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Chicago Police Cannot Stop Killings

Fri, 2016-06-10 14:11

This post is not intended to serve as a criticism of the Chicago Police Department, but a learning opportunity for police and the community at large.

Since the beginning of 2016, shootings and homicides have escalated in Chicago. The current strategies being implemented by the police has fallen short as it relates to stopping the killings on the front end. The police are taught to respond to a crime and not to prevent it. It is hard to know when someone is about to take a life, which is not good for the public. The police can only do so much and now is the time for us to begin the dialogue in regards to addressing what it will take to stop the killings before it even happen.

If you look at the historical data in Chicago, you will see that this city has always experienced an increase in homicides. From 1928 to the 1990s, the average homicide rate ranged from 450-800 per year. One may argue that the numbers were down in the past. However, we know that homicides still exist and the question remains: How can we reduce the homicide rate by 70%? The police are doing more undercover work, beefing up patrols, cracking down on gangs, intercepting illegal guns, marching throughout the community, and using other collaborative efforts, even though the numbers continue to soar.

This represents a new problem for the police since the gangs are not structured like the old days. There are many different cliques that exist and motives behind the violence. How can you effectively stop killings on the front end when you do not know anything about the motives or when the person will commit the act? The Chicago Police Department should take a look at hiring a younger Police Superintendent with a background from a crime ridden community and one who understands the youth of today.

It's easy to keep playing a broken record because it's your favorite song, but when people are losing their lives, then it's time to stop playing the same old song. This is very important if the Chicago Police expect to get a handle on this issue. There are ways to stop the killings on the front end, but transparency from the community and police is crucial for this to happen. The Chicago Police Department is currently in the process of making several changes from the top to the bottom. Hopefully the changes will lead to a stronger relationship with the community which in turn can help reverse this epidemic of violence citywide. The only barrier in the way would be the old versus the new.

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The Water Circus is Coming to Town

Fri, 2016-06-10 09:25

Chicago is about to dive into the magical world of Cirque Italia, the first ever Italian water circus, when it returns to town with a brand new show June 9-12 and June 16-19.

This amazing traveling, European-style circus is filled with aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, high wire acts, giant bubbles, jetskis, a laser man, a mermaid, and even a dinosaur to add a little extra excitement.

As if that weren't enough, the entire show takes place on a custom built 35,000 gallon water stage which features a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, "curtains" of rain, lasers, lights, and fountains which dazzle the audience. And of course, the show takes place under a majestic white and blue big top tent as any spectacular circus should.

For comparison, Cirque Italia's water circus is similar to Cirque du Soleil - although drastically more affordable, more family oriented, and more interactive with the audience - and nothing like the Ringling Brothers as there are no animals involved at all. The show makes for a perfect afternoon or evening for the family, a group of friends, or even a date night, and is guaranteed to bring a smile to every audience member's face, regardless of age.

The show's owner and founder, Manuel Rebecchi, has a deep seeded history in the circus industry as his late aunt ran one of the largest circus shows in Europe. When Manuel came to the states several years ago, he decided that Americans needed to experience a European-style show and had the brilliant idea to create the first traveling "water circus" in the US. He immediately wanted to create something special and memorable and has managed to put together an astounding stage production with some of the finest performers from around the world.

Each show takes place under a grand, swirling white and blue tent which seats about 1,200 people who are all welcomed into the big top setting as if it was their own home. The variety show can be fun, intimate, and romantic and truly appeals to all ages.

Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to meet and take photos with the performers, as well as bring home some special Italian souvenirs.

Tickets are extremely affordable, ranging from $10-$50 per person, and certain seating areas even have a "free child" offer with the purchase of an adult ticket. Basically, the show provides loads of entertainment for less than the price of a trip to the movies, enabling families, friends, and couples to make memories without breaking the bank.

Cirque Italia takes place in Cicero, IL and will be in town for a limited run, so make sure to experience the family-friendly, Vegas-style circus and variety show before they drain the massive pool, pull up to the tent poles, and take their water show on the road to the next town.

This article by Party Earth.

Click here to get the inside scoop on the best concerts, festivals, parties, and more in your city every weekend!

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How One Trip To Africa Forever Changed Harry Belafonte's Life

Wed, 2016-06-08 15:56

Legendary actor and singer Harry Belafonte has belted out many great hits and graced many stages throughout his illustrious career of 60-plus years. However, it’s how he used his voice outside of music and acting that has truly inspired millions around the world.

On Tuesday, the famed global activist -- who has fought relentlessly for decades for equality and justice everywhere -- was honored in New York with the 2016 Humanitarian Award. The honor was made on behalf of the Children’s Health Fund, an inspiring organization working to provide healthcare to underserved and vulnerable children across the country. Actor Morgan Freeman helped to make the moment even more special by presenting Belafonte with the award and praising his amazing accomplishments.

“Harry Belafonte is an example of potential that will not be stopped,” Freeman told the crowd, which included former New York Mayor David Dinkins and current mayor Bill De Blasio.

“What a talent he is. What a heart he has. What a life he has lived and what a difference he has made in millions of lives,” he added.

Upon accepting his award, Belafonte thanked Freeman, a long-time friend of his, for the warm introduction. “I love Morgan Freeman,” he said, before cracking a joke about the Oscar-winning actor. “He took all my best parts and never asked for permission.”

Belafonte then shared his longtime connection with the fund and told of one eye-opening trip he took to Africa in the early 80’s that forever impacted how he saw the world.

“What struck me about that experience was not so much about the tragedy of the event itself but that there was a world that sat by with such indifference,” Belafonte said of witnessing the devastation of famine and drought. “When I came back to America, the thought constantly tugged at me...what could I do? I knew there was no way to fix the problem, but that didn’t motivate or justify doing nothing about the problem.”

What struck me about that experience [in Africa] was not so much about the tragedy of the event itself, but that there was a world that sat by with such indifference"
Harry Belafonte

What Belafonte did when he returned to America was rally some of his celebrity friends to sing the iconic song, “We Are The World.” The album featuring the song went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide and raise around $60 million for health needs in Africa. The song, which was written by Michael Jackson and featured countless of other celebrity cameos, was performed by celebrities as part of a benefit concert for Belafonte’s USA For Africa campaign.

It was through the USA For Africa campaign where Belafonte met public health activist Irwin Redlener, who, at the time, was a pediatrician who practiced in underserved communities around the globe. Redlener joined USA for Africa project as its medical director and helped to lead its health efforts abroad. 

“Most of the people who were part of [USA For Africa] were artists,” Belafonte said. “We had to reach out to other segments of this society to guide us in this effort.”

Redlener and Belafonte returned to Africa together and visited various countries, clinics and camps to better understand the harsh health conditions people faced and do what they could to administer aid. Belafonte said it was an overwhelming experience for them both, and one that eventually prompted a pretty powerful revelation for Redlener.

“It was a solemn moment,” Belafonte said. “But I could see that in Irwin Redlener, something was churning.”

Belafonte described how Redlener was so moved by the trip that he expressed to him a need to “do something that will eternally be a declaration” of what they experienced in Africa. It was then that Redlener decided to launch of the Children’s Health Fund in 1987 as a way to provide healthcare to hundreds of thousands of kids in America who need it most.

“This evening celebrated the outcome of that story and that journey… it’s an extension of the experiences that we’ve had," Belafonte said of Redlener. "And that the reward, and my having to be here tonight, is because of [Redlener] and what his team has done.”

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Fierce Conversations - Be Intentional About Developing Poor Communities

Wed, 2016-06-08 15:27

Chicagoans weekly brace for news reports with the latest shooting death tally, public school funding crisis or failings on the part of elected officials. But they're not sitting idly waiting for answers.

As common is the expectation of bad news, Chicago residents are keen to author their own solutions. The venerable Chicago Community Trust is one such organization that provided a platform to help residents do just that in a series of On the Table civic discussions. The location and composition of people who attend the talks, however, were emblematic of Chicago's problem: They're segregated and siloed with communities unable to get an airing of their issues and solutions with neighbors across town.

I attended several and sensed resident skepticism about any value added outside of networking and the free food. I and many people I spoke with didn't feel they walked away with anything substantive. I understand why. As a result of crises facing schools, public finances, police, criminal justice and City Hall, black communities are experiencing its version of the Arab Spring. Though much of Chicago expresses righteous indignation, so, too, their faith in government has all but disappeared. Is anybody listening?

In Fierce Conversations, author Susan Scott says life's most important conversations must be "robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager and unbridled." The most consequential heart-to-hearts demand the courage to interrogate reality and provide an impetus to change behavior. Fierce conversations require broaching subject matter other people can't say, won't say, haven't said or don't know.

"When the conversation is real, the change occurs before the conversation is over," Scott writes.

A sense of fierceness was lacking at many of the On the Table discussions. Participants coming from business, not-for-profits, and neighborhoods are often nice and politically correct when engaging in the topic at hand. "Fierce" attempts at forthrightness are often met with backhand compliments meant to thwart discussion: "We really appreciate your passion, but ... " Candor should be the litmus test for accomplishment. Instead the standard is whether attendees leave the table comfortable. This type of exercise will never accomplish anything because fierce conversations require discomfort and anxiety.

So in true "fierce" form, let's interrogate reality and be real about where we've gone wrong in Chicago civic life, economic development and social support for all it residents.

Chicago has failed its poor, and since they are predominantly black and brown, we act like we don't care. Poor communities are managed, not developed. Development in poor communities is an afterthought, rarely intentional. Racial segregation has and continues to be a dead-end management strategy. Symptoms of bad management show up in chronic unemployment, decrepit schools and broken families. Too many times government manages poverty by breaking the law, and poor people break the law to manage their poverty.

Cynicism and inaction are destructive when it becomes an impediment to what is possible. For example, while Mayor Rahm Emanuel's unveiled law enforcement strategy, public safety changes and recent appointment of Andrea Zopp as deputy mayor may ease tensions, it won't be enough. Being intentional about developing poor communities requires collaboration between the private sector and government. To be successful, they must work in concert with and not on behalf of the poor.

A case in point: To avoid a missed opportunity that would benefit underserved communities, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art development plan should be salvaged -- not scrapped --with compromises, to spur development.

To be sure, Chicago has more important priorities (education, violence, civic engagement) than helping "Star Wars" billionaire couple, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson build a $1.17 billion tribute to his legacy along the lakefront. And Friends of the Parks certainly has a point in opposing lakefront development that honors the Burnham Plan to keep that public treasure forever open and free, but we have options, including the following:

• Relocate the project to the vacant U.S. Steel site along the South Shore's lakefront. The museum could be the economic stimulus to spur development in a part of the city desperate for it.

• Create a Lucas violence prevention match fund, in collaboration with area foundations and employers, focused on year-around job training, placement and mentorship for high school youth residing in designated communities.

• Fund a civic literacy and advocacy curriculum initiative for CPS students between grades 6-12, culminating with automatic voter registration at 18 years of age.

We are all connected, and the negative activity and symptoms of poverty in certain parts of the city manifests itself in other parts, ultimately affecting us all.

Scott expresses it best: "I apologize to all those with whom I learned a thousand and one ways not to have a fierce conversation. Thank you for all you taught me."

