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Stephanie Choporis

Stephanie is the Associate Board Chairman of the Chicago Journalists Association and a freelance journalist in the Windy City. With a background in Journalism and Communication and Media Studies from DePaul University, her work has appeared in various publications, including Concierge Preferred Magazine and the Chicago Tribune. When she is not writing, you can find her sampling new bites around the city, watching reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" and searching for the next story.

University of Mississippi discovers 1,000 dead bodies on campus

Bodies and unmarked graves found during the University of Mississippi’s expansion plan

The University of Mississippi Medical Center recently stumbled upon a chilling find, when 1,000 buried bodies and as many as 2,000 unmarked graves were discovered on campus.

The school began uncovering the bodies approximately a year-and-a-half ago while attempting to build a new parking garage east of its dental school.

The remains, estimated to be 100 years old, are most likely former patients of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, which was once situated on University grounds.

Dean of the medical school, Dr. James Keeton, told the Clarion-Ledger that none of the bodies have names.

Medical Center officials hoped to utilize property west of the University of Mississippi’s dental school for future development. But Keeton said the site may contain additional bodies of Civil War and tuberculosis victims as well as former slaves.

The Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum first opened in 1855 with 150 patients. After the Civil War, it expanded to hold 300 individuals, and the surrounding area became known as Asylum Hill, with houses, a school and church for former slaves.

In 1935, the asylum moved to its present location in Whitfield, Miss. and is now known as the Mississippi State Hospital.

Despite the novelty of such a discovery, this is not the first time for the school. In 1990, about 20 headstones were reportedly discarded just behind University property. And workers uncovered 44 unmarked graves a few years later.

While the University considered reburials for all of the bodies, it will not be able to afford the $3 million total cost to do so.

Keeton said new plans involve building the parking garage immediately next to the dental school.

Bode Miller interview stirs criticism for NBC

Christin Cooper’s questioning about late brother moves Bode Miller to tears

NBC is being criticized for broadcasting an interview with U.S. Alpine skier Bode Miller that brought him to tears.

The full tape-delayed interview aired Sunday during primetime coverage of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

After winning a bronze medal in the men’s super-G competition, Bode Miller was interviewed by NBC’s Christin Cooper. He dedicated the race and medal to his younger brother, Chelone, who died in April of a seizure. Much like Miller, Chelone also wanted to be an Olympian.

In a series of questions, Christin Cooper asked Miller about the value of the medal, mentioning how he wanted to experience the games with Chelone. The final question resonated with him, “When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it looks like you’re talking to somebody,” Cooper said. “What’s going on there?”

At that moment, Miller leaned onto a nearby railing and began to cry, burying his face in his arm. Still upset, he eventually walked away from the camera and kneeled behind a barrier before being consoled by his wife.

The interview angered many viewers, who thought the questions were meant to make Miller emotional. The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir called the scenario “overkill.” Kami Mattioli of the Sporting News said Miller was “repeatedly badgered,” and the Associated Press’ David Bauder said the interview was a “shameful spectacle.”

NBC issued a statement in support of its decision to air the interview. “We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story,” the statement said.

Afterward, Miller took to Twitter to defend Cooper, saying she asked questions typical of any interviewer.

In a Monday appearance on the “Today Show, “ he added, “I have known Christin a long time, and she’s a sweetheart of a person. I know she didn’t mean to push. I don’t think she really anticipated what my reaction was going to be, and I think by the time she realized it, it was too late.”

At 36, Miller is the oldest Alpine medalist in Olympic history. With six medals, he is also the most decorated U.S. Alpine skier of all-time.

Sochi Olympics kicks off with potential privacy issues

Visitors for the Sochi Olympics could face phone and computer hacking

With the Sochi opening ceremony set to air in under two hours, the Russian city is experiencing privacy issues.

CBS News reported Friday that Sochi visitors run the risk of having their smartphones and computers hacked during their Olympic stay.

This claim is based on NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel’s, recent report that a smartphone and new set of laptops connected to a Wi-Fi network in Moscow, approximately 1,000 miles outside of Sochi, were hacked in less than 24 hours.

While the devices were prepared with fake profiles and data, it is unclear whether the network was secure, meaning it required a password to sign in.

Now, Engel’s report is being questioned after Errata Security said he downloaded a file from a suspicious website and allowed it to access the phone’s data. Specifically, Engel downloaded an APK file, which requires permission from users before being added to Android devices.

However, NBC stands by its information, saying in a statement, “The story was designed to show how a non-expert can easily fall victim to a cyber attack when they are deceived into downloading a piece of malicious software that is disguised as a friendly message or alert.”

Lookout Inc., a mobile security company for iOS and Android devices, found that in 2013, individuals had a 63 percent of encountering malicious software in Russia, while only a four percent chance existed in the U.S.

However, Lookout’s principal security researcher Marc Rogers said people will probably not be hacked if using their phones normally. Instead, he described it more accurately as Internet users being lured by robots, including fake news websites and look-alike official Sochi sites.

