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We Don't Really Know How To Treat Depression And Alcoholism At The Same Time

Mon, 2014-08-18 07:26
"You're standing at a precipice, and you look down. There's a voice -- and it's a little quiet voice -- that goes 'jump.' It's the same voice, the same voice [that says], 'just one.' There's a voice that goes, 'jump,' and the idea of 'just one.'" -- Robin Williams, in a 2006 interview with Diane Sawyer.

Robin Williams' sobriety was intact when he died of apparent suicide last Monday, according to his widow Susan Schneider. Though no one will ever know what exactly led to that night, Williams had previously provided some insight into the interaction between depression and addiction. During a 2006 interview, Williams discussed his relapse into alcohol addiction after 20 years of sobriety. In hindsight, it's hard not to see his words as commentary on the twinned characteristics of both alcoholism and depression, from someone who struggled with both.

In this, Williams was not alone. Almost 28 percent of Americans with alcohol dependence (the clinical term for alcoholism) also have a major depressive disorder (such as clinical depression), according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

A person with an alcohol dependence is 3.9 times more likely to have a major depressive disorder than someone without alcohol dependence and there's even some evidence that the genes which make someone susceptible to depression are related to the genes that put people at risk for alcoholism.

But despite the common co-occurrence and possible genetic link between alcoholism and depression, research about treating both at the same time is still in its infancy. Traditionally (and what is still the norm today), the medical education, scientific research and clinical approach to treating depression and alcoholism is siloed off into different departments.

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your central nervous system and alters thinking, speech and reactions, but it can also make people feel a sense of euphoria and well-being at first. Because of this, scientists aren't sure whether most people begin drinking to medicate pre-existing depression, or if people are depressed because of the consequences of alcoholism. But the two conditions can lock someone into a seemingly unending cycle of drinking, depression from the consequences of drinking and then more drinking to relieve the pain.

"That's why it's so critical for us to think about how to weave in treatment for depression in chemical dependency settings, and on the flip side of that begin to more sensitively assess and treat in a non-confrontational manner, problematic or risky drinking [in depression patients],” said Stephanie Gamble, Ph.D., an assistant psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “So we can nip these things in the bud before they grow into a full-blown problem."

Approaching the conditions simultaneously, according to Gamble, may turn out to be the most effective way to treat both.

"When folks would show up at mental health centers with a substance abuse problem, a referral is often made for them to go and get substance abuse counseling first -- get cleaned up, and then get your depression treated," explained Gamble in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. "The problem with that sequential treatment is that when someone experiences both depression and a substance abuse disorder, they become so intertwined that the depression itself can undermine a person's attempt at sobriety."

"For the patients that I've seen that experience co-occuring depression and alcohol dependence, it's a double whammy," Gamble continued. "If you need to go to group [therapy] three times a week, but you can't even get out of bed to take a shower, that's going to undermine your attempts at an outpatient chemical dependency program."

Gamble is embarking on pilot studies assessing the feasibility of treating people with alcohol dependency and depression with both traditional substance abuse therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy. Her 2013 uncontrolled study, which followed 14 women over 32 weeks, found that their drinking behavior, depressive symptoms and interpersonal functioning improved significantly over the course of therapy and was sustained at follow-up.

Charles O'Brien, Ph.D. M.D., an addiction psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the founder of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the school, is another researcher intent on addressing both conditions simultaneously, but from a pharmacological perspective. O’Brien published a double-blind, controlled study in 2010 that assessed the effectiveness of treating 170 participants with either naltrexone, a drug that reduces alcohol cravings, sertraline, a drug that treats depression and anxiety, both drugs, or neither drugs.

O’Brien treated participants for 14 weeks and found that the group which received both drugs had higher alcohol abstinence rates (53.7 percent) and a longer average period before relapse (98 days) than the groups which received only sertraline or only naltrexone. In fact, those groups had abstinence rates and relapse periods that were comparable to the control group, which received no drugs at all -- 23.1 percent abstinence, with a 26-day delay before relapse.

“The best results occur when you treat both simultaneously,” said O’Brien in a telephone interview with HuffPost. “It’s not a good idea to say we’re only going to concentrate on one thing at a time — they should be getting simultaneous treatment for multiple disorders."

Because the groups were small and the follow-up times so short, O’Brien hopes that other research groups will attempt to replicate his findings with longer, or longitudinal studies.

“The brain is the cause of all of this,” O’Brien continued. “Addiction is a brain disease. Depression is a brain disease. Not many doctors know about the brain.”

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

History and Ferguson, Missouri

Mon, 2014-08-18 06:52
As I watched with a sickening sense of deja vu the images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri this week, I couldn't help but come to this conclusion: we have allowed a pernicious historical revisionism to undermine the legacy of the civil rights movement.

A half century ago, after covering datelines like Birmingham, Alabama and Oxford, Mississippi and men like Dr. Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers, I came to Washington as the CBS News White House Correspondent to report on the Johnson administration. Some of the successes from the front lines in the civil rights struggle I had covered as a field reporter were just being codified into groundbreaking legislation -- the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. If you had asked me then what America would look like in 50 years, namely now in our present time, there were two vision I would never have believed. I never would have dreamed that we would elect an African American president. That seemed a leap forward that would take at least a century. On the other hand, I didn't think we would see voting rights rolled back, de facto school resegregation in much of the nation, and scenes like we saw this week of an almost all-white police force in a majority African-American town facing off against peaceful marchers in military-style gear and heavy weaponry... But both President Obama and Ferguson, Missouri are the realities of race in 21st Century America.

I have wondered the last few days what Dr. King and his fellow leaders would have made of a nation of such seeming contradictions. I would never have the audacity to attempt to speak for Dr. King, but I think he would challenge us by saying something like, "you have achieved much but you only focused on half of my message."

The way the civil rights movement largely lives in our national consciousness is that it was all about race. But that is only part of the story. It was as much about the powerful and the powerless. The rich and the poor. Those who have opportunity and those of whom the circumstances of birth allowed for very little reason for hope. In short, it is about true equality of opportunity for ALL Americans, or as close as is humanly possible to come to that.

I would respectfully suggest that we focus at looking at Ferguson, Missouri through a broader prism of civil rights. We don't really know everything that took place during that tragic and fateful encounter between a young, unarmed black man and the police. Indeed that is part of the frustration. There needs to be a full and impartial investigation with deliberate speed. Yes, you have to see the scenes from Ferguson in the lens of race. The pictures and video capture well the differences in skin color between those marching and those holding the guns. But that is not the only divide. If somehow there was a camera that could capture life stories, you would see other lines of partition between those who hold the power in Ferguson and many of those marching. You would see divisions along economic lines, educational opportunities, access to health care, and so many others. We can and should debate policy in this country but we should not debate the facts of so much inequality. So debate the role of unions, but don't debate that many workers are suffering with low pay and poor working conditions. Debate the role of charter schools and the Common Core, but do not debate whether there is inequality in our education system. Debate how to best deal with our immigration problems, but do not debate that millions of men, women, and children are living in the shadows amongst us.

Addressing these economic and social ills, which disproportionately affect communities of color, must be just as much a part of Dr. King's legacy as racial equality. We remember and laud the march on Washington and the "I Have a Dream" speech, but at the time of Dr. King's assassination, he was leading what was known as the "Poor Person's Campaign." He described it as "the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity." (Emphasis mine).

Dr. King was vague about how he would have the country accomplish this. And whatever proposed solutions from that time would likely be dated today. That's not the point. Ultimately civil rights is not a black-and-white issue, literally or figuratively. It's about liberty and justice for all. With Ferguson, there are worthy discussions about race in America, and whether the police are too militarized. Yet we must see that even these important topics fit into a larger narrative. This nation has perilous fault lines between its citizens. Race is part of the story, but so too are questions of economic and social justice. Dr. King saw these divisions and worried about them. We must as well, if we care, really care, about what is to become of our country.

Mo'ne Davis And Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Are Big Stars At Little League World Series

Mon, 2014-08-18 03:05

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — An African-American female pitcher from Philadelphia and a team from Chicago have created a buzz at the Little League World Series.

Philly's Mo'ne Davis and the Jackie Robinson West squad are the talk of the series; professional athletes and politicians alike are following their every move. They've Skyped with the Los Angeles Dodgers, had shout-outs from NBA star Kevin Durant on Twitter and the Pennsylvania governor was in South Williamsport on Friday.

Davis, one of two girls in this year's tournament, is the unquestioned fan favorite. The crowd cheers her every pitch and at-bat. Canada's Emma March also felt the support before her team was eliminated Saturday.

The all-black Chicago squad shows there is still interest in the game in urban communities, even though African-Americans accounted for only about 8 percent of major league teams' opening day rosters this year.

Paul Graziano, an LLWS press box announcer since 1980, has never seen this level of excitement so early in the tournament.

