Post, it's the most popular food item sold. Prison guards provide the prisoners with hot water to eat their beloved ramen. And sometimes, inmates discard the noodles and use the intense seasoning packets to flavor the bland prison cafeteria food.

3. Only the "Oriental" and "Chili" flavors of Nissin and Maruchan Top Ramen are vegetarian.

It may be hard to believe that the Nissin and Maruchan seasoning packets in the "Chicken," "Beef" and "Shrimp" flavors actually contain animal products, but they do. The "Chicken" flavor includes chicken fat and/or powder, the "Beef" flavor includes beef fat and/or powder and the "Shrimp" flavor includes shrimp powder.

4. Some people (like David Chang) like to eat ramen without even cooking it.

Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant empire, explains in "Mind of a Chef," the appeal of biting into a chunk of uncooked ramen sprinkled with seasoning as an after-school snack:

"I think I was around eight years old. I'd come home from school and instead of having Hot Pockets and stuff, I had ramen. I didn't know it was bad for you to consume as a kid. I thought it was good for you."

5. Ramen is the Japanese word for Chinese "lo mein."

The Japanese owe it to the Chinese for the trendy food's name. Ramen is the Japanese pronunciation of the kanji characters for "lo mein" or "lau mein" in Chinese. It's no surprise that ramen is inspired by lo-mein, another boiled noodle dish invented centuries ago.

6. And China eats instant ramen more than any other country.

China's global demand for instant noodles is the highest, according to the World Instant Noodles Association (yes, that's a real thing). In 2013, China consumed 46,220 million packets of ramen. Tong-Yi Instant Noodles, a popular Chinese brand, is sold almost everywhere, from Walmart to street stalls.

7. According to one survey, the Japanese consider ramen their best invention.

Aside from all the technology Japan has gifted the world, in 2000 the Fuji Research Institute stated that Japanese people are the proudest of introducing instant noodles to the world. They feel this way because instant noodles truly "represent 'Made in Japan,'" by not only being a national food but a global one.

8. It would cost you only about $140 a year if you ate ramen for every meal.

It's a fact that instant ramen is cheap. Maybe that's why businesses are considered "ramen-profitable" when they are taking in more money than they are spending. And since it usually costs the consumer about 13 cents a package (depending on where they live), it will only cost you $142.65 dollars a year if you decide to live off of it. To put this in perspective: The average American spends $7,852 on food a year.

9. There's a whole museum in Japan dedicated to ramen's history.

It's called the Shinoyokohama Raumen Museum (we don't know why they spell it like that either) and it is the world's first fast-food-themed amusement park. The museum showcases nine ramen shops that highlight different instant ramen varieties all over the country. Visitors can make their own ramen concoctions and include cute customized naruto (fish cake) pieces with animals printed on them.

10. The first noodles ever consumed in space were instant ramen noodles.

Momofuku Ando wanted to make ramen portable and easy to eat not only on earth, but also in space, and he succeeded in 2005. Two years before he died, Ando created "Space Ram," a vacuum-packed ramen made with smaller noodles (so they can be cooked without using boiled water) and a thicker broth (to prevent dispersal). It was made for Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi's trip in the Discovery space shuttle.

Bonus: Justin Timberlake's hair in the '90s was an unintentional advertisement for instant ramen.

We hope this style comes back soon.

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Illinois Governor Candidates Trade Messy Verbal Blows Over Education, Ethics And Hair

Wed, 2014-09-10 10:02
The mud flew between incumbent Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, during a meeting before the Chicago Tribune editorial board Tuesday.

Like an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner with two ideologically opposed uncles, the 90-minute session devolved into a debate, during which heated rhetoric alternated with insults that would make the characters in "Mean Girls" proud.

Quinn at one point accused Rauner, a prominent businessman who made his millions as a venture capitalist, of not knowing arithmetic. Not to be outdone, Rauner made a jab at the balding incumbent in an effort to tie him to corruption via his jailed ex-boss, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"The only difference between Pat and Rod is the hair," Rauner said, referring to Blagojevich's famous coif.

On the subject of education, Quinn dismissed Rauner's education proposal to boost the state's school funding while cutting the property taxes that fund it. Rauner, on the other hand, declared that Quinn -- who opposes school vouchers -- and his administration are "hostile to school reform."

