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Why New Jersey Is the Most Hated State

Thu, 2015-08-06 16:40
I was in newlywed type bliss having just arrived back home to New Jersey. Leaving the airport, I told my daughter to breathe it in, "Ahhh, do you smell that? Cologne and cigarettes." I was kidding of course; teasing the way one might tease your favorite cousin - with love and just the right amount of burn. A lady next to me heard me and chuckled, "Ha. I was just thinking the same thing. Jersey has a distinct smell." She wasn't talking about the refineries or the Turnpike (which is the only thing outsiders really know of NJ), she was talking about the familiar smell of home. This chick was from New Jersey, I knew it, because only a New Jerseyan would hear my joke, get it, and revel in it with me. I was home.

A day or two after our arrival, a recent poll by YouGov came out, identifying New Jersey as "the least liked state in America." Well, didn't that just take the wind out of my glad-to-be-home-in-NJ sails. Apparently, "New Jersey is the only state in the country which people tend to have a negative opinion of" to which I would say, "Nice going 'Jersey Shore' cast for depicting us as morons even though half your cast wasn't from New Jersey." But, hey, Jersey tomato - tomatoe. Since I was curious as to why New Jersey is the most hated state, I clicked further into the results and then investigated Jersey more on my own. After mulling it over a bit, I could see why we were the least liked state in America. Let's take a look...


Did you know that the first drive-in movie theater was opened in Camden and that the first baseball game was played in Hoboken, not to mention the first brewery in America was opened here too. Baseball? Beer? Boooooring. Talk about an unAmerican waste of time. More recently, New Jersey has been known for Carli Lloyd, the athlete who pulled out a hat trick at the 2015 World Cup Final, who people are saying might be the best US performance in a title game? And I don't want to mention Tim Howard from the Men's 2014 World Cup Team who might as well be Superman in fear that I might bore you all to death. So, you know, "thanks" New Jersey for producing such mediocre talent. And did you know that silly things like electricity and recorded sound were invented in Thomas Edison's New Jersey laboratory and that George Washington's crossing of the Delaware and victory in Trenton, NJ was the first major victory and a turning point in the war. I mean, Freedom from the Brits, really, who cares?


And get this, New Jersey, the 46th smallest state, has 36 state parks. Of the 24 states shown below, only 10 states (mostly the bigger ones) have more. But let's be real, what are parks good for? NJ also ranks high in the production of blueberries (our state fruit), peaches, and cranberries and almost all garden vegetables like the well known Jersey Tomato and Jersey Sweet Corn which come from one of the 10,000+ farms located in this tiny, dumb, park and farm friendly state. Yummy fruit and veggies? What a waste of perfectly good green space.


The YouGov survey says that people from New Jersey are "unusually likely to take a hard-nosed attitude towards life" but since it doesn't explain what they mean by this I looked up hard-nosed. It means "realistic and determined; tough-minded." So I'll read that as having a realistic, determined, and tough-minded attitude towards life. G*d damn it, New Jersey. Realistic, really? Get your head stuck high up in those clouds and stop being so rational. And while you're at it, stop being so freaking determined too. Who likes determination anyway? And tough... wait, I have a separate category for that one.


While doing my research into New Jersey, I saw lots of rich Revolutionary History; a lot of battles won and lost and a lot of blood shed on these soils. First of all, gross. Turns out that because of its location between the two major cities of Philly and New York, New Jersey was pivotal in the American Revolution, eventually being named the "Crossroads of the Revolution" and the "Military Capital of the Revolution." Apparently, we bang out a lot of tough people here. I guess tough worked for us then, but maybe, New Jersey, you could tone down your tough guy crap now that it isn't needed.


Speaking of New Jersey's location between those two cities -- Terrible (capital T). Who would want to be nestled between New York City and Philadelphia? Bleh. Awful places full of culture and history and world famous cheesesteaks. And the nearby options when you live in New Jersey are countless: the beach, skiing, mountains, and city life. So many damn options - who needs 'em. Stupid New Jersey.


According to the Science and Engineering Readiness Index, New Jersey ranks the 3rd highest state in Math and Science. What the f... Science and Math? As if those subjects matter these days. According to another dumb report released by EdWeek, New Jersey public education system ranks 3rd, among the best in the nation. Ugh! And, wait - get this - this year, New Jersey ranked second in the "Chance for Success" index and second in the number of students scoring at the advanced level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Then, it ranked third in K-12 achievement and has consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally on the report. Could you believe that garbage? Top 3? What a bunch of dummies.


In the same week, I also read's 2014 Top 10 Safest Cities in America List and would you believe that the #1 spot was my very own, Edison, NJ (and #4 was Woodbridge Twsp., NJ) Safety is so overrated. Feeling comfortable walking around alone at night or letting my kids play outside? Psh, child please. I want a little danger, a little risqué as the French say. We need a little "dancing with the devil in the pale of the moonlight" Joker type risk in our cities. We need a little danger. That's what this 35-year old mom always says. Screw safety. And Batman. And New Jersey with their safe neighborhoods.


The survey also mentioned that people from New Jersey are "unusually likely - compared to Americans in the rest of the country - to say that they enjoying going out drinking in bars." I think I'm missing something here... is this a downside?


I'd say it's obvious why New Jersey is the most hated state. Solid history, nice parks, great location, small but tough, educated, and we could throw down with the best of them at America's oldest brewery. Like that really good looking cousin that's creative, smart, and sassy to the bone who is attending Yale on a full ride because she chose not to go to Harvard on a full scholarship, sure, there is a lot to hate but that's really about you and not about her. And just like that cousin, make no mistake, Jersey is family too and only people related could tease her and get away with it. Don't say you weren't warned.


Follow Jennifer Legra at Drinking the Whole Bottle or on Facebook.

Photo Credits:
Wavian - Tough
Nik Cubrilovic - New Jersey for Dummies (adapted by DTWB)

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Top 10 Reasons Why Women Love Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Thu, 2015-08-06 15:45

This year marks the 50th anniversaries of Medicare and Medicaid and the 80th anniversary of Social Security. Fifty-seven percent of people on Medicare, 70 percent of adults on Medicaid and 56 percent of Social Security recipients (66 percent of those over 85) are women. Together, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid provide critical health and financial security.

Here are my top 10 reasons why I love them -- and why I am committed to protecting and expanding them for my granddaughters (and grandsons).

#1: Financial security in retirement. Women live longer than men and need Social Security's guaranteed, lifetime and inflation-adjusted benefits. Two-thirds of women rely on Social Security for more than half of their income and one third of women rely on it as their ONLY source of income.

#2: Getting a healthy start in life. Medicaid pays for almost half of all births and provides mothers with access to pregnancy-related and postpartum care services.

#3: Lifting millions of women out of poverty. Social Security lifts nearly nine million women above the poverty line. Without it, nearly half of women 65 and older would be living in poverty.

#4: Affordable access to preventive services. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid (and private insurance) provide women with access to a full range of preventive services -- like cancer and diabetes screenings -- without cost-sharing.

#5: Providing access to family planning. Medicaid is the largest source of family planning care, allowing women to make decisions that protect their health and their family's well-being.

#6: Helping women navigate chronic health problems. Forty-nine percent of women 65 and older, live with three or more chronic conditions, compared to 38 percent of men. Medicare and Medicaid provide help in managing multiple physical and behavioral health problems.