"We always got good crowds on championship weekends, but I've seen more growth and more people coming now for early games," Graziano said. "You've got two girls and a team from the inner city ... I think it will just bolster" Little League, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Davis (1-0) could return to the mound Wednesday when Philadelphia takes on Las Vegas.

Not to diminish other LLWS highlights — including Rhode Island's exciting rally against Nashville or Las Vegas' rout of Chicago — but Davis has become a must-see performer. Her Philadelphia squad came from behind Sunday night to set up the showdown with Las Vegas

"She's unflappable," said Philadelphia manager Alex Rice, adding it's "highly likely" that Davis will pitch Wednesday. "All the attention — she's getting a little tired of the same questions and we're getting past that — but the attention and everything isn't getting to her. She's having a blast."

Davis received standing ovations from the crowd of more than 15,000 en route to becoming the first female pitcher to throw a shutout in Little League World Series history.

Nashville manager Chris Mercado said his team had seen faster pitching and "that kind of stuff" from other opposing pitchers, but the Davis hype caught up with his squad.

"It's a hard situation to come into. This stadium, 20,000 all over the place, cheering for one player," Mercado said.

David Stoker, a native of Mifflinville, Pennsylvania, said from his perspective as a LLWS usher and Little League umpire for the past 48 years, Davis has become the "spotlight" of young girls' eyes.

"She, as a young lady, has opened doors for many other young ladies to participate not only in baseball, but also in softball," said Stoker, sitting back in his chair outside the stadium, peering out onto the concourse through his brown-tinted sunglasses as his pin-covered hat flickered in the sunlight. "She has proven that girls can compete with the guys, and the guys know there's a new girl on the block."

Jackie Robinson West is a rare group of guys in the tournament. The Chicago group dominated its first game, but were blown out by Las Vegas on Sunday.

Still, the second team from Little League's Urban Initiative to make it to the series has created a buzz of its own and has done its part to put the tournament on a bigger stage.

"Hopefully (Chicago's success) will foster more growth in urban cities to help grow Little League," Graziano said.

The overflow of attention that Davis and Chicago have garnered — in the stands, around the concourse and sports talk shows around the country — generates more pressure.

Stoker cautioned fans, especially adults, to keep in mind these players are still just kids.

"The boys have come through this, the girls are now on the same level and I think we as adults should let them grow up," Stoker said. "Let's not make them into superheroes."

Stoker makes a good point, but Davis and Jackie Robinson West have already elevated interest in this series — and in them.

The Percentage Of Americans Who Can't Afford Food Hasn't Budged Since The Recession Peaked

Sun, 2014-08-17 23:05
On a recent night last week, dinner for Jill Taormina and her family was Totino’s Pizza Rolls with a side of canned pears. There was no other food on the table.

“I’d rather make a roast with potatoes in the Crock-Pot. My kids like to eat healthy," said Taormina, who lives with her daughters, Angela, 12, and Madeline, 16. "But the price of meat and produce is outrageous.”

Money has been tight lately for the 34-year-old single mom, who lives in Atwater, Ohio. She supports her family on a fixed income of $1,700 a month, the combined total of her disability insurance and child support. After paying her electric, gas and cell phone bills and making payments on her car, her car insurance and her homeowner’s insurance, Taormina said, there’s scant cash left over for groceries.

“I can only afford to spend about $100 a month on groceries,” Taormina said. “I coupon as much as I can, but it’s just not enough.”

More than five years into an economic recovery, with unemployment falling and the stock market at record highs, millions of Americans like Taormina still can't afford basic nutrition, according to a blockbuster study released Monday by the relief charity Feeding America. The 160-page report, titled Hunger in America 2014, claims to be the largest, most comprehensive study of hunger in the U.S. ever conducted. It took four years to produce and involved interviews with 60,000 people whose households are served by the charity.

The group's report is full of shocking statistics:

  • Feeding America provides food for 15.5 million households, or 46.5 million people nationwide.

  • More than 12 million households are forced to eat unhealthy food because they can’t afford better-quality groceries. They risk adverse health effects that can make their financial plight worse.

  • 66 percent of households said they’ve had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care. Thirty-one percent said they had to make that choice every month.

  • 69 percent of households that rely on food charities to survive have been forced to choose between paying for utilities and paying for food.

JoAnne Schielzo's family falls into the last category. The 46-year-old mother supports her five children and her husband on the $1,200 monthly paychecks from her job at the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Even though Schielzo is already borrowing against her pension to be able to afford groceries and utilities, it's not always enough. Once, her family’s electricity was shut off when she defaulted on the payment.

“I’ll take a pension loan and hang onto it as long as I can, just paying the bare minimum,” said Schielzo, who lives in Bergen County, New Jersey. “But it’s not always enough to pay the bills.”

Feeding America did not interview people who use food programs outside of its own network. The USDA said last year there were 49 million Americans who lack consistent access to enough food, suggesting there are millions in the U.S. experiencing hunger who aren't using food pantries or soup kitchens served by the organization.

The USDA since 1995 has been measuring food insecurity, which means not always being able to eat enough nutritious food to support a healthy life. Over the years there have been small dips and rises in the number of people in the U.S. who are food insecure, but it has stayed fairly steady from 1995 to 2008, hovering between 10 and 12 percent of Americans.

The figure spiked when the recession hit, however, rising from 11.1 percent in 2007 to 14.6 percent in 2008. Since that jump, the number of hungry Americans nationwide has stayed at about the same level, even though unemployment recently dropped.

Rising employment is supposed to be an indicator that food insecurity will fall. But a June report from the USDA may have the answer for why so many people in the U.S. still struggle to eat three healthy meals a day: Higher-than-average inflation and the rising cost of food relative to other goods and services offset the changes lower unemployment would have made.

In other words, even when more people get jobs, those jobs don’t always pay enough for them to afford to eat.

“If food prices go up, families are more constrained, and they’re more likely to be food insecure,” said USDA economist Christian Gregory, who co-authored the report.

The number of people struggling to eat in the U.S. has stayed high since the recession ended, even as unemployment has gone down. (Credit: USDA)

Since 2007, the price of food has increased by an average of 2.8 percent every year, according to USDA data. The agency projects it will increase as much as 3.5 percent this year. That’s higher than normal inflation, which has gone up an average of 2.1 percent a year over the same period (2007-2013), according to data provided to HuffPost by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, wages have stagnated. According to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-focused think tank, wages fell during the recession and the recovery for workers toiling in the bottom 70 percent of the wage distribution, despite increases in productivity.

And even though the number of employed Americans has increased in recent months, new jobs aren't showing up everywhere in the country.

“Unemployment is still a huge issue down here,” said Susan Fuller of Brother’s Keeper Ministries, a food pantry in Poplarville, Mississippi. Fuller said the pantry's client base has more than tripled since 2009.

Among the 60,000 people who responded to Feeding America's survey, the median household income was just $9,175 a year. That's far below the federal poverty threshold, which is $18,222 for a family of three, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data for 2013.

Of the 15.5 million households served by Feeding America, just over half receive monthly food stamps. Of those, about 54 percent say their food stamps only last two weeks or less. Congress recently cut $800 million per year in funding for the program, which millions of Americans rely on to help them afford food. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated those cuts, which were signed into law by President Obama in February, will reduce benefits for 850,000 households across the country.

“This report clearly makes a case for the importance of federal nutrition programs,” Fraser said. “They are the first line of defense for someone who lives at risk of hunger.”

(Top photo by photographer Benjamin Lehman, based in Canton, Ohio.)

Watch A Poet-Activist Destroy The Fallacy Of 'Black-On-Black' Crime In Under 2 Minutes

Sat, 2014-08-16 08:28
On a night when thousands gathered at vigils throughout the nation to honor the memory of Michael Brown, Ezell Ford and victims of police brutality, one poet-activist addressed a racist fallacy at the root of how violence is sometimes reported by the media.

Speaking at Chicago's vigil in Daley Plaza Thursday evening, Malcolm London stated that in the Windy City "it's not fair that in one part of this city, some folks will live until their hair is gray and in another part of this city, babies are literally dying."

"Some folks use this rhetoric that 'black-on-black' crime is a thing. That's not even a real thing!" London said in a video shot by RedEye Chicago's Megan Crepeau, before pointing out that the overwhelming majority of victims of violent crime share the same racial identity as their attackers -- regardless of their race.

"We don't talk about 'white-on-white' crime in the news though," he continued. "We keep using this rhetoric of 'black on black' crime as if something is defective with black people."

On Twitter Friday, London continued his dismantling of the term:

84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites.
In fact, all races share similar ratios. Yet there's no outrage

— BLACK POWER ranger (@MalcolmLondon) August 15, 2014

or racialized debate about "white on white" violence. Instead, the myth & fear of "black on black" crime is sold as a legitimate status quo

— BLACK POWER ranger (@MalcolmLondon) August 15, 2014

Read here for powerful reasons police brutality should end, shared by people at vigils across the nation.