The Russian government will still be monitoring web traffic during the Olympics. But as a precaution, Rogers recommended only visiting familiar sites and using strong anti-virus software.

Rapper DMX to face Trayvon Martin killer in celebrity boxing match

DMX was chosen as George Zimmerman’s opponent out of 15,000 entrants

On what would have been Trayvon Martin’s 19th birthday, his killer, George Zimmerman, is making headlines again. This time, it involves his upcoming celebrity boxing match against rapper DMX.

Celebrity boxing promoter Damon Feldman told TMZ that DMX was chosen as George Zimmerman’s opponent out of 15,000 applicants.

Zimmerman, 30, previously announced his idea for the challenge and stated he was willing to fight anyone willing to accept the task.

“I am going to beat the living f–k out of him … I am breaking every rule in boxing to make sure I f–k him up right,” the 43-year-old rapper said.

Although paperwork has yet to be signed, Feldman told 94WIP and The Morning Show that Floyd Mayweather Sr. is slated to serve as referee.

The internet-only pay-per-view fight will consist of three rounds, with some of proceeds being allegedly donated to an unnamed animal rescue charity.

In February 2012, Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He was acquitted from the murder trial last year.

Since then, Zimmerman has had other run-ins with the law, including felony aggravated assault, domestic violence and alleged assault on his father-in-law.

The match’s time, date and location details will reportedly be announced at a news conference next Wednesday.

A petition on Change.org, the world’s largest petition platform, is already underway to cancel the fight.

Super Bowl Coke commercial causes dispute

“It’s Beautiful” Coke commercial attempted to present diversity

A Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial, which featured a version of “America the Beautiful” in seven languages, angered some viewers during Sunday’s game.

Along with the multilingual song interpretation, the minute-long “It’s Beautiful” ad presented often controversial subjects, including immigration reform and acceptance of same-sex relationships.

Despite Coke’s attempts to highlight the U.S.’ diversity, radio host Glenn Beck said Monday that the ad promoted segregation rather than a united nation.

“It’s in your face, and if you don’t like it, if you’re offended by it, you’re a racist,” Beck said. “If you do like it, you’re for immigration. You’re for progress. That’s all this is: to divide people.”

Fox News contributor Todd Starnes felt similarly, saying “Couldn’t make out that song they were singing. I only speak English,” in one of several Twitter posts.

Other disgruntled viewers threatened to boycott Coke products as a result of the commercial.

On the flipside, various spectators appreciated the soda company’s interpretation of a U.S. melting pot.

In response to a scene showing two roller-skating fathers with their daughter, GLAAD considered this a “step forward for the advertising industry,” as this was the first Super Bowl ad to include a gay family.

Reflecting on the entire Coke commercial, Paul Whitefield wrote in the Los Angeles Times Monday, “We’re not being overrun by hordes of Spanish speakers. Just like always, we’re growing a new crop of Americans. They are enriching the country. They are working hard, paying taxes. And they will create future Nobel Prize winners and future presidents and future titans of industry. In short, they will make America beautiful.”

Check out the Coke commercial here.

Scarlett Johansson resigns as Oxfam global ambassador

After eight years with Oxfam, Scarlett Johansson steps down due to ties with SodaStream

Scarlett Johansson resigned from her role as global ambassador of Oxfam, an international aid organization, due to a relationship with SodaStream, a Tel Aviv-based soda machine company that allows users to carbonate their own beverages.

Twenty-nine-year-old Johansson had been receiving criticism for her position as spokesperson and involvement in a risqué SodaStream commercial set to air during the Super Bowl, which partly involves her seductively sipping from a straw.

A statement on the Oxfam website deemed Johansson’s promotion of SodaStream as incompatible with the responsibilities of Oxfam global ambassador.

Since the soda company operates in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, home to approximately 350,000 Jewish settlers, Oxfam believes such businesses advance poverty and denial of Palestinian rights, which counteracts Oxfam’s goals.

The organization is also opposed to any trade from Israeli settlements, saying it is “illegal under international law.”

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Johansson stood by her SodaStream work while continuing to be “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”

Johansson began working with Oxfam in 2005 to raise awareness for natural disasters and funds for poverty-stricken individuals. Her inspiration to aid the organization stemmed from its response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Oxfam accepted her resignation Thursday.

2014 State of the Union summation

President Obama discusses immigration, minimum wage and retirement during his State of the Union address

President Obama stood before Congress Tuesday night for his fifth State of the Union address.

Now entering his sixth year in office, he holds a 43 percent approval rating and faces much opposition from the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

While Obama realizes that things are best accomplished when all parties cooperate, he wants 2014 to be a “year of action” and seems determined to independently pursue his agenda, even if Congress refuses to cooperate.

“What I offer … is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” Obama said during the State of the Union address.

One of his proposals involved raising federal workers’ minimum wage to $10.10, despite Congress’ previous lack of action to raise the wage to $9 by the end of 2015. Republicans say they oppose such an increase because it would pose difficulties for employers.

