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Rauner Criminal Justice Reform Plan Draws Praise, Advice

Wed, 2015-02-11 17:46
Governor Bruce Rauner on Wednesday took his first step to reform Illinois' criminal justice system by proposing a new commission, a plan that drew bi-partisan praise, but not one without potential pitfalls.

Rauner signed Executive Order 15-14 at the Sangamon County Courthouse today, which establishes the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.

The commission, members to which were not named in the governor's announcement, will examine the current criminal justice system and sentencing structure to develop comprehensive and evidence-based strategies to improve public safety, according to Rauner.

The panel will "analyze all aspects of the current system from the initial arrest to re-entry into the community," according to Rauner's press statement.

Some areas the commission will specifically examine are ensuring there is uniformity in sentencing structure, sentencing practices, community supervision and the use of alternatives to prison with the aim of cutting the Illinois prison population by 25% over 10 years.

"Illinois is in desperate need of criminal justice reform. Our prisons are overcapacity and too many offenders are returning to prison," Rauner said at a press conference in Springfield. "We need to take a comprehensive, holistic approach to our justice system."

The governor noted that the Department of Corrections is operating at more than 150 percent of the inmate capacity, which "threatens the safety of inmates and staff" and that the recidivism rate in Illinois hovers around 50 percent.

Rauner's executive order drew bi-partisan praise from a top House Democrat, Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) who took to Twitter to express his support.

"I applaud @GovRauner's initiative on #IL criminal justice reform. It's time for a comprehensive overhaul," Lang tweeted.

A top criminal justice advocacy group, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, applauded the Governor's action.

"Any Illinois turnaround must include criminal justice reform, and I congratulate Governor Rauner making it a priority within his first 100 days of taking office," said TASC president & C.E.O. Pamela Rodriguez.

An Illinois addiction health care advocate also welcomed the governor's announcement, but urged Rauner's new panel to keep its sights focused on "addiction" policy.

"Governor Rauner's launch of the Illinois criminal justice reform commission is good news, but it is important to recognize the key role of substance abuse prevention and treatment as well as mental health services in any reform," said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association Vice President of Substance Abuse Policy Eric Foster.

Rauner's executive order comes on the heels of the renewal of the Illinois House and Senate Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee chaired by State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) and State Senator Mike Noland (D-Elgin). The legislative panel held a half dozen exhaustive hearings last year and produced its own report in December offering recommended changes to the Illinois criminal justice system, including decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and lessening of some prison sentences.

As both the Rauner commission and the revived legislative committee move forward, Rodriguez is urging both to focus on "full-scale diversion programs."

"As criminal justice reforms are being crafted via both the Governor's office and the General Assembly, they must embed both the No Entry principle and the reentry principle -- that that effective, full-scale diversion programs are necessary, providing a pathway to recovery and restored citizenship rather than a return to prison," Rodriguez said. "What's required to implement reform is leadership. We look forward to working with Representative Zalewski, Senator Noland, the Governor's new criminal justice commission, and other leaders to make this happen."

The big political challenge will be for both panels to work simultaneously but at different speeds without undermining each other.

Zalewski has made clear that he wants to pass reforms during the spring session of the General Assembly. Rauner, however, wants his bi-partisan panel to review some of the same ground that the Zalewski-Noland committee has already plowed and to issue a preliminary report on July 1 and a final report at the end of December, after the legislature has adjourned.

One question is will Zalewski and Noland's GOP legislative colleagues be able to finesse the two competing timetables. Another question is whether Rauner himself will be to finesse the agenda of the majority Democrats with his own.

Can those potential pitfalls be avoided?

We'll see.

davidormsby@davidormsby.com

Mourners Organize Prayers And Vigils For Chapel Hill Shooting Victims

Wed, 2015-02-11 14:59
Following the shooting deaths of three Muslim university students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Tuesday, Muslim and non-Muslim mourners alike have taken to social media to organize prayers and vigils for the victims.

More than 4,000 people have joined a Facebook group for a Wednesday evening vigil on the UNC campus to remember the lives of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

(Story continues below.)



Police have arrested a neighbor, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, and news reports on Wednesday indicated that the three students may have been killed because of an ongoing dispute about parking at their condominum complex. But many in the Muslim community have said they suspect the killings were a hate crime -- particularly because of a series of vehemently anti-religious pictures and messages on Hicks' Facebook page, including posts critical of Islam and Christianity. Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the two female victims, told The News & Observer on Wednesday that Yusor had recently said she had a “hateful neighbor” who disliked her because of her religion.

“Joining in spirit from Dubai - may Allah grant them the highest place in jannah & bring peace and patience upon their families and loved ones,” a Facebook user named Hend Abdel Sattar wrote on the Facebook group for the Chapel Hill vigil, echoing messages of support from Egypt, New Zealand, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sweden.








In Raleigh, 30 minutes from Chapel Hill, the Muslim Students Association at North Carolina State University arranged for buses to shuttle students to Wednesday’s vigil. The group will host its own gathering Thursday evening at the Brickyard, a campus pedestrian plaza. Both Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha were students at North Carolina State University.

At the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, where Barakat had studied, a table was set up with a collection of flowers, candles and a photo of the victims.




Khalid Latif, a Muslim chaplain at New York University, told The Huffington Post that a few NYU students knew the victims and will hold a vigil at the Kimmel Center for University Life Wednesday night.

More vigils are planned in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, California, Texas, Michigan, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina. A Facebook page has been set up to keep track of events.

Some Muslims are also circulating an online sign-up sheet to take turns reading portions of the Quran, with the aim of together fully reading the holy book as many times as possible for the victims. The practice is common in some Muslim communities as a way to pray for the dead.

The Islamic Association of Raleigh, which is handling funeral arrangements, said in a statement Wednesday that it mourns its "three bright stars."

The Muslim community is deeply and profoundly saddened by this tragedy. The families asks for calm, patience and restraint, and your prayers. To God do WE all belong, and to God WE will all return. As Deah's brother so wisely stated, they are "our three winners." They have been reunited with their Lord, and we pray they all enter paradise with His choicest blessings. We all pray that Allah grant these two special and dear families: the Barakat's and the Abu-Salha's, beautiful patience in these very trying times.

9 Ways Dating and Working Out Are Similar

Wed, 2015-02-11 14:39
I grew up playing soccer, played on a sports team every season in high school and joined a club field hockey team in college. Athleticism has never been an issue for me... until these last few years, when I realized I used to get all of my exercise through playing organized sports. Because of this, I've admittedly been struggling with finding a workout routine that works for me.

On a recent run -- my first in what has probably been months -- I was finding it very hard to push through even the first mile. I realized very suddenly that I need to recommit to working out, no matter how difficult it feels. As I was thinking this, the next song came on my iTunes, Adele's "Someone Like You," pausing my inner monologue and instantly reminding me of the heartache in my chest. I was quickly overwhelmed with clarity and comfort of how parallel my physical exercising struggles are with the emotional ones I'm currently facing in my personal life.

I got out of a four-year relationship six months ago and was flung back into the modern dating world with only the startling realization that everything was drastically different from how one dates and meets potential suitors in college.

Both discovering dating again and experimenting with the gym and new workouts have a learning curve that requires trial and error. Here are nine ways they are extremely similar:

1. It's really hard to start over.

After enough time passes between workouts, you're back at square one, having to rebuild the stamina, muscle and endurance you've lost. I've spent more days than I'd like to admit going into the office with a gym bag, dreading going to the gym all day, all the while knowing how out of shape I am, deciding I'll go the next day and then finally dragging myself to change and go. (Beyoncé helps with the last part of the process).