‘National Moment Of Silence' Vigils Across The Country Honor Victims Of Police Brutality

Fri, 2014-08-15 15:06
Michael Brown and Ezell Ford are the latest unarmed African-Americans to be killed by police in a narrative that has become all too familiar -- and has sparked outrage across the country. As Brown's community in Ferguson, Missouri, has taken to the streets in largely peaceful protests, demonstrators nationwide also came together in an effort to put an end to police brutality and killings of unarmed black citizens.

On Thursday, cities across the country hosted National Moment Of Silence demonstrations honoring victims killed by the police.

The event, described on the NMOS14 Facebook page, served as a peaceful observation of police violence and an effort to move toward a solution nationwide:

Today is the National Moment of Silence for Victims of Police Brutality. We will peacefully assemble at over 90 vigils across the nation to share in a moment of silence and solidarity with each other. Today, we will show the world and each other that we can come together, as ONE.

The Huffington Post attended vigils in New York, San Francisco, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago, and Denver and spoke to participants about why they chose to attend the demonstrations.

New York: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Inae Oh

“I decided to come today because this is my community. I'm from Brooklyn and live here in Bed-Study, Crown Heights. I thought it was important for we as a community to reflect on what's been happening nationally, but also bond together and look at each other and say, 'You are my neighbor, how can we help each other?' And I'm actually impressed with the conversation going on right now because that's what it's really about: how do we as a community bond together and make sure that we're safe and continue to build as change has happened here in this community as well?” - Artesia Balthrop

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Inae Oh

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Inae Oh

“I'm here because I live in the neighborhood and because this seems to be some sort of a flash point in terms of people being actually aware of something that's been going on for a long time, and it's a systematic problem. I think we as a community need to reject the current narrative of safety and security. Especially we as white people living in diverse communities. Shooting my neighbors, shooting unarmed people on the streets, shooting my friends does not make me safer.” - Josephine Stewart

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Inae Oh

“I'm from St. Louis so I have a lot of family that's still there. So this hits close to home. We have to hold police accountable for their actions, just as much as any other person, as any public servant. It's unfair that black lives have historically been considered less than the lives of specifically white people. It's painful and I wish this was a peaceful march, perhaps to the police station, of some sorts -- a sort of show of solidarity with what's happening in Ferguson. Because what's happening in Ferguson is real and dangerous. The police state that exists in Ferguson right now is a real problem. ...This is nothing new. The systematic destruction of the black community by the police is nothing new. So every time this happens, we get together in a rally but then nothing happens. I'm hoping something sticks. We need to remind everyone this is still happening. I don't want to be peaceful anymore.” - Brandon Burton

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Inae Oh

“It hits home because of course I'm a black man who grew up in America. It's come to a point that it's a slap in the face to us as black people and as black man. It's at a boiling point and we're all fed up with it.” - Jelani Brooks

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Inae Oh


Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Daryl and Kristine Ludy with daughter Isabella, 4, above, attend the Detroit National Moment of Silence vigil. They are holding their Missouri drivers licenses. Their hometown is just miles away from Ferguson, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer this week.

"It's so powerful to us because we both have been victims of the same type of violence, not to the death, but he's been harassed," Kristine said.

Daryl spoke of getting stopped by police as a kid as an ordinary occurrence.

"I can recall just walking from my mother's house, going to see my friend and just getting stopped at night by an officer," he said. "Something simple with him just saying, like, 'Where do you live,you fit the description of a robbery.' I was always taught to just stay calm ... because things could get out of hand."

"We didn't want [our daughter] to see color," Kristin said. "Even though she will see it, we wanted … to be able to let her grow up and experience people and love them just for them."

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Poet Natasha "T" Miller, above, took the stage in front of a few hundred people to read a poem "for black girls who look like black men," saying she wanted to speak for the dead that people don't talk about. The subject resonates in Detroit, where in recent years several transgender women's murders have received little media attention.

Before reading, however, Miller prefaced her work with a personal story about how black victims become vilified in death.

"My brother was killed in Detroit, and I showed up to the crime scene and he was still laying up under his truck," Miller told the crowd. "He had just been killed, maybe like 40 minutes before, and the first thing the officer asked me when I arrived was, 'What did your brother do for a living?' and I told the officer, 'You're not going to incriminate my brother for his own death while he's still lying dead up under this truck.' … I tell that story to say this: nobody wants to be held accountable for the death of black men. And when you leave here, please leave with the desire to hold somebody accountable for the death of my brother, and your brother and so many other brothers."

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Jordan Rome, 21, lives in Chicago but grew up in Detroit. She attended the rally Thursday, in part because she's "fed up."

Rome talked about experiencing racism through "microaggressions, simple comments you don't even realize because we're so desensitized to racism, being told you don't act black enough, little comments like that."

"At the end of the day, I'm still perceived through a certain lens because of my skin color," Rome said.

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Monica Blaire, above, closes her eyes during the moment of silence at the Detroit vigil. Later, she sang the hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" for the hundreds amassed in Hart PlazaThursday night.


Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Michael McLaughlin

Approximately 400-500 people showed up at Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza directly next to City Hall on Thursday. Arm bands were given out by activists to crowd along with signs that read, "Jail killer cops" and "Stop police brutality." The large crowd was most unified and vocal during chants of, "Hands up, don't shoot" and "Black lives matter." The event began with organizers calling out names of the victims Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and others. The audience was then asked to shout out names of other victims of police brutality. Speakers specifically referenced local examples of excessive police force like Oscar Grant and Alan Blueford.

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Michael McLaughlin

Keisha Eldridge of Alameda, above, brought her 14-year-old-son and 3-year-old daughter.

"I felt like young black men in the streets are not important to police and sometimes to each other," she said. "This is to remind [my son] that his life is important."

Her son Jacob Talbot said "I felt like it wasn't fair and it wasn't right," what happened to Brown.

San Francisco

Photo credit: The Huffington Post/ Lydia O'Connor

Kristin Vogel is a San Francisco organizer and self-proclaimed “white ally to people of color,” who teaches sixth grade in San Bruno.

“I’m a middle school teacher and teach a lot of students who aren’t that much younger than Mike Brown," she said "I owe it to them.”

“I had a lot of students come in during the George Zimmerman trial, asking, ‘Why did he shoot that kid? What did that kid do?’ We just had really raw, honest conversations. I told them he didn’t do anything and it was just hate, ignorance, and it was a very difficult topic to talk to 12-year-olds about, but I want my students of color to fully understand that we live in a free country, but some of us are a little bit more free than others. That’s a sad thing to have to tell very optimistic 12-year-old about.”

Photo credit: The Huffington Post/ Lydia O'Connor

Savannah McCoy is a 17-year-old black senior at San Rafael High School. She wore a Trayvon Martin shirt and cried while explaining why she attended the vigil.

“Even though I don’t know Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner or Michael Brown, I still relate to them and I feel like in a way that they’re my brother or cousin, and when another one of them is shot, it’s like I’m losing a family member," she said.

"Everyone knows that Robin Williams just died, but they don’t know that in Ferguson, people are being shot by rubber guns, and they don’t care, and it really bothers me, so I’m having a protest on Saturday (at her high school). ...I do deal with a lot of racism and prejudice pretty much on a daily basis."

Savannah's best friend is Kimber Camgros, a 16-year-old student in her last year at San Rafael High School and an “ally to people of color.”

"Robin Williams just killed himself. ...All our schoolmates, that’s all anyone can talk about, and it’s like, when someone commits suicide that’s a terrible thing, but when someone’s being murdered when they’re innocent, for no reason, just on the street, and it’s a kid... people just don’t care enough," said Camgros.


Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Joseph Erbentraut

"I feel like it could have been me, actually," explained Jasmine Lomax, 18, above left, who lives in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood. "I don't live in that safe of a neighborhood and it would have been so easy for a police officer to stop me and accuse me of doing something wrong even if I was just walking and then just to shoot me dead."

"There's so many people around doing horrible things, shooting and killing people, but this kid was going to college, he wasn't doing anything wrong," Lamar Gayles, 17, of Woodlawn, said. "He was just going to the store and buying something."

"The footage reminded me so much of the Martin Luther King marches," Lomax continued. "If you watch those tapes, it's the exact same thing. I thought protesting was protected by our constitution and they're demonstrating peacefully and being attacked. It's gone too far."

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Joseph Erbentraut

Netiya Shiner, 20, came to the Chicago vigil with another victim of police brutality on her mind.

"Two years ago, the sister of an acquaintance of mine, Rekia Boyd, was murdered while completely unarmed by the Chicago police," Shiner told HuffPost.