Things got even uglier when the topic turned to corruption, a notorious black eye for a state that's seen four of its past seven governors go to prison.

Rauner charged that Quinn was part of the state's corrupt political system and hammered the governor on his scandal-plagued anti-violence program.

"Pat Quinn’s in trouble because he’s engaged in cronyism and corruption and he’s a failed governor," Rauner said.

Quinn rallied with a jab at Rauner's role in hiring an executive for one of his investment companies, which ultimately declared bankruptcy after several executives went to jail on various fraud charges.

"You handpicked [William] Rauwerdink to run a company that perpetuated a huge accounting fraud," Quinn said, adding that Rauner has "made a fortune off the misfortune of others."

One of the most pointed accusations came from Quinn, who implied Rauner all but bribed state lawmakers with campaign cash so that they would vote down a pension overhaul that Quinn had backed. Rauner denied the allegation, calling Quinn's bill "a mistake."

The latest Huffington Post poll shows Rauner with a roughly six-point lead over Quinn.

Quinn is seeking his second full term in office. This is Rauner's first run for public office.

Is This The Least Wearable Trend For Spring?

Wed, 2014-09-10 08:55
Ladies, next season it's all about the bikini wax high-slit dress and skirt.

According to many designers at New York Fashion Week, Spring 2015 is the time to show upper thigh a la Angelina Jolie's right leg at the 2012 Academy Awards. While these slits offer lots of sex appeal, they should come with a warning, as a wardrobe malfunction is likely.

This trend may not be the most wearable we've seen at NYFW, but designers have given us a slew of others that are both accessible and flattering, so it's hard to complain.

Check out all the shows that featured high slits and let us know if you are going to bare those legs come April.

Versus Versace


Jason Wu

Nicole Miller

Reem Acra

Chadwick Bell

Wes Gordon

Dion Lee

Diane Von Furstenberg

Marissa Webb

McDonald's Files 'McBrunch' Trademark

Wed, 2014-09-10 07:33
McDonald's needs something attention grabbing, innovative and appealing, as is clear from the -2.8% drop in U.S. same-store sales for August reported this week. That need for something fresh and different may be why has learned that McDonald's Corp. in July filed a federal trademark registration (application #86345988) for the term "McBrunch."

A McDonald's spokesperson confirmed the application but cautioned, "We routinely file intent to use trademark applications as a regular course of business. We can't share details at this time as to how the trademarks may or may not be used."

It's possible that McDonald's will just keep the trademark in its back pocket for now. It has done so before. In fact, the company applied for a trademark on "McBrunch" in 2001 but abandoned that application. But the brunch idea seems to be back under consideration more seriously this time, in part because of the continuing poor sales performance. McDonald's has been showing increased interest in upscale morning fare: Earlier this year it tested breakfast pastries in San Diego and mini bundt cakes in Boca Raton, Fla., and Nevada.

Four years ago, Burger King briefly tested a brunch menu in Massachusetts and Florida. The menu included nonalcoholic mimosas, a BK Ciabatta Breakfast Sandwich and its signature Whopper burger. The brunch idea didn't work, but Burger King in May launched a "Burgers at Breakfast" program with Whoppers offered in the morning.

So how might McBrunch work at McDonald's were it to be launched? One path would be the route it has chosen in Germany, where breakfast hours are extended beyond 10:30 a.m. on weekends and major holidays. Breakfast already has been extended "backwards" through the "McDonald's After Midnight" hybrid breakfast/dinner menu from midnight to 4 a.m. Brunch could be a weekend-only event with a special menu.

Chains are working hard to develop distinctive breakfast menu items, as evidenced by Taco Bell's new Biscuit Taco and IHOP's new "Waffullicious Waffles" with ingredients such as bacon and cheese baked in. To compete with breakfast options such as that, McBrunch would need something more than the current McMuffins and McGriddles. McDonald's is leery of expanding the menu with new items, but here are 10 breakfast foods already on its menus around the world that it should consider for a McBrunch menu in the U.S.:

Massive McMuffin
(on McDonald's breakfast menu in New Zealand; above): Two sausage patties, bacon, a freshly cracked egg, a slice of cheese and ketchup on a hot toasted English Muffin. Now this says brunch.

(Sweden; above): Think outside the breakfast sandwich box. Sweden does. This morning sandwich has smoked ham, Wästgöta Abbey cheese, crispy lettuce, butter and sun-ripened tomato on freshly baked bread.