#7: Financial support for disabled women. 4.4 million women receive Social Security disability benefits. Fifty-eight percent of them relied on their earned benefits for 75 percent or more of their personal income.

#8: Access to long-term care services and supports. Medicaid is the largest purchaser of long-term care services. Women receive 66 percent of home health care services and are 70 percent of the nursing home population.

#9: Access to prescription drugs. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicaid provide critical access to medications to manage and improve health. The Affordable Care Act is lowering Medicare costs -- saving more than two million women in Part D plans over $1 billion in one year alone.

#10: Reducing disparities. As my colleague Rep. Robin Kelly (the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust) has written, "From the desegregation of health delivery centers to the improvement of overall health outcomes, Medicare and Medicaid have been critical in reducing health disparities in the African-American community." (Roll Call, Aug 4, 2015, Medicare and Medicaid: Achieving Health Equity in America.)

So now that you've seen my top 10 list, I invite you to share a list of your own.

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Rauner on Property Tax Freeze Bill: Illinois Should Not Be 'Dictatorship From Chicago'

Thu, 2015-08-06 13:40

Gov. Bruce Rauner says a property tax freeze passed by the Illinois Senate this week is more evidence of Illinois being run as a "dictatorship from Chicago" by House Speaker Michael Madigan and his Democratic allies in the city.

The bill freezes property taxes for two years, proposes a change to the state's school funding formula and provides $200 million in teacher pension relief to Chicago. The Chicago Public Schools pension provision is intended to make up for Chicago taxpayers essentially being double-billed for teacher pensions: They finance Chicago teacher pensions and part of their state income tax subsidizes teacher pensions in suburban and downstate school districts.

But the bill doesn't allow local governments throughout the state to restrict the terms of collective bargaining, as Rauner has proposed.

"The bill ... (is) missing key elements that are absolutely critical in our view to deal with property taxes and that is getting local control ... of costs. Whether it's bidding, contracting, what gets bargained, what doesn't. That should be controlled locally. That shouldn't be mandated by Springfield," Rauner said in a press conference at the Capitol. "If we don't include that in our legislation and we freeze property taxes for two years... as soon as the two years are up, they're going to pop up and frankly accelerate in a lot of communities beyond what they otherwise would have. It's not a true fix to the problem. It's a small step in the fix but the real fix is get local control of costs."

That the bill contains pension relief for Chicago Public Schools but no provisions for school districts statewide indicates a bigger problem, Rauner said.

"Illinois should not be a dictatorship from Chicago. And so here's the point. Speaker Madigan could, if he wanted to hike taxes, he could. He's not been willing to do that but he's also not been willing to deal with reforms," Rauner said. "The only time he wants reform is if it's a special request from Chicago, Democrats in Chicago. That's not the right way to deal with this."

You can read what else Rauner had to say and see Madigan's response at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Senate Democrats pass property tax freeze; GOP says it's not enough

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Nuclear Disarmament: If Not Now, When?

Thu, 2015-08-06 12:46
Oh plaintive cry for justice, for change, for the world we must create, welling up from a tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean. I can only pray: Let there be an authority large enough to hear it.

My first reaction, upon learning that the Republic of the Marshall Islands -- former U.S. territory, still ravaged and radioactive, the site of 67 H-bomb tests between 1946 and 1958 -- has filed lawsuits against the nine nations that possess nuclear weapons demanding that they eliminate their arsenals, as per the provisions of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, was cringing disbelief. Are they serious? I couldn't imagine an action more futile.

But the disbelief was mixed with hope, and the hope remains vibrant as the world marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the launching of the geopolitics of M.A.D. Could hope possibly be more painful?

The anti-nuke lawsuits were filed in April 2014, in both U.S. Federal Court and the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Big surprise. The U.S. suit was dismissed some months ago as "speculative" and because the Marshall Islands "lacks standing" to bring the suit.

Yeah, upstart nation of no international significance. All it did is serve as an expendable swath of atolls in the middle of nowhere, a site ideal to absorb multiple megatons of nuclear testing over a dozen years. The islands' inhabitants were, in the arrogant, racist parlance of the time, simple "savages" whose culture, whose very lives, had far less value than the technological advancements the testing yielded. Cancer, birth defects and other consequences of radiation are the lasting result, but who cares? Three decades ago, the U.S. settled its genocidal debt to the islanders with a payment of $150 million "for all claims, past, present and future." This pittance -- this nuisance settlement -- is, of course, long gone. Too bad.

"What many Americans seem to want to forget," wrote scholar Sandra Crismon, as quoted recently by Robert Alvarez in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "is that for the Marshallese, nuclear testing is not a historical event, as they continue to deal with the huge environmental and human health costs."

But their lawsuits in the two courts, with a decision still pending from the ICJ, isn't seeking additional compensation. The suits merely seek to hold the nuclear-armed nations accountable to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls for the dismantling of all nuclear weapons. How did that small provision get overlooked? Five of these nations -- the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China -- are signatories to the agreement. The other four -- Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea -- though they've snubbed the treaty, are nonetheless accountable to international law, the lawsuit maintains.

If nothing else, the tiny island nation is standing eyeball to eyeball with superpower arrogance and crippled morality.

As Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote last week in The Guardian: "One of the many ironies of history is that non-nuclear-weapon states, like Iran, have actually done far more for the cause of non-proliferation in practice than nuclear-weapon states have done on paper. Iran and other nuclear have-nots have genuinely 'walked the walk' in seeking to consolidate the non-proliferation regime. Meanwhile, states actually possessing these destructive weapons have hardly even 'talked the talk,' while completely brushing off their disarmament obligations under the non-proliferation treaty."

History's conquerors will not be the ones who free humanity from its suicidal vise. This is the paradox. The transition we have to make must emerge beyond the institutions that have trapped us.

Nuclear weaponry is the outcome of 10,000 years of human experimentation outside the circle of life. The institutions we've built, the logic we've adhered to, lead us nowhere, except to more of the same. Desperate as we are to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we devote billions of dollars annually to upgrading our own. There are still nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, some 1,800 on Cold War-era hair-trigger alert. We've been on the brink of self-annihilation for 70 years. What sanity can we access to save ourselves?

"Everything turned red -- the ocean, the fish, the sky and my grandfather's net. And we were 200 miles away from ground zero. A memory that can never be erased."

These are the words of Tony DeBrum, minister of foreign affairs for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who, Alvarez tells us in his Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists essay, addressed the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. DeBrum was 9 years old, out fishing with his grandfather, on March 1, 1954, when the Castle Bravo blast -- all 15 megatons of it, the largest U.S. nuclear test ever -- was detonated on Bikini Atoll. To its innocent witnesses, it must have foretold the end of the world.

The Marshall Islands lawsuits ask: If not us, who? If not now, when? These are the questions asked by those who have no choice. That means all of us should be asking them.


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


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One Thing You Can Do Right Now to End Childhood Hunger In Chicago

Thu, 2015-08-06 11:54
643,000 children in Illinois are food insecure according to Bob Dolgan of Illinois No Kid Hungry. The Greater Chicago Food Depository provided 67 millions pounds of food in response to this need in Chicago last year. You have a chance right now in 2 minutes to make a difference in childhood hunger in Chicago and that is by calling, tweeting, emailing or going directly to this link to contact your Senator and ask them to co-sponsor the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act that was introduced into the Senate August 5.