I've experienced this same inner monologue before first dates (and you can bet that Beyoncé helps put me in the mood here, too). After my breakup, it's been difficult to put myself back out there again. When time is needed to heal the pain, it's natural that the more time passes, the more difficult it is to allow someone else in, in any capacity.

2. When you do try again after a long time away, you have no idea what to do or where to start.

I went to my first Zumba class recently, and I harshly (and very un-gracefully) realized that I missed the memo to learn, memorize and perfect every dance number in the class. Besides proving myself a disgrace to the tune of Shakira and Kat de Luna, I've also awkwardly waited by a machine at the gym, pretending to stretch, so someone could use it and inadvertently teach me how it works (and what it works out).

Similarly, dating apps became all the rage while I was in a committed relationship. I've had to have friends sit down with me and explain how certain apps/websites work (wait, you don't mean grouper like the fish?) and whether certain platforms would be right for me. This usually leads to the overwhelming realization that these apps connect me to meet total strangers... very unlike college dating at a small school, where someone I know will always know the someone I might be interested in, and thus could warn me away if they needed to.

3. You have to be truthful about what you want and need and go after it.

I'm not looking to get a six pack or run a triathlon; I want to build a little arm muscle, get back to a faster mile time over a long distance and find fun ways to keep my heart rate up. Knowing what my goals are makes it less intimidating when I go to the gym. And by being truthful about what I want and what I can handle right now, I'm less inclined to compare myself to other people.

The same goes for relationships. I miss being in a relationship for so many reasons, but now that I'm still working on extracting my identity from the deepest and longest relationship I've been in, I know that what I need is time focusing on myself and exposure to different types of people. Knowing this makes it easier for me to trust that I'll fall in love again someday when I'm ready and willing.

4. Once you get in a routine, it's important not to get complacent.

In workouts, challenge yourself and stay attentive. If you aren't breaking a sweat or "feeling the burn," so to speak, then you aren't really exercising your body. Maybe you need to have different days where you focus on different parts of your body or mix things up (more on that in my next point), or maybe you've upgraded from the cycle one or beginner's yoga class to the next level.

Similarly, in relationships, "too comfortable" can kill the romance. It's important to maintain the element of surprise, change things up, date your partner and find small ways to relay the love every day.

5. Mix it up; each experience serves its own purpose.

It didn't work out with your first boyfriend for a reason. Though it may have been immature and all-consuming (like my first relationship), it may have taught you about the depths of love and what you may need in relationships. Similarly, that guy you went on a date with last week may not be your soul mate, but at the very least, you are able to find certainty on what kinds of traits that he had that you do/don't want. Also, I've realized that by going on first dates, I'm able to reflect on what traits the other person has and how that may affect the version of myself that I present on my date and why.

You can learn a lot about who you are and what moves you from the process of dating. For me, this has ranged from taking no bullsh*t and standing up for myself to learning how to gently reject or be rejected by another person. As someone who gives so much of myself to other people, no matter how recently I met them, this has been an extraordinary experience. And eventually, I'll be ready for commitment again and will meet someone who complements the evolved version of me.

In the same capacity, different workouts, varying in time, strength and the discipline required, all serve different purposes and have different advantages. I sometimes (very rarely) do yoga, and I gain this energy where I surrender to the moment and allow myself to be mentally and emotionally at peace. (Well, after writing that, I am aware I should go more often.) In contrast, I use the machines at the gym to tone certain muscles, and I run/bike ride to work on stamina and endurance.

I have realized that by mixing it up, I'm able to meet different people, learn more about myself, experiment with different workouts and exercise different parts of my body.

6. You have to know when to push through and when to stop.

When it gets slightly difficult will you just quit?

Pain is real. Sometimes it's temporary and good to push through it; after all, no pain, no gain, right? But there's a difference between pushing yourself to finish that set or mile and forcing yourself to finish when your body is unable to handle it. It's important to listen to your body and know its limits, otherwise injury is a very real possibility.

This same kind of intuition can be translated in relationships. It shouldn't be excruciatingly hard, but it does take an active commitment every day to be a part of the relationship, better yourself and to be actively involved with your partner. It's important to listen to your heart and gut and know when the bumps or fights are worth working through and when you're just hurting yourself (and maybe your partner). That's when it's time to put your ego and fears aside and walk away.

7. Have other things going on to help you be your best self, and have the freedom to grow.

As mentioned previously, balance is necessary. Whether that's taking a break from working out or having other relationships to tend to, it's important to have other stuff going on and not make exercising or one person your whole life. It's good to be selective when finally landing on a workout regimen or long-term partner. In both cases, you want something/someone stable, pushes you to be better, and gives you the room to grow on your own -- whether that's varying the workout, or having constant communication with your partner of your needs and desires as they evolve.

8. Working out and meeting people organically is the most fun.

One of the most daunting things about working out for me has been the burden I feel to actually do it. So I've found that doing fun activities -- like indoor rock climbing, swimming in the indoor pool or hiking in the summertime -- is a good way to do something enjoyable and get my workout in at the same time.

The same goes with dating. Having to take the time and spend energy talking to people online is exhausting and incredible disappointing. So I've focused on myself and friendships, and I've discovered that it's even more interesting and fun to meet people organically -- through mutual friends, pursuing personal interests or just by being out and about in the city. (I can't wait until I meet someone in a bookstore; that is my dream meet-cute).

And sometimes both worlds collide perfectly. A fun workout activity can be a fun date -- like exploring New York City on a Citi bike, and pursuing a personal interest like flying trapeze can lead to meeting new people.

9. No matter what happens, you're always glad you tried.

Whether it's an awful date or a long-term relationship that ended; a not-so-satisfying group fitness class or a really bad running time, at least you went are more equipped for your next experience.

In both cases, the pain and disappointment can be transformed into something positive. There are always lessons learned and personal growth to be had from these experiences.

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Qdoba Will Give You A Free Burrito If You Kiss Someone This Valentine's Day

Wed, 2015-02-11 12:02
Burritos are objectively romantic, and this Valentine's Day, you can kiss your way to a free one at Qdoba.

On February 14 only, the Mexican food chain is offering a buy-one-get-one deal on their new Smothered Burritos. To participate, all you have to do is order one Smothered Burrito and share a saucy smooch in front of the cashier.


Smothered Burrito

Thankfully, both couples and singles are eligible to participate: "Order one Smothered Burrito and share a smooch with a loved one, friend or even a willing stranger and you can dig into a second Smothered Burrito on the same visit for free," a company press release states.

This is a kind of cute, very over-the-top gimmick that may result in some pretty cheesy moves (like taking a date to Qdoba on Valentine's Day). Here's to hoping that all participants plant the kiss before chomping into that potent-looking burrito.

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

9 Things You Can't Stop From Happening Now That Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal In Alabama

Wed, 2015-02-11 10:55
Unbelievable.

This is what marriage equality is doing to Alabama and every part of the country where same-sex marriages have been legalized. And there's really nothing we can do about it. No one called us for a vote on any of this stuff, and that's just very suspicious.

Anyway, here's what you have to look forward to, whether you like it or not!


Ugh, seriously, what NEXT?



14 Valentine's Day Jokes That Laugh In The Face Of Cupid

Wed, 2015-02-11 10:50
Does anyone actually like Valentine's Day?

Whether you're married to "The One" or find yourself as single as can be, Valentine's Day is consistently a huge letdown. Couples set high, impossible-to-achieve expectations, while single people are forced to celebrate something called "Singles Awareness Day."