Our challenge is to master the same fierce lesson.

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Summertime in Chicago Bucket List

Wed, 2016-06-08 07:39

There is literally something to do every day in the summertime in Chicago. And I don't mean literally in the way most people use it. I mean every day, without fail, there is something going on. So instead of listing the endless events, I wanted to share with you my top 10 things I am looking forward to most this summer in Chicago as a follow up to my Springtime in Chicago Bucket List.

1. Architecture River Cruise
I have not been on a architecture river cruise since I was a kid. I really enjoyed it back then but something tells me I will enjoy it even more as an adult - not to mention I no longer have to wind my camera to take photos. I've been keeping my eye on the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady. I'll be sure to post again with updates and photos after I take the tour!

2. A Picnic and an Outdoor Movie
I have been loving the feeling of the sun on my skin during the late afternoon and then the cool evening breezes once the sun has set. One of my favorite ways to take in both during the summer is to pack a picnic for dinner and head to a local park during a movie night. The timing usually is perfect to enjoy some sun, see the sunset, and then take in a movie. You can see a full list of movies and locations this summer here.

3. Watch Fireworks Over the Lake
Lake Michigan is such a beautiful setting for the city and fireworks are always a fun summer tradition. Independence day is a given, but in Chicago, fireworks are shot off every Wednesday and Saturday for the entire summer. More information can be found here.

4. Lit Fest
This is one of the first festivals of the summer every year and it is one of my all time favorites. The festival has more than 200 booksellers from across the country displaying new, used and antiquarian books and features more than 200 authors participating in panels, discussions and a variety of other programs. More information can be found here.

5. Chicago Blues Festival
Chicago is known for amazing Blues music. I will admit I don't spend all year long listening to Blues, but I do really enjoy listening now and again. Plus, I cannot pass up hearing some of the best musicians there is for free in the middle of my favorite place in the world. For more information, click here.

6. Eat Italian Ice
I have been having some serious cravings for Italian Ice recently so this bucket list item is likely going to be checked off as early as this weekend. But I'm sure I will hunt some down more than once this summer. And I for sure want to visit the best in the city, Mario's.

7. Chicago Pride Parade
This is the first item on my bucket list that I haven't ever been to in previous years. I've always wanted to attend and show my support but the timing never worked out. Luckily this year the parade is a bit later in the month and I should have no problem making it! From what I hear, the event is a blast and of course, a great way to celebrate how far we've come in the recent years. For more information on the pride parade, visit here.

8. Randolph Street Market
The Randolph Street Market is an indoor and outdoor market featuring 300+ venders which include vintage, antique, indie designer, global goods, and food. The market takes place the last full weekend of every month. While this is a year round event, the summer is the best time to visit. Check here for more information.

9. Adler After Dark
I have yet to visit our planetarium for one of their 21+ night time events, but this year is going to be the year. Adler After Dark offers you open access, unlimited shows, and unique entertainment every third Thursday of the month from 6:00-10:00 pm. More information can be found here.

10. Sketch
There is nothing like finding a seat in a park with a great view and a sketch book. This summer I'm hoping to find enough time to fill an entire sketchbook with doodles and drawings from my adventures wandering the city.

I admittedly still have a few items to check off of my Springtime in Chicago Bucket List as well, but I'm hoping to have both lists complete by the end of the summer. And if you're looking to spend some time inside to get away from the heat, check out my list of Free Chicago Museum Days for 2016.

Do you have an item on your summer bucket list you cannot wait to check off?


Alexandra is a Chicago area blogger at Her writing includes life advice, random musings, her journey with PCOS, and details about moving into urban life in Chicago to start a family. Check out her popular post How to Survive Feeling Like You're Stuck.

She can also be found on the following social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin.

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Taking Stock of Failure, Finding Ray of Hope From 2016 Legislative Session

Tue, 2016-06-07 10:54

For the second straight year, the Illinois General Assembly left Springfield this week without a budget in place for fiscal year that starts July 1.

A year ago, when Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who control the Legislature first deadlocked over the FY 2016 budget, the situation today was unthinkable. A full year without any plan for state spending and revenue was unprecedented.

But also unimaginable a year ago was that Rauner and the Democrats would enter FY 2017 not only without a balanced budget, but with a goal that in effect will prolong the budget standoff through calendar year 2016.

After nearly a year of rejecting pursuit of short-term budget fixes -- which he said would take pressure off for business and political reforms -- Rauner on Memorial Day abruptly changed course. He endorsed a stopgap budget to carry state government through 2016 and urged House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to pass a stand-alone K-12 school funding bill so school districts statewide can be assured of opening on time in the fall.

A few days after Democrats in the House rushed to approve a budget from Madigan that was $7 billion out of balance, Cullerton attempted to pass it in the Senate, where it got a very unfriendly reception. Republicans railed against its massive unfunded spending while many Democrats rejected it both for its imbalance and the way Madigan forced it through the House.

In an attempt to appease Rauner while also backing him into a corner, the Senate in the final minutes of the spring session passed a stand-alone K-12 bill, but it increased school funding by an astounding $900 million. That was far more than Rauner's original proposal, which increased funding by only $120 million. It passed in the Senate but failed miserably in the House, where suburban representatives questioned why $475 million of the increase would go to Chicago Public Schools.

Thus our lawmakers left Springfield with neither a state budget nor a school budget in place.

In the two days that followed the session's collapse, Rauner hit the road on a tour of Illinois to gin up support for a "clean" school funding bill and a broader, stopgap plan to get state government through the calendar year. In the process, he did some Chicago bashing that probably isn't a healthy addition to the process.

We review the final days of the legislative session and look at what's to come on this week's "Only in Illinois." Despite all the bad news, we end this edition on a positive note thanks to the closing speeches of Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

You can also listen to the podcast here or through iTunes:

Next article: Superintendents rip Rauner on school funding

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Real Government Shutdown May Be Only Way To End Budget Crisis

Mon, 2016-06-06 10:04
My how our expectations of our government have fallen over the past year.

A year ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected nearly all of the Democrats' budget, citing its $4 billion imbalance. While acknowledging a need for more tax revenue to get state finances in line, Rauner said he would not discuss those options until Democrats passed government and business reforms that made up his Turnaround Agenda.

Passing a piecemeal budget was not an option, Rauner said, because it would take the pressure off for reform.

This was when House Speaker Michael Madigan began holding weekly press conferences at the Capitol, repeating his pledge to work "professionally and cooperatively" with Rauner, emphasizing that the House was in "continuous session" and chastising the governor at every turn for attempting to bring "non-budget issues" from his agenda into budget talks.

In the months to come, Madigan would sharpen his criticism of Rauner and his policies, which Madigan said sought to revive a vision of government that predated the New Deal. Rauner's ultimate plan, Madigan said, was to "lower wages and the standard of living of the middle class."

I can assure you that no one with a background in state government ever envisioned we'd be where we're at today, with Rauner and Democrats pushing for a temporary plan to allow them to continue their protracted feud through January. That's because those who know the Illinois Constitution are familiar with its appropriations clause:

The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.

Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, section 2 (b)

"All expenditures of public funds" includes the paychecks of all Illinois state government employees. In early summer 2015, the notion of paychecks halted for thousands of state workers -- leading to a shutdown of state government -- meant that the Rauner-Madigan standoff could last at most a few months. Public pressure when state facilities closed would be too great and the damage too obvious for an extended impasse. (Rauner cannily had headed off another potential source of untenable public pressure by signing the budget bill authorizing funding of K-12 education, thus ensuring elementary and high schools would open on schedule in the fall.)

But we did not anticipate the bizarre legal crossfire that would ensue in courtrooms in Cook and St. Clair counties in which the Rauner administration and organized labor became allies in the fight to ensure that state employee paychecks continued even without a state budget to authorize them.

The fight ended in a St. Clair County judge's ruling that failure to issue paychecks would violate protected contractual agreements. Attorney General Lisa Madigan had argued that issuing payroll without a budget appropriation was illegal, but she opted to not pursue an appeal after the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the case on an expedited schedule.

So the "government shutdown" didn't happen in a sudden, widespread burst. Instead, it slowly crept through social services providers for the disabled and elderly, who stopped receiving payment for contracted work. Public universities were left to fend for themselves, and by winter were facing severe hardship.

At the same time, roughly 90 percent of the spending from FY 2015 was continuing because it was covered by continuing appropriations passed by the General Assembly or was required under court order. With the governor and lawmakers having neither made spending cuts nor approved new taxes, state spending was on auto-pilot and exceeding revenue by $13 million a day.

Now our leaders are working on competing stopgap plans to keep government minimally functioning through the end of the year.

Folks, what we've come to call the "Illinois budget impasse" is on the verge of becoming standard operating procedure in Illinois. This state can't afford seven more months of operating with no plan, or with a "plan" whose goal is merely to let state government limp through another half-year.

The end to this crazy of Illinois non-governance may have been written in an Illinois State Supreme Court decision in March that, in essence, said the St. Clair County ruling that allowed continuous state payroll without budget authorization was wrong.

In a case in which AFSCME Council 31 sought to recoup raises that had been promised to its members in 2011, the court cited "a well-defined and dominant public policy under which multiyear collective bargaining agreements are subject to the appropriation power of the State, a power which may only be exercised by the General Assembly."

So collective bargaining agreements -- union employment contracts -- don't supersede the appropriations clause of the state constitution. The opposite of the St. Clair County ruling of last July.

This would appear to be an invitation for Attorney General Madigan to revive her effort to halt state payroll pending approval of a state budget. So far, Madigan's office has said only that it is reviewing the decision.

I don't like the idea of bringing financial hardship onto state employees, and missing even a single paycheck will do that for many. But the new front in the budget battle that now has opened -- that of finding a way to extend the impasse through the end of the year -- makes me think that a real government shutdown is the only thing that can force a real solution.

Lisa Madigan, of course, is the daughter of one of the combatants in the budget struggle, but it's hard to make a case that her reiterating her original position tips the scale politically to her father or hurts Rauner's position. An election season with state government in chaos wouldn't serve Madigan's Democrats or Rauner's Republicans well.

And besides, I really don't care about the politics. That's what got us here. Rauner and Madigan have been gambling for a year now that they'd win the public opinion jackpot if they just outlasted their opponent. They both have lost and Illinois can't take another six months of trying.

Here's hoping the attorney general's "review" leads her back to court on this one.

Next article: Top 25 most and least stressed out cities in Illinois

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I On Exceptional Living - The Chicago Edition

Sun, 2016-06-05 16:44

Irene Michaels, Arny Granat, Kay Rose, Richard Rose
Photo Courtesy of Irene Michaels

In I On Exceptional Living I have discussed a supermodel, Beverly Johnson, to a suburban-supermom, Vicki Reece, and now I am happy to continue the series with more special individuals whose lives are leaving a mark on the world in a variety of ways - this time some special Chicagoans will be highlighted. The following six people are especially deserving of recognition for their achievements in the Windy City and beyond, and I'm excited to share a snippet of their stories with my readers. And perhaps we can expand in the future

Kay Rose

Kay Rose has spent a lifetime excelling in the world of fashion. As a St. John's specialist at Chicago's Saks Fifth Avenue, she turned a small boutique section into one of the most profitable departments in the entire country. Featured multiple times in Chicago Magazine, Kay is one of the faces of Chicago fashion. Her current venture, the Kay Rose Collection, brings fashionable accessories to customers of great taste. With this business, Kay will no doubt continue to be a vital part of the Chicago fashion world. Check out all of her designs at The Kay Rose Collection.

