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3 Reasons Why Ohio State Could Win The National Championship

Fri, 2015-01-09 08:21
Everyone in Ohio seems to be invested in the Buckeyes, to the point that the town of Oregon, Ohio is quite literally changing its name to support the Buckeyes in the Jan. 12 championship game in Dallas against the Oregon Ducks. Let's take a look at three reasons why the Buckeyes -- who are a perfect 8-0 all-time versus Oregon -- might well capture their eighth national championship in school history.

Secret Weapon

Coach Urban Meyer labeled his sophomore star, Ezekiel Elliott, "probably the most underrated back in the country." And Cardale Jones has called his teammate the Buckeyes' MVP. Elliott may lack the sheer power of Todd Gurley or the pure speed of Melvin Gordon, but he has quietly amassed a hefty 1,632 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Buckeyes this season (averaging 142 yards per game since November). His 6.9 yards per carry rank 15th nationally. Elliott's impact will be even more significant against Oregon because his coach wants to control the game tempo and keep Marcus Mariota and that lethal Ducks offense off the field as much as possible. Jones will likely be under duress, and a good running game is the best friend to any young quarterback, particularly in a game of this magnitude. If Elliott's 230 yards and 2 touchdowns against Alabama are any indication, Ohio State should be in pretty good shape. Oddly enough, he is only the second running back under Meyer to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Next Man Up

It seems almost unprecedented for a team to lose one Heisman Trophy candidate before the season even starts and another right before the Big Ten championship game. But that's exactly what happened to Meyer's Buckeyes with Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. After Miller injured his shoulder, redshirt freshman Barrett took over for him under center. Barrett, who had been en route to breaking several school and Big Ten records, then suffered a fractured ankle against Michigan. That left Cardale Jones, who had thrown a mere 14 passes as a collegian, to handle Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. He tossed 257 yards and two touchdowns, then followed it up with a strong Sugar Bowl performance against heavily favored Alabama. Jones is a towering 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, with a cannon of an arm that teammates say is as impressive as they've ever seen. He will have to keep pace with Heisman winner Mariota and the Oregon offense, but suddenly -- and perhaps surprisingly -- that doesn't seem like such a crazy endeavor.

The Urban Effect

Few head coaches -- maybe Nick Saban is the only other one -- evoke the fear and respect that Meyer commands. Since coming to Columbus in 2011, he has lost just three games -- and he himself has admitted that he didn't think this success would have been possible considering the slew of marquee injuries. Remember, the Buckeyes were 6-7 the season before the 50-year-old Meyer joined, which had been their first losing season since 1988. Meyer, in classic Meyer form, has catapulted this program from a plodding Big Ten offense with a soft defense into a team that mirrors the SEC West with equal parts speed and power. Just look at his sensational defensive end Joey Bosa. The beastly 6-foot-5 Bosa, just a sophomore, was a unanimous All-American, tying for second in the country among Power 5 defenders in total quarterback pressures, according to ESPN The Magazine.

Now, click here for three reasons Oregon might prevail over Ohio.

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

Tips for New Runners

Fri, 2015-01-09 07:28

A friend recently told me she noticed there seemed to be a fad people were jumping on -- the running fad. At first I didn't like the sound of it because a fad is something that usually passes. But then I realized, with the obesity rate growing not only in adults but children as well, I see this fad as people's way of finding a way to fight this epidemic head on. And this running mama hopes it sticks.

I started running back in 2007, initially as a way to help lose the last 10 stubborn baby weight pounds (my daughter was already a year old by that point). And over time it grew into a passion of mine. I love the health benefits of running, but I also enjoy what it does for me mentally and emotionally. I went from not being able to run a mile without stopping to running marathons and ultra marathons.

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to become a runner, here are some tips to help you set off on the right foot. There is a ton of information out there on how to do it the "right way," and I'd argue that you have to find the way that works best for you!

1. Get the Right Gear for You:


Get fitted for a a pair of shoes best suited for you! One of the things that I asked all my runner friends when I started and something I always get asked by a new runner is: What shoes do you wear? What one runner wears may not work for another. Bypass chain stores like Foot Locker, where it's not likely the salesperson is a runner, and consider checking out a local running store. They are trained on how to analyze your gait and foot type and can determine the best shoe for you. You may have to try out a few pairs before you find "the one" but many of these smaller stores have wonderful return policies that will allow you to exchange them for a different pair if after a few runs you decide it's not the right fit for you.

Sports Bra:

A few years ago I went to a sports bra seminar (they exist!) where we were all fitted for the right sports bra. It turns out if you are smaller chested you can usually get away with wearing a cheaper sports bra from places like Target. But if you are larger chested, you'll want to make sure you get an accurate measurement and a supportive bra (without having to double up with sports bras). Moving Comfort has a great line for larger-chested women.

Tops and shorts:

Look for fabric that wicks away the sweat and something that you are comfortable with. You want to be able to focus on running not worrying about how your clothes fit.

Jogging Strollers:

Look into purchasing a used one on Craigslist, at a garage sale or from a friend. Most people will only use them for a few years. I recently sold two strollers, one I bought new and the other I bought from Craigslist -- both sold for similar prices, which made me realize the better deal is usually to buy used.

2. Choose a training plan:

When I first started, I had no idea there were programs out there to get you started on running. I just jumped on a treadmill and ran. And when I was finally able to run a mile without stopping I asked a runner friend: How in the world do you run 2 miles? Her answer: You just run it. So I did. But had I known about a training program to ease me into it, I probably would have gone that route. Couch25k, Hal Higdon, and Jeff Galloway are just a few that you can turn to for guidance. Runner's World also has guides for new runners (and yes, even if you can't run a mile, I'm calling you a runner!). Find a program that matches your needs and personality. I opted for Hal Higdon's plan once I was able to run 2 miles because I preferred all running over a walk-run approach, but any plan will get you to your destination -- whether it's a 5k, 10k or more.

3. Don't be Afraid to Fuel and Hydrate:


Depending on the distance, I either run with a handheld water bottle or I wear a hydration belt. My husband on the other hand prefers to wear a Camelback. When I first started running, I was afraid to drink water because I didn't want to have to go to the bathroom. I quickly learned running during the summer means you must have access to water to prevent dehydration.


There are many options for fuel. Just as with finding the right shoe, you'll have to experiment with different kinds and flavors to see what works best for you. My suggestion is grab a few different kinds at a running/sports store and choose one that tastes good and doesn't upset your stomach. I don't typically fuel for distances shorter than 6 miles, but again, every runner is different and you have to do what feels right for you.

