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Illinois Governor Signs Sweeping School Discipline Reform

Tue, 2015-08-25 16:24

WASHINGTON - Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) on Monday signed into law a sweeping reform of the state's school discipline policies, putting Illinois at the forefront of the nationwide push to make school discipline less exclusionary and more effective.

Senate Bill 100 eliminates automatic "zero tolerance" suspensions and expulsions, and requires that schools exhaust all other means of intervention before expelling students or suspending them for more than three days. The bill also prohibits fines and fees for misbehavior, and requires schools to communicate with parents about why certain disciplinary measures are being used.

Under the new law, which goes into effect in September of 2016, students returning from suspension will be allowed to make up the school work they missed, and students suspended for more than four days will be offered access to support services, like academic counseling and mental health professionals.

"For too long, harsh school discipline practices have contributed to the under-education and over-criminalization of young people, and especially youth of color," Dalia Mena, an 18-year-old member of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, a group that lobbied on behalf of the bill's passage, said in a statement. "Illinois now provides more tools for schools to create environments where all students are valued and supported in their learning."

According to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, Illinois has one of the widest disparities in the nation between suspended black students and their white classmates. During the 2012-13 school year, Chicago Public Schools issued suspensions for 32 of every 100 black students, compared to just five of every 100 white students.

Senate Bill 100 was sponsored by Illinois state Sen. Kimberly Lightford and state Rep. Will Davis. It passed the Illinois Legislature with bipartisan support this spring.

"The students who are being tossed out of the school environment are the very students who should be kept within school boundaries at all costs," Lightford said in April. "We need to keep young people in school learning how to succeed and off of the street corner learning how to fail."

As the nation engages in a broader conversation about criminal justice reform, school discipline policies are emerging as a key factor that can alter a young person's course in life. Numerous studies in recent years have shown that students who are suspended from school, or referred to the juvenile justice system for minor offenses, are significantly more likely to drop out before graduating from high school.

On Tuesday, the Center for American Progress released a new report on truancy, which included the formal recommendation that schools "make punitive consequences, such as ticketing, fines, or removal from the classroom, a last resort."

In Texas, a new law will go into effect on Sept. 1 that decriminalizes truancy for students, and requires schools to delve deeper than ever before into the reasons that students are missing school, rather than simply punishing absenteeism.

Schools in Illinois will have the next year to experiment with new ways to implement Senate Bill 100, which will apply equally to public schools and charter schools.

"We expect that schools will begin implementing alternative discipline approaches this coming school year that emphasize student-centered social-emotional supports and limit the loss of instructional time when discipline issues arise," said Amina Henderson, a youth leader from Southwest Organizing Project in Chicago, in a statement Tuesday.  

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The Shared DNA of Health and Justice

Tue, 2015-08-25 15:05
Co-authored with Dr. H. Jack Geiger, Arthur C. Logan Professor of Community Medicine Emeritus, City University of New York Medical School

Sickness and injustice are joined at the hip, like the proverbial Siamese twins. What's more, they reinforce each other. Half a century ago, we observed that the poor are likelier to be sick, the sick are likelier to be poor and that without intervention, the poor will grow sicker and the sick will grow poorer. We have made great strides in the past 50 years in addressing these connections: the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and the creation of community health centers as a national health safety net, which now serve 23 million uninsured or low-income patients and rising.

The core problems of poor health and poverty and the gross inequities that underlie them, however, stubbornly persist, and we have significant work still ahead of us to change them. In recent years, we have begun that task with another kind of pairing: health care providers and lawyers working together to address and change what is at the root of so much illness among people who are poor - unequal access to good education, employment, housing and food.

These are not just abstractions but real problems in the lives of real people. Take the case of a three year-old child in Pennsylvania failing in preschool. He and his family lived in an area of concentrated poverty without access to good jobs, good schools or good housing. Thanks to a community health center, they did have access to good health care. An alert pediatrician discovered that the child had dangerously high lead levels in his blood stream - a condition that damages the brain and creates multiple other life-limiting hazards - and set about the task of clearing the lead out of the child's body. But he, his colleagues and public health physicians in the city looked further, and discovered that they confronted a real epidemic of such lead poisoning in the city's poor neighborhoods. The cause was obvious: substandard housing littered with peeling lead paint, and landlords who had no incentive to remove it because of a weak and unenforced inspection system. This was, at once, a medical problem, a legal problem and a policy problem.

But the community health center, it turned out, also had a medical-legal partnership (MLP) - a program where civil legal aid lawyers work in health care settings with health care teams to help identify and treat social conditions and change policies that contribute to poor health. The doctors and the public health officials went to the health center's MLP lawyer. She drafted a tough new law setting safe standards for lead exposure and requiring landlords to remove lead paint and other hazards. The doctors and the lawyer went to the Mayor and the City Council with their evidence. The law passed, enforcement began, and the lead epidemic began to disappear. Change at all three levels - patient exposures, the law, and housing policy - had been accomplished.

What we've learned from the 276 medical-legal partnerships across the country is that we have a much better chance of recognizing and remedying these types of policy problems that persist in our communities when the people trained in health care and those trained in the law work together, side-by-side, every day.

As we focus on how to build healthier communities over the next 50 years, we must remember that health does not exist in a vacuum separate from wealth, from the laws we write, from the systems we create to protect our citizens, or from the injustices that exist in each of these things. We must aim for health and justice in all practices and in all policies, knowing that more often than not, they are the same thing.

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Recapping drama in Illinois: at the state fair and with the Ashley Madison hack

Tue, 2015-08-25 13:01
Whether at the Illinois State Fair, in the Capitol or at political party gatherings elsewhere in Springfield, last week presented many opportunities to take the political pulse of Illinois.

With that in mind, here are some observations from my time last week on the fairgrounds and beyond.


The fight between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly's two Democratic leaders -- House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton -- got especially fierce last week. It started with Rauner, fresh off his Harley at Governor's Day at the fair, asserting that if Cullerton's Senate Democrats overrode Rauner's veto of an important union arbitration bill, it would prove Cullerton is under the control of Madigan.

In the charged atmosphere of Springfield politics at the moment, this had the feeling of a playground challenge by the new kid trying to break up the old faction. "You're afraid to challenge him 'cause you're chicken!"

But Cullerton and the Democrats skipped the traditional playground retorts and taunts, moving swiftly later that afternoon to defy Rauner and override his veto. The following morning, Cullerton's response encapsulated the philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats on almost every issue in Springfield:

Cullerton's remarks followed Madigan's statement from the same podium that Democrats in Illinois are involved in an "epic struggle" with Rauner.

In his weekly column this week, Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller maps out a scenario in which the words and events of Aug. 19-20 might lead to a reconciliation in the budget standoff between Rauner and the Democrats. Miller is an astute and experienced observer of Springfield, so his analysis carries some weight. But from my view, I saw nothing but two sides digging their trenches even deeper.

Check out a recap of the other political drama at the Illinois State Fair at Reboot Illinois, including some surrounding the 2016 U.S. Senate race in Illinois and the Illinois comptroller special election.

Some Illinois government employees also encountered some drama that had nothing to do with politics last week. Six state government emails were found among the list of hacked accounts at the dating site Ashley Madison, which encourages married users to have affairs. The Illinois News Network's Mark Fitton has more on the local angle of this international story at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Editorial: Let Rauner do what he was elected to do

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6 Facts About Bullying in Illinois You Should Know

Tue, 2015-08-25 11:24
Now that the school year has begun for many schools in Illinois, thousands of students will experience some form of bullying in school or on the internet. In fact, Illinois is one of the 10 worst states for bullying.

It's estimated that U.S. schools harbor at least 2.1 million bullies, according to the National School Safety Center. Although bullying is not a new phenomenon, the digital age, particularly the proliferation of social media, has made cyberbullying one of the biggest challenges facing schools, students and parents as bullies no longer are confined to school grounds.

A survey conducted by the iSafe Foundation found that in 2014, 52 percent of young people reported being bullied online and 25 percent of teenagers reported experiencing repeated bullying via their cellphone or online. In 2011, nine out of 10 teens said they witnessed cyberbullying while they were using social media, according to the PEW Internet Research Center. That same year, Consumer Reports reported at least one-million children were harassed on Facebook alone.

Bullying, whether at school or online, can have serious and lasting effects on a child's physical and mental health, according to Science Daily.
"Researchers found that bullying at any age was associated with worse mental and physical health, increased depressive symptoms and lower self-worth. Participants who experienced chronic bullying also reported increased difficulties in physical activities like walking, running or participating in sports. Those who experienced bullying in the past and were also experiencing bullying in the present showed the lowest health scores."
Whether you're a parent, student or faculty member, here are 6 things you should know about bullying in Illinois and protections currently in place for the more than two-million students enrolled in public schools.