Alex Pissios

As the President of Cinespace Chicago Film Studio Alex Pissios has been at the center of Chicago's revitalized film and television industry. Cinespace converts old factories into soundstages, and Pissios' studio occupies 1.45 million sq. ft. of what use to be the old Ryerson Steel Company, a former steel-processing plant on the Southwest Side. Pissios' work has been instrumental in drawing filming of such hit shows as "Chicago Fire" and blockbuster films like "Transformers" to Chicago, prompting hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of investment into the Windy City. Pissios also leads the Cinecares Foundation which was was founded in 2014 to fulfill the legacy left behind by the founder of Cinespace, Nikolaos Mirkopoulos, and has led remarkable initiatives for both improving education and supporting community-based arts programs. Pissios truly is succeeding in his effort to enrich Chicago, in more ways than one.

Stanley Paul

For more than 30 years, Stanley Paul has been a Chicago institution, and perhaps one of the best-know bandleaders in America. As head of the eponymous Stanley Paul Orchestra, he continues to be a fixture of the city's social scene. Whether a wedding or a gala ball, the Stanley Paul Orchestra can be counted on to provide the finest music playing around. Stanley Paul himself has overseen the band's growth and the develop of an astonishingly broad repertoire ranging from the classics to the contemporary. A true Chicago legend, we look forward to his gracing city ballrooms for years to come.

Contessa and Irene Michaels -- Photo courtesy of Irene Michaels

Contessa Helena Bottega

Contessa Helena Bottega is undoubtedly one of the finest fashionistas in world. Her boutique in Chicago's Gold Coast is a one-stop shop for all of the finest designers and most fabulous clothes you can find today. It was at the Contessa's boutique that I found my own wonderful wedding dress, the bridal couture section is absolutely DIVINE, so I have a deep personal affection for the place. In addition to her fabulous sense of style, Contessa Helena showcases an eclectic mix of classic and exotic fashions by designers like Roberto Cavalli, Blumarine, Rocco Barocco and Morgan de Toi, to name just a few.

Joseph Ahern

Joseph Ahern is one of the titans of Chicago television. As the chief of ABC 7 from 1985 to 1997, and of CBS 2 from 2002 to 2008, Ahern has shaped Chicagoans' TV-watching experience for decades. He has left a mark that stretches far beyond local television however, as he helped accelerate the career of one of Chicago's finest when he supported the launch of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" while at ABC 7. Ahern continues to give back to the community, currently serving as CEO of the 100 Club of Chicago, which helps support the families of first responders who have fallen in the line of duty. Ahern's work for the people of Chicago makes him deserving of special recognition.

Richard Melman

One of Chicago's great restaurateurs, Richard Melman has been at the center of some of the city's great culinary landmarks, including Wildfire Grill, Shaw's Crab House, and Big Bowl. Melman's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has grown to include more than 100 venues. Not bad for a kid who used to sell ice cream and peanuts on Chicago's beaches! Despite his vast culinary empire, Melman's life still revolves around his family, his wife of 40 years and three children. Truly, he is a great Chicagoan.

I am so excited to highlight the exceptional lives of some of my Chicago friends...Frank Sinatra said it best "'s my kinda town"...and the people in it are so exceptional I could not wait to tell the rest of the world about 'em...

Check back for full stories on some these great Chicago residents.

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King Rahm for Alderman!

Fri, 2016-06-03 14:37
(Chicago-Thursday June 2, 2016) Appointed 4th Ward Interim Alderman Holds Fundraiser Next Door to Opponents Campaign Office.

When I heard that Rahm Emanuel's 4th Ward Aldermanic Appointee was having her fundraiser literally next door to my office I knew that I was witnessing a classic Rahm 'fish wrapped in newspaper' tactic - in other words try and intimidate me and my supporters with the big money people he controls. So I went to my office Thursday evening to see who would be raising money for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked interim/candidate Sophia King.

Wow! I saw a lot of folk who I've become acquainted with over my years of advocating for the public good in Chicago. Sadly none of the folk leaving the fundraiser are folk I've seen fighting for the poor, challenged and disadvantaged. I'm not saying they haven't contributed to any worthy causes I'm just saying I haven't seen them rubbing shoulders with the poor. I didn't see anyone from the 'Laquan McDonald 16 shots and a Coverup' crowd.

It is crystal clear to me that my opponent in this race is Rahm Emanuel. I have been consistent over the years spotlighting the pain and damage his administration has wrought because he lacks the skill-set as well as the political-will to govern the poor, disadvantaged and challenged.

The 4th Ward is markedly diverse. Hyde Park. The University of Chicago. A bit of Downtown and the plain-old-everyday-neglected-west of the Obama Presidential Library-neighborhoods. The haves and the have-nots. The issues and headlines that affect my city also affect the 4th Ward in which I live. Policies, programs, education and public safety must be intentional and optimally developed for the entire ward lest we continue to shortsheet the least of these.

Whoever wins this seat can be the independent community voice and will of all the people. Or another rubber stamp that executes the orders of the Few in total obeisance to the Mayor. Checks and Balances be damned.

The special election for the 4th Ward aldermanic seat is February 2017. My name will be on the ballot. Rahm Emanuel's name will not but I know that back behind the big curtain it will be him I'm running against.
Twitter: @gslivingston

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The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Pizza

Fri, 2016-06-03 11:10

If you’re tuned into the politics of food and the influence that large corporations can have on public policy, you’re probably familiar with the term Big Food by now. And Big Ag. And don’t forget Big Soda.

But you probably haven’t heard about another powerful arm of the food industry's lobbying: Big Pizza.

Meet the American Pizza Community.

A coalition founded in 2010 and led by some of the nation’s largest pizza retailers, the APC includes popular national chains including Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesars and Pizza Hut, plus many of their suppliers.

The group, according to its spokesman Tim McIntyre, is aimed at “work[ing] together on topics that are unique to the pizza industry” and no, that doesn’t just mean trying to get you to eat more of that cheesy, greasy goodness we all know and love.

The way the APC puts it, they’re going to battle in the war on pizza.

“We want to stop the demonization of pizza,” McIntyre said in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. “Think of it this way: bread is good; tomato sauce is good; cheese is good. Put them together and they’re somehow bad.”

This has meant that, since its inception, APC has focused primarily on fighting the push to add nutritional information to restaurant menu boards. The APC has vocally opposed this, arguing in a 2013 Bloomberg article that the mandate would be “virtually impossible” for the pizza industry to meet due to the seemingly endless combination of toppings a customer might choose for their pie, as well as the fact that most chains’ customers don’t even set foot in a store to buy from them.

That’s not all the group is up to.

In a press release issued last month and reprinted by the Pizza Today trade publication (but not published on the organization’s own website), the APC lashed out against the Department of Labor’s final ruling on overtime eligibility. That ruling doubled the overtime salary threshold from the current $23,660 to $47,476, guaranteeing overtime pay for millions of additional workers.

The APC believes the change will be an expensive one that will negatively impact job and income growth, overburdening employers already facing small profit margins with significantly increased administrative costs.

The ruling, McIntyre told HuffPost, “cuts right at the heart of the restaurant industry.”

This was not APC’s first foray into wage issues. It had previously opposed the minimum wage hike in California and lists employment and labor policies among its top issues on its website, but the group has received little publicity for these efforts.

Of course, these policy positions should not come as a surprise given the stance of the restaurant industry as a whole on worker pay. Trade groups like the National Restaurant Association, home to industry heavyweights including McDonald’s and Darden Restaurants, have been consistent and vocal opponents of wage increases.

That opposition also shows in the data. Restaurant workers across the board struggle to get by as the majority of them receive low wages and few benefits. According to a 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute, one in six restaurant workers live below the official poverty line.


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Still, there’s good reason to believe pizza restaurants, while rarely the target of #FightFor15 worker protests, are among the broader industry’s biggest offenders on worker pay and conditions.

The major pizza chains’ records on these issues reveal a long string of controversies. Last month, the attorney general of New York filed a lawsuit accusing Domino’s of “rampant, systemic wage theft” at 10 stores where workers were allegedly underpaid at least $565,000 and that the company’s headquarters, not just its franchisees operating those stores, were involved.

For his part, McIntyre, who also serves as executive vice president of communications, investor relations and consumer affairs at Domino’s, told HuffPost that the company “believe[s] in paying people fairly -- and we believe in providing opportunity to those willing to come in and work hard every day to build a career with our brand.”

Of course, Domino’s isn’t the only pizza chain that has been involved in worker pay controversies.

Previously, four franchisees operating nine Papa John’s restaurants in New York similarly were forced to pay almost $500,000 in back wages and damages to its workers. Though Papa John’s headquarters was not named in that lawsuit, nor another one alleging delivery drivers were being short-changed, the company’s CEO John Schnatter has faced criticism over the low wages paid to his company’s workers or the remarks he made in opposition to healthcare reform.

Pizza Hut franchisees, too, have also faced wage theft allegations.


Despite all this, it almost appears as though Big Pizza gets a pass on its questionable politics.

Even as consumers, especially younger ones, are becoming more health-conscious in their food-buying habits, we're still eating a ton of this stuff. 

According to a 2014 USDA report, about one in eight Americans has consumed pizza on any given day. And, contrary to the trend of health-conscious youngsters, that number rises to one in four when only males aged 6 to 19 are considered.

Pizza is retaining its throne as America's go-to comfort food, too. According to research released earlier this year by Harris Poll, pizza is more popular than the creamy triumvirate of chocolate, ice cream and macaroni and cheese.

In addition to eaters becoming more health-conscious, they are also -- thanks to the growing food movement -- drawing new connections between the food they eat and its politics. All of this should spell disaster for Big Pizza, so why -- the industry's own proclamations of the "war on pizza" aside -- isn't it?

Michele Simon, a public health attorney and the author of Eat Drink Politics, argues there could be a class element to be considered when one compares how activists often protest McDonald’s, for example, but rarely target popular pizza chains.

“Activists often choose issues, especially in public health, based on what they, the privileged class, can look down on,” Simon told HuffPost. “So it’s easier to look down on eating low-brow foods like cheeseburgers, fries and soda than pizza, a fun food everyone enjoys.”

“We’re not responsible consumers when we buy four pizzas for $20 and tip $3 to the delivery person, if that."
Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project


Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, a non-profit working to expand opportunities for low-wage workers, added that pizza is not only tasty and convenient, but also extremely cheap, which makes it appealing for a wide cross-section of eaters.

It’s not uncommon for major pizza chains to offer coupons lowering the price of a single pizza as low as $3 or $4, or even less. On honor of the opening of their 100th Chicago location in 2014, Domino’s offered $1 pizzas at all of its Chicago-area locations for a 100-minute window.