4. Find your Motivation:

Sometimes we need a little motivation to get out the door. Look into local 5ks, whether they are something like a Color Run, Obstacle Course 5k or a charity run. Knowing you have a deadline may help motivate you to get out the door. Also, reach out to friends who are also interested in running. Set a day where you will meet up for a run because it's more likely one of you will encourage the other to lace up and get out the door.

Another thing you can do is get your family involved! Sign up the whole family for a 5k and push the kids in the stroller or have a date with one of you kids and run the race together -- showing them running can be fun will spark their interest and you may have a future runner on your hands!

5. Run Your Own Race:

I think the biggest mistakes a new runner makes is they try to run too fast, too far, too soon. You aren't in competition with anyone else out there. So if you have a friend who runs a 7-minute mile and you're running a 14-minute mile, that's okay! She is running her race and you are running yours. You want to ease into running to prevent injury. Expect things to be a little achy -- when I first started my knees hurt and my chest felt like elephants were sitting on it. But that's because I hadn't run a mile since middle school. Friends and acquaintances will often ask: When does running get easier? The truth is: It doesn't get easier, you get better. Just take it one step at a time.

Above all, try to have fun and enjoy yourself on this new adventure.

Happy running!

Nicole is a running coach and mother of four who writes about running, family, fitness, and faith at My Fit Family.

Vigil 4,000 Miles Away Has Idea On How To Keep Charlie Hebdo Terrorists From Winning

Thu, 2015-01-08 18:38
While Paris reeled from Wednesday's deadly attack on the office of a satirical newspaper, a crowd of people with links to French and Muslim communities gathered in Chicago -- 4,000 miles away from the carnage -- to condemn the actions of the gunmen and strengthen cross-cultural bonds.

"Facing barbarism, we must remain firm, protecting the values [and] heart of our republic,” said Vincent Floreani, the French Consul General in Chicago, addressing the crowd of more than 150 who had gathered Wednesday night at the Alliance Francaise cultural center to honor the 12 people killed at the office of weekly paper Charlie Habdo.

“The terrorists want us to be divided," Floreani also said. "We should not make any confusion between a small group of extremists and a whole religion, which is a religion of peace.”

Charlie Habdo has a history of publishing controversial cartoons critical of politics, culture and religion and has released several pieces lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. The shooters who stormed the paper's office Wednesday are said to have shouted "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" during their assault.

Chicago's French Consul General Vincent Floreani addressing the attendees of a Wednesday vigil for the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Yusef Al-Jarani, a 21-year-old University of Chicago student, helped mobilize other Muslim-Americans in Chicago for the vigil.

"The perpetrators [of the Charlie Hebdo killings] were purporting to carry out the attacks in the name of our religion,” Al-Jarani told The Huffington Post. "We discovered that the French community was also at work on a vigil. Instead of co-opting the movement, we felt it should be led by the French people -- but we wanted to to have a Muslim presence in show of support."

Attendees at the Chicago vigil signing messages in solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo victims.

Hamid Ghezali, a 53-year-old French-Algerian working at the Alliance Francais, expressed disappointment and frustration that the shooters -- who massacred 10 Charlie Hebdo employees and two police officers -- had reportedly claimed the attack in the name of Islam. Ghezali also noted that one of the slain officers was Muslim.

"The media today makes mistakes. They confuse Muslims with extremists," Ghezali told HuffPost. "They are not from us. They do not represent me.”

Some of the controversial covers published by the French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The Alliance Francaise spread a banner out for attendees to sign and prominently displayed some of Charlie Hebdo's most controversial covers in the meeting space. Al-Jarani and others agreed that despite the offense the images caused, maintaining freedom of the press in France and elsewhere remains crucial in the face of terrorism.

"When it comes to this type of cartoon, it’s not something where a lot of Muslims would come out and say we were happy about it," Al-Jarani explained. "Many, including myself, were deeply offended. But we stand by the freedom of that magazine and other publications to express those viewpoints without fear of harm."

Philippe de Vendegies, a 51-year-old French native who has lived in Chicago for more than two decades, told HuffPost that news of the attack shocked him. He said he wants to see the shooters arrested, but doesn't want to see retaliation against the Muslim community.

"Whatever [the shooters] wanted to accomplish, they did not succeed," de Vendegies said. "That does not move me to do anything to take action against [the Muslim community]. How unnecessary it is to act that way."

Man's Death 70 Years After Getting Shot Ruled A Homicide

Thu, 2015-01-08 17:01
CHICAGO (AP) — Tom Buchanan never really said what happened back in the 1940s when he was shot — but whatever it was, it finally killed him.

The weekend death of the 87-year-old retired steel worker was ruled a homicide, Cook County Medical Examiner's office spokesman Frank Shuftan said Thursday, after an autopsy revealed that the "gunshot ultimately caused the complications to his abdomen that ultimately killed him."

Shuftan said Buchanan's family members didn't have any details about the shooting. "We don't know anything about it," he said.

Buchanan's 82-year-old cousin, Mattie Matthews, said he never served in the military, so he could not have been shot in World War II. She said Buchanan, a quiet man who never married or had children, died without telling her what happened — even though she was probably the closest relative and friend that he had. All she knew about the shooting came from a conversation she overheard among grown-ups when she was a child.

"I was about 10 or 12 years old when I heard my aunt and my mother talking about how he had gotten shot, but I never heard anything else and he (Buchanan) never talked about it to me," she said of the shooting that must have happened not long after Buchanan and his mother moved from Mississippi to Chicago.

Matthews said she recalled that conversation last week when Buchanan started talking about a pain in his gut. She said her cousin was the kind of man who didn't want anybody to make a fuss, and initially wouldn't even consider leaving the independent living facility on the city's South Side to see a doctor.

"But when I went Saturday he was holding his stomach and I told him I was taking him to the hospital because he was getting worse," she said.

At 11:18 a.m. the next day, Buchanan was pronounced dead at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, according to the medical examiner's office.

His death has prompted an investigation by the Chicago Police Department, where spokesman Martin Maloney said detectives were talking to family members to determine, among other things, when the shooting occurred and if it even happened in the city. Maloney added that it was not clear if any records of an investigation still exist.

Meanwhile, Matthews said she is saddened and confused by the death of her cousin who always seemed so healthy.

"Two weeks ago I was talking and I told him I wish I could get around like him," she said. "How could a gunshot wound he got 70 years ago ... have contributed to his death?"

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Larry David Says 'Odds Are Against' A New Season Of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:33
Another season would be pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

People who don't watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" are probably thankful that the show is over and their "Curb" fan friends have to stop recommending it in that annoying way friends do. ("You HAVEN'T seen it?")