McMuffin Fresh Chicken (Germany; above): Dress up the McMuffin for brunch like the Germans do. Crispy breaded chicken, spicy cheese, crisp lettuce and tomatoes are topped off with a mild sauce on a toasted muffin.

FIT Sandwich (Serbia; above): For the health-conscious brunch eater. Ham, cheese, Bun, deluxe sauce, chopped w ham, cheese, arugula, tomato.

BLT Bagel (Canada; above): You have the Steak, Egg & Cheese Bagel already and it rocks. But brunch needs its own bagel creation. This couldn't be simpler: Hickory-smoked bacon, sliced tomato and crisp lettuce, topped with creamy mayonnaise-style sauce served on a freshly baked regular or multigrain bagel.

Tsukimi Burger (Japan; above): Brunch requires a breakfast burger so how about this one from Japan? Beef, smoky bacon, creamy tomato sauce and an egg on a sesame-seed bun. Burger King has introduced a Breakfast Whopper in New Zealand and it's only a matter of time before that's on the U.S. menu. McDonald's should move fast.

Breakfast Roll (Ireland; above): A breakfast sandwich with a heartier profile. Sausage, Irish bacon and an Irish egg in a crispy roll served with ketchup or brown sauce.

McMorning (Croatia; above): Think of it as a morning McRib. Pork patties, rösti (potato fritters with onions), two slices of bacon, a slice of melted Cheddar, tomato, lettuce and a special sauce. Pork and bacon together? Brunch, baby.

Veg Pizza McPuff (India; above): Something for the vegetarians and the global-cuisine fans. Add a crisp brown crust with "a generous helping of rich tomato sauce mixed with carrots, bell peppers, beans, onions, peas and gooey mozzarella." Not the traditional American breakfast food, maybe, but who doesn't like leftover pizza on a weekend morning?

Sausage N' Egg Twisty Pasta
(Hong Kong; above): OK, this one might be a bit of a stretch. Twisty pasta, fresh eggs and sizzling sausage together with hot chicken or tonkotsu (pork) broth and greens. But let's see Taco Bell match this.

McDonald's could pick just two of these items -- they're all better ideas than biscuit tacos -- and have the beginnings of a delightful McBrunch program.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Wed, 2014-09-10 07:18
Stronger Together for Suicide Prevention -- a partnership between the New York State Office of Mental Health and The Huffington Post


I know too many people who have taken their lives -- and not just because I am a psychiatrist.

These people include family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors, as well as those in the public eye whose deaths, some very recent, have riveted our attention. While I have had the good fortune of having no patient under my direct care die by suicide, because I have led many clinical services, I have seen too many times the indelible tragedy that suicide can usher in.

Do you know someone who died by his or her hands, or tried (including perhaps you)? If you do, whether near or far from your heart, we hope you will join New York State and The Huffington Post in our campaign to help prevent deaths that need not happen. Almost everyone who survives a suicide attempt is glad to be alive. Our challenge is to figure out how to keep those people alive until they want to live again.

More than 39,000 people die each year from suicide. That is more than twice the rate in this country of homicidal deaths. One million people, annually, make a suicide attempt in the U.S. We need to think of these losses as preventable, as we already approach deaths from accidents and illnesses where prevention, early detection, and employing effective interventions are lifesaving.

Suicidal deaths are inextricably tied to mental illnesses. We estimate that in nine of every 10 completed suicides the person was suffering from an acute mental illness, clinical depression in particular. In a great many instances, the deadly action was enabled by the use of alcohol or drugs, or both, which disinhibit our protective instincts and fuel impulsiveness. What this means is that detecting and treating mental and addictive disorders will be critical to preventing suicide deaths.

Today, Sept. 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports on the basis of 10 years of research from around the world that someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds. Their findings tell us that approximately 800,000 people kill themselves every year, and that suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people, aged 15 to 29, though it is people over 70 who are the most likely to take their own lives. Men are three times more likely to die from suicide attempts than women, but as access to deadly means of self-destruction increase (like firearms, narcotic pills and heroin) this gap in fatal outcomes may close.

The Huffington Post's Stronger Together campaign (see my introduction to that initiative) found a public that is powerfully interested in understanding mental and addictive disorders, having people tell their own stories, and identifying where help is available.