But such extremely low prices are not sustainable. When food prices go that low, Conti argued, someone -- almost certainly a worker -- is getting stiffed.

“We’re not responsible consumers when we buy four pizzas for $20 and tip $3 to the delivery person, if that,” Conti told HuffPost. “If we’re getting that much of a bargain, someone somewhere is paying the price. We have to realize this is no way to have an economy that works for everybody and is robust.”

Of course, not all pizza restaurants have spotty records on worker’s issues, so there is reason to be hopeful.

Saru Jayaraman is the director of the University of California Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, a group working toward improved wages and working conditions for restaurant workers.

Currently among ROC United’s 100 “high-road” restaurants the organization has partnered with -- employers that offer better wages, paid sick days and advancement opportunities -- are two pizza restaurants, Dimo’s Pizza in Chicago and The Just Crust in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Beyond that, pizza pickings are slim. No national pizza chains are among ROC United’s “high-road” employers, but Jayaraman is confident that could change. She said she is meeting with restaurant CEOs every week who are interested in treating their workers better, and is confident there is an opportunity for a pizza retailer to step in and fill the void.

“In 15 years of organizing, I’ve never seen a moment where the high road is more visible, viable and trendy,” Jayaraman told HuffPost. “I think there’s a consumer community out there that is certainly wanting to eat good pizza that treats its workers fairly.”

Meanwhile, the next time a piping hot pizza arrives at your door an hour after you ordered it, it might be worth considering what that pie actually cost.

“Our workers and our local economies pay the price for those cheap pizzas,” Conti added.

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Illinois is Trashed Like North Avenue Beach

Fri, 2016-06-03 09:46
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

It appears someone has left half of our generation at the north avenue beach.

-- Luke Wittenkeller (@ThatOneLukeKid) June 1, 2016


Hey Luke,

What's up? You are so right. Someone left half your generation at North Avenue Beach this past weekend. Or maybe it was half your generation left North Avenue beach totally trashed. Ah, what's it matter? Who cares, really? As long as you all had a good time and got what you wanted, right? Right, dude.

That's certainly how Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Mike Madigan have been playing it for a year and a half now.

And hell, that's how your parents raised your generation, right? You show up and you get a prize? I'm down with that now. It's all about me.

Ya know, more of us should join the fun. Let's just all make it all about us. In fact, I'm not gonna show up at work tomorrow. I can't ever get Matt Dietrich to agree with me, or see my way of thinking, so screw it. If he's stupid enough to show up, he can just run the website.

What's the point, anyway? None of the worthless politicians give two hoots. We've got no budget, no plan, no future. We've gone a year now without a budget, but it's really more like two years when you consider that last year Rauner signed only the school portion of the budget and vetoed everything else. This year, not even schools got done. Heck, man, that governor dude is sticking it to the man. The man being House Speaker Mike Madigan, of course.

Of course, Madigan stuck it right back, telling Rauner he could take his last-minute, Band-Aid budget bargain and stick it in a committee where the sun doesn't shine like it does at the beach. Ya with me? You know what I mean, right?

That's the way. Why not all the rest of us? Really, why not? What's the point?

The state's totally, officially trashed now, too, right?

So, hey, next time you're heading to the beach on the Blue Line and you see someone getting jumped, just chill. Turn up the tunes on your earbuds and you can drown out the hollering.

Maybe the cops on the West Side can just start leaving those kids and adults who get shot and killed for no good reason lying on the streets until the bodies pile up like the beer cans and vodka bottles. No one cares about them anyway.

Chicago Public Schools are circling the drain, too, ya know. So, probably, are dozens of other school districts in central and southern Illinois. No state money to pay teachers or get ready for the fall, so hey, teachers can come party at the beach with us now! Bring the little kiddies to the beach, too. They won't have anything to do and they're sure as heck not even gonna be able to work at a Mickey D's by the time they grow up.

Their parents are so busy working, running them to dance class and scouts and those stupid fake wave pools in the burbs anyway, they don't even stop to notice schools' not gonna open.

Man, can you imagine how they're gonna react when they realize schools are shut down and they have to find somewhere to plant those kids all day, every day, for who knows how long? That I gotta see. Maybe they'll stop, take a breath and realize it around, whadya think, August 15th?

I don't know. I do feel so bad for all those people who just need a little help, though, you know?

I know it should be all about me and I'm right and everyone else is wrong and all, but I looked at my phone before I decided to chuck it and absorb that attitude and I couldn't help it. I saw the email from that Responsible Budget Coalition.

"The failure of our leaders to reach a budget agreement means that:

Child care centers that serve the children of tens of thousands of low-income workers will stop receiving funding."

Leaders?! Did you see that? They actually called them "leaders." What a joke, Luke. Anyway, man o' man. Tens of thousands of kids with no day care. Can you imagine? That'll mean they have to hang with their parents. Which means their parents won't go to work either. Whoa. Guess Starbucks and Mickey D's will be shutting down.

"As many as 130,000 low-income college students could lose the Monetary Assistance Program grants they need to afford a college education."

Did you catch that one, Luke? Man, I guess we'd better find some more beaches to trash if we're gonna be joined by 130,000 college dropouts. Maybe they can start braiding plastic from the beach garbage into bracelets and sell them to the rest of us when we're trashed.

That's cold, right? Well, tough, it's every man and woman for himself.

And there goes my alma mater, Eastern Illinois University. Oh, well, tough luck for all those students and teachers and professors and secretaries. So long to the bars and the falling-down frat houses and the T-shirt shops and fast-food joints in Chuck-town without any higher ed funding. Guess they all can just come up here and beg for change on the streets with the rest of the homeless people who aren't getting help any more.

All that joblessness and no hope of learning and getting ahead is gonna make a lot of people depressed. They're not all going to embrace our new screw-everybody-else approach to life, right? But that coalition says the wait time on suicide hotlines is gonna be at least six months.

"In-home care services for seniors will continue to be slashed, forcing them into nursing homes, and many more will join the over 3,000 seniors that have already lost home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels) services.

All 29 agencies serving survivors of sexual assault will continue furloughs and staff reductions begun in July 2015 and services for over 3,700 sexual assault survivors will be in jeopardy."

Seriously? Think about it, Luke. Now, I'm getting really depressed. And angry ...

What about all those Down Syndrome kids and adults and the ones all over the autism spectrum? What's gonna happen to them without any state money?

And did you hear Maryville Academy is gonna stop taking care of kids with no parents or parents with problems? Yeah, state officials said they probably were going to have to cut their funding by $23 million. There goes a 132-year history. I guess those 60 kids can come hang at the beach with us for the summer. What about later? I don't know, I guess they figure it out for themselves.

Just like all those people who are mentally sick. All of them and the people who've been working to support them can just give up now, too.

Remember Tina Wardzala? The woman I wrote about a couple of times who was assaulted as a kid and raped as a young woman? She's bipolar, agoraphobic and has post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of no state funding, she had to give up seeing a psychiatrist she was comfortable with and used to seeing.

I couldn't help it, Luke. I checked on her recently. Her counselor of many, many years told me she quit showing up some time in the past few months. The counselor, Kathy Allen, reached out, but she hasn't heard from Tina.

It made me wonder how many people like Tina are in trouble in my own neighborhood and all those other neighborhoods in Illinois.

"We are finding ways to stay afloat for now," Allen wrote me, "but have seen our waiting list grow dramatically in recent months to the point of having to temporarily close services to new clients.  We continue to advocate for a reasonable solution to the budget crisis that recognizes the needs of vulnerable children, adults and families in Illinois and the cost-effectiveness of providing 'upstream' services and supports for these at-risk populations."

It's all about me, right? Just like the Springfield politicians are showing? I'm supposed to just go the beach, get smashed and trashed and leave it all behind? Let someone else worry about it?

Right. Later, Luke.

NEXT ARTICLE: Ricketts makes his case for open-air plaza outside Wrigley Field

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Arianna Huffington to Hunter College Grads: To Create a Better World, Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Thu, 2016-06-02 20:32
I had the great privilege of joining Arianna Huffington, HuffPost's editor-in-chief, at the 2016 Commencement Ceremony of my alma mater, Hunter College. Arianna gave the keynote address and was given the President's Medal by Hunter College President, Jennifer Raab.

During the ceremony, I was reminded why Hunter holds such a unique place in my memory. Hunter is truly one of the most diverse academic institutions in America, and fosters a message of tolerance and academic prosperity across many disciplines. Listening to President Raab's remarks, I was taken by the range of academic and personal triumphs made within the graduating class of 2016 -- many through extreme adversity. I was again made grateful that I was able to have an academic experience in New York City, enriched by a kaleidoscopic student body.

Arianna's speech eloquently echoed Hunter's motto, which I remember was prominently emblazoned on the wall of our campus in Manhattan.

Mihi Cura Futuri: The care of the future is mine. It is my job to remember that our collective future begins with my personal choices.

You can read Arianna's entire speech below:

President Raab, CUNY Board of Trustees member Brian Obergfell, CUNY Vice Chancellor Gillian Small, Hunter administration, faculty, staff, and above all, the graduating class of 2016 and their proud families, I'm deeply honored and grateful to be sharing in such a special moment in your lives, and especially honored to be at Hunter. And congratulations to valedictorian Sarah Soo-Hoo, a double-major in economics and biology -- that's quite a combination. Sign me up for whatever startup you end up launching. Though I was especially impressed to learn that you were raised in New York City and somehow became a golf champion. Anyone that can do that certainly has a bright future ahead of them.

This is such a unique place, and one that reflects the great city it serves -- a place where people from different countries, different traditions, speaking different languages, come together, united in a desire to better themselves, and the world. As an immigrant myself -- I know it's hard to tell since I have lost every trace of my Greek accent -- I of course feel completely at home here.

I'm proud to be at a place where nearly a third of undergraduates were born overseas, where nearly 40 percent speak a native language other than English, where about a third are the first in their families to go to college, and where almost 20% of you are graduating with a second degree. Also impressive is that this is a place where so many of you have held down jobs while going to school, and have triumphed over so many obstacles to get to this moment of celebration. If this were a sporting event, we'd all be spraying each other with champagne right now, but President Raab vetoed that idea.

Now I know when you Google stalk someone you're not supposed to tell them, but I've been secretly getting to know you a little better. And I've learned all kinds of things, like, for instance, that Hunter has apparently been doing some innovative work on the subject of time, coming up with some kind of quantum system of Thursdays somehow replacing Mondays, which I'm still confused about -- so I have no idea what today is. I've also learned there's a place you spend a lot of time at named Oasis, which, from what I've been able to glean, might be ironically named. And I know it may sound silly, but I feel a connection to you because Hunter College and HuffPost are both on the 6 train. We're connected by a green line of destiny.

More well-known is that Hunter has nurtured the best and the brightest throughout our history, from Nobel Prize winners to civil rights activists, to former congresswoman Bella Abzug, who famously remarked, 'This woman's place is in the House -- the House of Representatives.'

