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My Q and A With Cheri Mah, Who's Helping Top Athletes Elevate Their Game by Getting More Sleep

Mon, 2015-03-16 14:51
Top athletes are all about results. And as Cheri Mah has found, the world of sports is ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing one of the performance-enhancing tools that many of us overlook: sleep.

Mah is a researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, and her findings have made her a highly sought expert in the sports world. In answer to my questions, she shared her insights on how athletes at every level can boost their performance by getting more sleep, what's behind the recent surge in interest in athletes' sleep habits and how non-athletes can incorporate these lessons into their lives.

Describe your research on sleep and athletic performance.

My fascination with sleep in athletes began back in 2002 when several collegiate swimmers walked into the lab with wide grins, having set multiple personal records while on a sleep schedule to eliminate accumulated sleep debt. The aim of that study was to examine cognitive performance, not to boost athletic performance, but their success begged the question: Does getting extra sleep also enhance athletic performance?

Over the subsequent 10 years, my research has focused on the relationship between sleep and performance in high-performing athletes. At the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory with William Dement, M.D., Ph.D., the father of modern sleep medicine, my research has examined the impact of sleep duration and sleep quality on cognitive and physical performance in athletes across a wide range of sports.

The detrimental consequences of chronic sleep loss resulting in an accumulated sleep debt are well known; however, I've been intrigued with the opposite: investigating the potential benefits of getting extra sleep (sleep extension) and whether improving sleep patterns can positively impact functioning and enhance performance.

My research has been predominantly with collegiate athletes and has demonstrated that multiple weeks of sleep extension significantly reduces athletes' accumulated sleep debt and results in faster reaction time, decreased fatigue levels as well as improved athletic performance measures. More recently, a study of NFL West Coast vs. East Coast team matchups has shown a significant circadian rhythm advantage for West Coast teams in evening game outcomes over the past 40 NFL seasons.

Why do you think sports leaders are pioneering sleep research efforts?

Let's face it, sleep is frequently sacrificed and is the first thing to go when we're in a crunch for time. For professional athletes, sleep is often overlooked, and inadequate rest results in accumulating fatigue over a long season. Now add frequent travel back and forth across the country to further compound the situation. This scenario can be especially challenging, as I've found that not many sports teams have addressed sleep and recovery needs beyond the suggestion to "get a good night of sleep" the night before a game.

In the past few years, however, some professional sports teams have started to recognize that optimizing sleep is an untapped area of sports performance and can be a competitive advantage. In my opinion, several factors have spurred recent interest in athletes' sleep, including increasing general awareness of the importance of healthy sleep as well as new sleep research highlighting the necessity of adequate rest in athletes. As one example, a study of semi-professional tennis players has shown impairments in serving accuracy following sleep loss. On the other hand, my research studying several weeks of sleep extension has shown a 9-percent increase in both basketball free throw and 3-point field goal shooting percentages as well as faster sprint times in collegiate basketball players. In short, some sports teams are beginning to realize there are untapped benefits in improving their athletes' sleep, and applying findings from sleep research can provide a competitive edge.

How are professional sports teams incorporating sleep health into their training, and why?

Teams have different approaches, perspectives and extent of integrating sleep strategies into their training program. In general, in my experiences working with professional sports teams, it is essential to educate not only athletes but also coaches and staff on the importance of healthy sleep and the negative effects of chronic sleep loss.

A big challenge for teams is traveling and scheduling; many teams in fact have few if any strategies to optimize travel or scheduling. Some teams have started to evaluate schedules, such as considering the effects of circadian rhythms on performance and incorporating strategies to minimize the effects of jet lag. Some teams like the Warriors even choose to rest their players on the road.

Since one's report of sleep often differs from objective measures of sleep duration and quality, some teams have publicly acknowledged that they have incorporated objective sleep monitoring to help optimize individual athlete sleep patterns.

These are just a few examples of how sports teams are beginning to incorporate sleep strategies and leverage sleep science. I'll leave it at that for now and not go into the specifics, to respect the privacy of teams who view my work with them as an advantage.

What can all people learn from athletes on the importance of sleep?

You may not be a professional athlete, but healthy and adequate sleep is critical for everyone, not just on the weekend to "catch up on sleep" but on a daily basis. Whether you're a student studying for an exam, a working professional aiming to be at your best or a recreational athlete looking to up your game, prioritizing your sleep is key. I recommend taking a minute to evaluate if you are getting sufficient sleep each night, assess your sleep environment and plan to make one change to improve your sleep tonight!

College Presidents Are Still In Denial About Sexual Assault On Campus, Survey Finds

Mon, 2015-03-16 14:31
College and university presidents largely think their campuses are free of problems with sexual assault, a new Inside Higher Ed survey shows.

Seventy-eight percent of college presidents polled in the survey disagreed or strongly disagreed that sexual assault was prevalent on their campus, while only 6 percent agreed or strongly agreed that this was the case. In addition, three-fourths of presidents agreed or strongly agreed that their institutions were doing a good job protecting women from sexual assault, and nine in 10 agreed or strongly agreed that their schools provided appropriate due process for students accused of assault.

To conduct the survey, which was released Friday, Gallup polled 647 college presidents on behalf of Inside Higher Ed, the higher education trade publication.

The Department of Education is currently investigating 101 colleges and universities due to concerns that those institutions have violated Title IX, the federal gender equity law, in their handling of sexual violence cases.

The ever-increasing number of Education Department investigations follows a wave of students speaking out and highlighting colleges' and universities' inappropriate responses to campus rape cases. Multiple studies show that roughly one in five women are assaulted by the time they graduate from college. While conservative commentators have criticized that figure, each campus-based survey released in recent years has found a rate between one in 10 and one in three.

One-third of presidents in the Inside Higher Ed survey agreed or strongly agreed that sexual assault is prevalent on campuses nationwide, but 42 percent took a neutral position on the question.

| Create infographics

Inside Higher Ed's annual survey polls college presidents on trends in the news cycle, and the questions change each year, so there is no direct comparison to how the campus chiefs previously rated their schools on these specific issues. Last year, however, the survey found that not a single college president would say -- even anonymously -- that their institution wasn't handling sexual assault cases well.