"People have been blowing up my Facebook feed with these posts about Ferguson which I think is a good thing in the long haul in that it means people are opening up the dialogue about racism and police brutality in this country," Shiner continued. "But [Boyd's murder] happened in the city and there was not any kind of response like what's going on with Ferguson now. The bottom line for me is that it's awesome that people are waking up and realizing what's going on but this has been happening for a very long time."

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Joseph Erbentraut

Martese Chism lives in Chicago and works at Cook County Stroger Hospital, where she's seen parents going through losing their children to violence. She fears the same thing could happen to her family members.

"I have a lot of young nephews and when I think about Michael Brown, they're not involved in gangs just like Michael and I'm worried that the same thing could happen to them because they're always walking to the store alone and I have the thought that someone would pull them over, grab them and kill them. That's what brought me here."

"My nephews live in the south and they want to come live with me and I want them to come live with me but I'm afraid for their safety and that's sad. I'm too afraid to bring them here. When I was a kid growing up we used to come every summer to Chicago, me and my brothers, but now it's not safe for my nephews to come visit me. That really bothers me."

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Joseph Erbentraut

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

"Why I'm so rooted in this is because I have a 19-year-old daughter who's at the University of Alabama, doing very well. She grew up here in Chicago, and turned down my offer to help connect her with jobs for the summer. She said 'I don't want to get shot.' It's riveting for me to hear from my own blood that she doesn't want to come home. These organized efforts need to continue with the young generation. This needs to have not just protest but action steps. I'm very encouraged by the youth here." - Ernest Sanders, 50, above

"I'm grieving. I'm disturbed. I was on the train three days ago and overheard two white women talk about Ferguson and one said 'I'm so glad that doesn't affect us.' I think I came out because Mike Brown's murder has a racial dynamic, but we're also dealing with a police state. How can non-black and non-brown people not think this affects them? We're all susceptible to it. You don't know when it's coming to you. At the end of the day, we're all complicit with our silence." - Amanda Lichtenstein, 38, above

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

"I'm absolutely not surprised [by Ferguson]. We were here a year ago for Trayvon Martin and nothing has changed!.. My grandmother lives in the neighborhood [where the Ferguson protests occurred]. She's scared to come out of her house because of the military police." - Brittany Evans, 25

"We're looking at the situation and we need to stand up and say something. And with social media, people are noticing everything faster and faster." - Milan Franklin, 26, above

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

Rose Chavira, 26, is a Chicago Public School teacher who works with kids in grades 3-5 on the city's West Side.

"I'm a Chicago Public School teacher and I have kids in 3-5 grade. I've had a lot of incidents where students have been gunned down -- four students this summer alone. We have to be the voice for our kids," she said.

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

Milan Franklin, 26, wears a t-shirt blasting the pejorative term "Chiraq" that has been used amid the city's struggle with gun violence.

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Kim Bellware

"I've lived [in Chicago] my whole life. I've never had anything escalate that bad -- but I have friends who have. But even when I get on the train, people tense up. But, it's good to see allies [at the vigil]. It's nice to see people who want to understand. There are even some very privileged people out here -- it gives me some hope." - Thaddeus Tukes, 20

"I think we're all here because we're fed up. It still pains you that you have to tell -- convince -- people that your life is valuable." - Sierra Boone, 19


Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Ryan Grenoble

"I have a 5-year-old daughter, and she came to me with tears in her eyes as my grandmother called me from Missouri to let us know that she is alright. And she said, 'Why are the police trying to kill Grandma? Why are the police trying to kill you?' And to have that conversation is a difficult one. But I'm happy to say today, that if you look to your left and to your right, that here in Colorado we have community. And that we may not all look alike, we may not believe all of the same things, but our lives matter... If a young 5-year-old comes up to you, and asks you if their life matters, what will you say? Will your actions say the same thing?"

"Being black is not a crime. Being brown is not a crime. Being gay is not a crime. Not believing in the same political beliefs is not a crime. ...Our lives matter. And if we can say it here from the Rocky Mountains, from the Mile High City, that our lives matter, hopefully someone within ear will take heed." -- Reverend Quincy Shannon, above.

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Ryan Grenoble

"This isn't about black, this isn't about white, this isn't about Mexican. This is about police brutality against us, the people. We vote. We put them in. We pay them. How is it we have to protest?" - Preston Rubit, in black shirt second from right, above

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Ryan Grenoble

"We're asking for peace… peace for the people who are hurting. For these mothers and these fathers who will never see their children again. We're praying for a change in the system. We're praying for a healing in these communities, because in every one of these deaths, these people belong to a community. We're also asking for healing. Heal all of our hearts. Heal all of our minds.

"Give us the strength to continue to stand. To stand for justice. To stand as one." -- Reverend Terrence Hughes, above, Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Ryan Grenoble

"Being black is not a criminal act. That's the message I want to send to anyone who is fearful of any black skinned person who is living in their own community, enjoying their own life, and stuck in the stereotypes of ignorance. Just because your pants sag does not mean you are guilty of a crime."

"Greatness comes from our city, and from where we are now. We can lead the way for others… There was a shooting yesterday. There have been shootings all this summer. But guess what? A young man was caught today in the Holly, running from the police, with a gun. And they did not kill that man today. We need to celebrate that. Whatever it was that made a police officer rest on his training, when a man has a gun, that man would be dead under any other circumstances." - Brother Jeff Fard, above center

Photo credit: The Huffington Post / Ryan Grenoble

"I joined the movement for the National Moment of Silence because I have been saddened and horrified by the rampant examples of police brutality all over the world. I then realized that being sad or upset didn't mean much unless I followed it up with action.

"There were a series of tweets from four of us in Denver who felt moved to show to ourselves, our city and the country that Denver cares about the victims of police violence. I was particularly attracted to #NMOS14 because of its peaceful, reflective nature, and because these vigils nationwide are, in many cases, being planned by individuals instead of groups, and by people with varying levels of activist experience and community organizing.

"It's people who care. We care about the victims/memories, we care about honoring them, and we care about sending a quiet, peaceful message that all living beings matter to us. I was inspired by a portion of Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail in which he called for a 'positive peace that is the presence of justice' instead of 'a negative peace which is the absence of tension.'

"We will be peaceful and reflective, and yet we are still showing up for justice." - Kenny Wiley, Director of Faith Formation Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church in Parker, CO and co-organizer of event, via email to The Huffington Post)

New York: Harlem

Photo Credit: The Huffington Post / Christopher Mathias

"I'm here tonight because I represent an endangered species, which is black men in America," Cedrik Blue, a recording artist, told HuffPost Thursday evening in Harlem.

He says police have a long history of harassing him. Just yesterday, he says, NYPD cops singled him out for drinking in the street.

"I broke the law," he said. "I was drinking a beer in a brown bag standing in front of my studio, while there's damn near a party going on in someone's car four or five cars down from me." Blue said uniformed cops then jumped out of a taxi cab.

"Long story short, I'm glad I made it out alive", he continued. "Because I'm one of the few out of this endangered species that was breaking the law. I broke the law. I was drinking in public. But when you have guys doing absolutely nothing but leaving their house and going home, or going to work, or breaking up a fight, and they die, it's disgusting."

Blue lives with his fiancee, Kali Wilder, in Harlem. On nights that Blue gets home late, Wilder says she gets worried. She gets worried not because of criminals on the street, but because of how police treat young, black men in this country.

Her whole life, Wilder said, her black, male family members and friends have had to fear the police.

When a black boy reaches double digits in this country, she said, "They become a scary black man instead of a 10-year-old who's going to elementary school. You have to warn your children and say, 'Listen, watch how you're acting in the street.' I don't think white boys have that speech with their parents." this sista from Ferguson expresses thanks for #Harlem supporting #NMOS14

— #NMOS14 (@FeministaJones) August 14, 2014

Christopher Mathias, Lydia O’Connor, Inae Oh, Kate Abbey-Lambertz, Joseph Erbentraut, Ryan Grenoble, Michael McLaughlin and Kim Bellware contributed to this report.

Craft Beer Industry's Game Plan: Decrease The Booze To Increase The Fun

Fri, 2014-08-15 14:36
Craft beer companies across America are embracing a "less is more" attitude when it comes to the booziness of their brews.

This summer, the popularity of so-called "session beers" -- craft beers with an alcohol content that hovers around 5.5 percent or lower -- has been making waves in the industry as consumer eschew big, hoppy bombers with double-digit alcohol content for an easier drink.

"The return to session is a return to what we were doing beforehand," Adam Vavrick, beer manager for Chicago beverage depot Binny's told The Huffington Post. "We’ve gotten on the highway and gone 100 mph, but now we’re dialing it back -- and saving some gas."

Though session beers have always spiked in popularity during the summer, popular regional breweries like Founder's (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Deschutes Brewery Inc. (Bend, Oregon) and Lagunitas Brewing Co. (Petaluma, California) are now are making session beers year-round, according to Crain's Chicago Business.