Hunter is a living testament to the power of diversity, tolerance, and progress. But as much as we would like to think otherwise, these values cannot be taken for granted. They have to be safeguarded, protected and defended every day. You don't have to follow the news particularly closely to realize they're under assault right now. We have a presidential nominee who smears Mexicans as 'rapists,' who wants to institute a religious test to enter a country founded on religious freedom, who wants to erect barriers and walls. But this is an institution based on breaking down barriers and walls, on proving the value of opportunity, openness and diversity. So all of you have a special role to play in upholding Hunter's rich legacy at a time when it is threatened like never before in our lifetime.

And I'm very happy that at HuffPost we have a wonderful Hunter graduate, Karah Preiss, leading our editorial video initiative to bring us together through a combination of making science accessible and a lot of humor. The series is called Talk Nerdy to Me. And one of her first episodes was about the search for other habitable planets, a search which has accelerated since the Republican nominee was decided. In fact, Elon Musk has just announced that he hopes to send a human to Mars by 2025. And that's all well and good, but with the potential outcome of this current election, can't we find another habitable planet just a little bit sooner? It doesn't have to be a fancy planet, it doesn't have to have rings. It just has to support intelligent life. Everybody will be welcome because of course, in space, we're all immigrants.

I'm often asked if I had the chance what advice I would give to my younger self. So here is what I wish I could go back and tell myself on my own college graduation day: 'Arianna, stop worrying and get more sleep! Every aspect of your life will actually improve if you get more sleep -- your work, your health, and your happiness.' And I might also tell my younger self something about certain hairstyles that might look dated later on, but that's a different speech.

But I didn't learn about the true value of sleep and recharging until much later in my life. And what I'm here to tell you today, after my own painful experience of collapsing from sleep deprivation and burnout nine years ago, is that to make the most of who you are and of all the hard work that has gotten you here today, to fulfill all your dreams, you actually have to start -- as they tell us on airplanes -- by putting on your own oxygen mask first, before helping others. Not because you are selfish, but because that is how you are going to be at your best and most effective. The science on this is conclusive: burnout and sleep deprivation degrade every part of our lives, including our productivity and our empathy.

It's not a surprise, for instance, that some of our best ideas come in the shower. In fact, I'm terrified that Apple will soon create a waterproof iPhone and rob us of yet more of our precious time away from technology, where we can think, imagine, dream without our smartphones holding our attention hostage. I remember the first time I started walking around Soho, where I live, without multitasking and staring at my phone. I actually began noticing things that weren't on my tiny iPhone screen, including a beautiful building near my apartment. 'What a gorgeous building,' I told a friend I was with. 'When did it go up?' '1890,'she said.

It was in the Industrial Revolution when we began to think that we could treat humans as machines by minimizing downtime. This was when sleep became not just devalued but actively scorned, as just more idle time spent not working. But now we are in something of a golden age of sleep science, revealing that sleep is, in fact, a time of frenetic activity in our brains, with profound consequences on both our physical and mental health.

So now we are at this amazing moment in the zeitgeist when the culture is slowly shifting, and I urge you to be pioneers in this shift, and accelerate it. It was my generation that built this world fueled by burnout, and it's now up to your generation to change it. And that means, among other things, no longer celebrating people who are always on, who answer emails or texts immediately no matter when they're sent, who make a show of working 24/7. In fact, I had dinner with a man recently who bragged about having only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before. I thought -- but I didn't say: 'This dinner would have been a lot more interesting if you had gotten five.'

Your former President, Donna Shalala, recounts how back in the days she served as President Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services, the President would often call her up in the middle of the night to talk policy. At one point, she took to sleeping with her big briefing books next to her bed. It's perhaps no surprise that President Clinton himself later said, 'Every important mistake I've made in my life, I've made because I was too tired.'

Because when we're always on, when we're always connected, we're there, but not really there, and we go through our days at 60 or 40% capacity, or worse, sleepwalking through our lives in a zombie state. Or we're in constant emergency-mode, eternally panicked about all we have to do. This is why my screensaver is a picture of gazelles: They are my role model. They run with all they've got when there is danger -- a leopard or a lion approaching -- but as soon as the danger passes, they stop and go back to grazing peacefully without a care in the world. But human beings can't distinguish between real dangers and imagined ones. Past failures and future worries activate a fight-or-flight response the same way as real dangers, and unlike the gazelles, we can't stop running -- we just keep going, until we crash.

And when we're sleep deprived, all our fears, anxieties and self-doubts are exacerbated. We are more likely to go into catastrophic thinking and negative fantasies -- that interview went bad, therefore I won't get the job, therefore I'll never get a job. As Montaigne put it: 'There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.'

I was delighted to find out that three of this year's graduates, Dana Seag (Dana Seeg), Catherine Traynor, and Alicia Ambrosino, launched a national alliance on mental health at Hunter. Because, as Catherine said, 'Not everyone has to have a mental illness in order to care about mental health.'

And what modern science is revealing is that when you scratch the surface of depression or anxiety, over 80 percent of the time you find sleep deprivation. So if I could give you one graduation present -- one that would make it easier for you to deal with whatever problems and setbacks life brings, as well as access your best, most creative ideas for your life and for the world -- I would give you the gift of waking up and greeting each day with fresh eyes, fully restored after a good night's sleep.

We all have different areas in our lives where we are more insecure and anxious. You probably all know what is your biggest anxiety trigger, so you can test how sleep deprivation exacerbates it. I'll tell you what my greatest anxiety trigger is. It has to do with my two daughters -- any parents here who identify with me? If I text one of them and she doesn't respond within five seconds I move into the most idiotic negative fantasies. A few years ago I was in Switzerland on a grueling business trip, and I woke up, still sleep deprived, to a text from my daughter Christina that she was feeling terrible and needed a doctor. I immediately tried to call her and she didn't answer. And then of course I moved into full-scale panic, calling everyone -- her friends, her friends' parents, all our relatives, and just stopping short of calling the police and putting out an Amber alert for her. I'm sure there are people in this audience who I called! But, of course, she was fine, it was just a very bad cold and she had gone back to sleep, which is why she hadn't responded to my texts. But my sleep deprivation had turned that into a full-blown emergency.

There will always be emergencies and unexpected challenges in your life. The question is how do you deal with them. You can't control what the world brings to you, but you can control how you respond to it. That's why my favorite expression of wisdom -- one that I keep laminated in my wallet -- is by Marcus Aurelius, who was both the emperor of Rome and a Stoic philosopher: 'Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you. This, in a word, is art -- and this art called 'life' is a practice suitable to both men and gods. Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing; what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend?'

And if we live life this way, then we have more resilience and more ingenuity to help us deal with the hardest moments. I remember one of the low points in my life, when my second book was rejected by, yes, 37 publishers. By about rejection 25, you would have thought I might have said, 'Hey, you know, there's something wrong here. Maybe I should be looking at a different career.' Instead, I remember running out of money and walking, depressed, down St. James Street in London and seeing a Barclays Bank. I'm not sure why, but I walked in and asked to speak to the manager. And I asked him for a loan. Even though I didn't have any assets, the banker gave it to me. It wasn't much, but it changed my life, because it meant I could keep things together for another 13 rejections and then, finally, an acceptance. In fairytales there are helpful animals that come out of nowhere to help the hero or heroine through a dark and difficult time, often helping them find a way out of the forest. Well, in life too, there are helpful animals disguised as human beings -- in my case, as a bank manager, ready to help. So, very often, the difference between success and failure is faith and perseverance, which are easier when you believe in yourself enough to take care of yourself.

As you head out into your new world, you might well feel overwhelmed with far too many items on your to-do list. So here is a hack on how to trim those lists down and give your life some breathing room. You can complete a project by dropping it. There is no law for example that you have to binge-watch the entire Game of Thrones series. That's the way I finally checked learning to play piano, and learning German, and becoming a good skier, off of my to-do list -- I 'completed' them by just finally getting rid of them. It's about priorities, and realizing you're more than your to-do lists.

I'd like to close on a note of gratitude. Not just my gratitude for having the chance to be here with you today -- though there's that -- but also how important it is to build gratitude into your every day.

And there's no time like the end of the day to reflect on what you're grateful for, and what were your moments of joy. And I love that because my new goal in life is not just to get stuff done, not just to be effective, but to bring joy into my life and into everything I do and touch. And you know what? I get more stuff done as well!

No matter what the challenges, each day let's also find joy in what we're doing. As Colette said, 'What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.' Let's move from struggle to grace. And that's entirely a matter of our attitude.

But it is infinitely harder if we are sleep-deprived and exhausted to tap into the joy that is independent of circumstances, the joy that lies beyond our to-do list, our job title and our next promotion -- the joy that people have found in the middle of the darkest times. And nothing takes the stress out of anything potentially stressful in our days faster than joy. Stress and joy cannot occupy the same space. Speaking to 1700 people is, on paper, stressful. But unlike some of you who might have, uh been out celebrating last night (and I can't really blame you) I had eight hours of sleep. And I love being here connecting with you. So it's not stressful, it's joyful.

And when we take the time to recharge and renew ourselves, we are more likely to find shortcuts through the problems and solutions to the greatest challenges. Those of us in the media have tended to focus on the crises. Indeed, there is an old saying in the news business, one that's guided editorial thinking for decades: 'If it bleeds, it leads.' That is, stories of violence, tragedy, dysfunction and corruption get top billing -- at the top of the hour, at the top of the computer or phone screen or above the newspaper fold -- driven by the assumption that these are the stories the public will be most drawn to watch or read. This ethos is wrong, both factually and ethically. And it's lousy journalism. That's why at The Huffington Post we have created a global solutions initiative that we call What's Working. Because as journalists, our job is to give our audience an accurate picture -- and that means the full picture -- of what's going on in the world. Just showing tragedy, violence, mayhem -- focusing on what's broken and what's not working -- misses too much of what is happening all around us. What about how people are responding to these challenges, how they're coming together, even in the midst of violence, poverty and loss? And what about all the stories of innovation, creativity, ingenuity, compassion and grace? If we in the media only show the dark side, we're failing at our jobs. And it's not just journalists and the media. Whatever field you're in, having the courage and daring to recognize that you can make a difference begins with focusing on solutions. And when you do that, you will inspire others to do the same.

And every night can become a reminder that we are more than the sum of our successes and failures, that beyond all our struggling and our rushing there is a stillness and a joy that are available to us, that come from a place deeper and more ancient than the unending noise that surrounds us. The motto of your school translates to 'the Care of the Future Is Mine.' And it fills me with optimism that the care of our future rests with you. But if I could add a rider to that, the care of yourself also rests with you... and taking good care of yourselves will give you the resources to take care of our collective future.

So please remember that life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen. You're leaving a special place, and the world needs what this place has taught you -- your wisdom, your creativity, your tolerance, the strength of your diversity. It's a richness you are bringing with you into the world. Please remember to regularly replenish it.

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Tribune Publishing Could Not Have Picked A Worse Name For Its Rebranding

Thu, 2016-06-02 18:34

What the tronc? 

Tribune Publishing, the troubled owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, announced Thursday it was trading its storied corporate name for "tronc Inc." -- short for Tribune online content. 

The internet immediately began masterfully, mercilessly, making fun of the rebranding:

This is our new logo. Again, tronc.

— Kurt Gessler (@kurtgessler) June 2, 2016

— Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson) June 2, 2016

If you’re wondering where you know the #tronc font from, it’s from Nickelodeon.