This year's results come as the Senate is considering legislation that would increase the financial penalties the federal government can levy against schools that violate Title IX. To help explain their reasoning for the bill, lead co-sponsors Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have recommended people watch "The Hunting Ground," a new documentary on campus rape that suggests college administrators have largely failed sexual assault victims.

One scene in the film is a montage of college administrators stating, "We take this issue very seriously," which the filmmakers described as "empty rhetoric" that schools routinely deploy when forced to confront their failings.

"We're in a stage of denial -- we know it's happening, the statistics are there," Annie Clark, a sexual assault survivor who appears in "The Hunting Ground," said about the Inside Higher Ed poll results.

Clark, who is a co-founder of the activist group End Rape On Campus, said college presidents who don't accept that sexual assault happens at their schools "are burying their heads in the sand."

"In order to have any real change, you need to accept that there's a problem, and we can't get to that real change unless they acknowledge it," she said.

The American Council on Education, which represents college and university presidents, did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment.

The full list of colleges and universities currently under investigation by the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights for their handling of sexual violence is posted below.

101 Post Secondary Institutions Under Title IX Investigations by Tyler Kingkade

The Battle Between Stroller Moms and the CTA

Mon, 2015-03-16 14:08
"CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) policies and practices are currently discriminatory towards strollers." Apparently, stroller discrimination is rampant here in Chicago, y'all.

This is the opening line of Michelle Parker's online petition to the CTA where she demands that the CTA make changes to their current policies to make public transportation more "family friendly."

What's her beef? She states that the CTA has aided in the "Creation of a hostile environment for caregivers" who use strollers and that the CTA's "current policies encourage this (hostility) by suggesting open strollers are unsafe via recorded onboard messaging." She does not, however, provide any data to support that open strollers are actually safe.

She goes on to state that the current CTA stroller policies create "considerable safety issues for children, caregivers and other riders" and cause a "significant slowing of transit." To solve this problem, she proposes the following:

  1. Young children are allowed to remain in strollers for the duration of their rides.

  2. Designated areas for special needs on trains and buses clearly allow strollers.

  3. Drivers are instructed to always kneel buses for strollers and to promptly comply if asked to lower the ramp.

  4. Recordings and signage ask riders to accomodate (sic) strollers.

Did you catch the special needs part? That's because in her original petition, Parker compared strollers to wheelchairs (she has since removed it) and when she was interviewed by Red Eye Chicago, she stated "strollers are their wheelchairs." Did you cringe? Me too.

I do have issues with this petition. For one, strollers are not wheelchairs and shouldn't have the same rights. Disabled folks who use wheelchairs have rights that are protected by a federal law called the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the CTA has a legal responsibility to make buses accessible for wheelchairs whereas strollers do not have any legal protection and the CTA does not have any responsibility to make any concession for them.

But my main problem with this petition is that Parker didn't do her research. If she had, she would know that the CTA has one of the most lenient stroller policies of all the public transit systems in the country and that the majority of her requests are already part of the current CTA guidelines. In fact the CTA rule section on strollers is six paragraphs long whereas other metropolitan cities devote only one sentence. The first line of the CTA stroller rule section states: "Children in open strollers are welcome on the CTA..." It goes on to say that strollers should be kept clear of aisles and doorways and that the disabled have priority use of the Priority Seating area and that if those seats are not in use that open strollers may use that area. The rules also state that during busy times, strollers may need to be folded to accommodate other riders. And that riders may request use of the access ramp or lift during boarding and exit. This is in sharp contrast to Parker's assertion that the CTA's policies are discriminatory. Quite the opposite actually.

What's also noteworthy is that Pace, the transit authority that operates a mere few miles away from Chicago doesn't allow open strollers at all and has a firm fold-your-stroller-before-you-board policy that works for its riders. New York has the same policy as does Los Angeles. Back in 2011, Boston considered banning strollers from their transit system all together.

So why the inflammatory petition? Because there is actually a problem.

This petition sparked a lot of debate in the mom's group on Facebook where it was posted. Many were offended by Parker's statement that strollers and wheelchairs are equal. I'm not going to lie, I think that point is disgusting. But many ladies supported the petition, not because of Parker's view of strollers being similar to wheelchairs (even though shockingly a handful actually did), they supported it because they had lots of bad experiences on the CTA with their children and strollers.

Several stated that buses frequently refused to stop at designated bus stops when they were waiting with an open stroller. Others were asked to fold their strollers when boarding practically empty buses during non rush hour. A few stated that bus drivers and passengers openly threw shade at them when they asked that the ramp be lowered or the bus kneeled so they could board. Multiple moms stated they had seen other moms brought to tears by bus drivers and one mom shared a particularly disturbing account of being screamed at by a CTA bus driver for having her newborn baby in an open stroller, during off rush hour, in the middle of snowstorm, oh and he was sick and on the way to the doctor.

While I do not agree that the CTA is discriminatory, I think it's clear that drivers are not following the CTA's very clear policies. Refusing to stop is unacceptable as is yelling at riders. Being unfriendly about lowering the ramp when it's in the CTA guidelines that it's allowed is not cool either. But what seems to be at the core of the issue for many moms is the demand to fold up strollers when the bus is not running during rush hour and not full. The CTA's own policy allows this so why aren't drivers complying?

I also believe, unlike Parker, that blame is not with the CTA. Their guidelines fulfill almost all of her requests. The problem is with the bus drivers who are taking it upon themselves to divert from the rules established by the CTA and they should be reported and disciplined when they don't follow protocol. If enough moms file complaints and bring attention to individual incidences of mistreatment by drivers, the CTA will have to listen and they will have to assess and correct the issue.

I would encourage any mom that has an issue with CTA's drivers not following their own policies to write an email to the Assistant Secretary to the Board, Gregory Longhini ( and include photos (the CTA website says non-commercial photography on buses is allowed) showing empty buses when they are asked to fold up. Report buses that don't stop. Turn in bus drivers who don't accommodate the use of the ramp as they are supposed to. Blow up his email until the CTA is forced to recognize the insubordinate behavior of its employees. But most importantly, read the CTA's policy and know your rights and speak up when drivers are not following protocol. The key is to make sure that drivers adhere to what the rules are and if we all stay vigilant we can make the system with work with us instead of against us.

Do you have any stroller rage with the CTA? Start a dialogue and share your story in the comments.