6 facts to know about bullying in Illinois
6. It's estimated that 386,277 schoolchildren between the ages of five and 18 are involved in bullying. That estimate includes students who are both victims and perpetrators of bullying, making Illinois one of the top 10 worst states when it comes to bullying incidents.

5. Illinois does not have a statewide model policy to address bullying though anti-bullying laws have been enacted by the General Assembly.

4. In 2006, the Legislature enacted the state's first anti-bullying law, which was amended a year later to include the following requirements effective as of Feb. 23, 2008:

  • School districts must create and maintain a policy on bullying and file it with the Illinois State Board of Education.

  • Each school district must communicate its bullying policy to parents and students on an annual basis.

  • Anti-bullying polices must be updated every two years and filed with the board of education.

  • ISBE is responsible for monitoring the implementation of these policies.

3. While each district in the state is required by law to have anti-bullying policies, a 2015 report by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network found just 66.4 percent of Illinois school districts in 2011 had anti-bullying policies in place or reported their policies to ISBE (a list of school districts' bullying policies can be found here).

2. In June 2010, lawmakers passed the Illinois Prevent Student Violence Act. The law was considered to be a step forward because it finally defined bullying, which previous state statutes failed to do.

1. Under the Illinois Prevent Student Violence Act, bullying is defined as "any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or electronically, direct toward a student or students that has or can reasonably be predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following:

  • Placing the student in reasonable fear

  • Harm to student's property

  • Causing substantially detrimental effect on the student's physical or mental health

  • Substantially interfering with the learning environment of the student"

To read four more vital facts about Illinois bullying, including schools' anti-bullying policies regarding gay, lesbian and bisexual students, check out Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Newsweek ranks 30 high schools in Illinois among the nation's top 500 for 2015

  1. Rauner to CPS: I'll help you with your budget if you help me with my union plans

  2. School districts' spending, pension spiking deepen state's geographic fault lines

  3. The top 50 school districts paying the most in administrator, teacher salaries 

  4. 38 Illinois school districts with the worst financial health

  5. Want to tell your elected officials what you think of the state of government in Illinois? Use our Sound Off tool

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How It's Made: 11 Mind-Melting Factory Tours in the U.S.

Tue, 2015-08-25 10:47
By Dalia Colon for the CheapTickets Blog

In this age of online shopping, it's easy to forget that our favorite goods come from actual, you know, places. See where everyday items are born during one of these made-in-America factory tours.

Photo courtesy of Frances MacLeod

Crayola Experience, Easton, PA

Let your imagination run wild through four floors of colorful fun at this attraction about a 90-minute drive from Philadelphia or New York City. Watch a live-action theater show that explains how crayons are brought to life, create custom crayons and run wild in the two-story color-themed playground.


Photo courtesy of Darah Thomas

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour, Louisville, KY

This bat factory will score a home run with baseball fans. As you enter the building, you'll walk past the world's largest bat--a 120-feet-tall replica of Babe Ruth's own Louisville Slugger. Then it's onto the factory and museum, where you can watch bats being made, hold bats used by Major League Baseball legends and test out the batting cages. At the end of the factory tour, take home a free miniature bat or order a full-size personalized Slugger.


Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company

Jelly Belly Factory Tour, Fairfield, CA 

You'll feel like a kid in a candy store at this factory located between San Francisco and Sacramento. See what goes into making jelly beans that taste like buttered popcorn, toasted marshmallow and A&W Root Beer, and discover why it takes up to 20 days to create a single bean. But don't fill up on the free samples; save room for bean-shaped burger or bean-shaped pizza in the Jelly Belly Cafe.


Stuffington Bear Factory Tour, Phoenix, AZ

Before there was Build-A-Bear, there was Stuffington Bear. Watch bears and other stuffed animals come to life as they are cut, sewn and stuffed, and learn about the history of teddy bears. After the tour, stop by the retail store to take home a cuddly companion of your own.


Photo courtesy of Nick Caruso

Ben and Jerry's Factory TourWaterbury, VT

How could an ice cream factory tour not be fun? Learn about the history of the company, watch as sweet treats come to life on the factory floor and, yes, indulge in free samples. Find even more sweet treats in the Scoop Shop, which offers traditional ice cream treats and specialty desserts.


Photo courtesy of  linearclassic | Flickr Creative Commons

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, DC, and Fort Worth, TX

Anyone can make money, but not everyone makes money. In each of these tours, you can stand above the production floor as millions of dollars roll off the printing press, watch a video about the production process and, ironically, buy souvenir currency in the gift shop.


Photo courtesy of Becky Musgrove

Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory Tour, Avery Island, LA

The hottest tour in the South starts with a visit to this lush Louisiana island. Watch a film about the history of the spicy condiment, see where Tabasco is aged in white oak barrels and look on as the sauce is bottled and packaged to begin its journey to kitchen tables across America.


Photo courtesy of Harinder Singh

Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing TourEverett, WA

Take your knowledge of air travel to new heights during this rare public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant just north of Seattle. Interact with exhibits, walk through tunnels and ride a freight elevator to a balcony high above the factory floor as you watch 747s and other aircraft being assembled.


Photo courtesy of Tillamook

Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook, OR

Tillamook ages its cheeses for up to three years but you won't need to wait that long to sample the goods during a self-guided tour of its Pacific Coast factory. Get a bird's eye view as milk is transformed into 171,000 pounds of cheddar, pepper jack and more every day. After the tour, nosh on grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream and other dairy delights in the on-site restaurant.


Photo courtesy of ooitschristina | Flickr Creative Commons

Gibson Guitar Factory Tour, Memphis, TN

First come the instruments; then comes the music. Watch and listen as the legendary guitars are bound, neck-fitted, painted, buffed and tuned on at this famed Beale Street factory. After the tour, stop by the retail shop for a guitar of your own, and start singin' the blues.


Photo courtesy of Matt Lehrer | Flickr Creative Commons

Budweiser Brewery Tour, St. Louis, MO

Before the craft beer phenomenon took off, there was good ol' Budweiser. Learn about the company's century-old brewing process as you walk through its historic building. Save room for a cold one at the end of the tour. Additional tours are available at these Anheuser-Busch factory locations: Fort Collins, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Merrimack, New Hampshire; and Fairfield, California.

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17 of the Best Illinois High School Ranked by Newsweek

Tue, 2015-08-25 09:16
Out of Newsweek's top 500 high schools in the country for 2015, 30 of those high schools are in Illinois.

Several of the state's high schools that appeared on the list rank among the nation's top 20, with Walter Payton College Prep High School in Chicago taking the No. 10 spot. Newsweek rated Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., as the very best in the U.S., and six of the top 10 high schools nationwide are located in New Jersey.

Take a look at the list below to see which Illinois high schools made Newsweek's rankings, including each school's college readiness score, graduation rate, the percent of 12th grade students who enrolled in college and the percent of low-income students. The national rank is indicated in parenthesis. For Newsweek's methodology, see the document at the bottom of the page.