— Margaret Lyons (@margeincharge) June 2, 2016

There's also the issue of the English meaning of "tronc" -- a box for collecting tips for staffers (typically at a restaurant or hotel) to split later -- which derives from the French word for "poor box."  

Tribune Publishing, a media company with a nearly 170-year old legacy, has -- like most newspaper publishers -- been in tumult lately as advertising and circulation plunge.

Chicago tech mogul Michael Ferro invested in Tribune Publishing this year (he still holds shares in the rival Chicago Sun-Times.) Ferro swiftly installed a new CEO and became board chairman.

Since then, Ferro has fended off an $860 million offer from USA Today owner Gannett Publishing. 

Ferro is said to be longtime friends with another major Tribune -- sorry, tronc  -- investorbillionaire Los Angeles surgeon Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Soon-Shiong was announced Thursday as the company's vice-chairman. He said he plans to speed tronc's transition from newspapers to online publishing with machine vision and artificial intelligence. 

“We will benefit from Dr. Soon-Shiong’s entrepreneurial spirit and strong technology expertise as we aggressively implement the changes necessary to transform the company and create superior value,” Ferro said in a statement. 

The company's statement on the rebranding -- a gobbledygook of buzzwords like "monetization" and "premium, verified content" -- also noted it would shift from the New York Stock Exchange to Nasdaq, where it will begin trading June 20.

Topping off the company's tone-deaf nonsense, the team behind the rebranding apparently forgot to check tronc-related social media accounts before the announcement: 

Bring me the idiot consultant who sold Tribune Media on announcing this awful name without looking locking down all related social accounts.

— Tronc Chicago (@TroncChicago) June 2, 2016

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Poverty, Militarism and the Public Schools

Thu, 2016-06-02 15:16
What's the difference between education and obedience? If you see very little, you probably have no problem with the militarization of the American school system -- or rather, the militarization of the impoverished schools . . . the ones that can't afford new textbooks or functional plumbing, much less art supplies or band equipment.

The Pentagon has been eyeing these schools -- broken and gang-ridden -- for a decade now, and seeing its future there. It comes in like a cammy-clad Santa, bringing money and discipline. In return it gets young minds to shape, to (I fear) possess: to turn into the next generation of soldiers, available for the coming wars.

The United States no longer has a draft because the nation no longer believes in war, except abstractly, as background noise. But it has an economic draft: It claims recruits largely from the neighborhoods of hopelessness. Joining the U.S. military is the only opportunity to escape poverty available to millions of young Americans. We have no government programs to build the infrastructure of peace and environmental sustainability -- we can't afford that, so it has to happen on its own (or not at all) -- but our military marches on, funded at more than half a trillion dollars a year, into ever more pointless wars of aggression.

Glory, glory hallelujah. I'd never been to a Memorial Day parade in my life, but I went to this year's parade in downtown Chicago because members of the Chicago chapter of Veterans for Peace were going to be there, protesting the militarization of the city's schools.

I arrived as the parade was still assembling itself along Wacker Drive. What I saw, along with the Humvees and the floats (Gold Star Families of the Fallen, Paralyzed Veterans of America: Making a difference for 70 years) were thousands of young people -- mostly kids of color, of course -- bedecked in various uniforms, standing in formation as martial music erupted sporadically, driven by the drumbeat of certainty. Some of the boys and girls seemed as young as 10 or 11. One boy walked past me twirling a rifle like it was a baton. Was it real? Was it loaded?

The concept of America is a totally military phenomenon, I thought as I walked along the parade route. This is what holds it together, not culturally, but as a legally organized entity. The flags, the rifles, the Humvees, the names of the dead . . . the uniformed children. For a moment I wondered if I could continue calling myself an American.

Then I met up with the Vets for Peace people at State and Lake -- a small group of men and women handing out stickers that read: "No military in Chicago Public Schools. Education, not militarization."

"The idea is, just by being here, we're having people stop for a moment and think about the militarization of Chicago schools," Kevin Merwin told me. "There's opposition to the wholesale militarization of youth in Chicago. It's the most militarized school system in the country, if not the world."

Indeed, according to various sources, there are between 9,000 and 10,000 young people in the Pentagon's JROTC program, with "military academies" -- often in spite of furious community opposition -- taking over portions of 45 of the city's 104 high schools.

"Kids in seventh grade are being rolled up into this Memorial Day parade," Merwin said. "We're inculcating kids into the military system at a young age -- the kind of thing we criticized the Soviet Union for back in the day. And it's mostly kids of color."

Ann Jones, addressing this hypocrisy, pointed out in an excellent essay that Congress actually passed an act in 2008 -- the Child Soldiers Prevention Act -- that was "designed to protect kids worldwide from being forced to fight the wars of Big Men. From then on, any country that coerced children into becoming soldiers was supposed to lose all U.S. military aid."

However, not surprisingly, the economic interests of the military-industrial complex eventually gutted the intention of this rare bit of compassionate legislation. Five of the ten countries on the child-solider list, Chad, South Sudan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, have been granted "waivers" so they can continue to purchase American weapons.

"Too bad for the young -- and the future -- of those countries," Jones wrote. "But look at it this way: Why should Washington help the children of Sudan or Yemen escape war when it spares no expense right here at home to press our own impressionable, idealistic, ambitious American kids into military 'service'?

"It should be no secret that the United States has the biggest, most efficiently organized, most effective system for recruiting child soldiers in the world."

Those who want to perpetuate the military mindset -- that is to say, the servants of the most powerful economic interests in the country -- have to grab the minds of the young, because only in one's youth does militarism resonate with uncontaminated glory. This is why the Army maintains a gamer website. And it's why every branch of military service sets up shop in our most desperate schools and parades the Junior ROTC boys and girls before the public on Memorial Day, our national holiday in celebration of arrested development.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at or visit his website at


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To the Little Kink-Haired Girl

Thu, 2016-06-02 14:48
Little kink-haired girl, you inspire me.

Sitting with your texturally diverse friends while wearing your puffs and braids with casual confidence makes me feel so proud. I know that you just think that your barrettes are pretty and that you hate sitting still while Mommy does your hair, but to me, your indifference to your texture reveals that something incredible is in the works.

When I was your age, I didn't know my hair. I only knew my relaxer. I knew my favorite brand and the smell of its chemicals that my hair was only "nice" when the relaxer was freshest. I knew that the reappearance of my natural texture was a problem and that a relaxer was a magic elixir that would solve it. I knew the little girls on "kiddie perm" box had pretty hair because of what was in the box. I knew that if I was really diligent with my relaxers that maybe I would one day have pretty hair like them.

When I was your age, I didn't know my hair.

I was barely acquainted with my kinky hair. We'd only met briefly. I only missed it when my mom one day, apparently nostalgic for the days of ribbons and barrettes put me in pigtails to go to school. My once thick, full braids were now a limp, short semblance of what they used to be. I cried. Being "bald-headed" was the worst fear of every black middle school aged girl that I knew, and I had happened upon it. Processing and manipulation ruined my hair, but being unaware of this contingency, I blamed the only visible culprit, my hair itself. I had the "stupid" hair that didn't grow. My hair was the problem, and it had to be put down.

I graduated to adult relaxers and became good enough to apply them myself. I always got the super strength because "that's what it takes to knock these naps out!" I would joke to my friends. My natural hair was bad, possibly the worst. It had to be "fought" and "handled" and "tamed". So I became the "nap tamer". I would fight though my kinky new growth and the stinging and the smell to arise victorious over my blasted natural texture. My hair was good again. See you nappy newcomers in six weeks.

My natural hair had to be 'fought' and 'handled' and 'tamed.'

My hair didn't grow, but that's not something my hair was good at. It was thinning, but that made it easier to straighten. It was weak and breaking, but all hair did that. I was finally fine. My hair was finally fine. I knew it in and out. It was mediocre, but I knew it in and out.

Then my sister cut of all of her hair.

It was glorious.

And bold.

And terrifying.

So terrifying that despite the fact that I loved her hair, I refused to go natural for another two years, because I didn't want to face the villainous texture that I had worked so hard to defeat before.

Before then wearing your natural texture as a grown-up was completely foreign to me. Wearing your natural texture was the antecedent to permanent straightening, and nothing further. I wasn't for it. And it wasn't for me.

But my sister disagreed. And cajoled. And nagged me...

And won.

I cut my hair off.

And suddenly, the kinks and I were reunited.

I then realized what you already know, little kink-haired girl; my natural texture is a part of me. And it really isn't a big deal. I don't have to fuss about it, or beat it down, or change it in any way. I just have to wear it. And that doesn't have to be hard. One day it won't have to be a stand, or defended, or scrutinized. One day wearing my texture won't be seen as courageous, or subversive, or political. One day my hair will just be my hair. Just like it is to you.

One day wearing my texture won't be seen as courageous, or subversive, or political. One day my hair will just be my hair.

I hope that I can be more like you, little girl. But more than that I hope that you represent a change in America forever. I hope that you continue to not have to think about not getting hired because of your hair, or losing the battle and your hair to relaxers, or being "bald-headed", or not being pretty enough because you are different. I hope that you when you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine that you see beautiful and powerful representations of yourself everywhere. I hope that you and your kinks never part and have a long and happy relationship together. I hope that you never change and that you remain carefree, never feeling like you have to choose between a hairstyle you can't afford to maintain and looking "unpresentable". I hope that your generation represents a new attitude towards the "other". I hope that your generation has no "other". I hope that you can continue to teach me how to accept who I am just by being your cheerful, vibrant self everyday.

I hope that you when you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine that you see beautiful and powerful representations of yourself everywhere.

You are already light-years ahead of me when I was your age.

I hope that one day I can catch up to you.

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

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

Obama's Favorite City To Spotlight Is Filled With People Who Distrust Him

Wed, 2016-06-01 08:51

WASHINGTON -- In the summer of 2008, Andrea and Andrew Hauser of Elkhart, Indiana, were confidently planning out their lives. They'd bought a home the year before, and in August, they found out they'd be having their first child.

Then it all started to unravel. By that fall, the recession sweeping across the country had struck Elkhart and almost flattened it. The city was a major hub for the RV industry, and as the U.S. economy fell in on itself, not many people were interested in buying luxury vehicles.

The Hausers, who worked in the industry, weren't spared. Andrea lost her job first. Three weeks later, while driving back from a trip to spend Thanksgiving with family in Georgia, Andrew got a call saying that his company was going out of business.

Plenty of others were in the same boat. Andrea's brother and father were soon jobless, and she estimates that eventually, 75 percent of their friends were without work too. They'd have parties where they'd eat, play cards and exchange bleak jokes about the economy. The Hausers got by on unemployment insurance. But half of it was going to the $800 a month Andrea had to pay for COBRA coverage, since her pregnancy meant that she couldn't afford to go without health insurance. They cut back elsewhere, shopping for cheaper groceries and never going out for dinner.

"It wasn't the end of the world," Andrea recalled. "But it was easy to feel like we were going to experience what our grandparents experienced during the Great Depression."

But gradually, things started to get better. In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill. The benefits would take a while to trickle down to Elkhart, but one change came quickly to the Hausers: The government now covered two-thirds of Andrea's COBRA costs. "If that had not happened, we would not have been able to pay our mortgage," she said.