On Wednesday, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld" creator Larry David told Howard Stern that he would love to do another season of his fully improvised HBO comedy series, but that it's not likely to happen. David has maintained that he's on board for more seasons. "I'm so attached to the show that I can't bring myself to say that there won't be [another season]," David told Stern. "I would say the odds are against it."

David, who began his career as a comedian, went on to talk about his early standup experiences -- bombing, dealing with audiences, knowing the very strange Andy Kaufman:

David discussed being a writer on "Saturday Night Live," and how he once got so fed up with his sketches being cut that he walked off five minutes before air time yelling at "SNL" executive producer Dick Ebersol. A day later, he showed up to work as if nothing had happened which, he told Stern, inspired a future "Seinfeld" episode:

The future of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is uncertain, but David is busy enough preparing his new Broadway play, "Fish in the Dark." The comedy, starring and written by David, opens March 5.

Resolve to Protect the Great Lakes in 2015

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:10

An aerial view of the Great Lakes. Public domain photo via NASA.

As 2014 drew to a close, the Great Lakes received a wonderful holiday present. With bipartisan support, members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) bill, renewing their commitment to fund a plan to protect the health of the Great Lakes.

This is the second iteration of the GLRI. The first was launched in 2010 and allocated $1.6 billion over four years to projects that protect and restore the Great Lakes, throughout the region. The GLRI is an incredibly collaborative effort between many different federal, regional and local agencies, and it is guided by a plan created by the US EPA Great Lakes Advisory Board.

I was humbled and honored to be appointed, in 2013, to the Great Lakes Advisory Board tasked with crafting this new action plan to put this second round of GLRI funding to best use.

Over the past year, my 17 colleagues and I rolled up our sleeves and set to work, charting a course of action that would build on the successes of the past four years and introduce new ways to improve the work underway across the Great Lakes basin.

As before, the action plan focuses on ways to clean up some of the most vulnerable areas around the Great Lakes basin, restore habitats to protect native species, prevent and control the spread of invasive species, and continues to improve the water quality of the lakes.

The advisory board expanded the scope of the new plan for the next four years to help GLRI-funded projects address:

  • Climate Resiliency: New projects will follow guidelines to ensure lasting impacts in a rapidly changing world.

  • Job Creation: Sustainable job growth will help the communities in the Great Lakes basin that's home to nearly 10 percent of the US population.

  • Human Health: Improving water quality and keeping pollutants out of the lakes not only helps the plants and wildlife who live in and around the lakes, but will also improve the health of the 36 million human residents who make their home in the US side of the basin.

  • Environmental Justice: To ensure that new development, policies, and projects on the lakes benefit people all people fairly, the action plan promotes environmental justice across the basin.

  • Measurable Outcomes: Setting goals based on the latest scientific research and figuring out ways to track the success of funded projects will make sure taxpayer dollars are put to work efficiently.

While there's still plenty of work to be done, I'm so pleased to see both the new action plan and the ongoing conservation work throughout the basin affirmed by the US House of Representatives. Now it's up to our elected officials in the Senate to see it through to the finish line.

It's time for all of us to make a new year's resolution to help our Great Lakes. At Shedd Aquarium, we've begun another exciting year of research focused on native and invasive species, collaborative efforts with our basin-wide partners throughout the Great Lakes Network, restoring habitats and encouraging citizen science through our Great Lakes Action Days, and more. Personally, I'm making a commitment in 2015 to travel around the Great Lakes basin more and enjoy the diversity of life that makes this unique part of the world second to none.

What's your new year's resolution for the Great Lakes? I'd love to hear from you.

Chicago Needs Democracy

Thu, 2015-01-08 15:35
In Chicago, we live in a Tale of Two Cities. While downtown corporations see record profits, low-income neighborhoods of color see school and clinic closings, violence, home foreclosures and unemployment. With municipal elections less than two months away and $10 million in his campaign fund, Mayor Emanuel is struggling to reform his public image and convince voters that he is not the 'Mayor 1%' who closed 50 public schools in black and brown communities, slashed public worker retirement funds, and handed millions more in taxpayer subsidies to downtown banks and corporations. But communities are organizing to elect a new Mayor, and new Aldermen in City Council, who will choose communities over corporations, support an Elected Representative School Board, and use taxpayer money for neighborhood need, not corporate greed.

Chicagoans need an Elected School Board, because the Mayor's appointed Board is selling our schools off to the banks. Starting in the mid-2000s, Bank of America and other big banks sold Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago risky loans and side bets, promising that the complicated Wall Street deals would save money for our schools and city. After banks crashed the economy in 2008 and were bailed out by taxpayers, however, these deals became highly profitable for banks - and highly toxic for Chicago students and residents. In the last few years, as CPS has closed 50 public schools because of a 'budget crisis', banks have taken $100 million annually from the city of Chicago, including $36 million a year from CPS.

In 2013, when the venture capitalists and finance CEOs on Mayor Emanuel's hand-picked Board of Education decided to close 50 schools, community groups across the city marched to the banks, met with bank executives, and delivered thousands of petition signatures to the Board of Education demanding that these toxic deals be renegotiated, and the money used to keep schools open. Throughout 2014, a series of major investigative articles continued to highlight the issue, and a coalition of unions including AFSCME, SEIU Healthcare and the Chicago Teachers Union demanded that Mayor Emanuel file for arbitration under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to seek a refund on money lost to these swap deals.

Mayor Emanuel is unwilling to pressure banks to reverse these deals, however, because he says 'there's a thing called a contract'- even though he seems perfectly content to cut Illinois public worker pension funds that by law may not be 'diminished or impaired'. The school administrators who have the power to speak on behalf of CPS, likewise, have seen no reason to act in the interests of students and communities, because unlike every other school district in the state, our Board of Education is appointed by the Mayor, not elected by the people.

Unsurprisingly, banks want it that way. In 2003, David Vitale left his job as President and CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade to become the Chief Administrative Officer of Chicago Public Schools, where he engineered the toxic swap deals to benefit his banking colleagues. Then, in 2011, Mayor Emanuel appointed Vitale as President of the Board of Education, where he helped close 50 public schools in low-income communities of color, while continuing to pay $36 million a year to the banks.

This isn't the only way that corporate interests are benefiting from our Mayoral-appointed school board. Since Mayor Emanuel appointed venture capitalist Deborah Quazzo to the Board in 2013, education technology companies in which she is invested have received $2.9 million in CPS contracts.

How did we become a Tale of Two Cities, where one Mayor, backed by a mostly passive rubber-stamp City Council, has the power to fill our school board with finance CEOs, close our public schools, hand our taxpayer money over to banks and corporations, cut our retirement income, and leave our neighborhoods in poverty? We need leaders who will put communities before corporations, who will do everything they can to take on the big banks swindling our students.