30. Metea Valley High School (#497)

  • College Readiness - 76.2

  • Graduation Rate - 99.0%

  • College Bound - 93.9%

  • Poverty - 24.9%

29. Monticello High School (#470)

  • College Readiness - 76.5

  • Graduation Rate - 100.0%

  • College Bound - 97.6%

  • Poverty - 12.9%

28. Dunlap High School (#467)

  • College Readiness - 76.6

  • Graduation Rate - 100.0%

  • College Bound - 95.4%

  • Poverty - 7.9%

27. Buffalo Grove High School (#442)

  • College Readiness - 77.0

  • Graduation Rate - 95.9%

  • College Bound - 94.5%

  • Poverty - 20.2%

26. Hinsdale South High School (#415) 

  • College Readiness - 77.2

  • Graduation Rate - 100.0%

  • College Bound - 95.9%

  • Poverty - 23.6%

25. Waubonsie Valley High School (#393)

  • College Readiness - 77.6

  • Graduation Rate - 97.9%

  • College Bound - 90.0%

  • Poverty - 24.7%

24. Wheaton North High School (#388)

  • College Readiness - 77.6

  • Graduation Rate - 98.5%

  • College Bound - 87.2%

  • Poverty - 22.1%

23. St. Charles North High School (#387)

  • College Readiness - 77.6

  • Graduation Rate - 97.7%

  • College Bound - 95.9%

  • Poverty - 7.6%

22. James B. Conant High School (#382)

  • College Readiness - 77.7

  • Graduation Rate - 96.8%

  • College Bound - 97.1%

  • Poverty - 12.4%

21. Maine South High School (#380)

  • College Readiness - 77.7

  • Graduation Rate - 96.0%

  • College Bound - 90.6%

  • Poverty - 7.4%

20. Morton High School (#364)

  • College Readiness - 77.9

  • Graduation Rate - 97.4%

  • College Bound - 88.1%

  • Poverty - 14.5%

19. Minooka Community High School (#349)

  • College Readiness - 78.1

  • Graduation Rate - 98.0%

  • College Bound - 100.0%

  • Poverty - 9.5%

18. Prospect High School (#346)

  • College Readiness - 78.2

  • Graduation Rate - 96.5%

  • College Bound - 93.2%

  • Poverty - 10.3%

17. Cary-Grove Community High School (#323)

  • College Readiness - 78.6

  • Graduation Rate - 100.0%

  • College Bound - 93.8%

  • Poverty - 12.5%

16. Highland Park High School (#263) 

  • College Readiness - 79.9

  • Graduation Rate - 90.8%

  • College Bound - 93.5%

  • Poverty - 15.0%

15. Grayslake Central High School (#262)

  • College Readiness - 79.9

  • Graduation Rate - 93.9%

  • College Bound - 98.4%

  • Poverty - 12.2%

14. Prairie Ridge High School (#251)

  • College Readiness - 80.2

  • Graduation Rate - 99.2%

  • College Bound - 92.7%

  • Poverty - 9.3%

To see the top 13 high schools in Illinois, including New Trier Township and Naperville North, check out Reboot Illinois.

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

NEXT ARTICLE: The top 20 most challenging high schools in Illinois

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Why Chicken Is the Hottest Dish in America Right Now

Mon, 2015-08-24 14:45
When David Chang first opened Fuku earlier this summer in the East Village, like all establishments from the Momofuku king, the queues were mighty, teeming with New Yorkers clamoring for spicy, crusty, oversized chicken-thigh sandwiches protruding from Martin's potato rolls. Shortly afterwards, a similar buzz pervaded the Brooklyn outposts of Shake Shack, which made its poultry debut on solid burger turf with the ChickenShack, a stellar crunchy sandwich more compact than Fuku's, topped with pickles and a mound of shredded iceberg lettuce. Why'd they do it? Customers were asking for it, according to VP of marketing Edwin Bragg. The Instagram photo announcing the sandwich received the most likes in the history of the company. With cherished Southern fast-food chain Chick-fil-A -- known for both its fried birds and heavy-handed religiosity -- making a significant mark on New York this fall with a large freestanding restaurant in the Penn Station area, it's clear the humble chicken sandwich now permeates regular eating habits.

So why the sudden chicken sandwich mania?

Fuku's chicken sandwich

New York's recent bird takeover offers a portal into a more significant state of culinary affairs: chicken, often passed over for, say, smoky pork and succulent beef, is currently the darling of proteins. Grilled chicken, for example, is often pigeonholed as healthy food, but Hill Country Chicken is transcending that categorization with a new menu of sandwiches flaunting seared chicken thighs in such compelling permutations as chipotle mayo and kale coleslaw or bacon, lettuce and tomato with homemade ranch dressing.

Fried chicken's feel-good sense of nostalgia is perhaps to blame for its rampant popularity. But that doesn't mean its preparations have to be limited to fast-food sandwiches. In New York, consider Rob Newton's buttermilk-dressed iteration at low-key Brooklyn hangout Wilma Jean or the rendition served with dried-cherry waffles at expanding chainlet Sweet Chick. Fried Amish chicken with Texas toast is devoured on the patio of Parson's Chicken & Fish in Chicago, while drumsticks lacquered in spicy hot garlic sauce are happy-hour go-tos thanks to the ubiquity of Korean import BonChon. Chef Michael Solomonov puts a Middle Eastern spin (among others) on fried chicken at his Philly institution, Federal Donuts.

Howlin' Ray's Nashville hot chicken

Hot chicken, the Nashville specialty in which fried chicken gets a scorching jolt from a brushing of spicy paste, has now crept above the Mason-Dixon line thanks to restaurants like Leghorn in Chicago, the forthcoming Carla Hall hot chicken concept in Brooklyn, newcomer Southern in St. Louis and even Super Chix, the polished Yum! Brands concept with locations in Dallas and Arlington, Virginia. Even kale-smoothie-guzzling Angelenos are being turned onto the zesty bird thanks to the arrival of Howlin' Ray's, a Venice truck devoted to Nashville's signature dish from husband-and-wife team Johnny Zone and Amanda Chapman. Zone, who first became smitten with hot chicken while staging at Sean Brock's Husk, feels it's a perfect dish. "Every element serves a purpose. Without one, the dish isn't complete. It tastes good, makes people happy and it brings them together. More than anything, it creates memories. If you have hot chicken one time and you smell it again years later, it will instantly transport you. That's powerful. That's perfection," he says. He and Chapman feel the LA crowds are ready for this fiery twist because it is "reminiscent of our childhoods and the beautiful simplicity of those times. With the rise of haute cuisine and the ever-present tasting menu, it's only natural that that we cycle back to where it all began. Chicken is accessible to all of us, regardless of social status. It's something we all know. Elevating a dish you know and love, that's the beauty of chicken." This week the duo roll out their hot chicken in convenient sandwich form to boot.

Streetbird's whole roasted chicken

"Chicken got a bad rap in restaurants for being bland and boring, but anything is going to taste like rubber if you overcook it," says Marcus Samuelsson, who recently opened the chicken-focused Streetbird in Harlem. "Now, you have this hunger for authentic flavors and traditions, and for many cultures that road leads to some kind of badass chicken, whether it's fried in a cast-iron pan by your grandma or stewed in berbere to make doro wat. It's a staple in kitchens around the world. You can travel the globe eating great chicken and never have it the same way twice." The image of birds slowly rotating on the rotisserie evokes comfort -- whether at a no-frills Boston Market or a beloved institution like Brasa in Minneapolis. At Streetbird, whole chickens are accompanied by Smokey Q sauce and Auntie Mabel's cornbread. "Chicken makes everybody feel at home," he adds.

The full story is over on Zagat!

More from Zagat:

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11 Must-Try Lobster Rolls in the U.S.

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Illinois State Fair: Deep-fried Politics

Mon, 2015-08-24 13:23
This week's "Only in Illinois" is a special Illinois State Fair edition because the fairgrounds this week became the focal point for Illinois politics.

If you've had any trouble understanding why we've got gridlock in Springfield, a few minutes' worth of the rhetoric between the state's primary political combatants -- Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton -- should make things clear.

It started on Wednesday, when Rauner became the first Republican to host Governor's Day at the fair since 2002.

Rauner made what has become his traditional fairgrounds entrance on his Harley-Davidson, though this year he arrived as the governor and not just the Republican candidate. A contingent of Service Employees International Union protesters chanted from across the roadway but their presence barely registered against the festive atmosphere inside the Governor's Day event.

Rauner's speech presentation was a striking contrast from his address a year ago at the fair's Republican Day, when he spoke from the podium. This year, Rauner strolled the stage with a hand-held microphone, engaging audience members on all sides of the state with the zeal of a preacher.

Watch Only in Illinois and read the rest at Reboot Illinois:

The whole week of the Illinois State Fair was dramatic for Illinois politics, not just the state's agricultural industry. Rich Miller of Capitol Fax says one day in particular will prove to have been especially important, though it's not yet clear whether Aug. 19 will be important for being the best day or worst day of the legislative overtime session. Read Millers' argument for giving the day special designation at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Editorial: Let Rauner do what he was elected to do

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6 of the Best Secret Beaches in the U.S.

Mon, 2015-08-24 11:21

Anthony Crider / Flickr

The U.S. is home to some truly spectacular beaches boasting swaying palms, azure waters and, during the summer months, swarms of tourists. The crowded stretches of sand that comprise many of America's coastal hot spots paint more of a painful vacation picture than a pleasant one, especially for families who get just one getaway a year. If you're craving the warm sand beneath your toes and picture-perfect sunsets without hordes of other tourists by your side, visit one of these under-the-radar beach destinations, found everywhere from Virginia to Hawaii.

See: Best Beaches in the USA

Dana Point

When most people think of California beaches, the swollen seashores of Santa Monica and Laguna Beach inevitably come to mind. However, there are more relaxed hideaways to enjoy the surf and sand -- like Dana Point. Located just south of Monarch Beach in Orange County, this town was put on the map in the 1950s for its epic surf, and it's still the place to go to catch gnarly waves. More than just surf, the rocky beach attracts hundreds of sea lions and sunbathers alike. After wave crashing, visit the harbor, eat at one of the many locally-owned restaurants serving freshly caught seafood, or stroll through town and shop the 30-plus boutiques.