"Really strong beers are great when it’s cold outside and you’re hunkering down next to a fireplace or a radiator and just trying to forget the cold and the troubles in your life," Austin Harvey, director of beer at Chicago-based craft beer cafe Beermiscuous told HuffPost. "But summer also exists. And heavy beers just aren’t as pleasurable to drink.

Harvey said the preference for the "lower gravity" beers signals a larger change in the craft beer world.

"You’re seeing a widening of the audience of craft beer," Harvey said. "It’s easiest to get [consumers] into something when it’s not as overwhelming -- not just in the flavor department but also alcohol-wise. Breweries are trying to make the audience for craft beer bigger while also providing something the average craft beer fan can drink every day."

Getting a greater number of beers into the customers' bellies is a savvy economic move for breweries, and Harvey adds that session beers are also "a little cheaper" to make, since fewer key ingredients in the fermentation process are needed.

"It's really the market maturing," Vavrick said. "There’s a reason the macro-lagers became light and easy-drinking alcohol: You want to be able to sit down with your friends and have an easygoing drinking experience, and having more than one.”

Consumers ages 35-49 make up 41.5 percent of the craft beer-drinking market, followed by 26-34-year-olds, who accounted for 26.4 percent, according to figures from The Journal of Consumer Marketing and The British Food Journal.

"Folks who have been getting into craft beer for a while are getting older," Harvey said. "When you sit down to a craft beer that’s lower in alcohol during dinner, you’re not going to embarrass yourself in front of your kids or your spouse."

Though craft beers sales account for a roughly 7.8 percent of the U.S. beer market, the craft segment is growing as the overall beer market slows.

“Companies are trying to attract an audience beyond the beer nerd consumer of a few years ago,” Vavrick said, adding, "The American palate is also changing. They don’t like [beers] as bland or sweet; there’s a desire for more flavor, maybe something a little rougher around the edges and maybe a taste that links more to the agriculture around it.”

Though there will always be a place for mass-market brews and light beers "consumed ice cold and slammed at a ballpark," Vavrick said session beers at the very least keep beer fans in the game instead of under the table.

“Those of us fighting the good fight about craft beer are also trying to class up the joint. Especially those of us who are fans of beer and food pairings, you need a beer that you can actually keep drinking for several courses."

Giuliana and Bill Rancic on Parenting, Romance and Their New Restaurant

Fri, 2014-08-15 13:35

Giuliana and Bill Rancic aren't just any celebrity couple; they are a couple you want to root for. Through seven seasons of the reality show, Giuliana and Bill on E!, viewers have been able to follow the ups and downs of their lives, including the newlywed stage, infertility, breast cancer, having baby Duke (now almost 2-years-old) via surrogate, as well as various moves and business ventures.

Their latest venture is the new restaurant, RPM Steak, in Chicago. After their success with RPM Italian, it seemed like the next logical step for Bill, Giuliana and their partners. They wanted to try "something different in the steakhouse world. A different spin on the Chicago Steakhouse -- a little bit younger, a little bit hipper -- reminiscent of being in a steakhouse in downtown London," says Bill.

I talked with Giuliana and Bill on opening day of RPM Steak and had a down-to-earth Q&A with the affable couple about parenting, romance, and their coping strategies during the tough times.

What is the best parenting advice you have received?

Bill: It would be from my parents. They said it was okay to make mistakes and have setbacks, but it's never okay not to try.

Giuliana: When our son trips and falls we don't make an ordeal over it. We don't fawn over him... It's part of growing up and learning.

How have you coped with the ups and downs of the surrogacy process?

Giuliana: Instead of trying to overanalyze why -- why didn't this work, why is this taking so long, why is this so hard -- which I used to do years ago, now it's surrendering and realizing that what will be will be, and everything turns out how it's supposed to turn out.

Bill: And I think we also used it as a way to help others. We said allright, this is a situation that we are dealing with and let's use the platform that we have wisely and share our journey, and hopefully inspire and help others along the way.

How do you keep the romance alive?

Giuliana: We're very understanding that we're tired at the end of the day. There's not going to be romance every night, but we do date nights, which are not really date nights. So many people put all this effort into, "three weeks on Saturday, we're going to have a date night." For Bill and I, we literally will have a date night four nights a week. We'll put the baby to bed or the baby will go to my sister's house. We'll have dinner and a glass of wine for an hour...

Bill: We steal little moments... We also have fun. We laugh a lot. We have spontaneity and try to make life better. You can choose to be happy in your marriage or unhappy.

Giuliana: So many people overanalyze marriage and what makes marriage successful. It's actually quite simple... We're really good to each other. When we are together we're always holding hands... Literally we're here today in Chicago and were waiting to cross Michigan Avenue and it's a moment for me to have my arm around Bill, and I just whisper something in his ear about how amazing he is and what a great dad he is. Why do we wait for special occasions to say those things?

What do you worry about as parents?

Bill: We worry about the same things every other parent worries about. Making sure we're doing the best job raising our son, arming him with the right tools to be happy and successful in life. Every parent, regardless of age, where you're from or what you do, all share the same worries. I don't think those ever go away. The day Duke was born we never slept the same way again. We always sleep with one eye open.

How do you resolve it when you have different opinions on parenting issues?

Giuliana: We are husband and wife, but we're also best friends and we're very compatible as friends. We talk things out and we don't take it personally... When it comes to family, you've got to leave your ego at the door... It's what's right for our child, that's the bottom line.

Why do you feel Chicago would be a better place to raise a family than LA?

Bill: It's the city where I grew up and I have a lot of family here... It's a big city, but it has a very small town feel. People say hello to you. There's an incredible work ethic here.

Giuliana: Duke's going to be raking the leaves and shoveling snow and he's probably going to be doing it for the neighbors to make a couple extra bucks. That's how Bill and I grew up.

Also, not every conversation is about the entertainment industry, which is nice. We love that in Chicago that's not what people care about. We have conversations that feel a little richer, more real.

Do you see a full-time move soon?

Giuliana: I extended with E! recently which is great... A part of me wanted to move to Chicago sooner rather than later, but that's okay. It was a great big deal and something I couldn't turn down so I chose to extend and I'm happy with that decision. But when that term is up we'll definitely make the move here [to Chicago], whether it means picking certain projects, if we can commute for them, or shoot them out of Chicago, that would be even better.

I gotta say I feel like everyone's always chasing, chasing, chasing -- chasing the next job, chasing the next show, chasing the next project. At one point you look back and go, 'Wow, I've achieved everything I've wanted to and more!' You want to focus on some other things for a while. Life shouldn't be all about your job.

Seven World Records Held in Illinois

Fri, 2014-08-15 13:24
Despite the high unemployment and taxes, Illinois is a pretty cool place to live. In fact, Illinois is home to 67 world record holders, including several of the "World's Largest" objects. Check out seven below:

Largest wind chime: The largest wind chime is 42 feet long with its tubes suspended 49 feet off the ground. The chime is located in Casey, Illinois and was completed on December 15, 2012. Jim Bolin of Bolin Enterprises, Inc. built the chime, along with the World's Largest Golf Tee and World's Largest Knitting Needles and Crochet Hook.

Longest tornado path: The world's longest tornado path was over 218 miles and stretched through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana on March 18, 1925. The tornado, now called the "Tri-State Tornado," killed 695 people and lasted 3.5 hours, the longest of any tornado in recorded history.

Most people husking corn: On August 24, 2012, 3,463 students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign broke the record for the most people husking corn.

Most claps in a minute: On February 1, 2014, Bryan Bednarek clapped 84 times in one minute, setting the current world record. Bednarek's attempt took place at the Energy Command Studios in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Shortest living siblings: Bridgette and Brad Jordan are the world's shortest set of living siblings. Both Bridgette (2 feet 3 inches tall) and Brad (3 feet 2 inches tall) suffer from Majewski Osteodysplastic Primordial Dwarfism Type II. The Jordan siblings live in Sandoval, Illinois and when Guinness reported the record, they were both studying at Kaskaskia College in Kaskaskia, Illinois. Additionally, Bridgette once held the record for the shortest living woman, but in December 2011, she was replaced by Jyoti Amge of India.

Fastest wedding chapel: Revered Darrel Best of Shelbyville, Illinois converted his 1940′s fire truck into a wedding chapel entitled "The Best Man." The Best Man currently holds the record for the fastest wedding chapel, clocking in at 62 miles per hour on September 30, 2010.

First Ferris Wheel: The first Ferris Wheel was designed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. for the 1893 Columbian World's Exposition. The Ferris Wheel cost $385,000, had a diameter of 250 feet and reached a maximum height of 264 feet.

See dozens more at Reboot Illinois, including the stories behind the world's smallest cat ever and the world's largest working cell phone.