On February 24, voters have a chance to break the Tale of Two Cities at the ballot box, and Take Back Chicago from the corporate elite, by electing politicians who are determined to build One City for all its residents. After casting their votes for mayor and city council, voters in 37 wards across the city will also face a ballot referendum for an Elected Representative School Board. If we elect leaders with the political will to bring democracy back to our school system, corporate Board members like Vitale and Quazzo might need to find another job - but students throughout the city might finally get the fully-funded public schools they deserve.

Man's Death Ruled A Homicide 70 Years After He Was Shot

Thu, 2015-01-08 15:32
CHICAGO (AP) -- Tom Buchanan never really said what happened back in the 1940s when he was shot - but whatever it was, it finally killed him.

The weekend death of the 87-year-old retired steel worker was ruled a homicide, Cook County Medical Examiner's office spokesman Frank Shuftan said Thursday, after an autopsy revealed that the "gunshot ultimately caused the complications to his abdomen that ultimately killed him."

Shuftan said Buchanan's family members didn't have any details about the shooting. "We don't know anything about it," he said.

Buchanan's 82-year-old cousin, Mattie Matthews, said he never served in the military, so he could not have been shot in World War II. She said Buchanan, a quiet man who never married or had children, died without telling her what happened - even though she was probably the closest relative and friend that he had. All she knew about the shooting came from a conversation she overheard among grown-ups when she was a child.

"I was about 10 or 12 years old when I heard my aunt and my mother talking about how he had gotten shot, but I never heard anything else and he (Buchanan) never talked about it to me," she said of the shooting that must have happened not long after Buchanan and his mother moved from Mississippi to Chicago.

Matthews said she recalled that conversation last week when Buchanan started talking about a pain in his gut. She said her cousin was the kind of man who didn't want anybody to make a fuss, and initially wouldn't even consider leaving the independent living facility on the city's South Side to see a doctor.

"But when I went Saturday he was holding his stomach and I told him I was taking him to the hospital because he was getting worse," she said.

At 11:18 a.m. the next day, Buchanan was pronounced dead at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, according to the medical examiner's office.

His death has prompted an investigation by the Chicago Police Department, where spokesman Martin Maloney said detectives were talking to family members to determine, among other things, when the shooting occurred and if it even happened in the city. Maloney added that it was not clear if any records of an investigation still exist.

Meanwhile, Matthews said she is saddened and confused by the death of her cousin who always seemed so healthy.

"Two weeks ago I was talking and I told him I wish I could get around like him," she said. "How could a gunshot wound he got 70 years ago ... have contributed to his death?"

Here's What The Coachella Lineup Would Look Like If We Were Being Honest

Thu, 2015-01-08 14:54
Really, why do we go to these?

Elite Daily posted this honest Coachella lineup poster on Instagram, and it basically describes every music festival you've ever been to -- naked people who should be clothed, random acts of vomit, trust fund hippies. It raises an important question: Why do we do this to ourselves every year?

A photo posted by elitedaily (@elitedaily) on Jan 1, 2015 at 2:00pm PST

Turning Our Backs

Thu, 2015-01-08 14:13
Oh, the moral force of a snub.

Several hundred cops turn their backs on New York's mayor as he eulogizes one of their own, killed in the line of duty, and the media have another us-vs.-them story to report. Bill de Blasio's in trouble, accused of playing politics with the lives of heroes. And, of course, the story goes no deeper than the dramatic accusation.

As the sign of a lone protester at the officer's funeral proclaimed: "God bless the NYPD: Dump de Blasio."

There's nothing like a good, righteous condemnation to stop a national discussion. Criticizing police tactics means contributing to an anti-police atmosphere. End of debate.

Personally, I view the snub, by some New York police, as de Blasio's red badge of courage more than his moral condemnation. He stood for something outside the zone of official righteousness. He met with protesters. He ended stop-and-frisk, the tactic of warrantless street searches that primarily targeted blacks and Hispanics. He told his biracial son to "take special care in any encounter he has with police officers," in other words, refused to sugarcoat a pragmatic truth.

And he has eulogized about attaining peace other than through brute force:

"As we start a new year, a year we're entering with hearts that are doubly heavy, let us rededicate ourselves to those great New York traditions of mutual understanding and living in harmony. Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us, and let us work together to attain peace."

Maybe such words and actions are controversial, but those who regard them so won't make them go away with schlock righteousness, e.g., the statement by NYPD Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch that "blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall."

I also find it interesting that officers not turning their backs on the mayor seemed to be less newsworthy than those who did. But the fact is, the collective snub was by no means universal among New York police: "The crowd stretched so far it was impossible to ascertain just how many police officers turned their backs in protest as New York City mayor Bill de Blasio stood inside the Aievoli Funeral Home in Bensonhurst to give detective Wenjian Liu's eulogy," the Guardian reported. "Groups turned sporadically but the majority appeared to remain facing the screens as de Blasio began his oration."

Under the circumstances, not turning one's back may have been just as much of a moral statement as turning it, complicating the story beyond a simple conflict between the mayor and the police. De Blasio brings a particular perspective to policing and has not dismissed the protesters' point of view as irrelevant. Some police officers no doubt embrace this perspective as well, or at least refuse to see the rules they operate under as something completely outside the communities they serve and recognize that asserting authority requires more than sheer force of will.

It's interesting that another recent police action meant to convey displeasure with the mayor was a semi-work stoppage. The Washington Post reports: "For the past two weeks, the NYPD has drastically scaled back law enforcement. Criminal summonses and traffic tickets are down more than 90 percent from this time last year. In many precincts, the weekly tally of criminal infractions was near zero."

Last month, during a mayoral press conference about the shooting of the two officers, a memo was distributed among attending police that read: "Absolutely no enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual must be placed under arrest."

No arrests that are not "absolutely necessary"? The New York police, in letting up on arrests for petty violations of every sort -- vagrancy, public drinking, vandalism and the like (maybe even the sale of loose, untaxed cigarettes) -- are challenging "the fundamental tenets of broken-windows policing," Matt Ford wrote last week in The Atlantic. Ironically, anger about this sort of policing is central to the nationwide protests.

"The theory's critics dispute its effectiveness and contend that broken-windows policing simply criminalizes the young, the poor, and the homeless," Ford writes, adding: "If the NYPD can safely cut arrests by two-thirds, why haven't they done it before? . . .

"Maybe the NYPD's new 'absolutely necessary' standard for arrests would have produced a less tragic outcome for [Eric] Garner then. Maybe it will for future Eric Garners too."