Soon after, Andrew got a job. So did Andrea's brother. The country's economy was improving, the RV industry was coming back and jobs were coming back with it.

On Wednesday, Obama will travel back Elkhart in a swing that certainly seems like a victory lap. He stopped by the town several times during the 2008 campaign, and Elkhart was the first city Obama visited as president, back when the local unemployment rate was hovering over 17 percent. Currently it is 3.8 percent, one of the lowest jobless rates in the nation.

But while Obama is expected to spend the day touting his economic successes and the resilience of Elkhart's residents, it won't be a mutual lovefest. Even many people there whose lives were tangibly improved by his administration aren't starry-eyed fans of the president.

Andrea, now 33, can't recall whether she voted for Obama in 2012. She's not planning to vote for his likely Democratic successor, Hillary Clinton, in 2016, saying she'd prefer a third-party candidate. Andrew, who said he believes Obama deserves more credit for the work he did in turning around the economy, nevertheless didn't vote for Obama or his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, four years ago. Like his wife, he isn't too pleased with his choices in 2016 either.

"It's hard. It's difficult. I would like to give him a little sense of encouragement," Andrew, also 33, said. "Personally, I can't say [that] everything about him, I'm all about. But I'm also not a type of person who thinks our president should get bashed every time for one reason or another."

The Hausers are not a microcosm of Elkhart. They applaud the work done by Obama and plan to attend his event on Wednesday. But as Jackie Calmes of The New York Times recently reported, much of the rest of the city, which is reliably Republican, is far more skeptical of the president.  

Still, the Hausers' story underscores a larger problem that has vexed this president since his earliest days in office: how to reap tangible political benefits from his economic policies, or, failing that, how to succinctly explain the ins and outs of those policies at all.

According to data gathered by ProPublica, Elkhart received nearly $170 million in funds made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- about 2 percent of the $8.7 billion sent to the state of Indiana as a whole. But when asked for thoughts on how the stimulus had helped them, many recipients said they were unaware they'd even benefited from it.

"I did not receive a loan through the stimulus program, sir," said an official with Namacle LLC, a company that appears to manufacture gun parts. In fact, Namacle received two loans through the Small Business Administration, for a total of $350,000, via money made available by the Recovery Act, according to ProPublica's data.

The official confirmed the SBA loans but declined to say what he'd used the money for. "That's private information," he said.

I did not receive a loan through the stimulus program, sir.
A recipient of a Small Business Administration loan made possible through the stimulus.

Not all stimulus beneficiaries flat-out denied having gotten money through the program. But most seemed completely unaware that the loans they received or the grants they were awarded were made possible by that bill. A receptionist at Goshen Chiropractic Center PC, which got a $119,000 SBA loan, said she "certainly didn't recall" the company getting that money. A manager at McCarthy's on the Riverwalk, a restaurant that received a $213,000 SBA loan, said she hadn't been there long enough to know about the money McCarthy's received in 2009.

Leanne Brekke, who used to run Indiana Micro Metal Etching company, said she didn't know the SBA loans she received -- more than $500,000 in total -- were made possible through the Recovery Act. Brekke used that money to buy the company, she explained. But she sold it a few months ago out of concern that taxes and the possibility of a forced minimum wage hike would make her business unprofitable, if not completely untenable.

"I'm not a big President Obama fan," Brekke said. "I'm voting for Trump."

There are any number of reasons -- besides sheer confusion -- as to why Obama doesn't get more credit for his economic agenda in places like Elkhart. For one, the stimulus wasn't a universal success. PBS reported that even as jobs came back to town, "the average take-home pay in Elkhart-Goshen had dropped 22 percent -- down from nearly $74,000 in 1999 to almost $58,000 in 2014."

Three relatively high-profile electric car ventures fizzled in the town despite high expectations. And while unemployment has gone down, it's debatable how much of that is a result of the president's legislation. The Recovery Act didn't prop up the RV industry, after all. But it did spark an economic turnaround strong enough to breathe new life into the luxury vehicle market.

"The connection between what the government intervention did and the rebirth of the RV industry, the explosion of the RV industry, is not a direct connection," said Kyle Hannon, president and CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. "There probably is a line, but it is not a straight one."

"The types of stimulus projects you have here would be redoing a runway, which is a big project," Hannon went on. "But we don't have a commercial airport. Most citizens won't touch that airport. But I can't say it was a bad idea. We had five chamber members who got business from that project."

The White House doesn't dispute the idea that the president has fallen short in the selling of his agenda. Though Obama's approval on the economy has been consistently high in recent months, there is a reason he is traveling to Elkhart. He wants to convert the still unconverted. 

"Elkhart is not Obama country but he believes engaging in a constructive way with people who disagree with you is not only a vital part of democracy, but one that there is far too little focus on today," Obama's communications director, Jennifer Psaki, told The Huffington Post. The president, she added, wants to discuss "not only how far we have come, but where we go from here."

Obama certainly has fewer fans in Indiana than when he first started showing up there. In the 2008 election, he squeaked past Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the Hoosier State 49.8 percent to 48.8 percent. Four years later, he lost the state to Romney 54 percent to 44 percent. Few expect Clinton to best Donald Trump in Indiana come November.

"There are a bunch of Republicans here. Let's be honest, it's Indiana. It's a very Republican area and conservative in many ways, so it's going to be hard to sway their opinion," said Andrea Hauser. "There are certain social issues that I think people can't get past."

And so while Obama would love nothing more than to turn a tale of a saved city into a springboard for Democratic votes, he'll likely make limited progress this week. People don't always vote with their pocketbooks, as Hauser pointed out. Sometimes, in fact, they don't vote at all.

Take Elijah Wiggins, who completed advanced technical study coursework using ConnectED-donated software at Elkhart Area Career Center while he was in high school. ConnectED is an Obama-led initiative to outfit schools with next-generation broadband technology. It allowed Wiggins to learn how to draft 3D models. The coursework led to an internship and then to a part-time job, which he still holds today in addition to studying at a local community college.

"Honestly," he said of Obama, "I don't think he gets a whole lot of credit for everything that he does. I know a lot of kids who didn't realize that our software was donated or that he was even working to help us out with it."  

This will be the first presidential election in which Wiggins, who turned 18 this year, is allowed to vote. But he won't be casting a ballot.

"I didn't end up registering," he explained.

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If I Could Control My Hair, I Could Control My Life

Wed, 2016-06-01 06:59

A photo posted by Tanya Wright (@tanyattwright) on Apr 26, 2015 at 7:43pm PDT

Thirteen years ago, my brother died. I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I shot 14 episodes of a TV series. I have been an actor most of my life and don't get caught up in the highs and lows of it all. I always maintain a simple life -- no matter what. But I had amassed a bit of money -- enough for me to live for the next two years if there was no work. But that was unlikely. After my brother died, I was in pretty severe grief. I have always been a doer, a very hard worker (Perhaps it is my Taurean nature. I am a triple Taurus --sun, moon and rising.) I remember putting one foot in front of the other -- things needed to get done, tasks needed to be completed -- but feeling terribly empty inside. Four years later and I had still not gotten a job. My savings had run out. I lost my home and handed in my car to the dealer.

In 2010, I began to think about rebuilding my life. The world seemed new, different. I wanted to start fresh. I was out walking my pooch, Macarena, whom I had gotten a year after my brother's death and had the overwhelming feeling that if I could get control over my hair, I could get control over my life. The answer to it all was in my hair.

"The answer to it all was in my hair."

See, my hair has been the bane of my existence for most of my life. It is massive, curly and has a life all its own. I've had countless hair stories that could easily be horror stories! There was the time when my young mother took my sister and I to get our hair done at a beauty school (because that was all we could afford) and the student stylist proceeded to give me a cut resembling a mohawk (I had asked for a trim!)

A photo posted by Tanya Wright (@tanyattwright) on Apr 11, 2016 at 2:25pm PDT

Then, there was that time we had a candle burning in the bathroom over the sink. I was brushing my teeth and bent over to rinse my mouth out -- just then, a curly lock of hair kissed the flame of the candle and... Well, you know the rest. I remember hearing something crackle and then the vague scent of something burning, but I couldn't figure out quite what it was. It was only when I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror and saw my grandmother running towards me, swooping her bare hands over my head before the flame reached my scalp, that I knew my hair was on fire!

"My hair has been the bane of my existence for most of my life."

Now, you can see why mastering my hair was so important to me. It was something that seemed to have a life all its own. I immersed myself in the world of all things hair: I watched countless YouTube videos and delighted in a community of women who shared hairstyle and best ingredients for hair. Theirs was a do-it-yourself community I was super inspired by. I felt I had a unique voice to add, one that hadn't been seen or heard online. As I started to cultivate a more loving relationship with my hair, I realized those curly coils atop my head were teaching me a lot about patience. Elasticity. That shedding (which is natural, we shed skin and hair daily) is an integral part of the "letting go" process to make a way for the new. Our hair is the only part we can cut off, grow back, tease, color, curl and straighten. The one thing we can manipulate at will to tell the world who we are.

"Those curly coils atop my head were teaching me a lot about patience."

Ironically, with a busy career as an actress playing Crystal Burset -- the wife of transgender inmate Sophia Burset played by Laverne Cox -- on "Orange Is the New Black" my life sometimes feels more out of control than ever. At the same time, I know that the opposite is also true: That I am the captain of my ship; I am the master of my fate. Life is a healthy balance between these two ideas. And I would never have known that if it were not for my hair.

A photo posted by Tanya Wright (@tanyattwright) on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:50am PDT

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

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

Dear NCAA: My Mom Is a Sexual Assault Survivor and You Can Help

Tue, 2016-05-31 19:58
Dear NCAA,

My name is Darius Adams. I'm the son of Brenda Tracy who is a public rape survivor. It was 2010 when my mom first told me that she was raped. I was 17. We were sitting in our car in our driveway. I remember it because it was a life-changing moment for me. She didn't tell me because she wanted to. She told me because she had to. She was trying to save my life. I was out of control at the time. I was angry and broken and I didn't care if I lived or not.

I remember her crying and struggling to get the words out "I was raped." She apologized to me over and over and asked me not to hate her. "Please don't be ashamed of me. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," I still can't understand why she was apologizing to me, but after that talk, I started to see her as a different person. I saw her as someone who had been hurt, and she was just doing the best she could as a single mother with two kids. It was then that I began to turn my life around -- mostly for myself, but also for my mom. I wanted her to be proud of me. I wanted to make sure that what she went through and all the sacrifices she made for me and my brother were not in vain.

It was 2014 when my mother went public with her story. I wasn't prepared. She hadn't told me the details in 2010, but now every ugly detail was on the internet in an article by John Canzano at the Oregonian. To this day, I haven't read it all. I can't. I just can't.

What I do know is that my mom was drugged and gang-raped by four football players in 1998. I know that Oregon State University gave two of them 25 hours community service and Coach Mike Riley gave them a one-game suspension. I know that the police threw away her rape kit and the DA lied to her about her case. I know that Oregon State cared more about football and money than my mom. I know that my mom wanted to kill herself, and I know that she almost did. And all because other people decided that football, money and reputation was more important than me and my brother having a mother.