You, dear reader, have two options. You could spend the day grumbling about Hallmark and crowded, overpriced restaurants and your mom calling you for the fourth f--king year in a row asking why you're still single (deep breaths), or you can accept the ridiculousness of the holiday, check out our favorite Valentine's Day jokes and eat that pint of Ben & Jerry's with pride.



All images courtesy of Getty.

Police Stop You While You're Carrying A Bunch Of Cash. What Happens To Your Money?

Wed, 2015-02-11 10:46
Last week, police pulled over NFL defensive tackle Letroy Guion was while he was driving in his hometown of Starke, Florida. An officer claimed that Guion had failed to keep his Dodge Ram pickup truck in a single lane and that there was a "strong odor" of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. After brief questioning, police searched Guion's truck and found an unloaded, legally owned handgun, a black backpack containing 357 grams of weed -- a little more than three-quarters of a pound -- and $190,028.81 in cash (and apparently coins). Police arrested Guion and proceeded to put the entire haul on the table (down to the last penny) for a photo op:



Guion was charged with two felonies, one for the marijuana and another for possession of a firearm in commission of a felony. Police secured the cash, though Guion's agent claims the money was from NFL paychecks and that he has bank statements proving it was not related to the drugs. A spokesperson for the Starke Police Department told The Huffington Post they have not received this documentation and that they gave Guion a receipt stating their intent to permanently seize the cash.

It's unclear how Guion's case will proceed, though the large quantity of marijuana will certainly complicate things. Possession of over 20 grams is a felony in Florida, and he had nearly 18 times that. But even without the drugs, police probably would have taken and attempted to keep Guion's cash using a controversial legal tool known as civil asset forfeiture. The incident raises broader questions about what happens when police find large sums of money on any individual, including a law-abiding citizen like you who will probably never see $200,000 in cash, much less drive around with it.

Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which law enforcement can permanently seize property from suspects.

The practice, used by both local and federal law enforcement agencies, has its modern roots in the 1980s, during the heart of the drug war. Police were looking to expand their arsenal against drug syndicates flush with cash, cars, homes and other expensive items, and asset forfeiture became a way to take that wealth and turn it against them. Certain items became bonuses for police -- cash was confiscated, property was sold, and departments profited as proceeds were funneled back to pay for overtime, equipment, trips to Las Vegas or a new patrol car (or 55 of them). As the practice grew rapidly in size and scope, however, it spiraled out of control and put innocent people in the crossfire.

In many cases, police can take your assets even if you're innocent.

Police regularly seize and adopt property without any conclusive proof of a connection to criminal activity. Under civil asset forfeiture, legal action can be filed against a person's property without ever charging the owner -- much less obtaining a conviction. This has made it an easy process to abuse. Say you're stopped with $11,500 in hard-earned cash while on a house-hunting trip. If police find that money, they can take it even though you haven't committed a crime.

To get seized assets back, owners are often required to definitively prove that their property is not connected to a crime.

"That notion that police can suspect you of wrongdoing, take your property and then flip the burden of proof to you to prove your own innocence just turns the whole idea of innocent until proven guilty on its head," Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told The Huffington Post.

With the government technically pursuing action against property, not a person, disputes over civil asset forfeiture tend to have memorable case names, like United States v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency and United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins.

For decades, federal and local law enforcement seized and adopted assets with seeming impunity.



A police dog conducts a search on a vehicle. K-9 units in many departments around the nation have been trained to sniff out cash.

Much of this activity was encouraged by the federal Equitable Sharing Program. For years, this program allowed state and local authorities to turn seized assets over to federal agencies, which would then seek "adoption" to officially take control of the property, before returning up to 80 percent of the proceeds to the department that made the seizure.

The program gave police a way to skirt state laws on forfeiture, which tend to have more restrictions on the type or value of property that can be seized. Under federal law, assets worth as little as $2,000 are subject to forfeiture, meaning it doesn't take a ridiculous display of wealth to become a target. State laws usually have higher thresholds, and also typically require a higher burden of proof for adoption. In many cases, state laws also limit the percentage of proceeds that go back to departments, often requiring them to share profits with other state agencies.

Cash became a particularly appetizing target for law enforcement agencies, which could put large portions of seized money directly back into their coffers. According to an extensive Washington Post report published last year, since Sept. 11, 2001, local and state police departments participating in the Equitable Sharing Program have seized $2.5 billion in cash from suspects who were never charged.

This led to some unbelievable and unfair incidents of asset forfeiture.

According to the Washington Post, of the nearly 62,000 cash seizures submitted to the Equitable Sharing Program by police between 2001 and 2014, half were of amounts less than $8,800. Regardless of the value of seizures, the majority over this period went undisputed, possibly due to the fact that it's expensive to challenge the government and often difficult to provide sufficient evidence of the property's legitimacy. Victor Ramos Guzman is one person who has faced this frustrating dilemma.

In late 2011, Guzman was driving with his brother-in-law on a Virginia highway when a state trooper sped up beside their vehicle, looked at the two men and pulled them over. As the Washington Post reported last year, the trooper was a top member of a law enforcement network that teaches officers to find assets to seize. He claimed they were speeding and following another vehicle too closely, but never issued a citation, instead getting the two church leaders to consent to a search of their car. Inside, the trooper found $28,500 in cash. Guzman said the money had been donated by parishioners and presented documents to support his claim. He told the officer they were taking the cash to Atlanta to negotiate the purchase of a plot of land in El Salvador to build a new church. Other portions of the cash, Guzman said, were set aside to buy a trailer for a new church congregation in North Carolina and for the cost of the road trip. The trooper didn't accept their explanation, and ordered them to drive to the police station to turn over the money. Guzman and his brother-in-law left with only a receipt.

Virginia State Police had no proof that the funds were related to a crime, but suspected they were part of a cash-smuggling operation. To get the money back, Guzman would have to prove they weren't. Luckily, he was able to find a lawyer to take his case pro bono. After Guzman officially provided documentation verifying the source of the cash, the government returned the funds three months later.

Salzman points out that many victims of asset forfeiture have a much harder time fighting such seizures.

"For a lot of people this process is quite difficult," Salzman said. "It borders on impossible to document where every dollar that they have came from, how it flowed through your bank, what the sources of it were, what your expenses are. It can become a very complicated task to prove to a level of certainty where every dollar that might have been seized has come from."

For more examples of police abusing civil asset forfeiture -- and in many cases getting away with it -- read The Washington Post's expose.

The Department of Justice recently announced changes to the Equitable Sharing Program.



In January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new restrictions on the program, prohibiting independently operating state and local authorities from submitting seized assets to federal agencies for adoption unless the property directly relates to public safety concerns. Items like firearms and explosives can still be turned over, for example, but a backpack full of cash cannot.

The changes may pare back some types of asset forfeiture, but critics warn that the exceptions to Holder's reforms swallow the rule.

Under Holder's order, seizures made by state and local agencies working with federal authorities in a joint task force or cooperating with a federal investigation may still be submitted for federal adoption. The recently released Department of Justice budget projected little change in the bottom line of police departments that benefit from federal profit-sharing.

Furthermore, asset forfeiture at the state level remains untouched, meaning that state and local authorities are still free to seize and adopt property as long as they follow their own state's rules. Many states have lax standards of proof for seized assets and allow law enforcement to keep 100 percent of the profits from forfeiture, leaving plenty of incentive for officers to go hunting for seizures.

So you're stopped by police while carrying a bunch of cash. What happens to your money?

We'll go ahead and assume that the stack of $100 bills you're carrying around was obtained through completely legal means and that you weren't breaking the law when you were confronted by police. Congratulations on being a law-abiding citizen, but you're still probably not going home with your money.