The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act modernizes summer meal programs so that all of that red tape you may have heard so much about - antiquated rules around summer feeding sites, not permitting mobile food delivery, etc - gets removed in one fell swoop. This bill has been Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry's greatest wish. The fact it has bi-partisan support is proof this issue is critical for all Americans. In the classic economics tradeoff guns versus butter, this legislation is one way for you to put your vote on better food as an answer to violence in stressed neighborhoods in Chicago rather than letting guns win.

On Wednesday, August 5, Sens. John Boozman (R, AR), Mitch McConnell (R, KY), Michael Bennet (D, CO), Sherrod Brown (D, OH) Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Mark Kirk (R, IL) introduced the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act, a bill which could end hunger for millions of children during the summer months.

This is a critical moment. This legislation is a momentous step forward in their work to end childhood hunger. With these improvements, as many as 6.5 million more children could have the opportunity to get the food they need during the summer months. Share Our Strength has been leading the charge in advocating for critical changes to the summer meals program, which they believe are fundamental to ending childhood hunger in America faster and on a larger scale than ever before. It is urgent that you act now to build support in the Senate for this legislation; hungry children cannot afford to wait five more years until the next reauthorization to get a summer meal.

In a nutshell, the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act would give states more options to reach hungry kids, especially in hard-to-reach regions, like rural areas or communities currently ineligible to host summer sites. Proven options like meal delivery or a monthly grocery credit would allow states to reach more children effectively and efficiently with the food they need during the summer months. This bill does this while protecting and maintaining the work the No Kid Hungry campaign has done to increase the number of summer meal sites across the country. (Here is a look at specific policies within the bill.)

Success is close, but in order for this to become part of the law this September, it must have strong support in the Senate. The time to act is now. Please contact your Senators today to ask them to cosponsor this legislation. Sometimes the smallest of things make the biggest difference, clinking on these links to support this legislation is one of them.

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Sober Tents Provide A Festival Oasis For Music Lovers In Recovery

Thu, 2015-08-06 10:39

For many music fans, summer festivals are a beloved annual tradition to take in live sets from some of their favorite bands under the stars while surrounded by friends.

And for some fans, their festival experience isn’t complete without knocking back a beer or two or, in more illicit cases, using other substances.

The fact that many festivalgoers drink and do drugs makes attending such gatherings especially difficult -- if not impossible -- for music fans who are struggling with addiction or are in recovery and fear they could be triggered into using again.

Patrick Whelan, an account executive living in Kentucky, was one of those fans who assumed that his days of attending music festivals were done when he stopped drinking and using drugs in 1997. 

“I really thought my ability to go out and see music, amongst other things, was over,” Whelan told The Huffington Post in a phone interview.

But before long, Whelan realized he wasn’t alone. After he met fans in recovery who were tabling and holding meetings at a The Other Ones concert to provide support to other sober music fans, he was inspired to create similar spaces at other events.

He helped create “Soberoo,” a makeshift annual gathering at the original Bonnaroo festival, in 2002, which grew to the point where, in 2008, the festival asked him to jump on a conference call “to define what it was we were doing.”

Whelan thought their gathering was being shut down but, instead, Bonnaroo organizers asked how they could help.

Whelan has since helped recruit and deploy volunteers who staff tents at music festivals around the country. Over the years, they’ve added more festivals and have actually reached the point where more promoters are requesting their presence at events than they can actually handle.

“This really sprang from a group of music lovers who thought their life would be over without using,” Wheland explained. “We’re just filling the gap where no service was provided before. These festivals are creating a small city for the weekend and in that population there’s a group of people who would need our support. Some of these festival promoters have said they can’t believe they didn’t think of this first.”

The group will have participated in 15 festivals by year’s end, most recently at Lollapalooza in Chicago and continuing with Outside Lands in San Francisco this weekend.  They’ll also be at Nocturnal Wonderland in San Bernardino, California, come Labor Day.

At each festival, the group adjusts the name of their initiative to match the theme or feel of the event, so in Chicago, it was “SoberSide” -- a nod to the nomenclature used to divide the city's districts (e.g. South Side, West Side, Near North Side). At Outside Lands, the tent will be identified as “Sober Lands.”

At Lollapalooza, the SoberSide tent’s layout was straightforward -- a table covered with candy, festival schedules and stickers touting various sobriety-themed messages. The tent also offered water and shade and played host to meetings three times a day during which sober festivalgoers could find the support of others like them. 

Their mission at Lolla and the other festivals is similarly straightforward. The group is not associated with any 12-step programs or larger sobriety and solely provides support “for anyone trying to stay clean and sober” over the weekend in Chicago, volunteer Danielle Vence said. It is not, she added, to pass judgment on those who are not practicing sobriety as a part of their festival experience. 

“I don’t condemn anyone who drinks and I don’t shoo them away,” Vence said. “Drinkers will come by and ask, ‘What is this?’ and I’ll answer their questions because you never know what that exposure is going to lead to. A lot of people come by and say things like, ‘I’m so glad you’re here, my son was going to come but he was nervous because he’s in his first year of not using or drinking.’”

People who stop by tents like SoberSide fall into many categories -- maybe a designated driver or someone who’s chosen not to drink until they turn 21 or even someone with a loved one in recovery. Though attendance was low at the meetings the group facilitated -- this year marked only their second time at Lollapalooza, so awareness of their presence is still an issue -- they are just as helpful to guests as the volunteers running them, Vence said. 

Festival promoters have been hugely supportive of the group. The tent space for SoberSide and the group’s other tents are donated by the festival promoters, who also provide social media and promotional assistance and help them secure prime, visible real estate on their grounds, Sean Brickell, another volunteer manning the Lollapalooza tent, noted. Promoters also provide free entry for the volunteers.

“You might think their attitude would be if we have this, then we’re admitting there’s a problem,” Brickell said, “but instead they embraced it.”

The group relies on donations to cover costs including insurance and the cost of the candy and water they provide and volunteers also cover their own transportation and lodging.

That may change if the group is able to secure additional funding going forward. They are also looking to have a presence at even more festivals, including those that take place over multiple weekends and concurrent events in different cities.

In the meantime, Whelan sees “no end in sight” for the group’s efforts. It is experiences like a festivalgoer seeking them out after seeing the tent the previous year and making the decision, then, to change their lives that make all the work feel worthwhile.

“I never imagined that what we’re doing would have that kind of impact on someone’s life,” Whelan said, “that when the festival was over they maintained their dedication to making a change in their life and 365 days later they come seek us out and tell us what we did inspired them to get sober.”

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7 Things You Didn't Know About Jon Stewart

Thu, 2015-08-06 10:08

With his exit from late-night TV, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart will surely leave a void in the comedy-sphere. Many would rather he not leave, but we've put our trust with him for so many years: If he believes it's his time to go, then we should trust him on that as well.

Author Lisa Rogak's incredibly in-depth biography on Stewart, Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart, reveals a plethora of information that few would know about the comedian. Stewart is not a very public guy. According to those who worked alongside him, despite his charming onscreen persona, he doesn't tend to open up to coworkers easily. He's a tough nut to crack.

But here are a few things about Jon Stewart that you likely didn't know. 


Angry Optimist is out now in hardcover and paperback through St. Martin's Press.