Aaron Schock's fall from grace is a new twist on an old theme

Mon, 2015-03-16 12:46
U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) has seen his fair share of media scrutiny in recent weeks, all starting with a report that he had redecorated his congressional office in the image of PBS' period drama "Downton Abbey." Since then, he has come under criticism for possibly improper use of taxpayer funds on dinners, hotels, private jet flights and even concert tickets. The Better Government Association's Andy Shaw took a look at how Schock, a rising Republican star, fell out of favor. His ailment is not unique, says Shaw.

From Shaw:

Chronic hubris, caused by excessive exposure to fawning aides and constituents; loose rules and lax oversight; a grandiose sense of entitlement, and unrealistic feelings of invincibility.

The Rx? Multiple investigations and a suddenly uncertain political future for one of the Republican Party's rising stars.

Sadly, the problem goes well beyond Schock's use of public and political funds for helicopter rides and private plane trips to football games, concerts and staff weekends; pricey meals and hotel rooms; and a D.C. office remodeled to resemble Downton Abbey.

He got caught, thanks to the dogged digging of Washington reporters, including the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet.

But legions of public officials bend the rules without being detected or held accountable because there aren't enough watchdogs shining a light on their alleged chicanery.

Check out what other examples of unencumbered political hubris Shaw and the Better Government Association have called out recently at Reboot Illinois.

Speaking of politicians and taxpayer money, Capitol Fax's Rich Miller wants Illinoisans to take a closer look at Gov. Bruce Rauner's plans for cutting childcare costs in the upcoming budget. Eliminating $108 million of spending, aimed at services that take place in a family home by a family member, looks like a good idea on the surface, but Miller wonders whether those cuts could end up costing the state more money in the long run. Check out how Miller makes that rhetorical leap at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Best of the best: The top 10 hospitals in Illinois

You Have A 1 In 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 Chance Of Randomly Picking A Perfect NCAA Bracket

Mon, 2015-03-16 11:59
March Madness is coming up, so we just wanted to remind you that there is basically no way you are going to pick a perfect bracket. Sorry.

Jeff Bergen, a mathematics professor at DePaul University, calculates that if you randomly fill out your bracket, you have a one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance of doing so perfectly.

That’s one in 9.2 quintillion, for those of you too lazy to count, which explains why local rich man Warren Buffett felt confident enough last year to promise $1 billion to anyone that was able to do the near-impossible.

It would be easier to win the Mega Millions lottery two times in a row buying one ticket both times than it would be to get a perfect bracket,” Bergen said in a release by DePaul University. “Getting a perfect bracket is also the mathematical equivalent of picking the winning party of each presidential election through 2264.”

He added: “It would be more likely for the next 16 World Series to be won by the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox than it would be to pick a perfect bracket by guessing," which is a low blow to Cubs fans.

The calculation is actually fairly simple. Since there are 64 teams in the tournament, but you have to correctly predict who will win 63 games, since the eventual champion never loses. As one team loses and one team wins each game, you can then calculate two to the 63rd power, which is 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. Math!

This is what math looks like, folks. Soak it in.

People have taken issue with this calculation in the past, noting that very few people fill out a bracket do so without considering seeding, etc. “Nobody actually picks brackets this way; even very casual fans incorporate relative seeding,” Reuben Fischer-Baum wrote last year on Deadspin. “For all practical purposes, 1 in 9.2 quintillion is a terrible estimate of how hard it is to pick a perfect bracket.”

Bergen agrees that a little knowledge can go a long way. In fact, if you incorporate all your basketball know-how, he says you can bring your odds of filling out a perfect bracket all the way down to one in 128 billion.

And actually, at those odds, you'd be an idiot not to bet your life-savings.

Lucky Health Tips for Your Dog on St. Patrick's Day

Mon, 2015-03-16 11:47
St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching. Shamrocks, rainbows, beer, leprechauns, green rivers, and everything lucky -- this holiday has it all. Named after Saint Patrick, the most recognized patron saint (and snake remover) of Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is especially... shall we say 'festive'... in Chicagoland. However for pets, St. Patrick's Day can accidentally become unlucky and even dangerous for a number of reasons. Here are some guidelines for keeping your pet safe:
A little green beer on this holiday? Dogs should absolutely never be allowed access to beer or alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is toxic to pets and can make them extremely sick or even worse. If your pooch insists on joining in the festivities, you can buy or make your own doggie beverage. Try organic low sodium chicken broth in a frosty mug or bone broth poured from a growler (look! A beer-related meaning for the word "growler"...!). Or, if you want a 6-pack beer-bottle feeling, buy a doggie-beer such as Dog Beer or Bowser Beer. These non-alcoholic, non-carbonated treats can be a fun novelty for the human family, and won't harm the family dog. In general it's best to always be on the lookout for natural, organic and chemical-free ways to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Wear green or be pinched! We do not recommend dyeing even the most Irish of Wolfhounds green, but if your leprechaun insists, make sure to use non-toxic, all-natural, non-permanent vegetable dye. Be certain the coloring won't affect sensitive skin and is safe if your dog licks the fur after it's dyed. Murphy Oil Soap (liquid) is perfect as a safe, natural and non-drying dog shampoo to wash that green right out of their hair.
At this time of year, there seems to be no shortage of St. Patrick's Day costumes to adorn your precious pet. When dressing your pet for the occasion, take a cute photo as soon as the outfit is on. Then if the costume becomes uncomfortable, you can undress your little shamrock and show the photo instead. Animals can become overheated when wearing clothing/costumes. Signs of overheating include panting, acting lethargic or looking anxious. Overheating occurs more rapidly if the pet is in the sun, on a hot day, or in a warm room. Offering plenty of fresh water, and a cool place in the shade can help, but if your pets seem hot or uncomfortable, let them get naked.
Special Events
Parades and parties will be happening all around town. They can be overwhelming and even hazardous to your pet. When taking your pet to parties, communicate with the host or hostess to determine (a) if your pet is welcome and (b) if there will be a "no disturb" area or room for your pet if she becomes agitated. Make sure other guests aren't tempted to offer unhealthy treats, foods or drink to your dog. Remember that other houses may not be dog-proofed. Table surfing or garbage picking in a bathroom or kitchen may be dangerously appealing to a dog. Pets at holiday parades should be leashed and properly restrained at all times for a parade of reasons.
Looking for an Irish dog? Maybe an Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Setter, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Kerry Beagle, Irish Lurcher, Irish Toy Collie, Kerry Blue Terrier, Glen of Imaal Terrier, or an Irish Wolfhound? Whoever you might be looking for as your next four-legged companion, you can adopt an Irish breed at your local shelter or breed rescue. There are many deserving animals waiting to find a home. You'll both find that the luck of the Irish is with you!