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Is Your Local Park Well-Funded? If You Live in a Latino Neighborhood, Odds Are Slim

Fri, 2014-08-15 13:11
Roughly three decades ago, the U.S. Justice Department brought national attention to one of Chicago's open secrets. Park district officials lavished money on parks in white neighborhoods at the expense of those in African-American and Latino ones.

The feds filed a lawsuit, which led to a consent decree. Federal pressure pushed the district to start bulking up staff and building new field houses. But more than 30 years later, the equity issue hasn't gone away.

Some of the city's fast-growing communities, which are also overwhelmingly Latino, are still getting the short shrift, according to a new investigation by The Chicago Reporter. Families in these neighborhoods still have fewer programs for youth, playgrounds and other amenities.

Park equity has become a hot topic in some of the nation's biggest cities. After years of major spending -- both public and private money -- on high-end destination parks, there's a growing movement in New York and Los Angeles to spend more on neighborhood parks, which are de facto backyards where families barbecue, ride bikes or play catch.

The imbalance is the result of a new sort of pay-to-play system that is increasingly common in Chicago. Park officials often prioritize projects based on corporate donors, philanthropists or special pots of public money rather than need.

More than half of the $500 million spent improving parks since 2011, the year Mayor Rahm Emanuel was elected, for example, went to a handful of increasingly white, affluent Chicago neighborhoods. The secret to their success? They were able to tap into outside money.

Meanwhile, four out of the five Latino neighborhoods identified as "parks poor" by The Trust for Public Land, a San Francisco-based organization that advocates for open land, got little money for park improvements. (Check out our interactive map to find out how well your community has done.)

"You would think with the changing population, the city would invest in this," says Sara Reschly, an activist who has spent nearly four years trying to raise $1 million to revamp an athletic field in her working class Latino neighborhood that is the city's most parks-poor.

To learn more about what local park activists like Reschly are doing to level the playing field, read the full investigation here. And check out our primer on the history of race, class and inequality in Chicago's parks.

Rauner reminds supporters that for him to win, they will need to come out to vote

Fri, 2014-08-15 12:16
The headliner at Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair was candidate for governor Bruce Rauner, joined by running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti, candidate for U.S. Senate Jim Oberweis and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk. They greeted supporters at the rally Thursday with a clear message: vote.

Earlier Thursday, Rauner cautioned GOP leaders to not be deceived by polling that shows him with a double-digit lead over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn. He noted that the Republicans missed retaking the governorship in 2010 by a margin that amounted to roughly three votes per precinct statewide.

"If voters come out and vote, we're going to win by a big margin," Rauner told the crowd at the state fair. "If voters stay home, the machine will run the process."

Check out video of the rally, including speeches by Rauner, Sanguinetti, Oberweis and Kirk at Reboot Illinois

Even though most polls have shown Rauner has more support among voters now, continuing improvement among Illinois' unemployment numbers can only mean good news for Quinn as the election nears. The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell for a fifth consecutive month to 6.8 percent from 7.1 in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Illinois Department of Employment Security. One year ago, the state's unemployment rate was 9.2 percent, marking the largest over-the-year decline in 30 years.

It Doesn't Matter If Michael Brown Stole A Box Of Cigars

Fri, 2014-08-15 12:12
At a Friday press conference outside a Ferguson, Missouri, QuikTrip gas station burned during looting earlier this week, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson identified Darren Wilson as the police officer who shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown on Saturday.

Jackson gave no further information about the incident that led to Brown being shot multiple times, but revealed that the 18-year-old was the lead suspect in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store, where a box of Swisher Sweets cigars valued at $48.99 was stolen and a clerk was allegedly shoved. Surveillance photos released by police appear to show a figure that loosely fits Brown's description. Wilson was reportedly responding to the crime when he confronted Brown.

To be sure, any information at all about the day Brown was killed is useful, though the public way in which the police shared the photos of the incident at the convenience store suggest their motive was not public service and transparency, but an effort to shift the discussion to one about Brown's character.

But Brown's character is irrelevant. Brown's potential involvement in a crime doesn't answer the questions that citizens of Ferguson have taken to the streets for the past six days to see answered: How and why did Brown end up dead in the middle of the street? Was Wilson justified in shooting down Brown? Did Brown really assault the officer in his vehicle and reach for his gun, as police claim? Did Wilson fire the fatal shot while Brown had his hands up, as other eyewitnesses claim? How does this incident play into the broader trend of police using excessive force on unarmed black males?

This continued failure to provide answers brings up one final question: If Brown did rough up a convenience store clerk and steal a box of smokes, does it mean we should care less about the circumstances of his death?

If you believe the answer to this question is no, then it doesn't matter if Michael Brown stole a box of cigars.

As Ezra Klein writes at Vox, focusing on Brown's character obscures the real matter at hand:

This case is not about whether Michael Brown was One Of The Good Ones. It's not even about whether he robbed a convenience store. The penalty for stealing cigars from a convenience store is not death. This case is about whether Wilson was legally justified in shooting Michael Brown.

HuffPost Readers: We want to know what being black in America today means to you. You can email us with your story at, or call 860-348-3376 to leave us your story in a voicemail.

Introducing HuffPost's Fall 2014 Campus Editors-At-Large

Fri, 2014-08-15 12:05
Hundreds of applications and interviews later, we are extremely proud to announce our newest campus editors-at-large for the fall 2014 term. We're looking forward to expanding our program on these campuses across the country and to see all the wonderful talent our newest editors find.

WATCH: Want To Raise A Confident Daughter? A Dad From One Of The World's Most Oppressive Countries Shares A Powerful Lesson

Fri, 2014-08-15 11:54
When she was 15 years old, Malala Yousafzai dared to speak out against the Taliban. Her father offers a window into a world where girls aren't allowed to leave the house, let alone speak their minds -- and he makes a plea for change.

We want to know what you think. Join the discussion by posting a comment below or tweeting #TEDWeekends. Interested in blogging for a future edition of TED Weekends? Email us at
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Are Illinois Teachers Really Qualified in Their Subjects?

Fri, 2014-08-15 11:11
The Chicago Tribune recently revealed many Illinois teachers are not credentialed in the subjects they are teaching. Is this because of a shortage of qualified teachers, or are qualified teachers being left on the sidelines as schools hire unqualified teachers?

Tribune reporters Christy Gutowski and Diane Rado have more on the study:

Illinois school districts have employed hundreds of educators to teach everything from science to special education even though they lacked proper credentials in those subjects, a Tribune investigation has found.

In which disciplines do shortages not exist in Illinois? The Tribune put together a chart with data from the Illinois State Board of Education answering that question. We pulled out the ratio of newly licensed teachers to first-timers hired, from the Tribune's full chart from 2009, the most recent year for which information is available.

The findings that so many educators are teaching classes for which they are not qualified makes it appear as if there is a shortage of qualified teachers in those subjects. But as Gustowski and Rado write, "It has occurred even when applicants with the required qualifications were available."

Check out this slideshow of five subject areas and the ratios of newly licensed teachers to first-time hires:

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Daughter, Boyfriend Charged In Her Mother's Murder In Bali

Fri, 2014-08-15 10:55
BALI, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police charged an American couple with murder Friday after the body of the woman's 62-year-old mother was found stuffed in a suitcase on the resort island of Bali.

Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, both from Chicago, were arrested Wednesday in Bali's Kuta area, a day after the body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack was found inside the trunk of a taxi parked in front of the St. Regis Bali Resort. The charges are based on witnesses and crime scene evidence, said Bali deputy police chief Brig. Gen. Gusti Ngurah Raharja Subyakta.

Police said the couple hired the taxi and placed the suitcase inside the trunk. They told the taxi driver that they were going to check out of the hotel and would return. After they didn't show up, hotel security guards who found blood spots on the suitcase suggested the driver take the taxi to the police station, where officers opened the suitcase and discovered the body.

The couple told investigators that von Wiese-Mack was killed by robbers while they managed to escape, according to the police chief for Bali's provincial capital of Denpasar, Col. Djoko Hari Utomo.

Utomo said that contradicted testimonies by the taxi driver and hotel employees.

Von Wiese-Mack, also from Chicago, and her daughter arrived at the St. Regis on Saturday, while Schaefer checked in on Monday, police said.

Security camera video showed that the victim had an argument with Schaefer on Monday in the hotel's lobby, police said.

Von Wiese-Mack's body was being autopsied at a hospital in Denpasar. Head of Forensics Ida Bagus Putu Alit said there were signs of violence on the body indicating that the victim fought before she died.

"We found scars on both forearms and the broken left-hand fingernail," Alit said following an external examination. "That indicated a resistance in a fight."

During initial questioning Wednesday, Mack acknowledged her mother died, but refused to disclose how, according to Haposan Sihombing, an Indonesian lawyer assigned by police to accompany the couple.

Sihombing said Mack and her mother arrived in Bali on Aug. 4, and stayed first at Simanyak Hotel before moving to the St. Regis on Aug. 9.