Building on this campaign and on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day, New York State and The Huffington Post are launching Stronger Together for Suicide Prevention. We believe this is the first public mental health campaign that brings together the government of a major state and an international, Pulitzer Prize-winning media outlet.

On HuffPost today, we will have contributions from the NYS Office of Mental Health, Lifeline (the national suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK), the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA, with its priority of preventing the 22 veteran suicide deaths that happen every day -- We've Got Your Back), The Jed Foundation (a leader in protecting the emotional health of America's 20 million college students), and The Mental Health Association of New York State (MHANYS, with its focus on the role of families and communities).

In the days and weeks to follow, we will be providing more online posts as well as a Twitter chat and a HuffPost Live segment focused on suicide prevention. We invite readers and concerned individuals and organizations to join in the conversation. More details on these events will be provided soon.

Suicide is a preventable event. But it will take all of us, as individuals, advocacy organizations, government agencies, workplaces, and medical (not just mental health) services to step forward and do what can be done to help people before they act in an irrevocable way. Stronger Together for Suicide Prevention will show how we all can help.

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote: "Do not go gentle into that good night ... Rage, rage against the dying of the light." His words are a beacon for the fight against death -- and should be for when death threatens to come by a person's own hands.


Lloyd I. Sederer, M.D., is Medical Director of the NYS Office of Mental Health, Medical Editor for Mental Health for the Huffington Post, and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia/Mailman School of Public Health.

Dr. Sederer receives no support from any pharmaceutical or device company, and serves as an unpaid editor and writer at the Huffington Post.



Have a story about depression that you'd like to share? Email, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Females Build Up Tolerance To Marijuana Faster Than Males, Study Finds

Wed, 2014-09-10 06:40
Despite a shortage of research on the topic, it's been suggested that drugs affect men and women differently. And because of the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington and medical marijuana in 23 states, it's now more important than ever that women understand how THC affects their body chemistry specifically.

Researchers at Washington State University have found evidence indicating that females may build up a tolerance to marijuana more easily than males do. While it's not entirely predictive, people with an increased tolerance of a drug are more likely to become addicted to it -- which means women may want to think twice before matching a man joint for joint.

The study focused on the pain-relieving effects of THC on male and female rats. In this case, rats made for good subjects, because, like humans, rats have a menstrual cycle (albeit one that lasts four to five days instead of 28), and they experience similar ovarian hormone fluctuations, which affect pain.

At the beginning of the trial, the female rats displayed a higher sensitivity to THC than the males. However, after 10 days of testing, researchers found that the female rats were needing higher doses of THC than the males just to experience the same degree of pain relief. In other words, while female rats started out being more sensitive to THC, after 10 days, they ended up less sensitive.

"We were looking at the pain-relieving effects," Professor Rebecca Craft, chair of the psychology department at WSU and lead researcher of the study, told HuffPost. "One of the things that is of concern if you're using any medication repeatedly is: Will it maintain its effectiveness over time?"

There have been a number of clinical trials in humans suggesting that marijuana and cannabinoid drugs alleviate pain. For women, this is an important issue, since medical researchers are now seriously considering these drugs' potential to relieve chronic pain -- something women in particular will benefit from if administered properly.

"Over their lifetime, women actually suffer quite a bit more pain than men do," Craft said. "So women have a lot of need for analgesic drugs."

As of now, rats are the most convenient method of exploring possible gender disparities in the pain-relieving effects of drugs, given their aforementioned hormone similarities to humans, as well as the difficulty of wrangling busy human test subjects to come into the lab at frequent, hyper-specific points of their cycles.

Craft is confident that these results are generalizable to humans, but she said that you can never be sure until you actually begin testing people.

"There are some differences in the species in terms of how they metabolize drugs," Craft said. "You really want to see some kind of confirmation that the same thing is happening in humans."

In a 2014 study, women reported feeling the "high" sensation more acutely than men when given a joint to smoke. This sensitivity, combined with Craft's findings, can better inform doctors who want to prescribe cannabis as a pain reliever and women who smoke cannabis recreationally.

Craft noted that it's possible today to get much stronger marijuana than when the drug first rose to popularity in the 1960s and '70s, and that it's easier now than ever to observe potential differences in how men and women respond to the drug. She suggested that women educate themselves about marijuana use and proceed with caution, just as they would with liquor consumption. Marijuana addiction does occur, though only in a small percentage of cases.