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27 Stunning Lakeside Campsites

Wed, 2015-08-05 17:07

Photo by Matthew Hosford, Explorer for The Outbound

There's something special about waking up at sunrise to a glassy mountain lake outside your tent. If you're ready to make this a reality, check out this list of lakeside campsites and start planning your next adventure.

1. Mono Lake
California | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Gregg Boydston

2. Lake McDonald
Montana | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Seth Langbauer

3. Spade and Venus Lakes
Washington | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Jason Zabriskie

4. The Great Salt Lake
Utah | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Prajit Ravindran

5. Russel Lake
Oregon | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Erik Sanders

6. Lake Lovely Water
Whistler | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Matthew Hosford

7. Bear Lake
Minnesota | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Spud Groshong

8. Sawtooth Lake
Idaho | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Dusty Klein

9. Granite Springs Reservoir
Wyoming | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Whitney James

10. Cracker Lake
Montana | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Dustin Wong

11. Lower Crystal Lake
Colorado | Hike In or Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Ryan McKinney

12. Tank Lakes
Washington | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Mitch Pittman

13. Todd Lake
Oregon | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Talia Touboul

14. Mirror Lake
Oregon | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Roark Nelson

15. Arnica Lake
British Columbia | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Jake Harris

16. Red Pine Lake
Utah | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Sam Watson

17. Thomas Lake
Colorado | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Mike Fennell

18. Crane Prairie Reservoir
Oregon | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: TJ Orton

19. Silver Lake
Utah | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Michael Johnston

20. Sparks Lake
Oregon | Boat Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Whitney Whitehouse

21. Ibantik Lake
Utah | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Colton Marsala

22. Heart Lake
Colorado | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Whitney James

23. Ice Lake
Wyoming | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Trent Sizemore

24. Red Castle Lake
Utah | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Sam Watson

25. Jackson Lake
Wyoming | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: Ryan McKinney

26. Alice Lake
Idaho | Backpacking | Learn more.

Photo: Dusty Klein

27. East Lake
Oregon | Car Camping | Learn more.

Photo: TJ Orton

Don't see your favorite lakeside camping spot? Show us by creating an adventure.

Discover all of the amazing outdoor adventures near you on The Outbound.

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As Nabisco Ships 600 Jobs out of Chicago to Mexico, Maybe It's Time to Give up Oreos

Wed, 2015-08-05 16:18

(janetandphil / Flickr)


I may have to give up one of my longest-standing indulgences: the dunking of an Oreo cookie in cold milk (whole is preferred). I don't do this lightly, as I have been dunking those deliciously wicked rounds of chocolate and what I choose to believe is cream since I've been three.

Why give them up? Because this week, Irene Rosenfeld, the head of Mondelēz International (the food conglomerate based in Illinois that has Nabisco in its portfolio), a woman touted for breaking the glass ceiling upon becoming the head of Kraft Foods and then its spin off, announced that rather than invest $130 million in modernizing the plant in Chicago, where Oreos have been lovingly produced for the past 100 years, she will instead move the jobs to a new factory in Mexico. The result: a loss of 600 well-paying and community-sustaining jobs on Chicago's Southwest Side.

Is giving up Oreos a foolish and futile gesture? Of course, I know that other Chicago-born companies have made similar moves. I, like many Chicagoans, felt a loss when Frango Mints were no longer hand made on the top floor of Marshall Field's -- and felt worse when Marshall Field's ceased to exist at all. I was saddened when Klaus Suchard chose to take Brach candy production from Chicago, and in so doing ended Chicago's title as candy capital of the world. I even regretted the loss of the city's steel mills and stockyards, despite the cleaner air that their exodus brought.

But this seems different. Perhaps it was reading the May stories of Rosenfeld's report to shareholders in which she touted the upward trajectory of the company's profits through cutting back on procurement and customer service and her plans to make it even more profitable by a restructuring that would realize a gain of $1.5 billion for stockholders.

It might have been reading the very next day that Rosenfeld was now being feted as the first woman to join the "20 Club," those Illinois CEOS who are paid more than $20 million a year. Rosenfeld was paid $21 million in 2014 alone.

Or perhaps, in a city beset by financial woes, it was contemplating the impact of 600 more unemployed people, who had, only weeks ago, represented a well-paid diverse workforce of Latinos, African Americans and whites whose skills and union had earned them a sustainable salary of as much as $26 an hour.

Or perhaps, after another weekend of shootings and deaths, it was thinking about the young people who we tell that in staying in school, staying out of trouble and following the rules there is a clear path to opportunity in our city -- at the moment that 600 such opportunities in the city evaporated.

Certainly Rosenfeld's move is legal (although whether it should be is another question). But I can find no sense in which it is moral, just or defensible.

Rosenfeld and company may say that the move is justified, the reasonable actions of a company to improve their bottom line; that they owe their workers, the city and the nation nothing. But I would disagree. As Warren Buffet and a few other enlightened CEOs often point out, no American company succeeds on its own or without public benefit. Companies benefit from their hiring of workers made literate and trained by a public education system that, with all its foibles, is pervasive and accessible. Corporate trucks enjoy the benefits of publicly financed roads and bridges, maintained at the public's expense, not theirs. Their commerce itself benefits from government agreements that ensure the rule of law and protect them in a manner that those of few other countries do. And of course the wealth of the company is due to the skill and work of the workers -- who turn, in this case, the flour and sugar into the delectable treats that are now enjoyed worldwide.

There's nothing new or even unusual about Irene Rosenfeld and the story of Nabisco and its Oreo cookies. But perhaps its very pervasiveness in our lives is just the thing to wake up the nation to the downward spiral we find ourselves in -- a veritable race to the bottom, with a thin layer of the very rich, a hollowing out of the middle, and a growing underclass -- relegated to selling merchandize produced for pennies on the dollar in other countries.

A friend to whom I spoke about Mondelēz counseled that to mention Rosenfeld's salary is a distraction. But it seems somehow wrong that we praise and reward a CEO for eliminating American jobs or for being paid an amount in one year that would take any worker in her plant 500 years to earn. Come to think of it, if Rosenfeld could learn to live on $2 million a year, that $19 million could be used to save 600 jobs, and the company's bottom line would still be the same.

The same friend, who long has worked in finance said to me, in a manner most reminiscent of the famous quote from The Godfather, "It's just business" But it's a business where choices are made. Unlike other nations, our laws today do nothing to discourage offshoring, nor do they create any penalties when companies leave cities and towns holding the bag, left responsible for cleaning the contaminated sites and providing assistance to those left behind.

We look at cities like Detroit or Gary and say, in language that only slightly masks its racism, that their sorry financial state is of their own making, and that we are better and smarter than they. But are we? The African-American residents of those cities didn't create the problems they face. Rather, it was the exodus of auto from Detroit (140,000 jobs lost between 1950 and 1960) that created the first and lasting economic crisis that city faced and faces. So, too it was not the population of Gary that caused its demise but the decision of steel to lower its costs, take the profits gleaned from decades of workers' production, invest it in foreign lands and leave its workforce behind. Rather than exceptions, we'd be better off understanding them as harbingers of our future--the veritable canaries in the mine whose warnings should be heeded.

The last 20 years--from the changes in tax laws of Bill Clinton's regime through the terrible and costly years of George W. Bush--have favored massive increases in corporate profits with American workers and taxpayers paying the bills and the price. It need not be this way. It was and is not divinely ordained. These are the decisions of humans and other choices can be made.