"In most states the police are going to take it, and the question then becomes what happens to that money?" said Salzman. "Does the state get to permanently deprive you of that money or are you ultimately going to get it back?"

It's not illegal to carry around cash, but most officers will likely assume that any large sum is somehow related to a criminal activity. Police would then seize and secure it, hoping they could make the case to keep it permanently. What happens next depends both on where you are stopped and who stopped you. If the officers are working in a federal joint task force or as part of a federal investigation -- say you happen to be driving through a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area -- your money can still be submitted for adoption through the Equitable Sharing Program. If not, you'll be at the mercy of state laws.

Forfeiture laws vary by state and may determine an officer's willingness to seize your money without a charge. In Nebraska, for example, to adopt property, law enforcement must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it is related to criminal activity. Nebraska has some of the strongest asset forfeiture protections in the nation, and the fact that owners are presumed innocent under the law could discourage the practice in some scenarios.

Florida -- where police stopped Guion -- has more permissive laws. The Institute for Justice gives the state a D grade, explaining that the "government must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the property was related to criminal activity and thus can be forfeited, a higher standard than most states but still less than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard required for a criminal conviction."

Recovering your money in Florida would likely then depend on what evidence is considered to be "clear and convincing," as well as your ability to provide evidence to disprove the government's claims of a connection to criminal activity. At any rate, the ensuing legal battle is likely to cost you significant time and money.

As for Guion, it's possible that he'll face an uphill battle to reclaim his $190,028.81. Does the fact that the marijuana was found in the same bag as the cash constitute "clear and convincing evidence" that the two are related? Would the bank statements his agent mentioned be enough to disprove a connection, or could the state still make the case that the money was tied to the sale or purchase of the marijuana? Furthermore, considering Guion is facing substantial drug charges, prosecutors could also seek criminal forfeiture of the cash -- a separate legal process in which adoption would be linked to the outcome of the criminal trial.

Just because you'll never see $200,000 in cash doesn't mean you couldn't become a victim of asset forfeiture abuse.

Take the case of Matt Lee, who in 2011 was pulled over by drug interdiction police in Nevada while on the last leg of a cross-country move from Michigan to California. In an ensuing K-9 search, police discovered $2,400 in cash, loaned to Lee by his father. Despite the fact that officers had no proof of any connection to a crime -- Lee had never even been arrested before -- they seized the cash and left the 31-year-old to complete the trip with only $151. Lee later tried to reclaim his cash. He hired a lawyer, and the county eventually agreed to return his money. By then, the legal fees had totaled $1,269.44, leaving Lee with less than half of the money that had been taken from him.



After more than two years, Matt Lee won back his $2,400 taken from him through civil forfeiture. As part of the agreement, he had to sign a form releasing Humboldt County Sheriff department of any liability. (Photo by Gabe Silverman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Salzman predicts controversial seizures like this will continue until laws are reformed and police no longer have clear incentive to forfeit property without evidence.

"So long as civil forfeiture is encouraging police to pursue cash, sometimes even ahead of crime, you become a target," he said, going on to note that cops aren't the only ones who make carrying large quantities of cash a risky prospect.

Until then, maybe it's just safer to write checks or use a new digital payment option. But if you absolutely must carry serious amounts of cash, know the risks and know your rights. A police officer can't seize your legitimately acquired money if he or she never knows it exists.

5 Reasons Duke Could Win The National Championship

Wed, 2015-02-11 10:03
We are nearing March, which means that while it's still too early for brackets, we can officially start dreaming about Cinderellas and Final Fours. This year's Duke team gives Coach Mike Krzyzewski a remarkably balanced blend of talent and perhaps the best player he's ever had in his 35-year tenure in Durham. In the mix once again, the Blue Devils are hoping to move beyond last season's shocking and embarrassing round-of-64 exit at the hands of Mercer.

Let's examine five reasons Duke, currently sitting at 21-3, could cut down the nets come that first Monday night in April.

GUARD PLAY



Deep runs in March are fueled by great guard play -- just look at last year's champ, Connecticut, who underperformed most of the season only to win six straight en route to a title behind the brilliant duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Duke has a similar pair of playmakers in senior Quinn Cook (right) and freshman Tyus Jones (left). The beauty of these two is that akin to Napier and Boatright, they can both play on and off the ball, and they can both really create opportunities in late shot clock situations. Jones tends to act as the lead guard, and his dynamic creativity in pick-and-roll is downright prodigious. His 5.3 assists per game ranks him second in the ACC and, despite his youth, he has already become an extension of Krzyzewski on the floor. Best of all? Cook -- whom Krzyzewski continually calls his team's leader -- and Jones are both superb 3-point and free-throw shooters, connecting on 40 percent of their attempts from distance. Cook and Jones convert 91 and 87 percent, respectively, from the stripe.

JAHLIL OKAFOR



Enjoy him now, because the Chicago product is going to be the top overall pick in June's NBA Draft. Okafor -- whom HuffPost caught up with last April -- is a classic big man blessed with tremendous footwork, a deft touch around the basket and disruptive shot-blocking skills. Nearly 6-foot-11, he possesses excellent hands as well and unlike most young bigs, doesn't mind passing out of double teams. But Okafor's best attribute may be the fact that he is not limited to the block. Duke uses him all over the floor. Even when he catches the ball 16 feet from the hoop, he is smart enough to make the correct decision: attack the basket, kick out or find a cutter. The only real concern with Okafor is that he sometimes gets in foul trouble, as he did in Duke's 90-60 win over No. 10 Notre Dame on Sunday. Afterward, Krzyzewski said he would have left his young superstar in the game if not for the 42-7 run his team went on. In a one-and-done format, you worry about foul trouble, but perhaps not as much with a player as intelligent as Okafor.

THE 'OTHER' FRESHMAN



We've addressed both Jones and Okafor, but Duke's most valuable player is often Justise Winslow, a rangy two-way wing oozing with NBA potential. Few players in the country can impact a game defensively like Winslow, whose dad enjoyed a brief NBA stint but never had the raw ability of his son. Winslow Jr., at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, can guard every position on the floor. While he is not a consistent jump shooter just yet, he has a real knack as a slasher and phenomenal finisher. The left-handed Winslow averages 11 points and gets to the free-throw line an impressive four times per game. If Okafor or Jones suffer an off-game, his attacking style will give the Blue Devils another valuable option.

THE 1K MAN



Four national championships and the first Division 1 men's head coach ever to reach the 1,000-win mark, Krzyzewski has all of the big-game experience you'd ever want. In attending Duke's 90-60 drubbing of Notre Dame, what struck me about Krzyzewski was how he coached each possession as if the score was 0-0. It was almost as if the game itself didn't matter so much as the preparation for what does matter: March. This is not a classically deep Duke team -- they have just eight scholarship players -- but it is an extremely talented and diverse one. The recent dismissal of junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon opens the door for sophomore Matt Jones and freshman Grayson Allen, two blue-chip recruits who are just starting to turn it on. Krzyzewski, 67, believes strongly in man-to-man defense, but his willingness to adapt to his personnel and shift to zone is also worth noting. He will employ the zone to protect Okafor from foul trouble, but just as importantly, his team rebounds exceptionally well out of the zone. Krzyzewski's ability to exploit every advantage possible will be most important against foes like Kentucky, Virginia and Wisconsin. He has a very well-balanced offensive attack that averages a healthy 80 points per game while ranking sixth in the country in total field goal percentage, making almost 50 percent of its attempts.