Kauapea Beach
Kauai, Hawaii

Aptly referred to by the locals as the "Secret Beach," Kauapea Beach is hidden on the north shore of Kauai. The beach is full of scenic contrasts like lush white sand speckled with rugged black lava rocks. Although the views of the beach itself are quite majestic, the sights of the towering Kilauea Lighthouse and nearby waterfall are equally impressive. What keeps this beach so secret is that it's rather hard to find (no public road leads to it) and it takes 10 to 15 minutes of hiking through brush and down cliffs to reach. Take a dive into the waters for a cooling swim during the summer months, picnic along the lava rocks, or surf or lounge in the tidal lagoons on the west end.

Dry Tortugas National Park
Key West, Florida

Located about 70 miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown Key West sits Dry Tortugas National Park. Accessible only by seaplane or boat, this cluster of seven islands is home to miles of picturesque shoreline, a sprawling coral reef and a menagerie of tropical fish. Plus, it's also the site of historic Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century fort with a rather dark maritime history (it was once a prison for Union deserters). To see the marine wildlife up close, grab your snorkel gear and explore outside of the moat wall or around the pilings of the south coaling dock.

See: Best Family Beach Vacations in the USA

Manzanita Beach
Manzanita, Oregon

If you're traveling to the Oregon coast, drive past Cannon Beach and head straight for the little beach town of Manzanita. Peppered with tufts of bright green grass, abundant forests, the rugged Neahkanie Mountain and miles of uninterrupted coastline, Manzanita offers unbeatable views without the swarm of weekending Portlanders. Since it's home to only 500 full-time residents and a main street complete with quaint coffee shops, restaurants, inns and windsurfing shops, it's a great place to stroll without much of an agenda. If you're feeling adventurous, head to Nehalem Bay to windsurf or go for a hike up Neahkanie Mountain.

Sandbridge Beach

Most East Coasters know to avoid the overpopulated sands of Virginia Beach from May to September, especially on big holidays. Instead, many flock to its tiny (and equally beautiful) neighbor Sandbridge Beach. Despite being just 15 miles south of the resort area, Sandbridge feels like its thousands of miles away with its secluded shoreline, quiet boardwalks, and numerous hiking, biking and kayaking trails. Plus, it offers a little something for everyone: beachgoers can retreat to 5 miles of sand dunes, while outdoor enthusiasts find adventure at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park.

Grand Haven

From spectacular sunsets over the iconic Grand Haven South Pierhead to a stunning 1 ½-mile stretch of harbor-front boardwalk, there's so much to love about Grand Haven. You won't find palm trees here, instead you'll see stark sand dunes (like Rosy Mound) flanking the shores of two public beaches. Enjoy the freshwater lake with a swim, kayak, canoe or boat ride, or simply take in the views on the soft sand.

See: Best Florida Beaches

Claire Volkman is a social media journalist with a passion for food and travel. She's spent time in more than 30 countries and hundreds of cities writing, photographing and immersing herself in all things food, wine and culture. You can find her favorite recipes on her blog, The Realistic Nutritionist. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ to keep up with her adventures.

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A New Synagogue In Chicago Is Billing Itself As 'Non-Zionist'

Sat, 2015-08-22 18:42

(RNS) An Israeli flag next to the rabbi’s podium, a synagogue-wide Israel Independence Day celebration, a prayer for the state of Israel during services — for many, these are innocuous if not positive parts of American Jewish congregational life.

For Rabbi Brant Rosen and his future congregants at Tzedek Chicago, a new synagogue that identifies as non-Zionist, these are symbols of a nationalism-infused Judaism, which he thinks is not only unnecessary but harmful.


“We believe that that’s led to some very dark places and that the establishment of an exclusively Jewish nation-state in a land that has historically been multiethnic and multi-religious has led irrevocably to the tragic issues that we’re facing today,” Rosen said.

The synagogue’s non-Zionism, he said, is about “bearing witness to oppression, particularly when it’s being done in our name as Americans and as Jews.”

A nondenominational synagogue with a focus on social activism, Tzedek Chicago will officially open in September with the start of the High Holidays and will share facilities with Luther Memorial Church in Chicago. The congregation is arguably the first American synagogue to self identify as non-Zionist in its mission statement.

Rosen, who served as rabbi of the mainstream Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, thought he’d retired from pulpit work. But people sought him out to discuss creating a new congregation.

“There are increasing numbers of Jews out there, particularly young Jews, who don’t identify as Zionist and resent the implication that somehow to be Jewish today one must be Zionist,” said Rosen, who previously co-founded the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council. Jewish Voice for Peace is an American Jewish organization opposed to Israeli military presence in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

“We are really a community for Jews who don’t reduce their Judaism to narrow political nationalism. As far as I know there aren’t any other congregations out there who describe themselves in those terms.”

So far, the congregation has approximately 85 members, from millennials to older adults, Rosen said.



For some, such as steering committee member Mark Miller, the synagogue is a welcome development.

“For those of us who are progressives and really have problems with the human rights abuses and other problems we see in modern-day Israel, this is a way for us to take a step away from that and have a congregation that is not aligned,” Miller said.

Rosen has experienced a swell of support but also some pushback from the wider Jewish community.

“I think you cannot cut off Israel from Judaism,” said Rabbi Josh Weinberg, president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America. Weinberg grew up in Chicago and taught in a high school program with Rosen in 2002. “The word ‘Judaism’ was the religious affiliation of the people who lived in the land of Judea. All of our Jewish expression,  Jewish identity, everything we say in our prayer books is all geared towards Israel, our nationalist existence in a particular geographic location.”

For Weinberg, the state of Israel is a central component of Jewish identity and connects American Jews to a sense of peoplehood.

“Does that mean that, just because we have a spiritual and a covenental relationship with the state of Israel, that we always have to agree with everything the state of Israel does politically? No, far from it,” he said. “But I want (improving Israel) to be a project all Jews around the world participate in. And to hear about a synagogue that’s trying to cut off those ties because of politics or policies is sad to me.”

But is Tzedek Chicago an outlier on the fringe of mainstream American Judaism or the first manifestation of a growing trend?

Theodore Sasson, senior research scientist at Brandeis University’s Center for Modern Jewish Studies, noted that Jewish non-Zionism isn’t new. Ultra-Orthodox sects such as Satmar or Neturei Karta have long been ideologically opposed to the state of Israel, based on their belief that a Jewish nation-state should only exist when the messiah comes.

Similarly, many liberal Jews were non-nationalist before Israel’s founding in 1948. After that, the majority of Jews identified as pro-Israel, Sasson said.

So, if Tzedek Chicago represents a change, it’s not the emergence of Jewish non-Zionism in America but the growth of liberal Jewish non-Zionism. But even that, according to Sasson, is not the main trend Tzedek Chicago symbolizes.

Rather, the synagogue is one example of the plurality and diversity of U.S.  Jewish voices, particularly in relation to Israel, said Sasson.

He stressed that despite the widening spectrum of Jewish public opinion, the majority of Jews hold various political positions within a pro-Israel framework. According to the most recent Pew Research Center study on American Jews, in 2013, 7 out of 10 Jewish Americans feel some level of attachment to Israel, which has remained consistent since 2000.

“There is not a flight from Israel among American Jews,” said Sasson. “My impression is that Israel continues to serve as a focal point for Jewish identity in the United States, even if increasingly that means that Israel serves as something to argue about.”

Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein dismissed the emergence of one non-Zionist synagogue as significant.

Statistically, he said, “they don’t exist.”

While Rosen would likely beg to differ and expects to see more congregations like Tzedek Chicago pop up, he’s unconcerned with the niche quality of the new synagogue. “We don’t expect to be for everyone,” he said.

Rosen is concerned that Tzedek Chicago will be pigeonholed as “the non-Zionist synagogue,” when that issue is only a fraction of what the synagogue hopes to stand for, he said.

“We espouse the vision that’s deep within Jewish tradition that stands for freeing and standing with the oppressed and standing up against the oppressor,” said Rosen. “We founded the congregation because we wanted to espouse what many of us believe are some of the central, most sacred values of Jewish tradition.”

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Explaining a Hunger Strike to My 3 Year Old: Dyett High School- Hunger Strikes

Fri, 2015-08-21 16:24
Yesterday my son and I took juice to the 12 parents and community members who are performing a hunger strike. They are protesting Chicago Public Schools' decision to close one of the last public schools in their neighborhood. Frustrations are intense towards CPS who has not been listening to their proposal to open a new public school, one created with real community input.