The urgent debate about how the police operate in this country has to be engaged in all its complexity. Those who are not part of the debate -- the protesters -- must be allowed in, and their grievances and suffering addressed. And those who quietly feed the divide between police and community -- the Department of Defense, for instance, which, in unloading its old tanks and other military hardware on local police departments, has intensified their militarization -- must be held accountable.

We live in a broken, violent world. Turning our backs on it won't change anything.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


Michael Madigan shifts on comptroller succession

Thu, 2015-01-08 14:12
After weeks of discussion about what to do with the now-vacant Illinois comptroller's seat, House Speaker Michael Madigan has now said he supports the idea of a special election. This opinion comes after he previously stated he would support a four-year appointment by Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner.

From Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek:

The Speaker for weeks has been saying he supported a consensus move at the executive level by Quinn and incoming Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner to deal with the vacancy. That was his position as recently as Monday when Rauner unveiled his choice for comptroller - Lincolnshire business executive and former state representative candidate Leslie Munger.

Rauner repeatedly has voiced opposition to a special election and support for a vote by Illinoisans on a move to revise the state constitution to merge the statewide offices of comptroller and treasurer. Many Democrats, including Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, have said four years is too long to go without voters choosing a comptroller and have called for a special election in November of 2016 to coincide with the national presidential election.

From a purely political perspective, history shows Democrats' chances of winning back Republican Topinka's comptroller office increases in a presidential election year, when voter turnout will be higher and more Democrats can be expected to cast ballots.

Read more of Doubek's thoughts on Madigan's shift at Reboot Illinois.

One way or another, Illinois will end up with a new comptroller in 2015. Elliot Richardson of the Small Business Advocacy Council of Illinois says something else should also happen in 2015: the end of EDGE tax breaks for larger business, when small businesses don't receive the same benefits. Find out why he is so frustrated with the practice and why he thinks their effectiveness should be debated in 2015 at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis reflects on French Charlie Hebdo tragedy

Severely Obese Beagle Named 'Kale Chips' Is A Reminder To Take Your Dog For A Walk

Thu, 2015-01-08 14:04
There is a lot -- and we mean a lot -- to love about Kale Chips.

The startlingly obese beagle's owner surrendered him on Tuesday to the Chicago animal rescue group One Tail At A Time. The portly pup shocked the rescue staff at his weigh-in, tipping the scale at 85 pounds. He was promptly given a new, diet-minded name.

(Story continues below.)

Kale Chips the beagle resting at the One Tail At A Time animal rescue in Chicago.

“Our jaws dropped when we saw that number. He’s the most overweight dog we’ve ever seen," Heather Owen, co-founder of One Tail, told The Huffington Post. “He literally had to be wheeled out in a wagon, he was so heavy."

Though healthy weights tends to vary by animal size, an adult male beagle should be around 22 - 25 pounds, putting Kale Chips on the extreme end of the spectrum, West said. While the dog, estimated to be 7 or 8 years old, will be tested to see if medical issues like hypothyroidism are contributing to the weight, West said lifestyle is the most likely cause.

"It’s our assumption that the owner wasn’t able to walk him or care for him," West told HuffPost. "[Kale Chips'] nails were really long and the owner certainly overfed him."

"One of the things we see a lot is that dogs who are obese tend to be the ones who get treats and snacks and people food in addition to their regular meals," Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the animal hospital run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told The Huffington Post. "People don't realize those are adding up. A dog biscuit sounds like it would be healthy, but a dog biscuit is actually a lot of calories. It's like when we eat potato chips out of the bag and don't realize how much we've consumed."

Murray said a good tip for healthy eating habits is to measure out how much you're going to feed your dog in both food and treats during the day. "Not only the number of treats and snacks, but also what they are," Murray said. "You can give your dog stuff your dog will be excited about, like vegetables." He added that owners should also monitor their dog's weight to see if the animal is putting on pounds, even if the dog eats a normal serving of food.

As far as exercise, Murray said owners should approach a pet's exercise program the same way they would a human's: If they've been sedentary, don't take them on a 2-mile jog the first day.

Kale Chips the beagle being towed in a wagon at the One Tail At A Time animal rescue in Chicago.

"Beagles are one of a very few breeds that will literally eat themselves to death," according to a blog by the National Beagle Club, which is part of the American Kennel Club. "Most dogs will self-regulate and only eat the amount of food they need to maintain the level of exercise they are getting. However, beagles have a tendency to eat all the food they can get."

West said dogs that come to their rescue are put on a slow weight-loss plan and do limited activity since their joints are overloaded by the excess weight.

Kale Chips, who will be placed in a foster home while he slims down, was originally adopted from Chicago Animal Care and Control in 2009. West said the owner who recently surrendered the dog is elderly.

“When we posted [the dog's] photo on Facebook, we got a lot of negative reactions," West said. "But we have to remember this was an elderly person, and they probably needed help. We want to find ways to help people care for their animals instead of admonishing them for when things don't work out."

"People often feed their animals to show love," West said, noting the dog's name originally started with a "K," but that the rescue dubbed him "Kale Chips" because "that's pretty much what his future looks like."

"I’m sure he would have liked to be just 'Chips,'" West said.

In the meantime, One Tail is requesting donations to offset the costs of Kale Chips' significant veterinary care. Individuals can also apply to foster the dog.

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NFL-Appointed Investigator Finds No Evidence NFL Lied About Ray Rice Video

Thu, 2015-01-08 13:49
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL failed to investigate the Ray Rice case properly, former FBI director Robert S. Mueller said in a report that also said he found no evidence the league received a video of the Ravens running back knocking out his fiance unconscious on a casino elevator.

"The NFL should have done more with the information it had and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the Feb. 15 incident,". Mueller III said in a statement after releasing his 96-page report. Mueller said he can find no evidence the league received the video showing Rice striking his fiancee before it was published online in September. A law enforcement official showed The Associated Press videos of the incident and said he mailed a DVD to NFL headquarters in April.

The report said a review of phone records and emails of NFL employees showed no evidence that anyone in the league had seen the video before Commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games.

The private investigation without subpoena power did not include any contact with the law enforcement official who showed the AP the videos. The officer played the AP a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number dated April 9, in which a woman verifies receipt of the DVD and says: "You're right, it's terrible."

The official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to share the evidence, says he took steps to avoid being found or identified by the NFL.

"We have reviewed the report and stand by our original reporting," said Kathleen Carroll, the AP's executive editor.

"The Mueller team did ask us for source material and other newsgathering information, but we declined. Everything that we report and confirm goes into our stories. We do not offer up reporters' notes and sources."