"I think it's great that there's been a social change in the fact that recreational drug use is more acceptable now than it used to be," said Craft. "But there are some greater risks for women with some drugs, and I think they need to be aware of that."

AAUP Condemns Trigger Warnings As A 'Threat To Academic Freedom'

Tue, 2014-09-09 18:53
The American Association of University Professors, one of the nation's leading college faculty groups, announced this week it formally opposes the use of "trigger warnings" in classrooms and on class syllabi.

In a lengthy statement outlining the AAUP's position, the group called trigger warnings -- whether mandatory or voluntary -- a "threat to academic freedom." The use of them by faculty in a classroom setting could skew the choice of course materials and teaching methods, AAUP said, and would prove "counterproductive to the educational experience."

Trigger warnings have existed for decades in some form, but grew in popularity online from the days of LiveJournal a decade ago to today's Tumblr and Twitter age of the Internet. As the Associated Press noted in April, the trigger warnings have now made their way into classrooms at some of the most prestigious colleges in the country, sparking a debate about what limit, if any, should be placed on their use.

AAUP took a swipe at Oberlin College in Ohio for issuing a guidance of topics like "heterosexism, cissexism, [and] ableism," that professors may want to use caution when discussing for fear of "triggering" students. AAUP stated:

The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual. It makes comfort a higher priority than intellectual engagement and—as the Oberlin list demonstrates—it singles out politically controversial topics like sex, race, class, capitalism, and colonialism for attention. Indeed, if such topics are associated with triggers, correctly or not, they are likely to be marginalized if not avoided altogether by faculty who fear complaints for offending or discomforting some of their students. Although all faculty are affected by potential charges of this kind, non-tenured and contingent faculty are particularly at risk. In this way the demand for trigger warnings creates a repressive, “chilly climate” for critical thinking in the classroom.

AAUP went on to discuss the cons of trigger warnings, noting one about suicide ahead of literature like "The House of Mirth" or "Anna Karenina" could prevent students from overlooking "the other questions about wealth, love, deception, and existential anxiety that are what those books are actually about."

The AAUP, mind you, is not oblivious to the intense focus on campus sexual violence taking place over the past couple of years, and the unprecedented federal crackdown on colleges mishandling cases.

The group writes trigger warnings are not going to fix things around that issue:
It is probably not coincidental that the call for trigger warnings comes at a time of increased attention to campus violence, especially to sexual assault that is often associated with the widespread abuse of alcohol. Trigger warnings are a way of displacing the problem, however, locating its solution in the classroom rather than in administrative attention to social behaviors that permit sexual violence to take place. Trigger warnings will not solve this problem, but only misdirect attention from it and, in the process, threaten the academic freedom of teachers and students whose classrooms should be open to difficult discussions, whatever form they take.

Terminal Cancer Patient Sentenced To Probation, Instead Of Prison, For Growing Marijuana

Tue, 2014-09-09 18:18
A terminal cancer patient who faced up to 15 years in prison for growing marijuana that he says was used to treat his tumors was instead sentenced to probation by an Iowa judge Tuesday.

The Quad-City Times' Brian Wellner first reported the surprise ruling Tuesday afternoon:

BREAKING: Judge Latham sentences Benton Mackenzie to probation. #mackenzie #cancer #marijuana

— Brian Wellner (@brianwellner) September 9, 2014

Benton Mackenzie, 48, faced at least three and as much as 15 years in prison, but District Judge Henry Latham instead chose to grant Mackenzie a three-year probation, Wellner reported.

About a dozen demonstrators rallied in support of Mackenzie outside Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa before the ruling came down, holding signs that read "Stop arresting patients" and "Treating illness is a right."

The use of medical marijuana is currently illegal in Iowa in nearly all cases.

Since his conviction earlier this year, Mackenzie has been traveling to Oregon, where marijuana is legal for medical purposes and where out-of-state patients are allowed to take advantage of the more permissive laws, to obtain medical cannabis to help treat his angiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels. Latham warned Mackenzie on Tuesday that he must remain "substance abuse"-free while on probation or could face prison time, according to the Associated Press.

"You are a man with intelligence and passion. I hope you can put your efforts to a more constructive use than to continue to violate the laws of this state," Latham said.