For me? Just as I don't shop at Wal-Mart where guns are sold next to the cereal, I won't be eating Oreos. A small and ineffectual gesture, perhaps, but one that will give me some satisfaction while I wait and work for a government that takes a stand.

To tell Oreo you're boycotting their cookies, join my petition.

Marilyn Katz is a writer, consultant and long-time political activist. She is president of MK Communications, a partner in Democracy Partners and a founder and co-chair of the newly formed Chicago Women Take Action.

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Maybe it's time to let John Cullerton lead the way on pension reform

Wed, 2015-08-05 15:27
I'll admit it: Two years ago, I was an ardent supporter of Senate Bill 1, a sweeping pension reform proposal that would save the state more than $150 billion in pension costs over 30 years.

It raised retirement ages and re-worked the annual cost-of-living-adjustments retirees received. The annually compounded 3 percent raises that accelerated the state's pension debt would be gone, replaced by a formula that actually took the cost of living into account.

It shored up the retirement systems so those contributing to them could count on them to provide security in retirement.

Most of all, it stopped the rapid consumption of the state budget by pension obligations, which threatened to hit 30 percent or more if not contained. Like other supporters, I thought the threat to school funding and other essential government functions constituted an emergency. And besides, even after the reforms of SB 1, public employees were getting a better deal in retirement than most private-sector workers.

In theory, it was Illinois government's rescue. I loved the theory.

You can read the rest of this editorial at Reboot Illinois.

And Senate Democrats on Tuesday passed legislation that would freeze property taxes, rework the state's school funding formula and implement funding changes to the Chicago Teachers Retirement Fund. See the key components of Senate Bill 318 here.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois social service agencies cutting, using up cash without state aid

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Chicago Police Detained Thousands Of Black Americans At Interrogation Facility

Wed, 2015-08-05 12:24

At least 3,500 Americans have been detained inside a Chicago police warehouse described by some of its arrestees as a secretive interrogation facility, newly uncovered records reveal.

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6 Ways This New Site Makes Following Illinois Campaign Finances

Wed, 2015-08-05 11:12
There is a brand new website that lets you track and find the money used in Illinois politics and government.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform revealed its automated, new, Illinois Sunshine campaign finance website that provides information on all major campaign donations and spending, including those of Super PACs and other types of campaign groups.

Susan Garrett, chair of the board of the non-profit Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, called the new site cutting-edge, innovative and ahead of other, more nationally focused campaign finance sites.

What makes the new campaign spending website better? Why should you care? Here are 6 out of 10 reasons:

  • Campaign data, shared directly from the Illinois State Board of Elections website, now will be updated daily each morning.

  • The site collects, tallies and shares complete campaign data from 1994, when the state elections board first began digitizing data, to the present.

  • As campaigns, candidates and committees update reports -- often at the last minute -- new contributions and spending will be added to old reports to present a full and complete picture of donations and spending.

  • The site features several charts and infographics  that give citizens a look at things like spending levels in all Illinois campaigns over time, top earners in the last 30 days, committees with the highest current amounts, and more.

  • The site features a simple search box and explanations for the different types of filings and schedules as well as types of candidates, campaigns, independent and non-independent expenditures committees and more t0 aid to citizens who might not immerse themselves in the world of campaign finance all the time.

  • Each campaign or committee has its own full page with simple facts about contributions, spending, major donors and more.

To see four more reasons why the campaign finance website makes following money better for you, including more information about Illinois Sunshine, check out Reboot Illinois or click the image below.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: Madigan's property tax law work raises ethical flags

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Eddie Lacy Doesn't Think About His Team's NFC Championship Loss To Seattle

Wed, 2015-08-05 10:09

Since the Green Bay Packers selected Eddie Lacy 61st overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, all the running back has done is earn second-team All-Pro honors while amassing over 2,300 yards rushing and 24 total touchdowns. No big deal.

The 25-year-old caught up with The Huffington Post to exclusively discuss his "Gatorade Beat the Heat" lumberjack experience, plus why he doesn't watch football and why the NFC Championship loss to Seattle remains firmly off his radar.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What was harder for you than what you anticipated in the lumberjack experience you participated in recently?

Climbing the pole -- or should I say trying to climb the pole. To watch them do it, they get up and down in about 14, 15 seconds. And then it was my turn, and I try it and it’s taking me about 30 minutes to get 20 feet. It was definitely difficult. It takes a lot of upper body and lower body strength, and it’s tough. Those guys have been doing it for a long time so they make it look easy, but for the first time it was definitely difficult for me.

Lumberjacking is definitely total body work. Speed, power, agility, balance -- it’s everything at the same time simultaneously. Football is maybe something for your lower body or your upper body, like if you’re a quarterback you need balance and you’re just dropping back and throwing the ball. If you’re running the ball, it’s more lower body to take the hits and bounce off of the hits. It’s not everything at the exact same time like it is when you’re lumberjacking.

What did you do this offseason and what are you doing now to get to another level for you as a running back?

Well I was down in Atlanta training, doing a lot of lower body work, because as a running back your legs are your job -- it’s what you do. So I took a lot of time doing leg workouts, resistance bands.

They’re already strong, though, so are you trying to get faster? Or are you trying to bounce off more tackles? Because it seems like you’re doing both of those already.

It’s really about maintaining. You can always get better, but you don’t want to stay the same. Even if you’re doing just a little bit, you’re going to progress. That’s what it’s always about: I’m trying to maintain and progress.

With that in mind, do you remember that game in Green Bay against Detroit, where it seemed like you dragged about 100 guys? Are you seeing those guys? How much of that is just natural ability or vision? It’s just a crazy run.

It’s definitely vision. It’s being on the same page with your offensive linemen, your fullback and tight ends that are blocking for you. Then after that, after you get past the initial steps, it’s pretty much just all you. Me, personally, I just see colors. So once I was able to get past the linebackers and it was just a safety out there, and then he tried to tackle me and a lot of other guys came. It’s just showing toughness and it gets your team into the game.

For a big guy, you do run pretty well, but is it safe to say you’d rather run over somebody than run past them?

That’s kind of a gray area. It definitely depends, and certain things help spark at certain moments of the game. Say, for instance, we’re in a tied game and we have the ball. I'm trying to like get the tempo going and get the crowd into the game, and you run over a defender that gets your whole team hyped. And it takes a lot out of the other team, too. It depends on the scenario.

Great running backs, especially big backs, you hear them talk about guys like you or Marshawn Lynch or Frank Gore, guys who are wearing down defenses late. How much do you savor that?

Definitely. When you get later in games and you’ve been running the ball hard in that first or second quarter, it takes a lot out of those defenders. I mean, after a certain point in time they’re not going to want to tackle you anymore. I mean, they will because it’s their job, but you can tell they really don’t want to do it. So for backs like Marshawn and me and other big backs, once it gets to like the late third, fourth quarter, you can tell this is the time for you to keep going and keep pushing. It’s pretty much a mindset thing.

When you say guys maybe don’t want to tackle you that much, how can you tell?

I was thinking about it in college because my college coach would talk about it a lot but I never understood until I watched Mark [Ingram] and Trent [Richardson] run, but at the beginning of the game, you know, guys will come out and they’ll try to get the big hits, or they’ll hit you and celebrate after. It pretty much goes that way for the first or second quarter, but by the time the game slows down and you lose all that energy, you can tell they’re not the same person at the end of the game that they are in the first quarter.