Now for those of you with children, especially 3 year olds, anytime you do something that is out of their "normal" realm of being, you know you're about to get the 3rd degree. After explaining what they are going to do one must be prepared to answer a bevy of questions from them, most often the ever present, "Why?"

Let me demonstrate:

Me- Buddy (referring to my son), we are going to the store to buy juice to bring to Dyett High School for parents who are there protesting.

My son- Daddy, why do they need juice?

Me- Because they aren't eating and need juice to drink.

My Son- Why are they not eating?

Me- Because they are protesting the closure of Dyett High School.

My Son- Why someone close a school?

Me- The city wants to close it.

My son- Why?

At this point, what I want to tell my son is that the way that Chicago Public Schools are run is not a democracy. That CPS and the Mayor do not care what the people actually want. That the fact that people feel forced to go on a Hunger Strike is ridiculous for a developed country, in this day and age.

A Hunger Strike is a measure of last resort in terms of a protest, because if things do not work out it can ultimately lead to death.

When Gandhi was trying to help the people of India get rid of the British colonizers, who refused to leave India, he would use the Hunger Strike as a means of protest to force the British to negotiate with him, when they would refuse to meet.

In California, in the 1960's, Mexican Americans were being forced to work on grape farms for very little pay, were sprayed with dangerous chemicals, and were provided inhumane work conditions. They decided to organize and form a union. The grape farm owners did not want the workers to organize. The owners would harass and intimidate the organizers. The workers tried many different tactics, such as pickets, strikes, marches, and boycotts. Eventually Caesar Chavez, who was one of the leaders, decided insufficient progress was being made. He decided to go on a hunger strike.

In both of these historical examples of hunger strikes, making the public aware of the hunger strike was the most important goal.

In India, when Gandhi would go on a hunger strike the Indian workers would often refuse to work until negotiations began again. Gandhi had such a following and the entire basis for British control relied on the Indian workers. In the case of Chavez and the grape workers, he and his fellow organizers were able to gain powerful allies in California, like Bobby Kennedy and others, who helped bring their struggle to more national stage.

The media was one of the biggest things that helped Gandhi and Chavez. The newspapers and reporters covered both of these events. The general public became more aware.

Parent led Hunger Strikes are not new to Chicago. In 2001, parents on the South West Side demanded a new high school. CPS ignored them even though they had built 3 new high schools on the North side. So parents staged a 19-day Hunger Strike that eventually led to the opening of Little Village High School.

Here in Chicago, as I write this, the 12 Dyett Hunger Strikers are approaching their 5th day without eating.

What are their demands?
-They want Dyett to be re-opened as a public high school with a plan developed by the actual community.

-They want meetings with Alderman Will Burns of the 4th Ward, who represents Dyett High School. Burns often ignores the community and is closely linked to Rahm. In the past, people have had to camp out on his lawn to just get a meeting with him.

-They want to meet with the new CEO of CPS Forrest Claypool. A meeting is unlikely, since CEO's are at the beck and call of the Mayor. The key is to get the media covering this event. Once the Hunger Strike is pervasive and repeated on every news channel in the city, the people in "power" will be forced to begin talking with the Dyett 12.

But what happens if Rahm, Forrest, and Will continue to ignore the hunger strikers? Are these politicians just hoping the hunger strikers get sick and too weak from not eating that they end up in the hospital? Do these politicians just want the hunger strikers to die?

Since my son is only 3 years old, I don't say all of these things. I simply answer his last "Why?" with: "There are a few not nice people in this world. Most people who run this city are not nice people. Your mom and I want you to always be nice to people. We want you to listen to people. We want you to ask questions and be curious. We want you to be brave and do what feels right."

I tried to explain to him that, "Sometimes we are faced with things that make you feel a pull or a feeling in your heart or stomach. It is easy to walk away and close your eyes. It is not always easy to make a choice to be brave. Being brave means sacrificing your comfort to do the right thing. The parents at Dyett high school are doing just that; they are brave. "

He may not really understand what is going on, but it made him really excited to pick out what kind of juice that we were going to buy to give to the Dyett parents.

If you are interested in helping or getting involved here is more info.

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My First Lesson in Politics: How to Avoid Being Treated Like a Sex Object

Fri, 2015-08-21 15:18
In January 1983 I was one of 163 members sworn in to the Missouri House.

How I was treated then had a lot to do with how I looked. It took a while, but I would overcome the "ditzy blonde" stereotype as the only female lawyer, though not the only woman, in the state house.

Lawyers are supposed to have an advantage, since the business of legislating is writing and passing laws. But all of the six male lawyers who were elected with me formed a clique to which I was not invited. They called themselves "the Six-pack." When my bills came up for consideration the Six-pack gave them special scrutiny: more questions and comments, more objections and proposed amendments. Once when I moved in committee for approval of one of my bills, a motion was made to table it. This was highly unusual--as my mom would say, it was as rare as hen's teeth. I couldn't understand what was happening.

Doug Harpool, another attorney, finally came to my office early one morning and said, "You need to know what is going on. They are plotting against you." He had first noticed their unified effort to use the Civil and Criminal Justice Committee we all served on to slow down my legislation. At first he thought it reflected the attorneys' deep-seated philosophical positions, but then he suspected that it had less to do with the bill itself than who was sponsoring it. "After a while, I began to sense that there was jealousy developing about Claire and her success," Harpool said later. "I felt like some of them were intentionally ganging up on her to hold her back. She was a fighter, and I think sometimes they liked to make her fight."

I cried about this later, but at the time I didn't let anybody know how upset I was. When I look back on it now, I realize how silly and immature they seemed. But at the time it was hurtful. Still, I didn't let the Six-pack get in the way of what I was trying to do.

There were ongoing sexual relationships among some members and staff of the Missouri Legislature, often involving married people. But the only man in Jefferson City I had a relationship with while I was a legislator was Harry Hill, a fellow legislator who was also single. Still, people spread rumors and made up stories. There were remarks made to me and about me. Harpool recalled, "These guys would always joke that Claire was sleeping with everybody. They had no basis for any of it. Any woman who was successful, they'd accuse of having slept with somebody."

Sometimes I ignored it, sometimes I responded, sometimes I cried, and sometimes I tried to turn it into a joke. I had to figure out how to remain friendly and collegial so I could be a successful legislator, but I also had to learn how to avoid being marginalized and treated like a sex object.

Once I had to ask Bob Griffin, the Speaker of the House, for help and advice on how to get my first bill out of committee. He was on the dais and laughingly said, "Well, did you bring your knee pads?" I knew he was joking; the problem was that he didn't realize it was an offensive joke. And that was many times the essence of the problem: Men in Jefferson City did not understand or comprehend how offensive their humor could be.

I wouldn't have traded my six years in the Missouri General Assembly for anything. I learned so much--about compromise, about the process of government, about how to make allies and how to lay the groundwork and reach out to the right groups. I learned a lot about campaigning too, because I always had an opponent.

But even more important, I realized that speaking truth to power can be survivable and even a lot of fun. I did distinguish myself by being willing to stand up to Bob Griffin, Dick and Bill Webster, Tony Ribaudo, and others. I found that if you are informed and work hard, you can earn credibility. I went from being the young blonde with all the hair to being someone whom the senior members approached when they had questions about criminal legislation.

Recently, even members of the Six-pack have come around, asking me for help in getting federal appointments. And I call all of them friends.

This is an excerpt from Sen. McCaskill's new book Plenty Ladylike.

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Keep Illinois Weird: The State's 10 Most Unusual Landmarks

Fri, 2015-08-21 13:26
Illinois natives often try to describe what it's like to be from the Land of Lincoln, but at times it all comes down to, "It's not normal, it's an Illinois thing." With our weird town names and bizarre high school mascots, we Illinoisans are just plain strange. Where's the evidence? It's all around us. Here are 10 weird Illinois landmarks from across the state:

Purple Martin Houses - Griggsville
Due to the town's location between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Griggsville has a serious mosquito problem. In 1962, local businessman and nature enthusiast J. L. Wade encouraged the city to build birdhouses for purple martins, renowned for consuming 2,000 mosquitos daily, making them (as stated prominently on a building wall in downtown Griggsville) "America's Most Wanted Bird." Over the years, Griggsville built more than 5,000 birdhouses, which led to the town's nickname "The Purple Martin Capital of the Nation."

Mug Tree - Yale
The idea behind the Mug Tree came from the brother of the tree's owner, who suggested using a dying tree on their property in rural Jasper County "to hang mugs on."  A shed built by Amish carpenters tops the tree and protects the mugs. Today, people from all over the country have contributed a mug or two to the tree and have signed the guestbook located in a box by the tree.