In July, Mackenzie and his wife Loretta were convicted in an Iowa district court of marijuana manufacturing and conspiracy for growing 71 marijuana plants at Mackenzie's parents' home in Long Grove, Iowa. Local authorities seized the plants in a 2013 raid of the home. Mackenzie said he had grown the plants to make cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, to treat his tumors. Mackenzie's son Cody, 22, was found guilty of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.

On Tuesday, the judge also sentenced Mackenzie's wife and son to probation.

Mackenzie suffers from severe angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that produces large skin lesions. Photos documenting Mackenzie's legal case and his cancerous lesions have been posted to the "Free Benton Mackenzie" Facebook page. In July, Loretta Mackenzie wrote on Facebook that Benton's condition had worsened in the last several months. She included a recent photo depicting large, discolored tumors on her husband's skin. WARNING: PHOTOS ARE GRAPHIC.

Latham had barred Mackenzie from using any defense that included the claim that he'd grown cannabis for medical necessity. Mackenzie had said he was threatened with jail if he talked about his health in court and that he would not be likely to survive a prison sentence.

Loretta said in court Tuesday that her husband's condition is getting "a lot worse," according to Wellner.

It's not clear how, if at all, Mackenzie plans to treat his condition without the use of medical cannabis.

Earlier this year, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed into law a measure that legalized the use of CBD oil to treat epilepsy. That law, however, focuses narrowly on treatment for "intractable epilepsy" and could not be applied to Mackenzie -- a reality that the editorial board of The Des Moines Register strongly criticized in a July statement.

"The change in law benefits only a small group of Iowans with the most organized lobbying efforts," the paper's editors wrote. "Other sick Iowans should have legal access to marijuana extracts, too. These include people with painful and debilitating conditions like cancer, spinal cord injuries and severe arthritis, who may benefit from the drug. But if these people obtain cannabis oil, they will still be considered criminals in this state."

Iowa voters overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical marijuana. A recent poll found that 81 percent of those asked were in favor of legalization.

To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and two of those states -- Washington and Colorado -- have also legalized the recreational use of the drug. Marijuana in any form remains illegal under federal law.

Professor Who Lost Job Over Anti-Israel Tweets: University Setting A 'Perilous Standard'

Tue, 2014-09-09 18:09
A professor who left his position at another school to join the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- only to see his job offer abruptly retracted as a result of social media posts criticizing Israel's role in the Gaza conflict -- has publicly addressed the controversy for the first time.

At a Tuesday press conference on the UIUC campus, Steven Salaita detailed the personal hardships his job offer's termination -- just two weeks before his proposed start date -- caused for him and his family. He also chided the the school's chancellor and board of trustees for setting what he calls a "perilous standard."

Salaita is asking for his job offer to be reinstated. According to the Chicago Tribune, he he may pursue legal action if it is not.

"I reiterate the demand that the University recognize the importance of respecting the faculty’s hiring decision and reinstate me," he said in a prepared statement obtained by The Huffington Post. "It is my sincere hope that I can -- as a member of this academic institution -- engage with the entire University community in a constructive conversation about the substance of my viewpoints on Palestinian human rights and about the values of academic freedom."

Prior to the press conference, a crowd of about 150 protesters gathered in support of Salaita, as part of a planned class walkout. A speaker at the rally called for the resignation of UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

(Story continues below.)

Students participate in a protest in support of Salaita on campus Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Champaign, Illinois. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Salaita, previously a tenured associate professor in the English Department at Virginia Tech, said in his released statement that he was recruited last year to join the UIUC's American Indian Studies program. He also said he accepted the offer in October 2013, and that he and his wife both resigned from their positions at Virginia Tech and "got rid of" their home in Virginia in preparation for the new job in Illinois.

On Aug. 1, however, Salaita received a letter from Wise informing him that she had chosen not to forward to the school's board of trustees the approval of his appointment.

The letter came after Salaita's tweets criticizing Israel gained the attention of national media and -- according to emails obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request -- a number of university donors who threatened to pull their support unless Salaita was dropped.

“The University has violated the Constitution by terminating Professor Salaita’s appointment based on the content of his speech,” Maria LaHood, senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing Salaita, said in a statement. “It has also sent a chilling message to faculty and students everywhere that the First Amendment and basic principles of academic freedom will be ignored when it comes to speech that is controversial or critical of the Israeli government.”