BATTLE-TESTED



What the ACC lost in charter school member Maryland's departure to the Big Ten, it gained in perennial powers Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Fourth-ranked Duke, who always endures a brutal non-conference schedule, has the most impressive resume in America. And that comes with all due respect to undefeated Kentucky. The Blue Devils boast wins over Michigan State, Temple, Stanford, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, St. John's, Notre Dame and Virginia. While regular season success hardly guarantees tournament success, Coach K's young squad has a barrage of quality wins over legit contenders. March Madness is all about survive and advance, and that's what this team has done all year long.

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

7 Things You Didn't Know About Abraham Lincoln

Wed, 2015-02-11 09:33
While almost every American could probably tell you some of the most prominent details of the life of Abraham Lincoln, such as his time living in a log cabin or the opening of the Gettysburg Address, there is still much most people don't know about the country's 16th president.

With his 206th birthday almost upon us (Feb. 12), take some time to familiarize yourself a bit more with the American leader whose actions helped save the Union so "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, [did] not perish from the earth."

Here are seven little-known facts about Honest Abe:



  1. Lincoln ran for U.S. Senate twice (1854 and 1858) but lost both times.


  2. He served in the Illinois General Assembly as a member of the Whig Party before he joined the newly formed Republican Party.


  3. He didn't win a single Southern state in his 1860 presidential election.


  4. He established the country's first income tax.


  5. He re-structured his second inaugural address just before delivering the speech by literally cutting and pasting it into a new format.


  6. He is estimated to have only received a total of 18 months of formal education.


  7. Before he was president, he was an attorney and lobbyist for the Illinois Central Railroad



Check out 13 more facts at Reboot Illinois to find out to which church Lincoln belonged and what kind of pet he allowed to sit with him at the table during dinner at the White House.



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

NEXT ARTICLE: The trail of Lincoln: 26 sites for any Abe enthusiast


Both Sides Dig In For Fight Over Illinois Governor's Push To Block Union Dues

Wed, 2015-02-11 08:10
CHICAGO (AP) -- A fight is brewing over Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision to end a requirement that Illinois state workers pay union dues even if they don't want to join a union.

Labor leaders said Tuesday they're looking into legal options to challenge a federal lawsuit the Republican governor filed against more than two dozen public-employee unions. The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, seeks to have "fair share" dues declared unconstitutional.

Rauner also issued an executive order Monday directing that the dues withheld from paychecks of about 6,500 employees be placed in an escrow account rather than forwarded to unions. The money will be held in the account until the court case is decided, and returned to workers if the courts rule in Rauner's favor.

Withholding the dues could keep an estimated $3.75 million from being deposited into the unions' bank accounts, according to estimates provided by Rauner's office.

"We're going to have to defend ourselves," said Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, one of the unions named in the suit. He expected a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

Others said they were starting to educate union members about the impact of Rauner's actions and were considering public mobilizations.

"Our members are resolved and think this is very unfair," said Illinois Nurses Association executive director Alice J. Johnson. "They're not going to give up. They're going to fight for their union."

It was the first real action Rauner has taken against the unions, after months of calling them "corrupt" and blaming them for many of Illinois' financial problems. The multimillionaire former businessman also said during his State of the State address last week that he wants to ban campaign contributions from public-employee unions and create local zones, sometimes referred to as "right-to-work zones," where paying union dues would be voluntary.

About 45,000 state employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements between their unions and the state. Those workers who choose to join their union pay full dues, including a portion intended to support political activity. Workers who choose not to join pay the "fair share" dues - a smaller amount intended to cover the cost of collective bargaining, handling of grievances and other non-political activities from which all workers benefit.

But Rauner says labor unions' activities - including negotiating against cuts in salary or benefits - are inherently political. He says forcing non-members to contribute part of their paychecks to those activities is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

On Tuesday, the National Right to Work Foundation said it's offering free legal assistance to any state workers who want to exercise their right to not pay dues. The group has provided similar services in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, where GOP governors - all of whom Rauner has called his role models - have taken steps to weaken unions.

Meanwhile, union leaders questioned the timing of the lawsuit, which comes days before Rauner is set to deliver his first budget address.

"We have yet to hear one concrete idea about how he's going to pull out of this fiscal mess," Montgomery said. "Instead, what he's done are the most heinous, vicious, misinformed and misleading attacks on working people we've certainly ever seen in Illinois."

Jackie Robinson West's 2014 Wins Vacated; Team Allegedly Used Ineligible Players In Little League World Series

Wed, 2015-02-11 07:33
The Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team's 2014 wins have been vacated, according to an ESPN tweet published Wednesday morning.

Little League Baseball had been investigating whether the Chicago-based team, which won the 2014 U.S. championship, included players who didn't live in the area the team represented. Jackie Robinson West had been the first all-black team to win the national championship.

THIS JUST IN: Jackie Robinson West vacates wins from 2014 Little League World Series for using ineligible players.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 11, 2015

This Is The Closest, Undiscovered Tropical Island You Should Be On Right Now

Wed, 2015-02-11 07:00
Are you dreaming of sipping daiquiris on a tropical island far, far away?

Us, too.

But while you may not have the luxury of escaping to an exotic paradise on the other side of the world, we do have some good news for you: There's a tropical island near you -- it's just waiting for you to notice it.

Using TravelMath.com, we've calculated which lush, overlooked island is closest to your part of the country -- the hidden spots and unsung heroes of the paradisiacal treasure chest.

They are just a short hop, skip and jump from you, and they are most definitely warmer than where you are right now.

Who knows? You might be on the next flight out.

If you live in the North East, head to Isla de Culebra.
Meet Puerto Rico's undiscovered hermanita (little sister) that'll have you wondering why you never thought of traveling here before.

Puerto Rico is less than four hours away from New York, Philadelphia and D.C. by plane, but Isla de Culebra will feel a world away (it's an easy hop from Puerto Rico's main island). Culebra has no towering hotels or resorts: only perfectly-sized villas and white sand beaches for an ideal island life.







If you live in the Midwest, head to Cabbage Key Island.
Trade in your blinding blizzards for a car-less, mangrove shaded paradise -- without ever having to leave the country.

The journey to Florida's Cabbage Key Island is only a two and a half hour flight and ferry ride away from Chicago or Milwaukee. But it definitely won't feel like you're in Florida. The privately-operated 100-acre island has no paved roads and no cars, but plenty of charm. Sprawl out on the grass and listen to the gentle waves crash on a wooden dock or clink glasses at the wonderfully run Cabbage Key Inn. Make sure you get a bite of The Original Cheeseburger in Paradise, which helped inspire Jimmy Buffet's famous song and proves that this place really is paradise.







If you live in the South, head to the Bimini Islands.
You don't need to dive deep into the Bahamas to get that Caribbean glow.

The Bimini Islands sit just east of Miami, practically teasing the mainland with the sweet sounds of steel drums. They're less than three hours away from Atlanta, Houston and Memphis, and a short ferry ride from Miami. Take off in the morning and be shaking your hips to the Caribbean rhythm by the afternoon.







If you live on the West Coast, head to Lanai.
Sure, you've probably heard of Hawaii. But it's time you put away your visions of tourist-packed Waikiki and explored the quiet island of Lanai.

Only five hours from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and not much farther from Seattle and Phoenix, Lanai embraces the luxurious resort-life of Maui, but adds the untamed charm that comes from being a lesser-known island. You can sip a Mai Tai poolside, or you can find an empty beach, an empty mountain top or an empty waterfall, and ponder why no one else has been here yet.





Everything You Need To Know About Chicago's New National Park

Tue, 2015-02-10 16:39
Chicago is about to get a new national park -- its first ever.