"When asked why they left the hotel and moved to Kuta, she did not respond," Sihombing said. "She even told police that three masked men entered their room, making her mother angry and that she asked them out, otherwise she would call the police."

Mack signed investigating documents and a letter of lawyer's assignment after Wednesday's questioning while Schaefer refused, saying he wanted to wait for his lawyer to arrive from America, Sihombing said.

"In principle, they did not respond to many questions," Sihombing said. "They were not cooperative."

Meanwhile, authorities in an upscale Chicago suburb, Oak Park, examined records of 86 incidents in which police were called to the house where von Wiese-Mack lived with her daughter. Friends have also started talking to local reporters, alleging that the mother-daughter relationship was sometimes contentious.

The calls started in 2004 and lasted through June 2013, according to Oak Park spokesman David Powers, who also said the family moved out about a year ago. The bulk of the calls were missing-person reports, and others included domestic problems and theft.

Powers didn't have details about the calls, but said none resulted in arrests. He added there were a number of emergency 911 calls made from the residence in which the caller hung up, and, as is standard procedure, the police department sent a squad car to investigate.

Von Wiese-Mack was the widow of highly regarded jazz and classical composer James L. Mack, who died in 2006 at age 76.

Von Wiese-Mack was a member of a century-old Chicago book club called the Caxton Club. She had varied interests including Asian literature and Wagnerian opera, according to a May 2013 profile of her in the club's publication, Caxtonian.


Associated Press writer Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.

Journalists Fight System That Requires Them To Write 2.5 Stories A Day

Fri, 2014-08-15 10:23
The Chicago Newspaper Guild is fighting a quota system that requires Pioneer Press reporters to write at least 2.5 stories each day, or risk losing their jobs.

The Guild has filed a complaint calling the quota "unfair" and said it was imposing on "journalistic integrity." It is the latest in the ongoing battle between Sun-Times Media and its journalists.

The Guild's Ralph Zahorik wrote Tuesday that staffers are working under "a confusing but strict quota" that puts writers' careers on the line.

“They’re being warned if they don’t produce the 2.5 minimum, they could lose their jobs,” he wrote in a post on the Chicago Newspaper Guild's site.

The Guild is now demanding that the media group drop the rule and "immediately cease and desist from issuing further discipline based on a story quota."

Zahorik said that reporters began to be notified about the quota last winter, and that he knows of some reporters who have been pulled into "disciplinary meetings" after not meeting the mark. One reporter was issued a "final warning." According to Chicago Newspaper Guild Executive Director Craig Rosenbaum, "perhaps half" of all Pioneer reporters aren't making the quota, and others are working “off the clock” to produce enough material. Rosenbaum worries that this demand could take away from reporters focusing on larger, news-worthy stories.

“Our reporters are professional, award-winning journalists,” he said. “They should be focusing on substantive, hard-hitting news, not fluff.”

The Guild claimed that if nothing is done, the complaint will be heard by a federal official.

(h/t: Poynter)

Just Because You're Not Breaking The Law, Doesn't Mean You Won't Get Arrested

Fri, 2014-08-15 10:10
As The Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly experienced first-hand this week, police officers often arrest people even if they're not actually committing a crime.

On Thursday night in Ferguson, Missouri, SWAT officers dispatched to respond to protests in the wake of the police killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown arrested Reilly and The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery at a McDonald's. Cops apparently determined the reporters weren't packing up their stuff fast enough. They were released without charges and given no paperwork or names of arresting officers. That's probably because what they were doing -- which at worst can be described as not showing complete deference to the officer demanding that they vacate the private establishment -- is not illegal. For what it's worth, arresting officers told them they were "trespassing in a McDonald's," which they also weren't doing.

It was a reminder that unlawful arrests happen all the time in the U.S. Here are some of the most common behaviors that get people arrested, even if they aren't breaking the law.

Disrespecting A Cop

Police confront members of Occupy Wall Street during a celebration march in New York on October 14, 2011. (AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand)

In the simplest of terms, it's not illegal to be a jerk to a police officer, as even impolite speech is protected by the First Amendment. That doesn't mean it's a good idea, however, and there are countless instances of cops bending or violating the rights of U.S. citizens in attempts to punish them for perceived disrespect or undermining of their authority. Controversial arrests of this nature are frequently referred to as "contempt of cop." As Jerry L. Steering, a California attorney and police misconduct specialist writes on his website, these cases "typically involve the police using force upon persons (i.e. beating them) and/or falsely arresting them, and then inventing bogus and 'creative' allegations of violations" after the fact.

Imagine you are being aggressively confronted by an officer telling you to leave a public space. It is your right to be there, so you decline. The officer, upset that you are resisting his unlawful command and trying to show him up, decides that you need to be taught a lesson in obedience. So he informs you that you are being arrested, and you, knowing this is a violation of your rights, get upset. But if you lash out, you risk a charge of resisting arrest.

If you make any contact with a cop whatsoever, it could easily invite claims of assaulting an officer. Whatever happens, it will end in a headache for you, and in most cases, any attempt to hold an officer accountable for this misconduct will require a significant investment of time and money to go through the proper legal process.

Being Verbally Abusive To A Cop

You can legally curse at a cop, though as explained in the point above, that doesn't mean it won't get you arrested. If you're lucky, you might get a small settlement out of the ordeal if a judge is sympathetic to your mistreatment. If you're unlucky, however, there may be a city ordinance that can be loosely interpreted so that your use of profanity subjects you to another violation, such as disorderly conduct. While directing the language at a police officer isn't illegal in itself, using profanity in public at a certain volume or in the presence of other individuals could open you up to trouble.

Flipping Off An Officer

The courts have ruled it's perfectly legal to flip the bird at police. But again, that doesn't mean people haven't been stopped and arrested for doing so, usually on disorderly conduct or reckless driving charges. Those charges are frequently dropped, but usually not before putting the bird-flipper through a significant ordeal.

A protester gives the middle finger to police in Ferguson. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Filming Police

As we've explained ...

In recent years, there have been countless cases of police officers ordering people to turn off their cameras, confiscating phones, and, like Reilly, arresting those who attempt to capture footage of them. Despite a common misconception, it’s actually perfectly legal to film police officers on the job.

Drinking At A Bar

In 2010, Mother Jones reported on a group of Fort Worth police who arrested six people drinking at a bar for public intoxication. It may shock you to find out that it's perfectly legal to drink inside a private establishment.

Dancing On Subway Platforms

It's not illegal to perform on subway platforms and mezzanines, yet performers say they are arrested for doing so all the time. They're usually charged with "blocking pedestrian traffic" or "panhandling." This has led some performers to use subway cars themselves as the stage, which is illegal under NYC law, and can even lead to criminal reckless endangerment charges, which require an arrest and can lead to up to a year in jail.

Breakdancers perform at the Union Square subway station in New York. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Possessing Small Amounts Of Marijuana

In New York City, possessing small amounts of marijuana is the equivalent of a parking violation. But having it out in public view is a misdemeanor. So some police in the Big Apple have figured out a way to create criminals by stopping and frisking suspects. When they find marijuana and it gets brought out into plain sight, then it becomes an illegal and arrestable offense. The practice became so widespread that former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told his officers to stop these improper arrests. Even so, the tactic persists.

In 2013, 29,927 people were arrested in New York City for marijuana possession. This is a local ordinance specific to New York City, so please act according to your city or state's marijuana laws.

DOs and DON'Ts of Black People Shopping In Your Store

Fri, 2014-08-15 09:38
Oprah Winfrey. Actor Robert Brown. Condoleezza Rice. What do these people have in common? Their retail experiences were awful because their complexion is darker than the clay that Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze lubed each other up with in Ghost. Or in simpler terms, these famous folks were victims of shopping while black. Unfortunately, this kind of discrimination is nothing new. Last year, two shoppers -- Kayla Phillips and Trayon Christian -- made national headlines when they were accused of fraud after making expensive purchases at Barneys. Thankfully, on Monday, some fantastic news was announced: the upscale retailer agreed to pay a settlement, including a $525,000 fine, as well as hire an independent anti-profiling consultant for two years. So in honor of this ruling, I want to share some Blaria-fied dos and dont's on how stores should and shouldn't treat black customers.