Nearly 18,000 people have signed a petition calling for Salaita's job offer to be reinstated, and multiple university departments and programs have issued votes of no confidence in Chancellor Wise, who has stated that she has no intention to change her decision. Several national groups, including the American Association of University Professors, have also expressed their dismay at the decision.

Meanwhile, a group of Republican lawmakers from Illinois, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and U.S. Reps. John Shimkus and Rodney Davis, have thrown their support behind Wise and her decision to thwart the hiring of Salaita. A group of more than 400 UIUC faculty has also voiced backing for Wise.

The university's board of trustees will meet Thursday and is expected to make a final decision on the Salaita matter, according to The Associated Press.

Read the full text of the statement Salaita delivered at the press conference Tuesday, below:

Steven Salaita Statement On UIUC Firing

Jackie Robinson, Meet Jackie Robinson West. America, Meet Hope.

Tue, 2014-09-09 16:11
Where have you gone, Jackie Robinson? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

(modified from Simon and Garfunkel lyrics for "Mrs. Robinson.")

On Saturday, August 23, Jackie Robinson West, an all African American team from Englewood and other communities on Chicago's South Side, won the U.S. title game in the Little League World Series. On Thursday, August 28, the City held a rally for these youth in Millenium Park, gave them a day at Navy Pier and set off fireworks that evening in their honor.

This was indeed a special moment for these 13 young men, the Englewood and South Side communities, the city of Chicago, and the entire nation to celebrate. It was also a moment of hope for those who come from areas that are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Now, we are in the month of September, and the glory days of these young boys of summer are slowly slipping away. The question is whether this unexpected moment of hope can be captured, sustained and converted to others.

To answer the question it is useful to look backward then forward.

Many probably know the deeds of Jackie Robinson, this little league champion team's namesake, through the lens of the movie 42. That movie does an excellent job of portraying Jackie's performance in 1947 when he broke the color barrier in major league baseball by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

It honestly depicts the animosity toward Robinson -- some of which came from his own teammates -- displayed by some teams and fans around the league. It also shows the critical role that Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, played in bringing Jackie to the "Bigs" and getting him to agree to keep his cool and not "to fight back when confronted with racism."

What the film does not cover is who Jackie was before and after that breakthrough season of 1947. Jackie was born in 1919 to a Georgia family of sharecroppers and raised singlehandedly along with his four siblings by his mother, Mallie Robinson.

Jackie's family moved to California where he went to college at UCLA and won varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball football and track. In 1941, he was named to the All American football team.

Even though he was inducted into baseball's hall of fame in 1962 after an outstanding professional career, knowledgeable observers at the time noted that baseball was probably only Jackie's second best sport. His accomplishments, though, didn't end on the playing field.

While Jackie may have kept quiet in the turbulent season of '47, he didn't do so after his playing years were over. He became a business executive, helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American financial institution in Harlem, New York, and served on the board of the NAACP for several years.

Jackie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal posthumously. Those awards were testimony to the impact he had throughout his life.

His contributions and defining belief are summed up best in five simple words and a quote on the website for The Jackie Robinson Foundation -- the words "baseball player, civil rights activist."

The quote, "The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time." It was the most important issue when Jackie passed away in 1972. Unfortunately, it remains the most important issue today -- more than 40 years after his death.

In spite of this, we are certain that Jackie is smiling down on those kids from Chicago's South Side now. We are just as confident that he is saying there is much more to be done to deliver on that promise of first class citizenship for all.

This Jackie Robinson West team gave the nation hope and the chance to renew that promise again. It is important to note that in 1983, however, that another Jackie Robinson West team from the South Side gave us that opportunity over 30 years ago.

That Jackie Robinson West team made it to the Little League World Series then. It placed fifth in that year.

The players on that '83 team are in their 40s now. Several of them returned to Williamsport to cheer on this new cast for Jackie Robinson West and were ecstatic at the outcome.

We don't know what has happened to these adults and their teammates in their personal lives since they played in Williamsport themselves. We do know that, if they live in Englewood, there is a good chance that some of them have experienced tough times.

That's because the Englewood community can be a tough place in which to grow up and to survive. In the August time period, while Jackie Robinson West was in the World Series, Englewood ranked 4th (tied) among Chicago's 77 community areas for violent crime.