Goat Tower of Baaa - Findlay
This 31-foot-tall goat tower in the east-central Illinois town of Findlay was built by an Illinois farmer named David Johnson for his herd of Saanen milk goats.

John F. Kennedy statue in a graveyard, nowhere near his grave - Taylorville
Not much is known about why this eight-foot statue of President Kennedy was erected in Oak Hill Cemetery in Christian County, hundreds of miles away from his actual grave in Virginia, but an investigation revealed that the memorial statue was commissioned in 1963 and the funds used were donations from citizens in the Taylorville area. It was also discovered that Robert Kennedy, JFK's brother, wrote a letter to the city of Taylorville asking them to use the picture he included with the letter as the pattern for the statue of his late brother.

Telephone booth on a roof - Lincoln
The historic phone booth on top of the roof of the Lincoln Fire Department was originally placed on the building to spot severe weather, like an approaching tornado, according to the city of Lincoln website. Typically a young firefighter would keep an eye out and alert the station severe weather was visible nearby so emergency sirens could be activated.

The prosthetic leg of a Mexican general - Springfield
The Illinois State Military Museum is home to many unique artifacts, but few are more intriguing than the artificial leg of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The Illinois State Military Museum explains the history of how the leg ended up in central Illinois:
"On April 18, 1847, during the Battle of Cerro Gordo, soldiers of the 4th Illinois Infantry came upon the abandoned carriage of the Santa Anna and discovered that he left behind his chicken lunch, box of gold, and his artificial leg. The story the soldiers told was that they ate the chicken, turned in the gold and kept the artificial leg as a souvenir. Years later the leg was presented to the state of Illinois and placed on exhibit in Memorial Hall, which later became the Illinois State Military Museum."
The leg was also the subject of a King of the Hill episode titled, "The Final Shinsult."

Mobile Wedding Chapel - Shelbyville
The Best Wedding Chapel purchased a fire truck and wrote to the show, "Trick My Truck," and the show transformed the firetruck into the world famous "Best Man" mobile wedding chapel. The chapel on wheels also holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest wedding chapel.

Two-story outhouse - Gays
There is no context or known history for this bizarre structure located about 80 miles southeast of Springfield in Moultrie County, explains Atlas Obscura.

The house with no corners - Bull Valley
Atlas Obscura explains the reason the George Stickney house in the McHenry Couny village of Bull Valley was built without corners: "Thanks to the owners' belief that it would help spirits flow through the home without getting snagged." With an origin story like that, there's bound to be plenty of spooky tales about the house. The strangest and spookiest story is about the circumstances surrounding George Stickney's death:
Legend has it that George Stickney was found slumped in a corner of his home that had accidentally been built at a 90 degree angle, a look of horror cemented on his face.

Gravesite of the World's Heaviest Man - Benville
Robert Earl Hughes was born in Fishhook, Illinois, and weighed in at 1,041 lbs. He died at the age of 32. Hughes is buried in Benville, about 6o miles west of Springfield.

To see five more bizarre Illinois landmarks, including a fountain of poop, check out Reboot Illinois.

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NEXT ARTICLE: 16 weird Illinois festivals

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Gov. Bruce Rauner talks up Republican values at Illinois State Fair

Fri, 2015-08-21 11:22
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday rallied the Republican faithful and predicted a comeback for the party in Illinois as he hosted his first Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair.

Rauner rolled into the fairgrounds on his Harley-Davidson, just as he had done last year at Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair, but this time he was greeted by both cheering supporters inside the Governor's Day rally and union protesters outside.

Where Rauner last year was the candidate promising to "shake up Springfield" if elected, he appeared this year as the governor whose delivery on that promise has both energized his party and enraged those who oppose him. The protesters cordoned off across the street from the GOP rally were evidence of the latter.

"Our Republican values are the values that make America the greatest nation in the history of the world," Rauner said, strolling the stage with a hand-held microphone and addressing cheering supporters on all sides of the stage. "Freedom, opportunity, growth. That's what it's about, that's what prosperity comes from. We believe in limited government, low taxes, individual liberty and personal responsibility. That is what makes America great."

Putting those values into practice in Illinois, Rauner said, is the key to reviving the state's economy and stopping the flow of Illinois jobs to other states.

"I'm a feisty guy and I love to compete. And I'm sick and tired of them kicking our tails and taking our jobs," Rauner said.

Chants from protesters upset over Rauner's repeated efforts to curtail public employee unions' power in collective bargaining occasionally could be heard as Rauner spoke, but he acknowledged them only briefly.

"The folks who are against us, the folks who say no, the folks who chant and try to disrupt, they don't know. They don't understand what America was built on," Rauner said.

Watch this video and read more about Rauner's appearance at the Illinois State Fair at Reboot Illinois.

Rauner hyped up his party's values and his own efforts to curtail public union power on the same day that the state Senate voted to override a Rauner's veto of a bill that would send public union contract negotiation impasses to an arbitrator instead of forcing a possible strike among the government workers. Rauner had asked legislators to avoid the veto override earlier in the week, saying a passage of the bill would dilute his negotiating power with the public unions. But every Democratic senator, and one Republican, voted for the override. Learn more about Republican state Sen. Sam McCann, of Planview, and why he voted the way he did at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Editorial: Let Rauner do what he was elected to do

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Illinois Bans Gay Conversion Therapy For LGBT Youths

Thu, 2015-08-20 20:42

Illinois' Republican governor on Thursday signed a law banning mental health therapists from trying to change a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The measure signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner outlaws the controversial practice of "gay conversion therapy," sometimes called "reparative therapy," on people younger than 18. Once the law takes effect on Jan. 1, violators will face discipline from their state licensing board, according to the text of the measure. 

The law makes Illinois the fourth state to ban gay conversion therapy for minors. California, New Jersey, and Oregon -- as well as the District of Columbia -- also have outlawed the practice.

But the Illinois measure is the first to include language linking conversion therapy to consumer fraud, according to its sponsor, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat who is an openly gay member of the State House. 

“Our version of this legislation is the most comprehensive bill in the nation, barring health providers from engaging in this practice and affording survivors access to consumer fraud action against the perpetrators of this abuse,” Cassidy said in a statement.

Critics of conversion therapy say the practice is ineffective, because sexual orientation is not a choice, and is harmful to minors in particular. The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association condemned the practice as far back as 1997.

“Every major scientific organization has dismissed conversion therapy as harmful,” Cassidy said. “The Illinois Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association for Social Workers, and so many more have not only disproven its utility, but they have decried its effects."

Cassidy noted that children who are rejected by their communities based on sexual orientation are six times more likely to suffer from depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

Jim Bennett, Midwest regional director for the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal, applauded the governor's signing of the measure, telling The Huffington Post the law "puts the best interest of our young people first."

"A more accurate name for conversion therapy is child abuse," Bennett said. "Our LGBT young people deserve to be embraced for who they are."

President Barack Obama this year called for an end to gay conversion therapy in response to a White House petition brought after the suicide of transgender Ohio teen Leelah Alcorn. 

Alcorn, 17, walked in front of a truck in December after leaving a note in which she described how her conservative Christian parents forced her to undergo conversion therapy in order to change both her sexual orientation and gender identity. In a note posted to Tumblr, Alcorn wrote:  

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights."

Also on HuffPost:

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Everything You Think You Know About the History and Future of Jobs Is Likely Wrong

Thu, 2015-08-20 16:49
"47 Percent..."

That's the highly-cited estimate out of Oxford by Frey and Osbourne of the percentage of existing jobs that are likely to be automated away with the help of technology within the next two decades. According to this paper, flip a coin and call heads or machines to see if your job will exist in 20 years. This is the 21st century fear for many called "technological unemployment."

There is also a conception among many (about half of those considered experts, so again flip a coin) that there is no technological unemployment problem because even though technology eliminates jobs, it also creates new and better ones of sufficient supply such that pretty much everyone is better off than they would be in otherwise "undisrupted" lives.

There does tend to be one caveat to this dismissal of automation fears -- that most of all of these high-skill jobs will require high-skill labor, and thus a highly-skilled work force which in turn will require more education. So of course the answer to what could otherwise be a somewhat thorny future, is simply education, education, and more education.

Well, David Autor of MIT just published a fascinating paper (though we reach different conclusions) in the Summer 2015 Journal of Economic Perspectives titled, "Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation." In this paper he compiled the following chart, and it should blow anyone's mind who holds a strong opinion about the historical effects on jobs by computing technology since it took off in the 1970s, and so the possible future we should expect if the trends continue.

Source: Journal of Economic Perspectives

This chart has some very interesting complexity to it, which I'll attempt to simplify with snippets from Autor's paper. The most important thing to recognize is that all points above the flat red line show relative growth in jobs while points below show relative loss in jobs. Points to the left show jobs with less skill required and points to the right show jobs with more skill required. Each curve represents basically a different decade.