DO: Realize that your ignorance has reached FEMA State of Emergency levels if the number of times it takes me to get your attention is equal to or greater than the number of times I have to say, "Beetlejuice" in order to summon him. Look, I understand. To survive working in retail, you must have a thousand yard stare like you did three tours of Vietnam. But you didn't. You work in Uniqlo, folding sweaters while Now, That's What I Call Music Volume 28 blares in the background. So there is no damn reason why the entire first verse, chorus, second chorus, and bridge of Train's "Drops of Jupiter" plays before you acknowledge my presence. Especially if we're making eye contact the way groups of married couples did with each other during 1970s key parties while deciding if they want to play a game of "Pass the Peen:"


DON'T: Creep up behind me in the produce aisle like the alien from Aliens


because I'm in the middle of deciding whether to put that container of sliced watermelon in my shopping cart. But thanks to your startling me, I awkwardly announce that I'm really checking out a bushel of giant peaches for a Patti LaBelle peach cobbler recipe, which, let's face it, probably is "blacker" than just sticking an IV in my arm and mainlining watermelon juice right there in the produce aisle. I know, I know. I need to just own it. We have a black president, I'm rocking an afro, and Erykah Badu's music taught me how to be a strong, independent woman. I should be able to purchase this delicious fruit without feeling self-conscious. Yet I do because, inevitably at check out, a non-black cashier will ring up the watermelon and do what I did when I was a kid and tried to keep a straight face after my brother got cussed out by my parents in Toys-R-Us:


DO: Allow me to try on clothes in peace. Don't get me wrong. You can be attentive, but knocking on the dressing room door as if you're sending morse code to an American ally in the Ukraine is not meant to be helpful; it's meant to make your presence known and me nervous. So enough, 'kay? No more unnecessary knocking on the door, no more creeping over the door "Wilson from Home Improvement-style" and definitely no more sliding underneath it the way my boyfriend does underneath my dress on my birthday:


DON'T: Turn up your face at the debit/credit card I'm using like I just opened a Tupperware container full of tuna casserole. #BitchICanSeeYourFace. Just because I'm not whipping out a black AMEX card, does not mean that my financials are broken down like an improper fraction. Sure, my bare bones Chase bank debit card is as basic as Dairy Queen's ice cream cake, but that doesn't give you the right to do the following when I swipe it on the card machine:


Money is money, so be grateful that my purchases are contributing to your Lean Cuisine account.

DO: Let me look at a high-priced item instead of telling me it's really expensive and making an expression like the kind I do when my boss tells me she's going to leave work early, but is still there at 5:15 P.M.:


#BitchICanSeeYourFaceTheSequel. So it would behoove you to make like you're on World Series of Poker and hide whatever rude things you are thinking about me. Better yet, realize that it is not only extremely ignorant to assume what I can and cannot afford, but it is insulting to imply that because I'm not of a certain race nor dress like I'm of a particular class, I don't have the right to browse and/or touch high-priced items. Furthermore, please don't pretend that directing me to the sale section is a friendly suggestion. We both know it is a read. Like a "you just tucked me into bed, read me the entire Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein anthologies, and then said, 'Turn that night light off, bitch, and go to sleep,' and left the room" type read. I am not here for that and will leave because of it.

DON'T: Stare at me/follow me around your store because it will make me change the motto on my family crest to Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me." In all seriousness, glaring at me and/or following me is unpleasant, but more importantly, it is a boneheaded decision. Why? Jerome D. Williams, a professor and Prudential Chair in Business at Rutgers Business School, explains in his Huffington Post essay regarding Macy's, Barney's, and the NYPD's stance on shoplifting:

The reality is that non-minority shoppers account for most of the criminal activity. This is supported by data provided by the FBI's UCR database which can be accessed on-line...Taking 2012 data, for example, the FBI data shows that approximately 70 percent of larceny/shoplifting arrestees are white. Our research suggests that whites don't frequently show up in shoplifting crime statistics to this degree because people aren't watching them. In fact, one could argue that whatever shoplifting statistics are reported in most cases have a built-in bias and are skewed upward. That's because the statistics actually are not really an indication of who's actually shoplifting. They are a reflection of who's getting caught, and that's a reflection of who's getting watched. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wow. Even if you don't care about this data because of whatever prejudices you have, your checking account should. Because while you're spending all your time keeping an eye on me, some white dude just peaced out your store with an unpaid for box of Fruit Loops.

DO: Treat me with respect BEFORE you realize that the white dude down the aisle is my boyfriend. I can't tell you the amount of times I have been in the store and the following has happened:

When my bf, some of his friends, and I walk into a store together, the sales clerks are like...


...then we separate and Jon and his friends are browsing on their lonesome so the clerks come over like...




And I feel like I wandered onto the set of I Am Legend because I cannot get assistance from anyone. But then a couple of employees see my boo walk over to me, kiss me, and place an item in my shopping cart and they:


And ask me how I'm doing and if I'm finding everything OK. Cut to me:


Listen, my name is not Julia Roberts and I'm not in the mood to be Pretty Woman'd. You should be nice to me regardless of whom or whom I'm not dating. Behaving as though I'm only worthy of attention once my boyfriend is beside me is So please get your life together... and then ring my items up.

DON'T: Security guards, when you ask for the receipt and a black customer shows it to you, don't do what my mom did the first time she saw an iPhone:


It's a receipt and you freaking know it. It is ludicrous that after you've seen proof of payment, you still manage to think the items were stolen or worse yet, you let a white couple, who is setting off an alarm, walk out the store because you're too busy harassing someone who doesn't deserve it. This is what happened to celebrated writer Roxane Gay as she was leaving a Best Buy earlier this month:

This is a damn shame. No one should be subjected to this type of treatment. So quit trying to find a way for the black patrons in your store to be the criminals you have labeled them in your mind.

DO: Be OK with your hand being near mine when giving me change after a purchase. Actually, be better than OK with it because I'm a human being. Of course, I'm not saying you have to hold my hand like we're doing a game of Ring Around The Rosie BUT please note that if the distance between our hands when giving me my money isn't less than the distance required between the faller and spotter during a trust fall exercise at summer camp, then you're fucking doing it wrong. And my reaction to that nonsense will be the same as the one I have when I try to make one of Rachel Ray's 30 minutes or less meals and two hours later all I have done is chop some onions and boil water:


OK, I know I've been joking around a lot in this blog post, but it's only to keep from being sad. All these sort of discriminatory things happen all the time and they don't make the newspaper. Nor are there consequences like with the Barneys case. A lot of times, black people are just forced to suck it up and keep it moving as I have done.

I have lived in a predominantly black Brooklyn neighborhood for the past six years. When the organic food store opened a couple of years ago, I would say that for the first year of its existence, I was consistently followed around the store. Employees would pretend to be stacking loaves of bread when they were really checking to see if I was going to put a jar of almond butter in my purse. Normally, I would be like, "Screw this place. I'll go somewhere else," but all the other stores in my neighborhood have garbage produce sections, so I can't. I need fruits and vegetables, so I sucked it up and kept shopping at this particular place and eventually, they left me alone.

And that's absurd. It's absurd that was I judged from the beginning when I clearly make more money than all the damn employees up in that organic food store. It's absurd that after purchasing items from there the first time, it was not enough for the manager to realize I'm not a thief. It's absurd that there were times where I thought, "I better dress up a little, so the stock boys won't think that I'm up to something." It's absurd that there were some days I didn't got to that store because I just didn't have the strength to deal with being made to feel like a criminal in my own neighborhood. It's absurd that "shopping while being black" is a thing. It's absurd that when I explain this white people, I'm made to feel I'm overreacting or "searching" for a reason to feel less than or they reply with, "This happens to me, too." And finally, it's absurd that in 2014, this foolishness is still going on and that I even have to write a post like this.

Republished from Phoebe Robinson's blog Blaria (aka Black Daria):

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Darren Wilson Identified As Officer Who Fatally Shot Michael Brown

Fri, 2014-08-15 08:47
After almost a week, Police Chief Thomas Jackson has identified Darren Wilson as the officer who fatally shot unarmed, black teen Michael Brown on Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri.

Jackson also announced the department would be releasing video of a "strong-armed robbery" that took place in the area. He outlined events that took place beginning at 11 a.m. the day of the shooting and offered an account of the incident that implies officers confronted Brown in connection with the robbery.

Although Jackson initially said the name would be released on Tuesday, the police department later announced it would not be releasing the officer's name out of fear for his safety.

Julie Bosman, a correspondent for The New York Times, said Wilson is a six-year veteran of the force with no history of disciplinary action.

What we already know about the officer who shot Michael Brown; 6-year vet of force with no history of disciplinary action.

— Julie Bosman (@juliebosman) August 15, 2014

Jackson confirmed that report and also said Wilson was treated for injuries after the incident.

The nation has erupted in outrage and taken to the streets in both peaceful and violent protests since the fatal confrontation. For days, images coming out of the St. Louis suburb presented a harrowing picture of unrest as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and placed demonstrators and journalists under arrest.

The climate has changed drastically since Thursday, when President Barack Obama condemned authorities' use of excessive force and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) called in the state's highway patrol to take over supervision of the suburb.

Police said Brown, 18, was shot multiple times Saturday after being confronted by a white officer. The FBI opened an investigation into Brown's death on Monday. Authorities initially offered vague details about the confrontation but said the officer involved had been placed on administrative leave.