The White House announced Tuesday that it will designate a section of Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood on the South Side as a national monument. President Barack Obama, whose community organizing work began in the neighborhood, is expected to personally announce the news in Chicago on Feb. 19, DNAinfo Chicago reports.

Elected officials and historic groups alike had been pushing for years for National Parks status for the 300-acre district, which dates back to the 1880s.

Constructed for engineer and industrialist George Pullman, the district was a planned model industrial town, one of the first of its kind, marking a significant shift from the rundown living conditions more typical of working-class neighborhoods. Company workers were required to live in company-owned residences, with the first moving into the district in 1881. Visitors from around the world attending the World’s Columbian Exposition traveled in special trains to view the lauded district in 1893.


Illustration of strikers driving out an engineer on the Illinois Central railway line during the Pullman strike in Chicago, 1894. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

In 1894, the district was ground zero for one of the most famous labor conflicts of the era. Factory workers with the Pullman Place Car Company walked out over declining post-depression wages, then a boycott from the American Railway Union spread effects of the walkout nationwide, prompting President Grover Cleveland to intervene with federal troops and resulting in violence. It marked the first time a federal injunction was ever used to end a strike.

In 1925, the district became home to the nation’s first ever all-African-American workers’ union, the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, organized by Asa Philip Randolph.


In this photo taken Monday, April 19, 2010 shows a section of the original 1880s Pullman Palace Car Company's worker's housing units in the North Pullman neighborhood of Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

By the 1960s, the district was deteriorating, but city and national landmark status was obtained in the 1970s. The Historic Pullman Foundation was formed in 1973 with the task of preserving the neighborhood.

In a statement, the group's president Michael A. Shymanski said he was “thrilled” by the news, which he said marks the culmination of a 50-year-long advocacy campaign.

“Pullman is a place associated with many significant events of our cultural heritage over the past 150 years such as innovative rail passenger travel, town planning, immigration, integration, economic recession, labor conflict, civil rights and change,” Shymanski said. “It is a place where people can commemorate, celebrate and learn from our past and discuss the future of our nation.”


In this Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, photo the clock tower of the historic Pullman railcar administration building stands in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The designation will mean that the district’s Clocktower Building will be converted into a visitors’ center, and National Park Service rangers will provide security and other services, the Chicago Tribune reports. According to an economic report by the National Parks Conservation Association and others, a Pullman national park is forecast to attract over 300,000 visitors annually by its tenth year of full operation, providing an economic boon to the area.

Obama's announcement will be made less than a week before his former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is seeking reelection as Chicago’s mayor. The timing was called into question Tuesday by mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti, who was formerly president of the Pullman foundation.

“Hopefully the Mayor and the President will both highlight and credit the five decade grassroots effort that led to this, because right now it just looks like politics,” Fioretti said in a statement, noting that he has been pushing for a Pullman national park “for years.”


A row of homes is seen across from the Pullman Factory in Chicago, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

6 Ways To Ease Yourself Into Eating Vegan, According To A Professional Chef

Tue, 2015-02-10 16:09
If there's a food rule out there, chances are vegan superstar chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz will find a way to break it.

In August, Moskowitz's punk rock sensibility inspired her to open Modern Love, a vegan restaurant in what's virtually the backyard of Omaha Steaks. Just six months in, the Nebraskan city's only restaurant for "swanky vegan comfort food" was named to OpenTable's 2014 list of "Best Restaurants In America" -- and it counts Omaha's cattle ranchers and pig farmers among its customers.

"Veganism is seen as too hard to do or the butt of a joke," Moskowitz told The Huffington Post. "Eating vegan is an ethical statement, but it's hard to get through to somebody if they feel judged. Just chilling out a little about that is helpful. I believe in meeting people where they are. I'm not here to judge people."

But the success of a vegan restaurant in the heart of cow country is no surprise to fans of Moskowitz's best-selling cookbooks like Veganomicon, Isa Does It and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.

On the Chicago stop of her one-woman improv show/cooking demo "Isa Live: A Vegan Life In Four Courses," Moskowiz gave HuffPost Taste her best tips for easing into eating vegan.

Roasting Is Your BFF

Roasted butternut alfredo

"Roasting makes everything taste delicious," Moskowitz says. "There's no veggie that's impervious to roasting. The only trick is to use enough olive oil and down crowd the pan. All those cruciferous vegetables are great roasted -- and eggplant, string beans -- just use enough salt, pepper and olive oil."

Be Cheesy

Sunflower mac

Even vegans can have a hard time giving up cheese, and Moskowitz acknowledges that store-bought vegan cheese has a bad (and mostly deserved) rap.

Chao cheese is one of Moskowitz's rare store-bought recommendations "for when you're really craving a great grilled cheese sandwich;" for regular eating, artisanal vegan cheeses (she gives Miyoko's Kitchen rave reviews) are "amazing."

Want to make vegan cheese at home? The process is surprisingly easy (especially if you have a good blender).

Get Specific

Butterscotch cupcakes with coconut bacon

Moskowitz says despite the misconception that vegan food means limited options, virtually any taste or texture can be translated into a vegan-friendly version -- you just have to know what it is you want. "Do you want crunchy, creamy, charred, smoky?" Moskowitz says. "Find the things you love, then find good vegan translations for them."

Some of Moskowitz's favorite hacks include using firm silken tofu for cupcake frostings, soaked, blended cashews or coconut milk to make sweet or savory creamy textures, flax eggs as a baking substitute and chickpeas to make hearty textures.

Look For Easy Adaptations

Seitan Negimaki rolls
"Asian cuisines are some of the easiest to adapt," Moskowitz says. "And you get to use great flavors like coconut, lime, cilantro, mint and chili. They're so perfect for vegan cuisine."

Moskowitz says pasta is another easy transition food: "Sometimes I'll sneak in some tofu and not tell people."

It's OK To Be Flexible

Sloppy Jerks with coconut creamed spinach
When Moskowitz went from eating vegetarian to vegan, for a while there was one food (bleu cheese) she just couldn't quit, so she didn't.

"Don't give up something you're not ready to give up," Moskowitz says. Plus, since plenty of popular snack foods -- think tater tots, falafel and hummus -- are already vegan, Moskowitz says it's better to focus on the vegan-friendly foods you enjoy rather than dwelling on the items you're passing up. "Don't start the conversation with what [foods] are out."

When In Doubt, Pesto

Bestest Pesto

"There's nobody who doesn't love it," Moskowitz says. "How do you take a big bite of basil and garlic and olive oil and lemon and not just calm your nerves a little bit?"

Residency Questions Continue To Dog Chicago Little League Champions

Tue, 2015-02-10 16:08
CHICAGO (AP) -- Citing "new information," Little League International officials met Tuesday to discuss whether last summer's Little League World Series national championship team from Chicago's South Side added top suburban players in violation of residency rules.

Spokesman Brian McClintock said the organization's charter committee was meeting to discuss "possible resolutions" regarding the Jackie Robinson West team and that a final decision would likely be made this week. He declined to say if the team might lose its title.

Late last year, the organization said it was confident that there were no violations of residency regulations after investigating allegations made by an official from a suburban Chicago league that some of Jackie Robinson West's players live in suburbs with already-established Little League teams. It said it would the investigation if necessary.

On Tuesday, McClintock said the organization had received "new information" that prompted further review of the allegations. He would not elaborate.

Jackie Robinson West officials did not immediately respond to an email for comment but league officials have denied the team violated any residency rules, and that none of the players was recruited. The allegations were first reported by DNAinfo.com.