Three Important Employment Observations

First, the pace of employment gains in low-wage, manual task-intensive jobs has risen successively across periods, as shown at the left-hand side of the figure.

If we look at the far left of the chart, we see growth in jobs with the least skill, increasing decade after decade after decade. As the story goes, technology should have the opposite effect. The simpler a job is, the easier it should be to automate, and yet we're not seeing this at all. Instead we're seeing more and more low-skill jobs being created not destroyed.

Second, the occupations that are losing employment share appear to be increasingly drawn from higher ranks of the occupational distribution. For example, the highest ranked occupation to lose employment share during the 1980s lay at approximately the 45th percentile of the skill distribution. In the final two subperiods, this rank rose still further to above the 75th percentile--suggesting that the locus of displaced middle-skill employment is moving into higher-skilled territories.

Where these curves intersect the red line has been moving to the right, meaning that more and more middle-skill jobs have been lost in a way that even increasingly eats into higher and higher skill ranges. This is a hollowing out of the middle and even upper-middle. Jobs that require what's considered between a low and high amount of skill have been disappearing. This appears to reflect the loss of the middle class. As each decade passes, the jobs that require mostly a medium amount of skill are simply going away, replaced instead with jobs requiring less skill, not more skill, and thus jobs that tend to pay less, not more.

Third, growth of high-skill, high-wage occupations (those associated with abstract work) decelerated markedly in the 2000s, with no relative growth in the top two deciles of the occupational skill distribution during 1999 through 2007, and only a modest recovery between 2007 and 2012. Stated plainly, the growth of occupational employment across skill levels looks U-shaped earlier in the period, with gains at low-skill and high-skill levels. By the 2000s, the pattern of occupational employment across skill levels began to resemble a downward ramp.

We should expect to see what we see on the left of this chart on the right instead, but we don't. Between 1979 and 2007, a span of almost 30 years, there was less and less growth in jobs requiring the most skill. Only since 2007 has there been a reversal with a small amount of growth in these jobs. Other than that, as Autor himself describes it, it looks like a "downward ramp", meaning that both middle and high-skill jobs are being steeply replaced with low-skill jobs, and have been since the 1970s.

This is not the story we are told. Instead we read story after story like this latest one from the Guardian, claiming that 140 years of job creation show that jobs will always be created. And yet the ongoing trend of such articles is to mostly ignore the potentially unnecessary nature of the jobs themselves, the level of skill involved to perform them, and the lower pay they can command than the jobs they are replacing. Take for example the following excerpt:

Their conclusion is unremittingly cheerful: rather than destroying jobs, technology has been a "great job-creating machine". Findings by Deloitte such as a fourfold rise in bar staff since the 1950s or a surge in the number of hairdressers this century suggest to the authors that technology has increased spending power, therefore creating new demand and new jobs.

So there's no need to worry about technological unemployment, because there will always be a need for more bar-backs and haircuts? Is that bar-back better off no longer having a manufacturing job paying $40,000 per year and instead having a job paying $20,000 per year in the service industry? Is that an important job to the human species, bringing empty glasses from Point A to Point B? Is the job entirely voluntary or done out of need for income? And is this a job that just can't possibly be done by a machine, or outright eliminated? Ever? Is the service industry really safe?

We should also probably keep in mind that the percentage of the population in the labor force peaked back in the year 2000, and has been falling since. The above chart of employment skills polarization only examines the makeup of those employed, and ignores all those unemployed and all those not even looking for work anymore. The amount of those employed within the total population is at a record 38-year low of 62.6%. Meanwhile, despite slowing, GDP is still growing, so all the work is still obviously getting done somehow...

Many Questions Unasked

Centuries of data may show us how jobs have been both destroyed and created but recent decades worth of more nuanced data more importantly show us there's more to this story. Whenever we see someone claiming new jobs are being created and will continue to be created so as to provide everyone a job, we need to look deeper and ask, "What kind of job? What are the skills required? How much does it pay for how many hours? Does it provide more security or less? What are the benefits it offers? Is the job really necessary? Does the job provide meaning to those tasked with it? Are jobs and work the same thing? Is there work to do that's more important than what the job involves? Is working in the job actually better than not working at all?"

Regarding that last question in particular, there's this important finding which should not go ignored in any discussion celebrating job creation:

Those who moved into optimal jobs showed significant improvement in mental health compared to those who remained unemployed. Those respondents who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.

That's right, having no job at all can be better than having a bullshit one. Thanks, science. And if low-skill jobs are more likely to be worse on mental health than medium and high-skill jobs, then for decades we've been increasingly working in newly created jobs that are depressingly worse for us than not working in any job.

All of the above questions are important to actually ask because when we get right down to it, the mere existence of a job means very little. We have to ask additional questions about the nature of the job itself. Those not asking these additional questions are simplifying the story in such a way it becomes even simpler than a story. It becomes a fairy tale.

Yes, our economy is so far creating more and more jobs as our technology destroys old ones, but these jobs are not at all the jobs we may assume they are. They are mostly low-skill jobs, and that means mostly low-paying jobs. For every new job as a Facebook engineer, there are countless more jobs in fast food, and there are a whole lot fewer jobs in car assembly plants. There are also not as many total jobs available for everyone as we may think. What does this all mean to us and to our country as a whole? What does it mean for the great increases in productivity we could otherwise see if job elimination were instead actually our goal?

This also means that more education isn't the answer. As the decades have passed, the population has gotten more and more educated. Our workforce now is the most educated workforce in US history, and a great deal of this education is being put to work in jobs that don't need it, because the jobs that do need it aren't being created in sufficient numbers. Are bar-backs with PhDs a triumph of new job creation?

The true story of technology and jobs is a story of an eroding middle, a relatively slowing top, and a vastly growing bottom.

So unless we all wish to pursue insecure lives of low-skill underpaid mostly meaningless employment thanks to all the machines increasingly doing all the rest of the work (not really for us but mostly for the benefit of those who own them), we will need to break the connection between work and income by providing everyone an income floor sufficient to both meet basic needs and purchase the goods and services the machines are providing. It's as simple as that. Without that decoupling, there will be no economy, because there will be insufficient consumer buying power to drive it.

If we look at the details of the last few decades of job creation and destruction, we're either going to make enough new low-skill jobs in numbers sufficient to keep unemployment numbers low enough to actually run a society... or we're not. Either way, consumer buying power is likely to steeply erode, even after we account for the effects technology has on lowering prices because the costs of basic needs like food and housing are the costs technology has had relatively little effect on this century. Meanwhile, if we can eliminate half of our jobs in just 20 years, do we really even want to create that many tens of millions of new ways to work for someone else? Why?

There appears to be no happy ending to this story that doesn't involve universal basic income. So instead of continuing to ask if jobs are going to be automated in sufficient quantities to need basic income, let's instead start to increasingly ask if there's any job we can't automate so we're all more freed to live by it.


Want to help? Contact your representative and tell them to support the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2015 which would provide everyone with a Social Security number an equal share of the revenue raised by making the air we all breathe more expensive to pollute, or in other words, a 'cap and dividend' universal partial basic income. You can also sign this petition to the President and Congress for a basic income for all, or donate your time or money to Basic Income Action, a non-profit organization founded to transform basic income from idea to reality. You can also support articles like this by sharing them.

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Thinking of Asking a Woman When She's Going to Have Kids? Don't.

Thu, 2015-08-20 15:28
I am a single twentysomething living and working in New York City; I like yoga, running, hanging out with friends, pursuing hobbies and binge-watching television shows on Netflix. My current lifestyle sounds like that of countless other single twentysomethings living in New York City -- yet there is one thing random people seem to want to change, and they seem to ask me about it on a consistent basis. It feels like I get asked about this one aspect of my life more than any other, but maybe that's because I'm just so tired of talking about it.

My relationship status. Specifically, when I'm going to have kids.

It would really be nice to still get questions about things besides children, family and marriage. When I say "twentysomething" and "career" in the same sentence, people often interpret that as "single" and "forever alone."

Most of my friends, both male and female, have been asked, at some point or other during their 20s, when (not if -- when) they will be getting married, having kids, settling down -- and it's awkward. It's really awkward.

It's also really rude.

Because the people who ask this question are not just asking me when I'm planning on having kids. They're asking about my socioeconomic status, my love life, my job status and whether I'm responsible enough to take care of another human being -- all at the same time. It may not seem like that from the outside looking in, but when trying to explain it to someone (because, yes, for whatever reason a simple one-word response will not suffice and you have to defend the fact that you don't want kids at that moment with a long, drawn-out reply), you have to explain why you don't want kids by elaborating on your current lifestyle.