Mueller found the NFL's deference to the law enforcement process involving Rice "led to deficiencies in the league's collection and analysis of information during its investigation." He added such an approach "can foster an environment in which it is less important to understand precisely what a player did than to understand how and when the criminal justice system addresses the event."

Mueller's report details some of the efforts the NFL made in obtaining the video, but said the league should have taken additional steps to find out what happened inside the elevator.

"League investigators did not contact any of the police officers who investigated the incident, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, or the Revel to attempt to obtain or view the in-elevator video or to obtain other information," the report said. "No one from the league asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April."

The report also said the league didn't follow up on initial conversations with the Ravens to determine whether the team had more information.

The official showed the AP multiple videos from the casino the night Rice was arrested. Those videos included security cameras from inside and outside the elevator and two cellphone videos that included some audio.

The league said it considered the video published by TMZ in September to be new evidence meriting an indefinite suspension. Its emergence drew renewed backlash to the league from women's organizations, members of Congress and players — all calling for more detail on how the NFL handled the case.

Giants owner John Mara and Steelers President Art Rooney, the men appointed by Goodell as liaison's to the investigation, said Mueller made six recommendations that the owners will review. Rooney and Mara discussed the report's recommendations with Goodell on Thursday.

Rooney and Mara agreed that the league's policy on domestic violence was insufficient.

"We were slow to react, and in the case of Ray Rice, the original punishment was insufficient," their statement said. "In addition, the steps taken by the NFL to investigate this matter were inadequate. Since then, a new policy concerning domestic violence and other rules for conduct violations have been put into place."


AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi and AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this story.


AP NFL website: and

28 Striking Wedding Photos You Don't Want To Miss

Thu, 2015-01-08 10:44
After we published our picks for the 25 Must-See Wedding Photos From 2014, we received an overwhelming number of emails from brides, grooms and photographers alike telling us about all the incredible shots we missed.

We had so many great submissions, in fact, that we decided to do a follow-up post. Below are 28 of the best photos we received.

Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Weddings on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Sign up for our newsletter here.

The Creepy 'Black Mirror' Universe Could Be Closer Than You Realize

Thu, 2015-01-08 10:39
Last month, Netflix released the British series "Black Mirror" through its streaming service. People on the Internet freaked.

The science-fiction show -- whose title refers to the screens of powered-down gadgets -- offers bleak visions of a time when familiar technologies have advanced almost past recognition. Each episode is fascinating in a fiery-car-crash kind of way, as it portrays its own darkly emotional version of our future. The series has also drawn repeated comparisons to the '60s-era sci-fi program "The Twilight Zone," with its ability to thread the same eerie tone and themes through different fictional settings.

But while "Black Mirror" is critical of unchecked technological advancement, creator Charlie Brooker isn't some kind of Luddite. "I coo over gadgets," Brooker wrote for The Guardian. He simply wonders whether they're good for us.

Now in its third season, the series has shown us myriad advanced technologies that seem, frankly, pretty horrifying. Some of those, however, are actually similar to developing technologies out there today. And while we're probably not headed for a dystopian future where painful memories might be played before our eyes on demand, some of the tech exists. Here's a look. WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

Screens that track eye movement and won't play until you're looking at them.

In the episode "Fifteen Million Merits," ever-present TV screens can tell when you close your eyes through an advertisement, forcing the ad to pause and the screen to omit a piercing noise. We already endure something similarly irritating on Spotify -- turn the volume too low during an ad on the free version, and it pauses. But how far are we from eyeball tracking?

In 2013, Google was awarded a patent for a "pay-per-gaze" ad sales model. While Google Glass wasn't specifically named, the patent allows a head-mounted device to track the number of times a user actually looks at an ad. A company called GazeHawk developed a system, later purchased by Facebook, that uses the built-in camera on a device to track user eye movement. Tobii, yet another group, created an eye-tracking device for gamers. The day our computers scream at us until we watch their ads, however, is the day we go live in the woods.

Eyeball cameras that record video of your everyday life for instant "redos."

In the episode "The Entire History Of You," pretty much everyone has a "grain" implanted behind an ear. Controlled by a little silver remote, the grain records video 24/7, able to show "redos" -- or replays of past events as seen by the person experiencing them -- right before the user's eyes.

Wearables like Google Glass are the most obviously similar technology out there today, but a number of others are testing similar gadgets. One such company is Innovega, whose iOptik device consists of contact lenses paired with eyeglass frames capable of projecting media into the wearer's field of vision. Some, including Google, are going a step further, working on smart contact lenses with cameras that would replace bulky headgear.

But according to Innovega CEO Steve Willey, "redos" aren't as easy as sticking a camera on a lens. "The FDA wouldn't like it," Willey told The Huffington Post, suggesting that getting the agency's seal of approval would be difficult due to safety factors -- such as how much heat the camera gives off so close to the eye. Storage would be another hurdle, although Willey thought it conceivable to collect a few days' worth of video before running out of space.

Digital replications of a deceased loved one.

In one of the series' most heartbreaking episodes, a grieving woman uses a service that creates digital clones of the deceased to speak with her dead partner. First they communicate via text, then over the phone, and finally a life-sized clone arrives on her doorstep.

As far-fetched as this form of artificial intelligence might sound, researchers are working on it. The app LivesOn was created to tweet for users after they're dead. Intellitar, now defunct, offered to create digital replicas of customers that were, apparently, super creepy. LifeNaut, a project of the Terasem Movement Foundation, created a robotic bust of transgender CEO Martine Rothblatt's wife Bina, called BINA48, memorably described in New York Magazine's profile of the businesswoman.

While the concept of a life-sized clone is "pretty far-fetched," Terasem managing director Bruce Duncan told HuffPost, a text or audio conversation may not be. "I don't think it's far-fetched to think that in 10 to 15 years, you could have a conversation with a device with a personality," Duncan said.

A head-mounted device that deletes memories.

At the end of "White Bear," we learn that everyone had been pulling a Men In Black on the protagonist, wiping her memories of the past day over and over.

Rest assured (or unassured?) with the knowledge that researchers are indeed experimenting with memory. A lengthy 2012 feature in Wired explained how researchers believed certain memories, particularly painful ones linked to PTSD, may be erased with a drug. But it only worked on longterm memories -- not memories of something that just happened hours ago. And memory-zapping headgear is, for now, pure science fiction. However, memory manipulation -- once mostly ignored -- is gaining traction as a scientific pursuit, so we can't say what the future will bring.

Devices that broadcast first-person-perspective video to others' screens

The "Black Mirror" 2014 Christmas special had Jon Hamm playing the wingman of the future. Using a device called "Z-Eye," which makes video filmed in real time from the user's eyes viewable on others' at-home computer screens, Hamm's character is able to coach friends at bars to pick up girls.