And that’s when you’re ready to go.

Correct, yeah. I’m ready to go all the time, but definitely in the fourth quarter when I can tell there’s a difference in those players.

From a motivational standpoint, when you go back to last season and you guys being so close, what motivates you from that Seattle game?

Well for me, I have pretty much natural motivation. Somehow players use that Seattle game for motivation for the following season, but for me I just go out every game no matter what or regardless of what happened the year before and just continuing to try to do better. I don’t like to use certain things for motivation because at some point in time it goes away.

When you look at other running backs, is it different now that you’re in the NFL and you’ve established yourself as an elite player? Are you necessarily modeling your game after anybody else? Or when you were a kid were you doing that?

I actually never watched football or anything growing up. I still don’t watch it today. You know, I watch like a game here or there, but as far as like modeling or following a certain player, I’ve never done that. I just play.

When you think about your time with Coach Nick Saban and your Alabama coaches, I’ve heard people say certain things about Alabama, like “when guys come out they’re just so much more ready than anyone else to play in the NFL." Is that fair? Did that happen for you?

Yeah that definitely happened, because going into college that’s pretty much where I learned the game of football. In high school I was just playing with natural ability, and the coaches were like, "He’s good, let’s just run the ball every time." There’s not really too much technique talk or detail, just get the ball and try to get a touchdown. Once I got to college, they taught me those techniques and taught me the details and how stepping a certain way can manipulate a linebacker. You know, just learning the game of football. It’s hard work down there, too. They make you work down there and they teach you football as well as life after football, so you pretty much get the complete package there. That’s why when most guys come out they’re pretty much NFL-ready.

We know running backs -- because of the hits you take -- it’s not a position where guys have really long careers, what can you do to make sure you have as long a career as possible? What are you doing on and off the field?

Training in the weight room. You know, the weight room coaches preach it all the time. You make your career longer by working out. But it’s football, so you never know when that one hit is going to come and everything goes down the drain.

But you don’t think about that right? You don’t think about injuries? You can’t.

No, you can’t. If you play like you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to get hurt. 

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report.

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The 5 Best Beach Camping Spots in America

Wed, 2015-08-05 10:05
By: Andrew Villagomez

Sometimes all you really need for the perfect summer vacation is a little sun, some sand, and a pup tent. Few getaways rival a relaxing beach camping escape: roaring bonfires, gorgeous ocean sunrises (or sunsets), and the soothing sound of waves crashing on the beach while you sleep. All while spending your days chilling in the sun or playing in/on the water. You see what we're saying, right?

The only problem is that so few beaches around the country actually allow camping. Which is why we decided to track down the ones that do, and figure out the best of the group.

More: The Most Beautiful Place in Each State

Credit: Flickr/m01229

Assateague Island
Assateague State Park, MD
Assateague is all about the wild horses, since they roam free on the island; just try not to go all Black Stallion while you're there. Camping's only permitted on the Maryland side of the state park but is available year-round, and there are over 300 campsites (reservations are required from April 15 - October 15).

Little Tybee Island
Accessible only by boat or kayak, Little Tybee Island is twice the size of the more popular and crowded Tybee Island. With rich coastal salt marshes, natural dunes, and subtropical forests, Little Tybee Island is an uninhabited nature reserve and there are NO accommodation fees. So... free private beach anyone?

Credit: Flickr/geminder

Wright's Beach
Sonoma Coast State Park, CA
SCSP offers sandy beaches, rock bluffs, headlands, and a sick sunset over the Pacific to cap off your day. There are 27 campsites available at Wright's Beach and each has its own picnic table and fire ring.

Second Beach Trail
Olympic National Park, WA
Camp along the almost mile-long Second Beach Trail, and you'll get the best of two worlds: coastal forest and the beach. Which means you'll have plenty of chances to spy bald eagles, seals, and even whales during their migration from March/April to October.

Credit: Flickr/mattk1979

Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda Key, FL
With white sand beaches and turquoise waters, this 500-acre park in the Florida Keys is a paradise. And loaded with activities. So whether you want to hike, snorkel, or just read the latest Fifty Shades book while evening out your farmer's tan, you've got plenty of options here.

For 5 more awesome beach camping spots, head over to!

More from Thrillist:

The 14 Best Small Beach Towns in America

The 16 Best Rivers in America For Tubing + Drinking

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The Most Beautiful Ice Cream Shops in the World

Wed, 2015-08-05 09:23
By Lindsey Mather, Architectural Digest.

Thoughtful design makes these ice cream parlors--from New York to Tokyo--all the sweeter

(photo: courtesy of Morgenstern's)

Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream in Manhattan, designed by owner Nicholas Morgenstern, is just 600 square feet, so every detail counts. Clean white Caesarstone counters cover the freezers, the cash register is an original from 1964, and customers can enjoy one of the 40 flavors, from cardamom lemon jam to salted chocolate, at bench seats fitted with school desks. 2 Rivington Street, New York;

(photo: courtesy of Coohaus)

In Culver City, California, the Coolhaus flagship celebrates the company's roots as a food truck. Architecture firm Design, Bitches lined the stainless-steel kiosk in corrugated rubber, just like truck tires, and hung yellow garage lamps from pipes. 8588 West Washington Boulevard, Culver City;

(photo: Eisdieler)

A closer look at the patterned walls of Eisdieler in downtown Linz, Austria, reveals a stylized interpretation of the store's signature black ice cream cones. March Gut Design Studio modified shipping pallets for the shop, creating modular, rearrangeable seating for customers. Promenade 9, Linz;

(photo: Salt & Straw)

For Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw's shop, interiors firm Osmose Design devised a modern-day general store with the help of local creatives, such as designers Pattern People, who created the abstract waffle cone tiles, and sign artist Justin Reide, who crafted lights that resemble antique candies. 3345 SE Division Street, Portland;

(photo: Village Ice Cream)

McKinley Burkart Architects found surprising inspiration for its elegant, no-frills design of Village Ice Cream's latest location in Calgary, Alberta: a classic 1970s road bike. Minimalist painted shiplap pine covers the walls and ceiling, punctuated by a chalkboard menu and mint-green pendants. A cutout in the space--and the smell of fresh waffle cones--invites visitors to see their dessert in the making. 820 49th Avenue SW, Calgary;

See more: The Best Vacation Homes in the World

(photo: Rocambolesc Gelateria)

The fantastical Rocambolesc Gelateria in Girona, Spain, was designed to bring to mind the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Candy-striped pipes, spirals, and lights built by Tarruella Trenchs Studio resemble the mechanics of an enchanted ice cream machine--one that actually helps serve up orders. Carrer de Santa Clara 50, Girona;

(photo: Snow Picnic)

Snow Picnic in Tokyo is more scientist's lab than ice cream shop. At the black counter, gelato is made on the spot with the help of smoking liquid nitrogen. Customers can watch the magic happen from one of three greenery-filled seating areas. 1 Chome-15-12 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo.