Illinois' College Students Complete School at a Higher Rate Than Most of the Country

Mon, 2015-03-16 11:41
Even if Illinois' politicians don't have much they can boast about, Illinois' college students have plenty of reason to be proud about their college completion rates.

A new study says 73 percent of the state's four-year public college students complete their coursework within six years, compared to about 63 percent nationally, says a new study. That's the sixth-highest rate in the country-Iowa had the highest rate with nearly 80 percent of its students in four-year public institutions graduating in six years.

The study, released Feb. 24 and created by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, looked at the class of students that began their college careers in 2008, whether they finished at their starting institution or at another school. There were approximately 100,000 students who started college (at public schools, private schools and two-year schools) that year in Illinois. Students from that cohort, if they had graduated within four years, would have been part of the class of 2012. This study allowed for two extra years in study completion-it looked at graduation rates after six years.

Here are five states with some of the highest college completion rates in the country.

10. Pennsylvania-71.25%

9. Connecticut-71.57%

8. Minnesota-71.67%

7. South Carolina-71.86%

6. Illinois-73.20%

Check out the five states with the highest six-year college completion rates in the country at Reboot Illinois, including one state in which nearly 80 percent of all college students finish within six years.

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

NEXT ARTICLE: How much did Illinois colleges make in 2014?

Powerful Photo Series Shows What It's Like To Be A Rugby Girl

Mon, 2015-03-16 11:35
Spanish photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra captures women in traditionally "masculine" arenas. She has previously photographed female ROTC cadets and motorcycle riders -- and then she heard about the Brown University Women's Rugby Club.

After introducing herself to the coach and meeting the team, Carles-Tolra attended weekly practices and photographed the players in action. The powerful results show the physical strength it requires to be a woman who plays rugby.

"Through my work, I aim to bring a broader understanding of female athletes' identities, and to what it means to be a woman who performs in a male-dominated field," Carles-Tolra told HuffPost. "I hope the players see my photographs as a celebration of their strength and identity, which I believe play an important role in challenging the meaning of masculine sports, and pushing the boundaries of female identity."

Meet 17 Huge Rescue Dogs Who Are Just Looking For A Little Love

Mon, 2015-03-16 11:22
You may be aware of a dog named Hulk, who, at some 175 pounds, has been billed as the world's largest pit bull.

But you might not be aware of why this fellow is controversial among many in the animal rescue community. (And it's not because of his personality, which by all accounts tends toward smushy-face marshmallow.)

The problem, some argue, is that Hulk comes from a breeder. That same breeder is now offering the big dog up as a stud -- impregnation services are listed at $20,000 -- while some 1.2 million dogs, many of them pit bulls, are killed in shelters across the country every year.

"The popular opinion in rescue is that responsible breeders of American Pit Bull Terriers acknowledge the overpopulation crisis, and are not breeding right now," reads one especially searing critique on rescue group Hello Bully's Facebook page. Breeders, the post goes on to say, "continue to contribute to the massive overpopulation and euthanasia that plague the Pit Bull."

Here's the good news for those who like big pits (as well as oversized canines of other persuasions) and who'd also like to help bring that euthanasia figure down: There are lots and lots of large-sized dogs, including a whole bunch of pits, who are available for adoption right now.

Each and every one of these 17 gentle giants is prepared to give you -- yes, you -- a mighty lot of loving.

These dogs come courtesy of the following shelters and rescue groups, which also provided descriptions and photos:

BARCS in Baltimore, Maryland; Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City, Utah; Dogs XL Rescue in Hanover, Maryland; Marley's Mutts in Tehachapi, California; PAWS Chicago; Animal Care and Control of NYC; Humane Society Silicon Valley; the Humane Society of Calvery County in Sunderland, Maryland; the Kansas City Pet Project in Kansas City, Missouri.

Get in touch at if you've got an animal story to share!

'Managers Told Me To Put Mustard On It': Fast-Food Workers Say Burns Are Rampant

Mon, 2015-03-16 11:17
Dozens of low-wage McDonald's workers filed health and safety complaints against the fast-food chain on Monday, alleging that understaffing and time pressures in stores have led to burns, falls and other injuries, according to the worker group representing them.

The 28 complaints, involving stores in 18 cities, were filed with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the relevant state agencies tasked with ensuring safe workplaces. The workers submitted them with the support of Fight for $15, the union-backed labor coalition that's been agitating for a $15 minimum wage and union recognition in the industry. OSHA confirmed to The Huffington Post that it received the federal complaints Monday.

One Chicago worker, Brittney Berry, alleged that she was so harried one day she slipped and caught her arm on the grill, leading her to be hospitalized and suffer nerve damage. She said she was advised by managers to treat the burn with a condiment.

"My managers kept pushing me to work faster," Berry, who was arrested last year in an act of civil disobedience against McDonald's, said in a statement. "The managers told me to put mustard on it, but I ended up having to get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. This is exactly why workers at McDonald’s need union rights."

The vast majority of McDonald's stores are operated by franchisees rather than the fast-food company, but in a Monday statement, Fight for $15 argued that the responsibility to keep workers safe ultimately falls on McDonald's.

"McDonald’s sets minimal health and safety standards for all franchisees, but even these modest measures are not properly enforced," the group said. "The company watches like a hawk nearly every aspect of its franchisees’ business operations via regular inspections, but it too often ignores health and safety problems."

"McDonald’s and its independent franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s Brand U.S. restaurants," McDonald's spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhe said in a statement. "We will review these allegations. It is important to note that these complaints are part of a larger strategy orchestrated by activists targeting our brand and designed to generate media coverage."

The safety complaints are indeed part of a broader shaming campaign that's brought unprecedented scrutiny to the working conditions in fast food. For more than two years, Fight for $15, which is funded by the Service Employees International Union, has organized a highly successful series of strikes by workers at McDonald's, KFC, Taco Bell and other restaurants in cities across the country. Much of that attention has been focused on McDonald's.