Chicago won the U.S. title by beating a Las Vegas team from Mountain Ridge Little League 7-5. The Las Vegas coach, Ashton Cave, said Jackie Robinson West should be stripped of its title if the team broke the rules.

"There has to be some accountability," he said.

Cave said that rather than award his team the championship, Little League International could send a more powerful and lasting message by simply leaving the space blank where the championship team is listed.

"I think if they do that, it will always be a message in the world of youth sports: If you bend the rules there is going to be a consequence," he said.

The stirring run to the Little League World Series by the all-black team captured national attention and united Chicago, which remains one of the nation's most segregated cities. The Cubs watched JRW play during a rain delay and cheered them on while Mayor Rahm Emanuel organized all-city watch parties. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition would take the boys to Disney World.

After falling to South Korea in the world championship game, Jackie Robinson West was feted with a parade and a visit to the major league World Series and the White House, where they met President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

My Q and A With Jonah Berger, Author of <i>Contagious: Why Things Catch On</i>

Tue, 2015-02-10 15:50
Contagious: Why Things Catch On established Jonah Berger as a thought leader on a subject with big implications for the future of media: why we share. As The Huffington Post launches What's Working, an editorial initiative to double down on our coverage of positive news and solutions, I asked Jonah, a Wharton Business School professor, for his insights. Here he offers his thoughts on the future of positive news, technology's role in the spread of ideas and the powerful emotions that drive us to share.

You write about the power of a conversation piece to create buzz and bring people together. What do conversation pieces appeal to in us?

Humans are social animals, and sharing connects us with others. First we sat around the fire, then we stood around the water cooler and now we forward things around on social media. The location has changed, but the underlying motivations remain the same. Sharing is social grooming. It not only transmits information; it deepens our emotional connections.

Why do people want to share news of any kind? What is it that makes us want our friends and family to know something we've just found out?

There are six key factors that drive people to share, and in Contagious I put them into an acronym called "STEPPS." That stands for "social currency," "triggers," "emotion," "public," "practical value" and "stories." We want to help others, for example, so the more practically valuable or useful news is, the more likely we are to share it. When we care, we share, so the more a story evokes certain emotions, the more likely we are to pass it on. We also share things because they make us look good (social currency), are top-of-mind (triggers), are observable (public) or are impactful.

"Zeitgeist" is a German word almost untranslatable into English, but we know there is such a thing. And in the world of business, when brands tap into it, they have the wind at their backs. What have your studies taught you about the meaning of "zeitgeist"? What is the zeitgeist, and how does it form?

The zeitgeist is the school of thought that characterizes a particular time period, or a style or way of thinking that may be in vogue. It's when a diverse group of people all see things the same way. On a smaller scale, getting something to catch on isn't about being a strong leader; it's about building a social movement, about generating enthusiasm in a group of people.

"Disruption" is probably the most overused business term of our time, but when used correctly, it captures something very important. Where does disruption fit into Contagious?

Getting something new to catch on requires disrupting the status quo, shifting away from the standard way of doing things and pushing a new idea into the world.

Are we living in a time that's hospitable to ideas that can really make the world better?

Ideas have the power to change the world. And we live in a time when technology can make once-impossible ideas a reality.

What's the difference in how people react to and share positive vs. negative news?

The more positive a news story is, the more likely it is to be shared. Certain negative emotions like anger or anxiety also increase sharing, but overall, positive things are more likely to be shared. Articles that inspire awe, generate excitement or make people laugh are particularly likely to be shared.

How has technology changed the way people share news?

Technology has allowed people to share news faster and more broadly than ever before. With the click of a button, people can share a story to hundreds if not thousands of people. But technology has also changed where people get their news. Traditional media outlets used to be the central source, but social media now plays a much larger role. Our social ties determine what stories we learn about and think are important.

How can the media help readers increase their sense of awe and wonder for the world?

Awe is a powerful emotion. It broadens our horizons, boosts life satisfaction and encourages people to help those around them. That's why it's so important that the media include these types of stories in what they report. Sharing amazing scientific discoveries, triumphs against adversity or heartening stories about the world not only makes people feel good; it encourages them to overcome perceived barriers in their own lives.

I'm asking you to step outside your role as a scientist for a moment: Have your findings made you question the way those of us in the media are doing our jobs?

If no one tells a story, did it really happen? The media is a gatekeeper. There's no objectively "right" answer about what is newsworthy and what isn't, but the news determines public perceptions: what issues people think are important and how they perceive the world. And if you look at front-page news at the moment, you'd have a pretty (negatively) skewed view of the world: much more failure than success.

There's still widespread reluctance in the news business to go beyond "If it bleeds, it leads." What will it take for the media to make this shift?

Measurement drives behavior. While the notion that "if it bleeds, it leads" might have made sense at one point in time, hopefully the new digital metrics that have come along will encourage media companies to shift their attention. Shares, shares per view and other metrics show that bleeding leads won't drive engagement.

You're a scientist, of course, but is there also a moral current to your work when it comes to the power of positive news. Do you think a stronger focus on what's working can bring about real change in the world?

Bringing about real change requires two things: the tools to make things better and the belief that change is possible. Focusing on the negative helps people see gaps or room for improvement, but without understanding what is working and the positive things people have been able to achieve, it's hard to know how to fill in those gaps or be motivated to do so. Not all news is positive, and there is still an important place for unpleasant truths, but it's also important that news reflect the positive things that are going on as well.

Bringing Your Own Antibiotics On Vacation Could Do More Harm Than Good

Tue, 2015-02-10 14:55

By Kathryn Doyle

(Reuters Health) - People who travel to exotic locales and take along their own antibiotics are more likely to come back colonized with resistant bacteria, according to a new Finnish study.

Many travelers take along antibiotics to treat so-called "traveler's diarrhea" - and if they have the medications along, they are likely to use them even for minor ailments, according to lead author Dr. Anu Kantele of Helsinki University Central Hospital.

In most cases this is a bad idea, she said.

"If you have mild or moderate diarrhea, you will not need antibiotics" but should drink lots of fluids and, if needed, take medication that relieves the diarrhea like loperamide (Imodium), if you brought any, she said.

Severe diarrhea might require antibiotics, but it also requires a medical evaluation, she said. Diarrhea can be a symptom of other, more severe diseases such as malaria. It can be dangerous to try to self-manage malaria with the wrong medication, she said.

"At home we doctors always recommend seeking medical care when you are very sick," Kantele said. "Why on earth would we advise anyone to decide differently in a developing country?"

She and her coauthors collected stool samples from 430 Finns before and after travel outside Scandinavia and tested them for two strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Enterobacteriaceae and carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae.

Overall, 288 of the 430 travelers experienced diarrhea while abroad. Sixty-six travelers took antibiotics during the trip, and 52 used the drugs to treat diarrhea, according to a report of the study in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Twenty-one percent of the travelers were colonized with an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria on their return, most often those who traveled to Southeast Asia. No one who traveled to Europe, Australia or the Americas tested positive for the bacteria.

Taking antibiotics increased the risk of contracting the resistant bacteria: 17 percent of people who took no antibiotics were colonized on their return, compared to 46 percent of those who took the drugs for traveler's diarrhea.

"The majority of healthy travelers who get colonized have no symptoms and the bacteria disappear within a few months, so they never knew they carried it," Kantele said.

But the bacteria can be dangerous for some.

"These drug-resistant organisms are not dangerous to healthy individuals but if they are transmitted to immune compromised or chronically ill persons who are unable to control the infection . . . it would be a major problem because most standard antibiotics will not work and there are limited drugs available to treat such infections," said Dr. Jay S. Keystone of the Tropical Disease Unit at Toronto General Hospital.