Based upon 2010 U.S. Census statistics and City of Chicago data, Englewood stacks up as follows in comparison to Chicago as a whole: per capita income: $11,993 vs. $ 27,148; households below poverty level: 42.2 percent vs. 18.7 percent; and unemployed: 21.3 percent vs 11.1 percent.

Down the road about 400 miles or so from Chicago, in a Missouri suburb, there is a city with "bad numbers" as well: per capita income: $21,000; households below poverty level: approximately 25 percent; and unemployed: 13 percent.

That city is Ferguson. Ferguson is not a suburban outlier, a Brookings Institution study revealed that "Within the nation's large 100 metro areas, the number of suburban neighborhoods where more than 20 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line more than doubled between 2000 and 2008 -- 2012."

Consider, Ferguson, Mo. and Englewood from the South Side of Chicago. In August, these two communities brought us two different stories: One a narrative of discontent and despair; the other a narrative of striving and achieving.

Jackie Robinson West demonstrated that all things are possible even for those in difficult circumstances. This very-well coached team demonstrated discipline beyond its years. The players could lay down bunts, execute the squeeze play and turn the double play.

Just like Jackie Robinson, they ran and stole bases with acumen and controlled abandon. Speed to them was not a drug, but one of their competitive advantages.

They were down by three runs in the first inning and fell behind again in the fifth inning of the championship game. They never gave up. They came back, and they prevailed. They believed in each other and their leaders.

Most importantly, they won and lost with dignity. They applauded their opponents and themselves. They set an example.

They didn't accomplish this without some help. They received support from coaches, family, friends and relatives in their communities.

Major league baseball player Curtis Granderson, who grew up in the suburbs south of Chicago and played ball at the University of Illinois at Chicago, donated money so the players could make the trip to Williamsport. Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson, sent notes to the players on letterhead from the Jackie Robinson Foundation commending their accomplishments in winning the Great Lakes Championship and their first game in the World Series.

Six of the Jackie Robinson West players played in the White Sox Amateur City Elite Program (City Elite) sponsored by Chicago White Sox Charities and Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. City Elite takes 100 inner city players during the summer and focuses on the development of both academic and athletic skills and abilities.

In sum, this was a team victory. That's team in the broadest sense of the word.

Jackie Robinson West's winning the U.S. little league title was a transcendent moment. It was a moment in the sun.

As Americans of good faith and good will, we need to capitalize on that moment and sustain it. We can do that by capturing the energy from this sunburst and using it to shine a bright light on the desperate needs and circumstances of those in poor urban, suburban and rural communities across our great country.

Improving the conditions in those communities will require a comprehensive intervention. It will require collaboration among those from the corporate, governmental, philanthropic, non-profit and citizen sectors. It will require a plan for each community. It will require investments in infrastructure, eco-structure and human-structure.

It must begin with school-centered solutions. In many of our decaying communities, the schools are the last resort for turning things around. They represent islands of hope in a landscape where commercial and retail businesses have disappeared, the value of housing stock has plummeted, and there is virtually no earning power.

The good news is there are already school-related programs that are making a difference for students in these communities in much the same way that Jackie Robinson West has for these Little League youth from the South Side.

Programs with which Ed Crego is familiar in the Chicago-area based upon his personal involvement include:

  • Merit School of Music which focuses on youth in underserved communities and inspires them to achieve their full musical and personal potential.

  • Reading in Motion which uses the power and discipline of the arts to reach at-risk students and gets them to read at or above grade level within the first few years of school
  • Our American Voice, a program for middle school students, which teaches students in grades five through eight the basics of American democracy and citizenship employing an action-learning model.

These programs are merely a Whitman's sampler of the innovative practices being employed in Chicago to make a meaningful difference in kids' lives. It's not just in Chicago. There are countless initiatives in other locations nation-wide that warrant replication and scaling.

The problem is they lack the necessary resources. Jackie Robinson West showed us what is possible even when resources are scarce.

Imagine what might be accomplished with the dedication of the right resources and all hands on board. Imagine what might happen if we gave hope a chance.

Imagine Jackie Robinson West. Imagine Jackie Robinson. Imagine the American Dream for all.

What's that you say, Mr. Robinson? Jackie's back, and he's here to stay.

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