Workers and their allies are now fighting the company on multiple legal fronts. They've brought wage theft lawsuits against franchisees and named McDonald's itself as a defendant. They've filed reams of unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board, succeeding in having the fast-food company named as a joint employer alongside its franchisees. And in January they filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging discrimination against African-American workers in McDonald's stores.

To bolster their allegations of widespread safety problems in the industry, Fight for $15 commissioned a poll of fast-food workers by Hart Research Associates, a firm that often polls for labor and progressive groups. According to the survey of 1,426 adults in the industry, 87 percent reported having at least one injury in the past year, and 79 percent said they had been burned at some point during that time. Two-thirds said they had been cut, and one-third said they had hurt themselves while lifting or carrying items in their store. Twenty-three percent said they fell on a wet or oily floor.

Nearly half of the workers who said they'd been burned attributed the injury to either pressure from their managers to work quickly or having too few colleagues to share the workload. The workers said their burns came from grills, fryers, ovens, hot liquids and cleaning chemicals. More than a third of those surveyed said their stores lacked a basic first-aid kit.

Hart said its most shocking finding related to how burns are often treated.

"Incredibly, one-third (33%) of all burn victims say that their manager suggested wholly inappropriate treatments for burns, including condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise, butter, or ketchup, instead of burn cream," the firm wrote.

Rural Youth Suicides Almost Double Rates In Urban Areas

Mon, 2015-03-16 10:46
A troubling new report on youth suicide shows that the gap between rural deaths and urban deaths is widening; From 1996 to 2010, rates of death from suicide among children, teens and young adults were nearly double in rural communities, when compared to urban ones.

The disparity, said study lead author Cynthia Fontanella, Ph.D., of Ohio State University, is a sign that more needs to be done to understand the experiences of rural youth. She called for more funding to place mental health practitioners in schools and programs that empower primary care physicians to take on mental health issues with their patients.

“It’s like a silent epidemic,” said Fontanella. “Almost 67,000 kids have died over this period." The study was published recently in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Fontanella collected national suicide numbers for people aged 10 to 24 and extracted their location and cause of death. Then she categorized all 3,141 counties in the U.S. into 8 groups on a spectrum from rural to urban, depending on how big their populations were and how far they were from big metro areas. Finally, she controlled for confounding variables like high school and college education, race, income, unemployment, poverty and family structure.

She found that from 1996 to 2010, 66,595 youth had died from suicide. Broken down by gender, the rate of rural male suicide from 2008 to 2010 was 19.93 per 100,000 -- almost double that of 10.31 per 100,000 for urban boys and young men. Previous data from 1996 to 1998 show that this ratio used to be 18.98 per 100,000 (rural) versus 11.95 per 100,000 (urban), which means the gap between rural and urban suicide rates increased from 1996 to 2010.

For women, the rural suicide rate was 4.4 per 100,000, while the urban rate was 2.39 per 100,000. Again, previous data from 1996 to 1998 show that this ratio used to be 3.19 per 100,000 (rural) to 2.18 per 100,000 (urban).

The most common causes of death were firearm (51.1 percent), hanging and suffocation (33.9 percent) and poison (7.9 percent). All other methods accounted for an aggregated 7.1 percent. The firearms finding was no surprise to Fontanella.

“Rural residents tend to have greater access to guns, they’re much more likely to grow up with guns and have guns in their home,” she said. “Rural kids are 2.7 to 3.3 times more likely to die by firearm compared to a kid in an urban area." One way to combat rural youth suicide, she suggested, would be to mount educational campaigns about how to properly store and lock family guns.

Fontanella listed several other factors unique to rural life that may play into higher rates for youth suicides, having to do broadly with the culture, economics and geography of rural America. For one, rural areas are extremely understaffed when it comes to mental health professionals; she notes in her study that more than 85 percent of the federally-designated areas that are experiencing a mental health professional shortage are rural. Fontanella also pointed out that more than half of all counties in the U.S., which are all rural, do not have a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker in residence.

This means that residents need to drive farther distances in order to seek professional health care, which sometimes leads to postponing care or arriving at a doctor’s office deep into one’s mental illness progression. Additionally, people in rural areas tend to live farther away from each other, which cuts people off from social networks and regular face-to-face contact with others. This generally fosters high levels of social isolation, which could contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression.

What's more, the Great Recession hit rural America the hardest. Residents in these counties are more likely to have low incomes and less likely to have health insurance that covers mental health services. The lack of job opportunities also means that many of America’s rural youth leave home for work in big metro areas, which only increases the social isolation of the young people left behind.

Finally, when it comes to culture, Fontanella said research indicates that rural Americans tend to pride themselves on strength and self-reliance, and may stigmatize reaching out for help with mental illness, even if there is someone available in their area. People may also find that they lack anonymity in small towns, which may hinder efforts to reach out for professional help.

Some ways to surmount these boundaries in rural areas would be to explore integrated care -- placing a mental health profession in a primary care physician’s office, or educating the primary physician to ask about mental health issues, said Fontanella. She also advocated placing mental health professionals in school, and exploring telemedicine, which is the practice of connecting with a therapist through videoconferencing technology like Skype. Finally, she recommended simple mental health education for parents, so that they could recognize the signs of depression in their children and teens.

"I think there’s a low level of mental health literacy in rural areas, so depression tends to be under diagnosed,” Fontanella concluded. "People often miss the signs of depression for kids in rural areas, so I think greater awareness of signs of depression in rural areas would be critical."

5 NCAA Tournament Sleepers You Need To Know For Your Bracket

Mon, 2015-03-16 10:17

The NCAA Tournament lends itself to sleepers. You know what we're talking about: the teams you've either never heard of, or have heard of and simply don't like. Suddenly, those teams are the ones ruining your bracket -- or making it. My five Cinderellas are all set, but sleepers are a different category, almost more important. With March Madness upon us, here are the sleepers you need to know before you fill out those brackets.