Willey explained to HuffPost how capturing video from the user's perspective is possible with existing technology. However, receiving information back -- Hamm's real-time instructions on how to act and what to say -- would be more challenging. And again, the whole camera-in-your-eye thing might take a while to become a widely used reality, if it ever does at all.

Computers that are controlled via hand gestures instead of trackpads.

Throughout the series thus far, we've seen computers with intuitive user interfaces way beyond any iPad. These are not only awesome, but represent Black Mirror's most probable tech predictions for at least the near future.

While a laptop in "Be Right Back" allowed file uploads from a phone with the flick of a finger, our devices already use bluetooth to communicate wirelessly with each other. The same episode shows a large, sloping touchscreen that serves as a workstation for a professional illustrator -- also not hard to imagine coming to life, Minority-Report-style.

The universe of "Fifteen Million Merits" is filled with screens controlled via hand gestures. That's another reality techies are working toward -- we just have to work out some of the kinks. Leap Motion has been making gesture controllers that plug into USB ports for a couple years now, although some say it's a bit tiring to use. Microsoft has been trying to figure out how to work movement-tracking technology into its keyboards, and there are a few different gesture controllers vying for a place on your hand or arm.

Illinois budget could be heading down a road to trouble

Thu, 2015-01-08 08:41
Ever since he won the Nov. 4 election, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has been sounding warnings about the budget danger facing Illinois.

In December, he said the current state budget is "booby trapped" -- it relies so heavily on accounting tricks and borrowing that it all but ensures major trouble next year. Rauner said Gov. Pat Quinn and the Democrats in the General Assembly used accounting tricks to move and hide $1.4 billion in spending in the fiscal 2015 budget. This included counting as "revenue" $650 million that was borrowed from special state funds and will have to be repaid in next year's budget...

Rauner, who takes office on Jan. 12, supported allowing the tax rate to fall as scheduled. He also has said he wants to reduce the personal tax rate from its current 3.75 percent to 3 percent by the end of his first term. He and his supporters believe lower tax rates, a restructuring of the state sales tax system and business-friendly reforms in Illinois law revive the state economy and restore its financial health.

If those things don't happen, Illinois is heading down a troublesome road. Check out exactly how troubled with a map at Reboot Illinois.

Also happening when Rauner takes office next week--many of Quinn's staffers will be out of a job soon after the governor is. Quinn's Chief of staff Ryan Croke told employees the governor-elect would not be keeping most of them on past Jan. 19. See the letter from Croke, obtained by the Illinois Observer, at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois 2014 political recap

Here's How Illinois Demographics Have Changed Over 50 years

Thu, 2015-01-08 07:54
Much of the growth and demographic shifts in the United States over the last five and a half decades have been echoed on a smaller scale in Illinois. But there is one important exception: Illinois' population is growing at a slower rate than the country as a whole.

During the 1960 Census, the U.S. population was counted at 179 million people, while 10 million, or nearly 6 percent, of those people called Illinois home. According to 2013 estimates, Illinois is home to 12.9 million people, or only about 4 percent of the total U.S. population of 315 million.

But Illinois is similar to the rest of the country in that it has seen a higher percentage of women than men living here since 1960, according to U.S. Census Bureau information. The state has also seen an uptick in the median age of its population as large generations such as the Baby Boomers age, similarly to the whole country, from about 30 years old in 1980 to almost 37 in 2010.

Illinois has also seen an increase in minority populations since 1970, when a huge majority of the state's residents called themselves white. The number of people who are black, Hispanic or Asian has increased to the point where nearly 35 percent of all Illinoisans call themselves by one of these three designations. Race information is not available before 1970 because the Census only kept track of "white" and "non-white" identities in questionnaires from 1960 and earlier.

Check out the infographic below to see statistics about population, race, gender and age broken down more specifically. Because different Census questionnaires ask different questions, not all information is available for every year.

The Census tracks all kinds of information. Check out how educational attainment and income have changed in Illinois and how the shape of Illinois families has evolved in that same period.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date on all things Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: Proposed Illinois eavesdropping law corrects one problem, but invites many others


An Avocado A Day Keeps Bad Cholesterol Away

Thu, 2015-01-08 07:19
Your love for avocados is oh-so right, according to a new study that finds that eating an avocado a day can improve bad cholesterol levels -- at least in overweight and obese people.

Avocados have gotten a bad rap in the past because they're high in calories and fat. But it's their richness in monounsaturated fat that researchers say gives avocado its ability to lower bad cholesterol.

Researchers asked 45 overweight or obese participants to eat an average American diet (51 percent of calories from carbs, 34 percent from fat and 16 percent from protein) for two weeks to establish a common baseline for testing their cholesterol and other measurements. Then they assigned the participants to complete a series of three diets in a randomized order: a low fat diet (24 percent of calories from fat) without avocado, a moderate fat diet (34 percent of calories from fat) without avocado and a moderate fat diet with a daily serving of a whole avocado. Each diet lasted for five weeks, with two-week breaks in between to control for any carryover effects. The participants were also provided with food for each phase of the study, making the meals uniform.

The researchers found that all regimens helped participants lower their levels of two types of cholesterol associated with cardiovascular disease risk: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and non-high density lipoprotein (non-HDL).

It's important to note that these diets often work simply because researchers have a high level of control over participants' food choices. Nutritionist and lead author Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D. of Penn State University noted that readers shouldn't simply start adding an avocado to their diets, especially if it's a typical American one that takes a significant number of empty calories from grain-based desserts like cookies and cakes. That's a recipe for weight gain, according to Kris-Etherton, because an avocado has about 200 calories. If you want to incorporate avocados into your diet, try them as a substitute for junk food.

Because of how expensive and rare avocados can be in different parts of the country during certain times of the year, Kris-Etherton also emphasized that there are many other sources of unsaturated fat in addition to avocados, like nuts, seeds and other oils. Still, her research showed that the avocado diet proved to be a better diet for cholesterol than even the moderate fat diet, which also supplied dieters with monounsaturated fat in the form of sunflower and canola oil. Kris-Etherton is intrigued about what sets avocados apart from other sources of good fat.

"We don't know what it is. It could be the fiber, but it could be some other bioactive components in the avocado that are also in other plant foods or fruits and vegetables," she said. "Or they could be unique to avocado."

In addition to good fat, avocados are also packed with potassium (it has almost twice as much potassium as a banana) and have among the highest levels of proteins for a fruit. The superfood even has the ability to lessen the inflammatory properties of other foods that are eaten alongside it; a 2012 UCLA pilot study found that eating a hamburger with half of an avocado significantly cut down on the production of an inflammatory compound normally associated with the consumption of red meat.