When you reach a certain age and you are childless, people are going to assume there is something wrong with you. They aren't going to consider that maybe you want to be single, hanging out with friends and having a good time. They don't want to hear about how terrible dating is, how hard it is to look for a stable apartment, to advance in your career. They aren't going to think about you pursuing your hobbies and interests and learning new languages. They are going to think about family, and they are going to wonder why you don't have one. That's been my experience, at least.

Having kids is a huge responsibility, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. It means giving up my current, relatively carefree lifestyle for something new and unknown. It means trusting someone not only with my well-being but also with the life of a child we will bring into the world. It means years of dedication, understanding and love. My body would change drastically during those nine months of pregnancy, and it's scary.

Come to think of it, why would I want to get pregnant when I will be shamed for gaining weight because I'm, y'know, growing a child inside of me? Why would I want to explain postpartum depression to people who have no idea it even exists? Why would I rush to have a child, knowing that the only major country that offers no paid leave for new mothers is of course the one I currently live in, the United States? Why would I want to get pregnant, when there's also a very real possibility that I might be shamed when I return to work because I will then be a mother with a kid? That is, if I can even get a job and return to work after birthing a child.

There are so many unrealistic expectations when it comes to being pregnant and having children and having the perfect baby products that it's overwhelming.

I don't want someone to rush how I live my life. My life is just that: mine. The men and women around you who are single? It's their choice whether they want to hit the bars and have fun or try to settle down by finding the right person. If they want you to know about their love life (or lack thereof), they will tell you. They will tell you because they trust you and value your opinion.

If they don't? Then, quite frankly, it's none of your business.

Women should not be defined by their marital status and whether or not they have children. Women are told they should feel empowered and follow their dreams -- but then they face insidious judgments when they don't have kids on someone else's schedule. Successful women who are single and happily living their lives are, for some reason, regularly forced to explain their lifestyle choice of not having children to other people.

When am I going to have kids? I don't know.

Next question.

Also on HuffPost:

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The 20 Most Polite Colleges In 2015, According To GrubHub

Thu, 2015-08-20 13:51

Saying "please" and "thank you" can go a long way. In this case, it gets your college ranked as one of the most polite campuses.

The online food-ordering service GrubHub reviewed its data and calculated which college campuses had students, faculty and staff included "please," "thanks" and "thank you" in their delivery orders. The data, shared exclusively with The Huffington Post, included orders between Sept. 1, 2014 through Dec. 16, 2014, and then from Jan. 15 to June 1 of this year. 

GrubHub did a similar ranking last year, based on data collected during the 2013-14 academic year. However, many of the rankings have totally shifted. The University of Pennsylvania was No. 1 last year, but fell to 18th. Adelphi University in New York wasn't even in the top 10, but is now ranked first. 

One important caveat, this ranking is only based on where GrubHub operates. So if you're in a town where no businesses use GrubHub, you are left out of this ranking.

Princeton University, University of San Francisco, Wagner College, Miami University of Ohio and the University of Florida were all close runner ups to the top 20. 

The top 20 most polite colleges can be seen below:

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23 of the Best Illinois Towns to Raise a Family

Thu, 2015-08-20 13:18
Illinoisans looking for a place to settle down and raise a family can turn to the plethora of living options Illinois has to offer. Our state has many towns and cities for families interested in finding the best environments for their children. Niche recently reviewed 4,264 towns to determine which are the best-suited for families when taking nine main factors into consideration:

  1. Crime & Safety: Niche's Crime & Safety Grade, which incorporates statistics that capture a location's general safety.

  2. Education: Niche's Education Grade, which incorporates the average Niche K-12 overall grade for every public school serving the area, where each school is weighted by the number of students it serves.

  3. Access to Libraries: A measure of both the proximity (per square mile) and the availability (per capita) of libraries.

  4. Community: Niche's Community Grade, which incorporates statistics that capture an area's involvement and investment in the community.

  5. Housing: Niche's Housing Grade, which incorporates statistics that capture how good an area is to purchase a home.

  6. Residents 35-44 Years Old: Percentage of residents between the ages of 35 and 44.

  7. Residents 9 Years Old and Under: Percentage of residents between the ages of 0 and 9.

  8. Access to Day Cares: A measure of both the proximity (per square mile) and the availability (per capita) of day care services.

  9. Access to Grocery Stores: A measure of both the proximity (per square mile) and the availability (per capita) of grocery stores.

Note that the qualifying "towns" analyzed include suburbs and cities with populations under 100,000. The following are 23 of the 37 best Illinois towns to raise a family, according to Niche.

37. Canton (central Illinois)

Population: 14,646

36. Du Quoin (southern Illinois)

Population: 6,063

35. Rantoul (eastern Illinois)

Population: 12,958

34. Ottawa (north central Illinois)

Population: 19,116

33. Charleston (eastern Illinois)

Population: 22,048

32. Harvard (northern Illinois)

Population: 9,023

31. Jerseyville (southwest Illinois)

Population: 8,553

30. Macomb (western Illinois)

Population: 19,267

29. Morris (northeast Illinois)

Population: 14,019

28. Wilmington (northeast Illinois)

Population: 6,028

27. Fairfield (southeast Illinois)

Population: 5,372

26. Peru (north central Illinois)

Population: 10,188

25. Sterling (northwest Illinois)

Population: 15,314

24. Greenville (southwest Illinois)

Population: 6,881

23. Flora (southeast Illinois)

Population: 5,077

22. Marion (southern Illinois)

Population: 17,282

21. Pinckneyville (southwest Illinois)

Population: 5,622

20. Chester (southwest Illinois)

Population: 8,521

19. Bloomington (central Illinois)

Population: 77,293

18. Braidwood (northeast Illinois)

Population: 6,033

17. LaSalle (north central Illinois)

Population: 9,551

16. Hampshire (northern Illinois)

Population: 6,108

15. Mendota (north central Illinois)

Population: 7,314

Images courtesy of 

To see the top 14 best Illinois counties to raise a family, including Skokie and Arlington Heights, check out Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: 50 safest cities in Illinois

  1. Top 10 Illinois Counties with the Most Sex Offenders Per Capita

  2. How many people in your county have concealed carry licenses?

  3. Top 10 Illinois Counties with the Most Reported Rapes

  4. Top 25 Illinois Counties with the Most DUI Arrests

  5. Want to tell your elected officials what you think of the state of government in Illinois? Use our Sound Off tool!

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5 Tips to Avoid Hotel Scammers

Thu, 2015-08-20 11:56
Don't Let a Fake Website Ruin Your Vacation.

Nothing will ruin a vacation faster than arriving at your destination and finding out there are extra charges that you did not expect -- or worse, that your hotel reservation does not exist. That scenario happens frequently enough that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a warning to travelers about unscrupulous third parties and fake hotel-booking websites. While the original warning was aimed at business travelers, the information is valid for vacationers as well.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that there are around 2.5 million rogue bookings annually at an approximate cost of $220 million to unsuspecting Americans.

How can you protect yourself against fake websites and be sure of what you are getting with your booking?

Search Wisely - Generic searches like "Seattle hotels" can draw scam sites to the top, since they may have paid to get to the top of the list. The more specific your search is, the less likely you are to be scammed. If you have a few preferred hotel chains, type in the chain's URL directly from their print or TV advertisements and save it in your bookmarks for easy reference.

Cross-Check Information - If you have located a good deal on a hotel, cross-check the hotel and website information using a separate search window before buying. Not only do national chains have their own websites, most individual hotel locations also have their own websites. Crosscheck the phone numbers and other information for basic discrepancies.

Do not verify by calling the number listed on the site you are trying to evaluate. Fake websites often set up their own answering service to mimic the hotel site, although they may be very careful to say "reservations desk" or use other sidesteps to avoid directly mentioning the name of the hotel.

Be Wary of Unusually Low Deals - Any offer that is a deep discount over the usual price for a national chain should be met with skepticism and thoroughly vetted.

Read the Fine Print - As painful as it may be, check the website thoroughly for disclaimers before proceeding. You may find clues telling you that you are dealing with a third-party site.

Do Not Follow Links - Generally, links are one of the easiest ways to be redirected to a third-party site. Be very sure of the source before following any link -- and even then, it's best to crosscheck.

Hotel chains will often match low price listings on the Internet. You may be better off contacting the hotel directly by phone and asking them to match the advertised Internet rate. If you do choose to book through the Internet and are victimized by a fake booking website, be sure to file a complaint with the FTC and contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.

It is possible to save significant money by booking hotels online, but just make sure you know whom you are dealing with. As the old saying goes, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

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