Lon Kruger is one of the best coaches in America. In fact, he is the only coach in NCAA history to take five schools to the tournament. This year's Sooners are led by junior Buddy Hield (above), a bruising 6-foot-4-inch guard who can really score and defend. Hield's 18 points and 6 rebounds give Kruger a legitimate go-to scorer who is as competitive as he is talented. Hield is flanked in the backcourt by another big guard, Isaiah Cousins, who averages 12 points and shoots over 45 percent from 3. The key to this offense is establishing a post presence, which transfer TaShawn Thomas has provided. And, because OU really defends -- it ranks fifth in the country per KenPom -- Kruger will prepare his guys as well as anyone. Though the team lacks elite NBA talent, it's highly capable of making it to the second weekend.


Mark Gottfried's club has a loaded backcourt led by ace point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber (above), a lightning-quick sophomore who has made a massive jump in his second season. Barber averages 12 points and 4 assists, and shoots 40 percent from distance. Barber's backcourt mates are Ralston Turner, a bona fide shot-maker, and Trevor Lacey, the team's leading scorer at 16 points per game, who also shoots 40 percent from 3. The Wolfpack eraser is 6-foot-9-inch Beejay Anya, who lost more than 60 pounds this season and gets nearly 3 blocks per game thanks to a 7-foot-9-inch wingspan. Last year's team lost a heartbreaker to Saint Louis after blowing a 14-point lead in the first round. But don't expect the same fate for NC State this year -- they've already beaten Louisville, Duke and the University of North Carolina.


The Hawkeyes are your classic Big Ten club: not especially athletic, but a bruising bunch who will defend for 40 minutes and shoot the 3. They just suffered a surprising opening loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament, so their stock is not especially high right now. Even so, 6-foot-9-inch forward Aaron White (above), a first-team All-Big Ten performer, is a matchup nightmare whom coach Fran McCaffery employs in pick-and-roll, isolation and post-up situations, all to maximize his creativity and intelligence. White averages 16 points and 8 rebounds. If Iowa gets hot, this is as physically imposing a mid-tier seed as you will see. The Hawkeyes enter the dance boasting a disciplined, top-50 offense and defense, with a super 17.4 percent turnover rate, according to KenPom data compiled by The Gazette.


Don't sleep on San Diego State. Don't do it! The Aztecs excel defensively, limiting opponents to 46 percent effective field goal percentage, per ESPN. That's because of a combination of elite athletes and coach Steve Fisher, who has always managed defense at a high level. Perhaps the best news Fisher received all year has been the return of senior forward Dwayne Polee II (above), who collapsed on the court Dec. 22 and recently re-entered the lineup. Polee is an Energizer Bunny whose length and quickness fuel the Aztecs' defense. San Diego State's biggest concern is its sheer inability to score the basketball -- this is a team that goes through brutal lulls on the offensive end. Still, thanks to its athleticism and how it defends, SDSU is capable of making a run.


Led by senior point guard Delon Wright (above) -- a 6-foot-5-inch playmaking dynamo who excels on the open floor and shoots an astounding 53 percent from the floor -- Utah has the tools to win two to three games in the tournament. Its head coach, Larry Krystkowiak, has taken the nation's 36th-ranked defense and turned them into the eighth best, per KenPom. Two years ago, Utah ranked 136th nationally. The Utes can really score in the half-court as well, and have gotten a major contribution from 7-foot freshman center Jakob Poeltl, from Austria, who ranks fifth in the country in field goal percentage.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure to catch my NBC Sports Radio show "Kup and Schultz," which airs Sunday mornings from 9 to 12 EST, right here.

Rahm Emanuel Pulls Ahead In Chicago Mayoral Race, Garcia Gets Backing

Sun, 2015-03-15 20:05

By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO, March 15 (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has opened a 10 percentage point lead in his re-election bid against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, an opinion poll on Sunday showed, though his challenger received a hard-won labor union's endorsement that could bring in campaign cash and volunteers.

The Chicago mayor's race went to an unprecedented run-off when well-funded Emanuel, mayor since 2011, failed to clinch the 50 percent of the vote he needed for an outright win on Feb. 24.

Former White House Chief of Staff Emanuel, who has used his campaign chest of more than $10 million to saturate the airwaves, faces Garcia, a veteran Chicago politician who is supported by the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, in the nonpartisan second round on April 7.

Garcia has tapped into disillusionment among some African American, Hispanic and labor union voters who are concerned Emanuel will cut public pensions to solve Chicago's deep budget crisis and who were against the mayor's shutting down of almost 50 underpopulated schools in poor neighborhoods.

However, Garcia has struggled to turn his unexpectedly good performance in February into a serious threat to Emanuel.

A poll published Sunday by Ogden & Nash showed Emanuel claiming 55 percent of the vote, with Garcia at 45 percent. The telephone poll of 920 decided voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

The race has won national attention as the two Democratic candidates represent two wings of the party. Emanuel, seen as more pro-business, has pulled in donations from hedge fund and Hollywood executives. Garcia has run few television ads and depends on grassroots campaigning.

Both have held back details of how they would cut spending and raise revenue to deal with Chicago's financial mess, including a massive pending leap in yearly payments the city must make to public workers' pension funds.

The Illinois statewide council of the Service Employees International Union announced on Sunday it was backing Garcia, though locals of the SEIU had squabbled publicly over the endorsement.

"For too long our city has been taken for a ride in the wrong direction, catering to the wealthy while neglecting the needs of our neighborhoods and those of us that reside in them," said April Verrett, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare, in a statement on the endorsement. (Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Christian Plumb)

March Madness 2015 Bracket Revealed (Easily Printable)

Sun, 2015-03-15 19:02
It's that time of year: March Madness!

The NCAA on Sunday revealed the 68 teams that will play in the annual men's college basketball championship tournament. The Kentucky Wildcats were named the overall first seed, with Villanova, Duke, and Wisconsin taking top regional spots.

The first round kicks off on Tuesday, March 17th at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. The final games will take place at the Indianapolis Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4th and 6th.

Here's the field to watch out for.

You can also click here for a printable 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket

Randy Schmitz Says Hot Sauce-Induced Seizure Saved His Life

Sat, 2015-03-14 11:11
When Randy Schmitz attempted to try one of the world's hottest hot sauces, he knew there was a potential risk -- especially when he was required to sign a waiver before sampling it.

What he didn't expect was that he'd get violently sick and black out minutes after sampling the sauce or that it would ultimately save his life.