I was scared when the article first came out. I didn't know how people would react to us. Would they attack my mom? Would they say terrible things about her? Would I have to defend her? and what would I say? But a great thing happened. People reached out to us and they supported us. They expressed their love and gratitude for my mom coming forward and being brave enough to tell her story.

I was proud of her. It was the first time I saw her happy. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of her. I've heard her say more than one time "I walked out of my prison of shame and silence that day" and she did. I could see it. Ever since then my mom has worked hard to help others. She's passed five laws in Oregon. She's won numerous awards. We just went to Washington DC where she received the National Service Courage Award from the United States Attorney General.

She also changed a Pac12 rule so that athletes with serious misconduct issues can't transfer into our conference. She's my hero. And that's why I'm writing to you. I'm a college athlete, and I watch ESPN religiously. There's a serious problem in sports. We don't take sexual violence seriously enough. Seventeen years ago Coach Mike Riley suspended the men that hurt my mom for one game and just yesterday I saw the story about Baylor. Nothing has changed. Schools are still more worried about money and football than people's lives.

I'm a grown man now. I would never hurt a woman that way and I know that most men wouldn't. Why are we protecting this small group of men? Why are we allowing them to destroy people's lives? All of these victims have families and they get hurt too. I'm still dealing with what happened to my mom.

We need to do something right now, and I think it starts with the NCAA creating a policy that bans violent athletes. Enough is enough. It's been 17 years and nothing has changed. How many more years do we have to wait for something to happen? As the NCAA you have authority over many schools. YOU can change this. These schools have proven that they are not going to do the right thing. I believe it is your responsibility to step in. And please don't do it for me or my mom. Do it because it's the right thing to do.


Darius Adams

Photo: Darius Adams, Brenda Tracy, Devante Adams


[Related: What It Looks Like When A University Truly Fixes How It Handles Sexual Assault]


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

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Is Governor Rauner Deliberately Trying to Turn Illinois Into a Third World Economy?

Tue, 2016-05-31 16:00
Governor Bruce Rauner (R) of Illinois has achieved a milestone- a little over one year into his first term and Illinois has the lowest credit rating of any state and is now tied with Alaska for the highest unemployment among states in the country at 6.6%. Rauner is as ideologically rigid as other conservative true believers like Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas or Governor Rick Scott of Florida. It seems he almost set out to achieve such chaos because he has refused to sign a budget since entering office and the state's bills now total more than $159 billion in IOU's - more than twice the inflow of revenue in a single year. Social service agencies are shutting down, universities are laying off staff and programs are being cut.

Before Rauner's election, the "state's jobless rate was in the middle of the pack and unemployment was going down," according to an article in The Chicago Reporter quoting Frank Manzo IV of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. Since Rauner entered office, joblessness in Illinois has climbed steadily while the national unemployment rate has fallen. Of course, such results are a testament to the failures of trickle down economics, which so many conservatives still seem to have blind faith in.

Rauner seems to reflexively believe that by creating a "business friendly" environment which translates to busting unions, reducing wages, cutting public services, making massive cuts to the state's university system, and bankrupting Chicago public schools, he can grow jobs when just the opposite has happened.

Before he was elected then candidate Rauner explained to a partisan crowd his game plan. As told in an article on NPR: "He said he could drive a wedge in Democratic ranks by throttling human service providers, forcing Democrats to forsake their labor allies to protect the frail elderly, the homeless, abused children, and others among society's most disadvantaged. Shutting down state government might be needed, Rauner told the partisans, and he was ready to do so."

Governor Rauner is impervious to the pain he is causing since it is primarily the poor feeling it and the poor are not the constituency of Republicans. Rauner is a member of the privileged top .01% who made his riches as a speculator and investor. He has foregone his salary as governor only to benefit by far more, as much as $750,000, from tax cuts since he took office.

Of course, House Democrats did deliver a proposed budget with a $7 billion deficit to the governor and Illinois law requires a balanced budget. However, a 2011 tax increase was allowed to expire decreasing the state income tax by 25% in 2015. In fact, Rauner campaigned on letting the higher tax rate expire. According to the Daily Kos: "Illinois Democrats, including House Speaker Michael Madigan want to raise the State income tax back up and enact a special tax on millionaires similar to the one enacted in California in 2012 to avoid billions in vital budget cuts and to begin to cope with the state's $111 billion in unfunded pension obligations." On the other hand, Rauner proposes to balance the budget entirely with cuts.

According to the Daily Kos:

"Furthermore, the tax savings was distributed highly unequally. The bottom 60% of the Illinois income scale received just $479 million or only 13% of the total tax savings while the top 11% of tax payers received over 54% of the tax savings or over $2 billion dollars. Another one billion in annual corporate tax cuts go to the biggest, multinational corporations doing business in the State of Illinois, not small businesses which don't pay the corporate income tax." Thus, Illinois has a revenue problem as opposed to a spending problem.

"Today, nearly 90% of state spending is running on autopilot fueled by statutorily mandated spending, consent decrees and court orders," according to capital

Many of the Rauner's objectives have nothing to do with the state's budget anyway. His agenda includes items such as "local right-to-work laws, reduced unemployment insurance and workers' compensation payments, and term limits for legislators," according to Crain's Chicago Business. While the poor suffer and the middle class shrinks, Rauner is preoccupied with term limits. Well, Nero fiddled while Rome burned!

Of course, Republicans would not be Republicans if they were flexible. Rauner and other conservative governors can not grow the economy by impoverishing workers and disinvesting in the state's educational system and infrastructure. It is spending by consumers which creates jobs in the economy and not some mythical billionaire job creators who are standing by the sidelines waiting to start hiring when taxes are lowered. Businesses look to invest in locations with a competitive educational system, which can provide them with skilled workers, and a good infrastructure to transport goods and services. Austerity and disinvestment does not create such conditions.

However, Republican governors like Rauner of Illinois, Brownback of Kansas, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin wear ideological blinders. Their thirst to bust unions and lower salaries of workers for their billionaire benefactors and corporate friends is just too strong for them to see reason. They leave devastation in their wake, but to them if only they had a little longer their vision of creating a conservative business utopia is always just around the corner. Of course, the corner is never turned.

As one wonk opined: Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed! Well, Rauner is the latest to fail the conservative cause or maybe it is conservatism itself which is suspect!

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Martin Luther King Jr.'s Failure and America's Future: A Reflection on the 50 Year Anniversary of the Chicago Freedom Movement

Tue, 2016-05-31 15:58
"I've been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I've seen in Chicago." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Following the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) could have retired from the national fight for civil and human rights. King's activism was deeply rooted in fighting segregationists and the inequitable distribution of resources in the South. The campaigns in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham forced the nation to recognize that the social inequality experienced by Black Americans, which was engineered by elected officials, negated the democratic commitments expressed in America's founding documents. But that was not enough. King's philosophy of interdependence and the notion that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" expanded his commitment from civil rights to human rights. Human rights, according to King, were under attack by the triple evils of racism, poverty and militarism.

Instead of cementing his civil rights legacy in the policy gains of 1964-65, which so many of us are guilty of, Dr. King shifted his gaze towards the profound segregation and economic inequality in northern cities. Principle among these was the windy city of Chicago. Civil rights alone would not render the freedoms necessary for Black Americans to secure full citizenship. Voting rights were incomplete prescriptions for freedom without the power to support a candidate financially or develop a platform that would support the advancement of Black families. Integration laws were void if Black families did not have access to purchase housing outside of historically black communities, such as North Lawndale or Bronzeville. Dr. King maintained his nonviolent direct action strategy in Chicago. However, his experience in urban America shifted his demands from policy changes in America to economic reparations and subsidies by the federal government for years of neglect and disenfranchisement.

Black families were relegated to slum contract housing, unable to accrue wealth and property ownership, while white families thrived in separate and unequal housing conditions. The Chicago Freedom Movement was inaugurated in 1966 and marches were planned through the all white neighborhoods of Gage Park and Marquette Park. Local organizers would join Dr. King in visiting tenants in slum housing and encourage them to withhold rent, participate in community clean ups, and march on city hall demanding redress for the economic inequity in Chicago. This eventually resulted in an agreement with the city to enforce open housing laws. Despite their efforts and gains, the Chicago Freedom Movement failed the ultimate goal of integrating Chicago and dismantling the infamous government patronage machine. To date, Chicago is still the most segregated city in the America. Black and Brown children are still targeted unjustly and gunned down due to extrajudicial killings. The Chicago machine still restricts the economic mobility and political strength of Black and Brown communities through the corrupt patronage system.

Many Black residents in Chicago were trapped in decaying neighborhoods after they migrated from the South looking for jobs. Any opposition to the Mayor, then Richard J. Daley, was dangerous because of his power over city services and influence over public housing and welfare. Whenever Dr. King would raise an issue, Mayor Daley would institute a response to present the illusion that the city was concerned, and then withdraw the services that were distributed. The Mayor's ability to mobilize services weakened Dr. King's claims of city negligence. Mayor Daley was unlike any other adversary King confronted. Southern adversaries such as Bull Conner, George Wallace, Jim Clarke and Lester Maddox were defeated due to local coalitions that supported the agendas of King, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker and other activists. However, Dr. King did not receive the support of Chicago clergy as he did in the south because they were co-opted and refused to call injustice and oppression by their right names.

Though King's campaign in Chicago was a failure, the merit and goal of the Chicago Freedom Campaign require our continued attention. Dr. King was a prophet who did not allow the industrial advancement of the north to obfuscate structural violence and the debilitating condition of poverty. The profound segregation in urban cities permits the poor to go unnoticed and privilege to be undisturbed. This past winter, the city and nation was horrified by the public execution of Laquan McDonald. Even more appalling was the cover up by City Hall and the Chicago Police Department. This entire saga was virtually ignored because Laquan lived in a neighborhood that was deemed less valuable in the city of Chicago. If Laquan McDonald were shot 16 times in the middle of the University of Chicago or Northwestern University, the campuses, we would have displayed more compassion for him. Nevertheless, because of the location of his community and the expectation for him to fail in that community, his elected officials and the police review authority passively ignored his murder until they faced national scrutiny.

When we consider Dr. King as a failure in contemporary society, the notion is often disregarded as blasphemous. However, Dr. King's failures point us toward existing forms of oppression that still need to be confronted and abolished. The city of Chicago is one case that represents hundreds of urban cities that capitalize on the labor of the poor and protects the interests of the wealthy. As long as people are forced to live under the debilitating conditions of poverty, police brutality, and chronic joblessness, there will never be peace in a society, only brief respites of calm. Dr. King's sentiment that "those who make a peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable" has been on full display across the country as Ferguson, Baltimore, Staten Island, and Chicago have grappled with urban inequality and methods to close education and wealth gaps. As we commemorate The 50th anniversary of the Chicago Freedom Movement, let us call to mind his courage to fail in his pursuit to destroy systems of oppression. Though failure is an ever-present reality in justice work, every action we make to disrupt the social order bends the arc of the universe towards justice and exposes the demons that threaten our democracy.

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