Keystone coauthored an editorial published with the study.

These resistant bacteria should be treated and addressed both locally in the high-risk areas where they are and by preventing their spread around the world, keeping travelers from bringing them back to the home country, Kantele said.

"We need a big change in our attitude toward antibiotics, we need to respect them. When they are needed they can save our lives," Kantele said.

People with a high fever or bloody stool while abroad may need medication, and the best choice is to see a doctor if at all possible, she said.

As for carrying antibiotics on a trip, Kantele would recommend them "for travelers who go to remote areas, like Himalaya trekkers," Kantele said. "Areas with poor access to healthcare."

Keystone, however, said, "Personally, I would not leave home without an antibiotic and loperamide for travel to developing countries."

"In many developing countries, especially in rural areas, one is at risk of receiving an injection with unsterile equipment, a counterfeit or inactive drug or inappropriate treatment or in a hospital setting, becoming colonized with a drug resistant organism," Keystone told Reuters Health by email.

There are ways to prevent traveler's diarrhea, like taking precautions with food and water sources, drinking commercially bottled beverages, avoiding salads and street food, Keystone said.

But, he added, travelers should still take antibiotics along when they depart, and use them wisely.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1DlUpIL and http://bit.ly/1DlUADE Clinical Infectious Diseases, online January 21, 2015.

The Powerful History Of The Grammy Performance Everyone's Talking About

Tue, 2015-02-10 14:30
Though Beyoncé’s powerful performance at Sunday’s Grammy Awards in Los Angeles has gotten everybody talking, few have mentioned the origins of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” the iconic gospel anthem the “Drunk in Love” performer sang.

The song dates back to the 1932. It was penned by the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, the Chicago-based “father of gospel music,” in response to the death of his first wife, Nettie, in childbirth, and the death of his newborn son two days later.

The song was most famously performed by Mahalia Jackson, who also lived in Chicago for most of her life, and her version was released in 1956. It went on to become the contralto’s best-known song, as well as the favorite hymn of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At King’s request, Jackson performed it at civil rights rallies as well as his funeral in 1968.



Aretha Franklin performed the hymn at King's memorial service, then again at Jackson’s funeral in Chicago in 1972. A number of other well-known artists, including Nina Simone, Al Green, Mavis Staples and Gladys Knight, went on to record their own versions.



Jackson is portrayed by singer Ledisi in the Oscar-nominated film “Selma,” and Ledisi expressed disappointment on Sunday that she wasn't chosen to perform the iconic song during the ceremony. Though the Grammys gave the honor to Beyoncé, Ledisi said was grateful that the song has taken on new life thanks to the film.

In a mini-documentary released Monday, Beyoncé shared rehearsal footage leading up to her Grammys performance and described childhood memories of her mother, Tina, singing Jackson’s version of the song.

“She sang the song with her eyes closed and she was a vessel and it was like God speaking, he was in her body to speak and to heal," she said.

Beyoncé said her performance was in honor of black men, including her father, who have dealt with so much prejudice over the years.

“I felt like this is an opportunity to show the strength and vulnerability in black men,” she said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's Executive Order Stops Mandatory 'Fair Share' Illinois Public Employee Union Fees

Tue, 2015-02-10 14:26
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday declared that Illinois state employees who do not wish to belong to a union can no longer have "fair share" fees deducted from their paychecks.

In doing so, he likely set in motion a legal proceeding that will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and could have a major effect in labor law across the country. If it proceeds as Rauner hopes, Monday's order could be the catalyst to end mandatory union membership for all public employee unions in the U.S.

Rauner's action, taken in an executive order, follows up on a theme he repeated often during his campaign and reiterated last week in his State of the State Address: Compulsory union fees force employees to fund political activities of which they may not approve. Those forced fees are unfair to workers who pay them and have a corrupting effect on government by building union power, he said.

"A major reason why government unions are so dominant in Illinois is the decision to institute 'card check' -- forced unionizing in state government -- which had the effect of bullying and intimidating many state employees into joining the union," Rauner said at a Statehouse press conference. "Right now, over 6,500 employees of the state government are being forced to pay union dues even though they've said they don't want to support them."

Those payments by workers opting out of union membership but working in workplaces operating under contracts negotiated by a union are called "fair share" payments.

"They call that 'fair share.' Let me tell you it's anything but fair," Rauner said, adding that the "fair share" deductions cost the employees who pay them an average of $577 per year.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois to see why Rauner thinks Democrats should be on board with his ideas.

The president of one of those unions, the Illinois chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, has expressed disagreement with another one of Rauner's ideas surrounding public employees. Michael Carrigan said he doesn't believe that public employee pensions should be phased into a 401(k)-type system -- find out why at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: The full text of Gov. Bruce Rauner's State of the State Address

Pullman National Monument: A Reminder Of The Lessons We Should Be Taking From The Past

Tue, 2015-02-10 13:58


Putting a marker on history is more than just saying "this is what happened back then" - it is a reminder of the lessons we should be taking from the past.

That is part of what makes the news of an imminent announcement that Chicago's Pullman neighborhood will become a National Monument so important. Sure, the area is far different from the natural beauty of Yosemite or Yellowstone, but the Antiquities Act has long brought historic sites into the National Park Service's holdings where they can spur contemplation and critical thinking about the American experience. Like the Civil War battlefields into national parks, Pullman offers a glimpse into a unique point in American history, where greatness, conflict and the fight for dignity and self-determination sprouted up, side by side in short order.

Even today, the Pullman story centers on dueling themes of innovation and struggle for a better life.

The vestiges of the "ideal" company town that established to build the iconic Pullman Palace railcars and house its workers before the last turn of the century were long ago swallowed up by Chicago; the brawling city it was designed to stand apart from and provide a stark contrast of order and regimentation. The gorgeous architecture and thoughtful design of what George Pullman considered the world's "most perfect town," planted the seeds of urbanism and transit-oriented development--concepts that are once again driving smart city planning.

But it is the history of social opportunity that looms largest. As a National Monument, the area would stand memorial to the Black experience in America, the birth of the union movement, the locus of innovation in the transportation system that helped make this country an industrial, commercial giant.

Those lofty ideals came to a fiery end when the company's heavy-handed management resulted in the historic, bloody labor riots of 1894.

A good memorial makes it clear that history is not just about the past. This memorial also continues to tell the story of the struggle for human and community dignity that made the Pullman site worth memorializing, which are far from over. Directly east of the Hotel Florence, a building at the center of Pullman's town, the struggle for dignity in the face of industrial degradation of people and the environment is abundantly clear today, as Southeast Siders confront modern day industrialists who are dumping massive mounds of petroleum coke, an oil refining waste, in the midst of their neighborhoods, near their homes, parks and schools. The community is determined that their homes and neighborhoods are not a "sacrifice zone" for dirty industry.

The National Park Service investment in Pullman would be a significant help to the community and a promissory note that the area should not be a sacrifice zone. It would focus Americans on revisiting the past and taking new lessons to enrich our lives today.

The nearby petcoke piles stand in stark contrast; a nasty monument to lessons unlearned, which should be rejected. Let's honor the legacy of Pullman as a monument to human dignity and those who struggle to make it a reality today that should be embraced.

Kudos to the President, the Park Service and members of the Illinois delegation in DC like Senator Durbin, Representative Kelly and Senator Kirk, who have helped to make the monument designation happen. As the Chicago Tribune noted, "This Could Be Big."

"We Support Pullman" sign image by NPCA via Flickr.

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

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