Schmitz, 30, of Chicago, vacationed with his fiancé and family in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, last summer when they entered the Pepper Palace, a chain dedicated to spicy condiments.

One of the sauces for sale was "Flashbang," which combines Carolina Reaper, scorpion, Jolokia, and habanero peppers into a mix so potent that brave customer must sign a release before tasting it.

"It was pretty darn hot, but since I didn't have a huge amount of it, I got over it in a few minutes," he said in a recent letter he wrote to the Pepper Palace. "My sister was about to take the challenge and sign her name too. I told her to wait cause I wasn't feeling so well."

Schmitz stepped out of the store and sat on a bench.

"The next thing I knew I had woken up on a stretcher in a hospital room, covered in vomit," he said in the letter.

His mother saw her son twitching and shaking violently outside the store. Doctors determined later he'd had a seizure.

Schmitz was rushed to an emergency room where an MRI scan of Schmitz' brain detected a cancerous tumor in its early stages.

He flew home and within a few days, doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, removed a malignant tumor on Schmitz' left frontal lobe, according to the Chicago Tribune. Doctors said the treatment is complete.

Schmitz told the Pepper Palace the letter that he believes that sampling Flashbang triggered the seizure that ultimately saved his life.

"The doctors did not know how long the cancerous tumor had been there and they said if it did not get activated, it would have just kept growing and expanding. I had surgery, got the tumor removed, went on radiation and chemotherapy, and I am now cancer free!! Your Flashbang Pepper Sauce SAVED MY LIFE!!!!

Surgeon Jeffrey Raizer, medical director of neuro-oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, says spicy papers could plausibly induce a seizure.

"If you have a lot of hot sauce and you're sweating a lot, people can have dehydration and it can cause seizures," Raizer told the Chicago Tribune. "If you eat a habanero pepper, it's a big jolt to your system."

Schmitz, a special education job coach, responded so well to the treatment that his wedding wasn't postponed.

The Pepper Palace has sent a belated wedding gift to the couple: A year's supply of hot sauce, including the brand that started it all.

However, he hasn't had the guts to try it again, because he's "a little bit nervous," reports.

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The Latino Victory Project Isn't Pushing For Hispanic Candidate Attracting National Attention In Chicago

Sat, 2015-03-14 06:30
The Latino Victory Project isn’t pushing for a Latino victory in the Chicago mayoral race.

The nonpartisan political action committee formed to help Latinos win election to local, state and federal offices told The Huffington Post that it hasn’t gotten involved in the Chicago race, where Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is running a campaign against incumbent Rahm Emanuel. Some in the national media have described the contest as one that's pitting the Democratic Party’s grassroots base against its establishment.

In a statement emailed to HuffPost, Latino Victory Project President Cristóbal Alex said the organization is “excited by the enthusiasm that the Latino community has harnessed to push Chuy Garcia’s candidacy forward,” but stopped short of saying the group would get involved in the race.

“As we expand our candidate recruitment, endorsement and engagement programs this year, we will be working to help community leaders across the country build a platform for advancing the issues the Latino community cares about most,” the statement reads. “We are closely tracking the Chicago mayoral race ahead of the runoff on April 7.”

As of Friday, however, Latino Victory Project’s website had not mentioned Garcia's candidacy.

A screenshot of a search for the term "Chuy Garcia" on Latino Victory Project's website taken Friday.

While the PAC hasn't thrown its weight behind Garcia, a source close to the Latino Victory Project told The Huffington Post that the board plans to reassess its process for picking candidates at a meeting later this month.

“The board is looking at the mission structure and the endorsement process and how to get involved in local, state and federal races in years to come,” the source told HuffPost. “And this Chicago race is no exception.”

Founded by prominent activists Eva Longoria and Henry Muñoz III last year, the Latino Victory Fund is modeled on EMILY's List and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund -- issue-specific political organizations that have helped propel candidates across the country into elected office. EMILY's List backs pro-choice candidates, while the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund helps elect openly LGBT individuals.

The Latino Victory Project raised almost $5 million to back Latino candidates last year, according to KPCC.

Garcia has attracted national media attention after unexpectedly pushing incumbent Emanuel into a runoff election.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is urging other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to back Garcia, both because of the candidate's progressive stance and out of lingering resentment for Emanuel's recalcitrance on the immigration issue back when he served the presidential administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

But Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is throwing his support behind Emanuel, citing the pro-immigrant measures he's helped pass since taking office as mayor of Chicago in 2012.

School Funding Inequality Makes Education 'Separate And Unequal,' Arne Duncan Says

Fri, 2015-03-13 17:28
Many school systems remain "fundamentally separate and unequal," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday, with 23 states spending more per pupil in affluent school districts than they do in high-poverty districts. What's more, Duncan said on a call with reporters, the inequality may be getting worse.

Duncan alluded to Republican-backed efforts to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, which he said would give even more money to well-off school districts at the expense of struggling districts. In February, House Republicans proposed the Student Success Act as a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. Duncan at the time blasted the bill, which hasn't yet come to a vote, saying a funding provision may have a devastating impact on disadvantaged students.

Duncan on Friday said some Republicans are pushing what he called a "Robin Hood in reverse" funding proposal that "would exacerbate the existing problem by allowing even greater cuts to districts that need the most help."

As it stands, Duncan said, about 6.6 million students from low-income families in 23 states are harmed by local and state funding disparities. The funding inequality data comes from National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education that collects information on schools.

Federal education funding can help rectify state and local inequalities. But federal dollars aren't meant to balance state and local funding, Duncan told The Washington Post. Instead, federal money is intended to help needy students, he said.

The point of that money was to supplement, recognizing that poor children, and English language-learners, and students with disabilities come to school with additional challenges,” Duncan told the newspaper. “This is about trying to get additional resources to children and communities who everyone knows need additional help.”

The maps below show where funding inequalities are the worst. The first map shows areas affected by state and local funding differences. Negative percentages indicate that high-poverty schools receive less funding than low-poverty schools. The second graph shows funding disparities after federal dollars are taken into consideration.

Pennsylvania has the worst funding disparities between low-income and high-income schools. The state's poorest school districts receive 33 percent less state and local funding than the richest schools. This inequality is currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by a group of school districts and parents.