Similarly Obama requested equal pay for women, stating that their 77-cent earning to every man’s dollar is “wrong” and “an embarrassment.”

Other major topics included immigration and retirement savings. Congress was called upon to pass immigration overhaul this year, which would provide citizenship to approximately 11 million immigrants illegally residing in the U.S. Republicans in the House of Representatives are expected to outline the foundation of the plan later this week.

As for retirement, Obama suggested creating a MyRA bond as a new savings account program. If pursued, MyRAs will be offered to employees whose companies do not offer traditional retirement plans.

The president also hopes to expand the earned-income tax credit to increase wages for low-income families through tax refunds and wind down the war in Afghanistan. The goal is to remove most troops and complete operations by the end of the year while still keeping a small unit to train Afghan forces and track al-Qaida.

Despite a positive outlook, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley does not think Republicans will respond any differently to Obama’s repeated proposals, therefore making it difficult to achieve big results in 2014. 

YouTube Channel, Give Back Films, donates $500 tip to Utah hotel cleaner

The Give Back Films video has already received more than 600,000 views

Kyle Oreffice and Brigham Young University student Josh Gibson, the faces behind the Give Back Films YouTube channel, continued their acts of kindness this weekend with a $500 tip for a hotel cleaner in Park City, Utah.

Oreffice and Gibson launched their philanthropic channel in November 2013 to promote service and helping one another. With 10 additional clips that include paying for others’ drive-thru meals and generously tipping hair stylists, the channel has generated more than 250,000 subscribers and 9 million total video views.

In the latest viral video, the duo placed $20 bills beneath bed sheets the employee was scheduled to clean with a note that read “This is a tip! Enjoy!”

When the woman discovered the cash, the strategically positioned cameras and microphones found her tearfully speechless.

After Kyle Oreffice and Josh Gibson explained their deed, the woman attempted to return the tip. But the hotel manager insisted she keep it for such good work to date.

The video, entitled “Tipping a Hotel Cleaner $500,” has already received close to 650,000 views. Give Back Films’ most popular film, which has received 3.3 million views, shows the pair donating $100 to homeless individuals.

Hunter Moore, "Net's most hated man," arrested for email hacking

Hunter Moore and accomplice were charged with 15 counts

He was once coined “the Net’s most hated man” by the BBC. But now, FBI special agents arrested and indicted Hunter Moore, founder and former operator of the revenge-porn site IsAnyoneUp.com, and an accomplice Thursday on 15 counts of email hacking.

Per the indictment, Moore, 27, and Charles “Gary” Evans, 25, hacked into hundreds of email accounts to steal nude photos of users and later post them on the Internet.

FBI stated that Moore apparently paid Evans, with individual payments ranging from $135 to $900, for finding such pictures in the hacked accounts.

The men were officially charged with conspiracy, seven counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer for informational gain and seven counts of aggravated identity theft. The document listed seven victims solely by initials and said their accounts contained nude images of themselves, others, “among other things.”

In a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, Hunter Moore claimed that he did not know how to hack. However, starting in October 2011, the charge listed close to 60 “overt acts” in which Evans discussed with Moore how to hack into emails and the legality of the process.

During its 16-month stint, IsAnyoneUp.com allowed visitors to submit compromising photos of their former partners without permission. Once published, the pictures would appear next to the person’s full name, profession, city of residence and social media profiles for others’ delight and mockery.

If found guilty, Moore and Evans could face up to five years in federal prison for each count of conspiracy and hacking. An aggravated identity theft charge involves a two-year mandatory sentence immediately following any other charge established in the case. 

Look-alike Tulane University friends are also half-sisters

Tulane University’s Emily Nappi and Mikayla Stern-Ellis share same biological father

Two look-alike Tulane University freshmen nearly took a page out of “The Parent Trap” after recently discovering they are half-sisters with the same biological father.

Emily Nappi, 18, and Mikayla Stern-Ellis, 19, met through Facebook while searching for roommates at the same New Orleans, La. residence hall.  While they ultimately settled on different partners, the two kept in touch after learning of their numerous commonalities.

In addition to similar looks, Emily Nappi and Mikayla Stern-Ellis had an anonymous, Colombian sperm donor, hailed from California, participated in theater and even purchased the same fleece jacket during recent shopping excursions.

“We’ve been telling people, ‘Oh, there’s a 25 percent chance we’re sisters,’” Nappi told the Tulane Hullabaloo, the University student newspaper.

And when Stern-Ellis mentioned the unlikely situation to her parents, they could not seem to recall any other Colombian donors from the thousand or so listed at the time.

After exchanging donor numbers via text message, Nappi and Stern-Ellis realized that they in fact had a match.

Both women now share the same Facebook profile picture and are happy that they found each other.

As Stern-Ellis said in the Tulane Hullabaloo, “For me, Tulane just felt right, and this is one of the many things that proves I made the right decision.”