(photo: OddFellows Ice Cream)

Many of the quirky elements at OddFellows Ice Cream Co. in Brooklyn--the handiwork of chef Sam Mason and co-owner Mohan Kumar's wife, Holiday--have an all-American story: The vintage schoolhouse lights hail from Virginia, the red stools come from Oregon, and the flag was found in a Florida antiques shop. The same goes for the ice cream, which is made entirely with local dairy and produce. 175 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn;

(photo: Peddler's Creamery)

Peddler's Creamery in Los Angeles serves up ice cream guilt-free--customers and employees peddle on a bike to churn a batch under the glow of a bicycle-chain chandelier. Oonagh Ryan Architects warmed up the mostly concrete store with a multicolor shingled box made of repurposed painted-wood pallets, which conveniently houses the dairy. 458 South Main Street, Los Angeles;

More from Architectural Digest:

The Most Colorful Cities in the World

Inside Jennifer Aniston's Gorgeous Beverly Hills Home

11 of the Best New Hotels Around the World

See the Unreal Architecture of the Remote Russian North

Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady's Incredible L.A. Home

  • Tour Sarah Jessica Parker's Epic East Village Townhouse
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    Music Festivals Get a Bad Rap. Here's Why They Probably Shouldn't

    Wed, 2015-08-05 09:23
    Believe me, I get it -- in many ways, music festivals can be the worst.

    So let's get it out of the way -- yes, a festival setting is not generally the ideal way to experience live music for a number of reasons: a) the natural elements (particularly the heat and storms) can be unforgiving, b) the more casual -- and younger -- fans festivals are catered for tend not to be up on live music etiquette, c) borderline-obscene price markups on food and drinks, d) all the lineups for the big fests have become virtually identical in recent years, (e) there's a reason this Onion headline -- "New Music Festival Just Large Empty Field To Do Drugs In" -- feels uncomfortably accurate and (f) PORTA-POTTIES ALL WEEKEND LONG.

    Still, there's a glass-half-full perspective that should be considered by even the grumpiest of festivalgoers -- one that's probably a big part of why the music festival scene is booming while other parts of the broader industry have stagnated.

    Being a nearly-30-year-old who just survived the throngs of (mostly) teens who took over Chicago's Grant Park for Lollapalooza this weekend -- a festival that completely sold out of three-day passes in under an hour before its lineup was even announced -- I have six reasons why festivals like Lolla aren't the hell-pit they are sometimes cracked up to be.

    A music fest like Lollapalooza is an experience, not a thing -- and is probably a better use of money for that reason.

    Science has spoken pretty loudly and clearly on this: Spending money on experiences rather than on material objects tends to make you feel happier and more satisfied. Yes, the price of admission for a festival can be steep -- in the case of Lolla, a three-day general-admission pass cost $275 and one-day passes went for $110 apiece.

    But the experiences of watching 73-year-old Paul McCartney tear through Beatles and Wings classics like a 23-year-old and witnessing an emerging act like rapper Zebra Katz put a small crowd under his intense, intoxicating spell will cause more satisfaction over time than the pricey gadget or clothing that money could have been spent on. Those are the sorts of memories a music lover will hold onto for many years to come, and you're far less likely to have buyers' remorse unless you try something dumb -- like taking off your shorts and rushing the stage -- and end up arrested and/or escorted off the grounds.

    With 100,000 ticketholders on the grounds at Lolla each day, that's a lot of net happiness.

    Paul McCartney and Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard perform at Lollapalooza.

    The cliche holds: variety is truly the spice of life.

    Of course, the biggest thing a giant music festival has to offer for music fans is the sheer amount of music they can take in within a relatively short period of time, all in the same place. This allows plenty of time not only to take in favorite acts, but also to discover new ones. In my case, a set from Texas guitarist and singer Gary Clark Jr. turned me onto his effervescent blues stylings and I was instantly hooked, though I was not familiar with him prior to the weekend. In addition, sets from buzz acts like VERITE and BROODS introduced me to the artists' broader catalogs, proving that they had impressive work beyond the two or three songs I'd already heard.

    It's good bang for your buck, especially on smaller side stages where one can get closer to the action, or in the even smaller "fan experience" settings sponsored by brands like Toyota or FYE, who hosted intimate concerts and autograph-signing sessions featuring artists playing the fest, respectively. In my case, an Airbnb-hosted private concert headlined by synthpop duo MS MR playing a contest-winning Airbnb's living room on the Wednesday night preceding the fest provided the perfect kickoff for a music-packed weekend.

    If you keep your eyes and ears open, opportunities to see favorite and soon-to-be-favorite artists in a smaller setting are many when a festival's in town and many of them happen outside the fest grounds.

    MS MR play a special in-home set at an Airbnb-sponsored pre-Lollapalooza party in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.

    Being outdoors makes for some unbeatable backdrops.

    Of course a music festival's outdoor setting needs certain preparations are essential -- sunscreen should be required and a hat is extremely helpful, and you probably won't regret throwing a poncho in your festival bag. But with Lollapalooza's setting in Chicago's beautiful Grant Park came the opportunity to re-connect with the city's show-stopping skyline, gorgeously ornate Buckingham Fountain, loads of very old trees that provide much-needed shade for a mid-afternoon music break and some stunning flower beds, as well. Other festival settings provide similarly breathtaking views.

    So long as you avoid mud pits -- unless that's your thing -- it all serves as a picturesque backdrop to live music. Even when the weather gets dramatic, as it did on Sunday at Lollapalooza, forcing a one-hour evacuation of the park and an early close to the festival, the lightning storm during Florence and the Machine's headlining set made the experience feel even more epic, important and memorable. Heck, even if you end up a little wet, you'll probably have a great story to tell.

    A photo posted by @jerbentraut on Aug 2, 2015 at 5:32pm PDT

    Though a lack of phone service -- and a dying battery -- can be annoying, there's a plus side to that, too.

    Let's face it, we all spend too much time staring at screens, whether it be on a laptop, phone or television, and it's not good for any of us, especially youngsters. So, when large crowds at a music festival mean your phone becomes about as helpful for communicating with the outside world as a rock, it forces you to be present in your current, off-the-grid-ish experience, taking in live music.

    Sure, you might lose your friend Susie for a while. But what has Susie ever done for you, anyway? Agree ahead of time on a just-in-case meeting point and enjoy some music, a beer or an ice cream cone without her, rather than spending an hour hunting her down and screaming her name.

    At Lollapalooza, I knew my phone could only be relied upon in limited doses, so I spent the bulk of the day actually watching bands instead of posting selfies to Instagram, focusing on special moments like A$AP Rocky being joined by Chicago's own Vic Mensa to join him for part of his entertaining set, R&B singer BANKS' spell-binding and emotional set and Delta Spirit bringing on T. Hardy Morris for an incredible Beatles cover, "Don't Let Me Down."

    A$AP Rocky performs at Lollapalooza in Chicago.

    All that standing and walking means lots of exercise, which means lots of endorphins. These are good things.

    Going to a festival as massive as Lollapalooza is basically the same as working out, right? It at least feels that way as the festival grounds are nearly a mile long from one end to the other, so my attempts to see back-to-back sets on opposite ends of the park, going from U.K. pop princess Charli XCX to Toro Y Moi meant I was definitely getting my blood pumping.

    As worn out as I felt by the end of the three-day weekend, despite drinking plenty of water and taking as many sitting breaks as possible, I knew I had earned the slice of deep-dish pizza I capped off the weekend with for Sunday night's dinner. (Now, how festivals could really make some extra bank with an old crowd would be masseuse services, especially by the end of a multi-day affair, but maybe this is just my #oldpersondoeslolla hashtag kicking in.)