"The problem you have in Pennsylvania is not atypical of the problems you have in many states, which is a reluctance to raise enough revenues to send to the districts," Michael Churchill, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told The Huffington Post. "The revenues they do send, they send in a progressive manner -- they just don’t send enough to overcome the huge differences in wealth in the districts," said Churchill.

Churchill noted that Pennsylvania relies heavily on local property taxes for school district funding, meaning that wealthier areas, with a larger tax base, have more money.

A Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman didn't reply to The Huffington Post's request for comment.

On the other end of the spectrum, states like Indiana and Minnesota spend significantly more on their low-income students than they do other groups.

Still, Duncan said state and local funding disparities is worse than it was at the turn of the century.

“The children who need the most seem to be getting less and less, and the children who need the least are getting more and more,” he said.

Aaron Schock Benefited From Donor Projects

Fri, 2015-03-13 15:55
Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, under scrutiny for lavishly redecorating his Capitol Hill office and flying aboard private planes owned by donors, has built his personal wealth off extensive business dealings with campaign contributors since entering politics more than a decade ago.

Five of the Highest-Rated Hospitals in Illinois

Fri, 2015-03-13 15:15
Truven Health Analytics' annual "Top 100 Hospitals" study, which evaluated 3,000 hospitals in the U.S., has recognized 10 Illinois hospitals as among the best in the country.

The hospitals were ranked based on ten metrics, including mortality, medical complications, patient safety, average patient stay, expenses, profitability, patient satisfaction, adherence to clinical standards of care, post-discharge mortality and readmission rates for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.

Here are five of the top hospitals in Illinois, as ranked by Truven Health Analytics:

1. Advocate Christ Medical Center - Oak Lawn

2. Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center - Chicago

3. Advocate Lutheran General Hospital - Park Ridge

4. Rush University Medical Center - Chicago

5. Riverside Medical Center - Kankakee

See five more top-ranked Illinois hospitals at Reboot Illinois, including one hospital that was recognized by the report for the first time ever.

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Progressive Leaders Hope To Rally National Support For Chicago's Chuy Garcia

Fri, 2015-03-13 14:32
U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Danny Davis (D-Ill.) are urging their colleagues to throw their weight behind Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a grassroots candidate threatening to unseat Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in next month's runoff election.

Grijalva and Davis told The Huffington Post they will host a fundraiser in Washington on March 24 to win backing for Garcia from national politicians, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The efforts to organize more members of Congress around Garcia’s campaign come amid increasing national attention to the Chicago race, which many see as a contest between the Democratic establishment, in the person of Emanuel, and the more grassroots, populist elements of the party.

“There needs to be a national presence,” Grijalva told HuffPost. “Just like when we rallied behind [former Mayor] Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles -- not only porque es Latino, but because he’s right on the issues... Here's an opportunity to create a coalition led by a Latino, supported by African-Americans and working folk.”

With the backing of Chicago’s powerful teachers’ union and endorsements from key black leaders like Davis and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Garcia has staked out a progressive agenda, calling for an end to school closings and railing against “big corporations and special interests.”

“I think progressives should be supporting Chuy Garcia -- black, white, Latino, Asian,” Davis told HuffPost. “Any progressive who really wants to see people-oriented government represented at the level of decision-making of the mayor of Chicago, and the kind of influence that person has not only over politics in Chicago, but quite frankly democratic politics all over the country.”

Having served as an elected official at the local and state levels before, Garcia has built a reputation as a strong supporter of immigration reform. As a commissioner for Cook County, he helped pass trailblazing legislation in 2011 to keep local authorities from detaining undocumented immigrants on behalf of the federal government.

Emanuel's record on immigration is more mixed -- at times, he angered some Latino members of Congress by standing in the way of immigration reform efforts during the Clinton and Obama administrations, although he has embraced the issue as mayor.

Grijalva says he’s motivated in part by a desire to defeat Emanuel, who he says should have done more to push immigration reform when Democrats held the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“Look where we are right now on immigration reform -- it’s in the same quagmire,” Grijalva said. “I’m not saying he’s totally responsible for it, but [Emanuel] is not the one who's pushing the agenda.”

Hispanics in Congress don’t all agree. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) currently serves as a co-chair for the Emanuel campaign, although that’s a stark contrast from his position four years ago, when Emanuel first ran for office. Back then, Gutierrez chastised Emanuel publicly for having urged Democrats to support a 2005 border security bill widely viewed by Latino politicians as anti-immigrant.

“He told targeted Democrats in tough re-election fights that he wanted them to vote for this anti-immigrant bill,” Gutierrez said in 2011. “That’s a fact, an irrefutable fact. So it’s nice that Rahm Emanuel the candidate is for the DREAM Act kids now, but actions speak louder than words.”

As mayor, however, Emanuel has embraced immigration initiatives championed by Gutierrez. Under Emanuel, Chicago passed an ordinance similar to the one in Cook County restricting local cooperation with federal requests to detain immigrants, and the city now offers scholarships and government internships and job opportunities to Dreamers. Gutierrez and Emanuel have also organized events meant to help undocumented immigrants who plan to apply for new deportation relief programs.

“It’s a little more complex than switching sides,” Gutierrez told HuffPost, when asked about why he is aligned with Emanuel rather than Garcia. “He’s been the mayor for the last four years. Rahm Emanuel asked me four years ago, when he took office, if he could take an eraser to the chalkboard and clear it, and I said, ‘OK.’ Since then, just about everything I’ve asked to do on immigration, he’s done it. He’s been immensely helpful -- it was on that basis that I endorsed him.”

Gutierrez added that he had already joined the Emanuel campaign as a co-chair by the time Garcia joined the race in October to fill in for Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, who halted her own mayoral campaign after learning that she had brain cancer.

But Amalia Pallares, a scholar who directs the Latino studies department at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said she's disappointed by Gutierrez’s decision to back Emanuel.

“I think that the support for Chuy Garcia stems from grassroots movements joining people who have worked in housing, unions, education and immigrant rights movements, neighborhood organizations, people who have worked against police brutality,” said Pallares, who is one of 147 local Hispanic figures who have publicly endorsed Garcia. “I think that what gets lost sometimes among national Latino leaders are the local issues that enabled [those leaders] to surface... Those issues continue and they’re not being addressed.”