For tips on how to incorporate more avocado into your life, check out HuffPost Taste's Avocado Recipes That Go Way Beyond Guacamole.

The study was funded with a grant from the Hass Avocado Board (HAB), an industry group that promotes research about the health benefits of eating avocados. Kris-Etherton is also a member of the Avocado Nutrition Science Advisors (ANSA), a group of nutrition researchers focused on cardiovascular health, weight management and type 2 diabetes. ANSA scientists are nutrition advisors and spokespeople for HAB.

Is 'Lumbersexuality' Bringing Masculinity Back?

Thu, 2015-01-08 06:00
The rise of the metrosexual male in the early 2000s embraced a highly-tailored and sculpted look among men. But a more rustic presentation is taking over as a trend pioneered by the burly, flannel-wearing, bearded man continues to gain popularity: lumbersexuality.

On Tuesday, railroad worker Jason Lance and HuffPost Live video editor Connor Magill discussed the marriage of a hipster and lumberjack with HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd.

"To me, this is not a fad, to me it's masculinity is coming back," Lance said as he described how beards were once a symbol of dignity.

Marcie Bianco, an editorial fellow at news site Mic, agreed. "Shakespeare used to write in his plays, if boys had their whiskers coming in that meant they were becoming men and and they could no longer play women on the stage," Bianco said.

Lance said the late '90s encouraged a more refined and sculpted look for men, thanks in part to boy bands, and when "all of a sudden the fad turned into clean-shave six-pack, you know, the working man just kind of went out the door."

"I just think it's cycling itself back around," Lance said, later adding, "The masculinity has been there the whole time. It's just the fad of the clean-cut man and the so-called 'Wolf of Wall Street' [that's] dying, and America is actually coming back to the working class."

Watch the full conversation with men embracing their "lumbersexuality" here.

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Wintry Weather Around U.S. Brings Fatalities, School Closings

Thu, 2015-01-08 01:26

Dangerously cold air has sent temperatures plummeting into the single digits around the U.S., with wind chills driving them even lower. Throw in the snow some areas are getting and you've got a bone chilling mix that may also be super messy.

The result?

School delays and cancellations, a fatal car pileup and worries about the homeless.

Here's a look at what's happening:



An 18-vehicle pileup that happened in whiteout conditions on a western Pennsylvania interstate has left two people dead and nearly two dozen injured.

Nine trucks, several of them tractor-trailers, and nine cars were involved in the crash Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 80 in Clarion Township, state police said. At least one of the trucks was carrying hazardous material, but no leaks were found.

None of the injuries was thought to be life-threatening, but three of the approximately 20 people taken to the hospital, appeared to have serious injuries. The others were treated for everything from bumps to broken bones.



School districts from the South to the Northeast and Midwest are delaying the start of classes or canceling school altogether.

Wind-chill readings below zero were forecast in such places as Alabama and Asheville, North Carolina, along with a chunk of the Midwest and the Plains. Some areas also are seeing anywhere from a few inches to a foot of snow.

In northwest Georgia, schools in Catoosa County will have a two-hour delayed start on Thursday because of temperatures expected to top out at 27 degrees and dip as low as minus 2 degrees with wind chills. School officials have urged students to wait for buses inside or in warm cars with parents, and have said bus drivers would make individual stops at students' homes and blow their horns if necessary.

Among the many cities modifying school schedules is Detroit, where it was 3 degrees early Thursday. Students got the day off Thursday at Detroit Public Schools, the state's largest district, and at many other districts around Michigan.

In New York, most of the school delays Thursday morning are in the state's eastern half, from the Syracuse area to the Adirondacks, Albany area and Hudson Valley. Pre-dawn low temperatures ranged from minus-23 in Saranac Lake to 6 below in Albany. Forecasters say winds gusting to as high as 35 mph Thursday afternoon will make it feel like 45 below in parts of northern New York. The bone-chilling cold is being accompanied by lake-effect snow in parts of western and northern New York.



Another Alberta clipper barreling down from Canada is bringing more bad winter weather to the Dakotas.

The National Weather Service has posted a variety of blizzard and winter weather advisories, watches and warnings for the Dakotas through Thursday. Not a lot of snow is expected, but winds gusting to 50 mph will blow around the snow that's on the ground.

In Minnesota, forecasters expect blizzard conditions to develop in a portion of the River Valley. Weather officials say wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph combined with fresh snow will significantly reduce visibility, especially in open, rural areas. A blizzard warning was posted in an area from Granite Falls southeast to Mankato and Albert Lea.



Many cities experiencing cold weather have opened warming stations for residents lacking heat. But extra care is being taken to protect the homeless.

In New Jersey, some officials have empowered law enforcement to move homeless people off the streets and into shelters.

Blankets were being given out at some of the 15 small tent cities around Huntsville, Alabama. Workers from a nonprofit organization there encouraged residents of the encampments to come inside. Some people planned to stay at a church that was opening as a shelter.

"We've got snow flurries as the temperatures continue to drop so they're coming in," said Clete Wetli, executive director of First Stop Inc., which provides transportation, mental health counseling and other services to the homeless. "The last thing we want is for someone to get hypothermia or die of frostbite."

Officials in Ohio and Georgia warned residents never to use their kitchen ovens or stoves to heat their homes. It could prove deadly.



Temperatures were expected to drop to zero or below in southern New England and to 7 above in New York City, with wind chills getting into the minus-20s in some places. But little or no snow is forecast for most of the Northeast.

Around this time last year, parts of the region were digging out from 2 feet of snow accompanied by brutal polar air.

In fact, this season's snowfall totals are way down from last year, one of the snowiest seasons on record.

Last year, Philadelphia, New York and Boston all got around 5 feet of snow from December through February, or about 1½ to 2½ feet more than normal. This year, they've seen only a few inches of snow since Dec. 1.

But then there's western New York. The Buffalo area got slammed with more than 7 feet of snow in November and saw another foot on Tuesday. Thursday night and Friday could bring another 5 inches to 10 inches, weather forecasters say.



Phoenix posted a record high temperature of 80 degrees on Wednesday. That broke the old record of 79 set in 1948.

Over in Tempe, 74-year-old Bill Justice was wearing shorts while hanging out in his yard, just days after the National Weather Service announced that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded in Arizona.

"We can enjoy all kinds of things in the winter and the same thing in the summer," Justice said, adding that if he lived in Colorado or another cold climate, his swimming pool would be frozen by now.

Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski and Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis; Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles; and Mike Hill in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.