    The New Zealand brother-sister duo of BROODS performs at Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago.

    Of course, there are caveats.

    All of that said, if you don't love crowds, well, there's not much a music festival can do to address that. But, thankfully, most fests -- including Lolla -- offer live web streams of the action so, in that case, it might make sense to take it all in from the couch and wait to see your favorite band the next time they come to town and play a smaller venue.

    And if you're the sort of person who just can't roll with the unexpected or deal with an occasional weather evacuation, well, there's not much to be done about that either.

    But if you do go to the next Coachella, Bonnaroo or Lolla, go in with an open mind and you'll probably be just fine. Oh, and bring your own hand sanitizer -- just in case.

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    Illinois' School System Is among Top 10 in the Nation

    Wed, 2015-08-05 01:00
    New study shows that Illinois schools systems rank among the nation's best
    According to a new WalletHub study, the list of the top 10 states with the best public school systems includes Illinois.

    WalletHub used 13 criteria including math and reading test scores, student-teacher ratio, dropout rates and the rate of bullying incidents to rank which states have the top school systems.

    According to the findings, Illinois ranks 10th overall, eighth for school system quality and 32nd for school safety. School system quality and safety are combined for an overall rank.

    The study looks at which states spend the most and least on education, and then compares the level of spending to a state's overall ranking.

    *click to view the interactive chart

    The study cites an Economic Policy Institute report that found income is higher in states with a well-educated workforce, which leads to increased productivity and a stronger economy as workers are able to "contribute more taxes to beef up state budgets over the long run."

    To see the overall ranks of the top 10 school systems as well as a full WalletHub data report and methodology behind this study, check out Reboot Illinois.

    Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

    NEXT ARTICLE: How much of the Illinois State Lottery's total revenue goes to education funding?

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    Here Are All The Amazing Careers Launched By 'The Daily Show' In One Video

    Tue, 2015-08-04 14:31


    It's almost tough to comprehend all the talent that has made its way through the halls of "The Daily Show." 

    Lucky for you, the good folks at Digg have assembled a video of all the now famous personalities to come out of the show, from their first appearances ever to present gigs.

    So, you see? It'll be okay to say goodbye to "Daily Show"-mode Jon Stewart later this week. This isn't the last we'll see of him. 


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    How a Property Tax Freeze and Change to School Funding Could Break the Springfield Stalemate

    Tue, 2015-08-04 13:29
    A few weeks back, three Democratic senators talked to reporters in Springfield about a concept that would both freeze property taxes in Illinois for a few years and sunset the state's school funding formula in a few years.

    It's a coupling that Illinois Senate President John Cullerton had been promoting earlier and continues to push as the start to some sort of solution to the current stalemate between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic super majorities in the Senate and House.

    The ideas haven't attracted all that much attention, but they could be a means of tackling two thorny challenges that touch just about every Illinois resident.

    State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, was one of the Democrats promoting the idea, along with state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, and state Sen. Andy Manar, a downstate Bunker Hill Democrat. The three of them represent the three regions of the state often at odds with each other.

    Rauner made a property tax freeze one of the centerpieces of his campaign, running commercials repeatedly decrying high property taxes in Illinois. Property taxes are, of course, the major funding source for local school districts and Rauner also has vowed to boost school funding. Historically, downstate schools and children have suffered with lower funding because downstate property isn't valued as highly as urban and suburban property. Right now, in Illinois, we have districts spending as little as $6,000 per pupil and some spending more than $28,000 per pupil. And while money isn't the end-all, be-all of a quality education, it is proven that money does matter. A great deal.

    You can read the rest of this article at Reboot Illinois.

    Also, see what Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had to say about Rauner and the budget in a recent opinion piece.

    NEXT ARTICLE: Mike Madigan's property tax law work not illegal, but ethically questionable, says Andy Shaw

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    We Ate (and Ranked) Everything on the McDonald's Secret Menu

    Tue, 2015-08-04 11:49
    By: Lucy Meilus

    Credit: Laura Murray/Thrillst

    Recently, a Redditor claiming to be a McDonald's shift manager in Scotland confirmed that the long-rumored McDonald's secret menu is, in fact, real. And it's simpler than we thought -- though the Internet has popularized countless "secret menu" names (like the unfortunate "McGangBang"), the manager said names aren't necessary, and it's as easy as swapping ingredients in and out to customize your "secret" order.

    Still, when I set out to order everything on the McDonald's secret menu (with items collected from Twitter, Instagram, and #Hackthemenu), I started with the names to see if the employees recognized them. If they didn't, I went ahead and described the item to them. It's worth noting that out of the 10 items ordered, six had to be assembled by me. Basically, any order that's too off-menu will have to be DIY. But make no mistake, they will make you that Big Mac with eight patties.

    Here is every item on the McDonald's secret menu, ranked from worst to best:

    More: The 10 Best Fast-Food Breakfasts, Ranked

    Credit: Laura Murray/Thrillist

    10. Grilled Cheese
    How to get it: Just ask for a grilled cheese. You may also have to say "Yes, all I want is cheese and bread."
    Verdict: No.

    Credit: Laura Murray/Thrillst

    9. Land, Sea, and Air Burger
    How to get it: This was one of the aforementioned DIY items that couldn't be put together for me. Ask for a Big Mac, a Filet-O-Fish, and a McChicken. Then put the McChicken and Filet-O-Fish patties inside of the Big Mac.
    Verdict: This was the secret item I was most excited about, and it was the biggest letdown. It would maybe be fine without the bread. There is just SO much bread in this -- it's hard to taste anything else. I may never eat bread again (this is a gross exaggeration, but I just want to emphasize again that bread is ABUNDANT). Moreover, if you ever thought a soggy fish patty would not pair well with beef and chicken, you, sir, would be correct.

    Credit: Laura Murray/Thrillst

    8. McGangBang
    How to get it: I said the name and no one was happy about it, including me. Order a McDouble and a McChicken, then place the McChicken inside of the McDouble (buns and all).
    Verdict: Again, WAY too much bread. There's even more on this one! But it gets a higher ranking because it doesn't have fish. I would also like to propose an official name change. Here are some options: McRihanna, McBeyonce, McDrake. That last one sounds the best. Seriously, this entire thing just tastes like musky bread.

    Credit: Laura Murray/Thrillist

    7. Monster Mac
    How to get it: I asked for a Monster Mac, but was met with blank stares, so I asked for eight patties inside of a Big Mac. Four separate employees came by to check whether or not I was of sound mind and body, but still, it was put together for me!
    Verdict: Not enough cheese or sauce. It's like stuffing your mouth with a mass of dry, unseasoned ground beef.

    Credit: Lucy Meilus/Thrillist

    6. Apple Pie McFlurry
    How to get it: Ask for an Apple Pie mixed into a McFlurry
    Verdict: The pie was just placed into the McFlurry (which is so thick, the pie could barely even get in there). I tried and failed to blend it all, 1. because the spoon is not a spoon and 2. because the McFlurry itself is SO insanely thick. This was messy and there was no pie-flavor (just weird, mushy texture), so I just avoided the pie and ate a McFlurry. That was good, though!

    To check out which secret menu items made the top 5, head over to!

    More from Thrillist:

    The 33 Best Burgers in America

    13 Ways You're Grilling Burgers Wrong

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