Volunteers write holiday letters to LGBTQ inmates

By Aqilah Allaudeen
Medill Reports

The cards expressed caring, the joy of life and the “the possibility of miracles.”

Some 40 volunteers gathered at the Chicago Freedom School in downtown Chicago Sunday to write letters to incarcerated LGBTQ members across the nation. The “holiday card party” was organized by Black and Pink, a prison abolitionist organization supporting LGBTQ prisoners. This is the seventh Black and Pink card party organized by the Chicago chapter.

The holiday card party in Chicago, part of a larger national movement across the United States, involved autonomous Black and Pink chapters working to send letters to every incarcerated LGBTQ person who is in the Black and Pink network. The Chicago chapter aimed to send out 685 cards.

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Senior housing facilities in Chicago: Creating communities for LGBT elders

By Colleen Zewe
Medill Reports

When searching for a senior housing facility, most people ask the standard questions: What are the meals like?  What are the costs?

But for LGBT people, the process becomes more complicated because they have to consider how LGBT-friendly the home is. Luckily, new diversity trainings for senior homes can help staff treat LGBT residents with respect and dignity.

Older LGBT people often face discrimination, especially in senior housing. LGBT senior Marsha Wetzel said she faced harassment and violence in her Niles nursing home and is now seeking legal redress. And in 2014, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging Found that 46 percent of same-sex couples confronted adverse and differential treatment – ranging from gossip to violence- in their senior housing facilities.
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What can we do to slow climate change?

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

Columbia University geochemist Wallace Broecker, one of the founding fathers of climate science, laid it on the line. The two ways we know of to bring down civilization are nuclear bombs or carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, the driving force of climate change, he said this fall during an interview at the Comer Conference on abrupt climate change. “It’s got the seeds of really terrible chaos on the planet and we’ve got to start to respect that.”

Within days of the conference, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cautioned that even raising the global temperatures by 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) could have disastrous effects on sea level rise, extreme temperatures, rainfall and drought. And we’ve already raised temperatures 1 degree globally.

What needs to change to mitigate the accelerating threat? Scientists sharing their latest research at the 2018 conference say we need to move swiftly toward a sustainable energy system and  trap the carbon dioxide emissions from continued near-term needs for fossil fuels. Meeting the challenge offers wide-ranging opportunities for innovation and economic growth, said Penn State climatologist Richard Alley at the conference. Continue reading

U.S. green energy policy could reap results – Germany’s policy shows the promise

By Jillian Melero
Medill Reports

Tapping into wind and solar and other green energy technologies, the U.S. can produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050, compared to 17 percent in 2017.

That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by the Department of Energy in 2012. And the transition is a necessary step to avoid increasing global warming beyond the 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of global temperature rise that would be a tipping point for more extreme climate change. Approximatley 1 degree C of global warming has occurred already with industrialization. Continue reading

After facing violence in her senior living home, LGBT woman goes to court

By Colleen Zewe
Medill Reports

After grieving the loss of her partner of 30 years, Marsha Wetzel, 70, moved into Glen St. Andrew Living Community, a senior housing facility in Niles in November 2014.

Wetzel signed a tenant agreement that guaranteed her three meals a day, laundry services and access to a community room. It also asked that she refrain from “activity that [St. Andrew] determines unreasonably interferes with the peaceful use and enjoyment of the community by other tenants” or that is “a direct threat to the health and safety of other individuals.” All other residents signed a similar agreement, binding them to this code of conduct.

Wetzel, who identifies as lesbian, was open about her sexuality with staff and residents. But instead of a warm welcome, she received hostility, she said. Other tenants called her derogatory slurs and made violent threats against her and these threats soon became reality, as other tenants spit at her and struck her in the head.

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ExplORer Surgical programs surgical guides to optimize OR safety and procedures

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Optimal teamwork in the operating room (OR) can be hard to achieve. Inexperienced team members, poor information transfer, mid-case handoffs, and improper room preparation can all result in delays and disruptions during the operation.

The result can cost the patient increased exposure to infection, according to Dr. Alexander Langerman, head and neck surgeon and associate professor of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University. “If something is not in the [operating] room as it should be, then someone has to leave the room and come back to get it, and so that could translate into a higher risk of infection,” he said.

This is corroborated by a study published on American Journal of Infection Control, by authors with University of Gothenburg, Sweden. An elevated airborne bacterial counts in the surgical area is clearly linked to door openings in conventionally ventilated ORs, thereby providing the scientific evidence needed to initiate interventions aimed at preventing surgical site infection (SSI) by reducing traffic flow in the OR.

“Significantly longer operating time is also associated with a higher risk of infection,” Langerman said. Duration of operation is one of the other risk factors of SSI, according to CDC’s Guideline for Prevention of Surgical Site Infection.

Chicago-based ExplORer Surgical, an interactive surgical playbook, aims to solve these problems by providing the surgeons and their teams with detailed, real-time guidance on how to set up the room, what tools are needed when, and what steps to anticipate, boosting communication and coordination between all members of the surgical team.

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Warmer climates bring more insects, and those insects can bring illnesses

By Colleen Zewe
Medill Reports

Thanks to climate change, researchers found a new fly species buzzing through Indiana. And flies aren’t the only ones expanding their territories.

Biologists at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science regularly collect blow flies in the area, but they were surprised to see a new species in their collection that didn’t look like the area’s more common fly species.

Disease-carrying insects are migrating to new areas due to climate change. (Animations scripted by Colleen Zewe/Medill and produced by Next Animation Studio.)

The species Lucilla cuprina ordinarily lives in humid southern states, from Virginia to parts of California. When researcher Christine Picard and her team noticed the fly in their samples, they knew something was up.
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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists brings Jerry Brown into the fold but no clock change yet

By Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

Amid the slate of world crises discussed at the annual meeting of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, one note of good news: Pakistan and India are unlikely to engage each other in nuclear warfare, according to a nuclear policy expert.

But in other arenas, Bulletin editor-in-chief John Mecklin characterized our era as the most dangerous period since the early fifties—the last time the Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes to midnight, where the hands rest ominously for now. The Bulletin will announce any change to those hands in January.

“Last year was a huge year for us,” Mecklin said at the meeting in November. “With the help of Donald Trump, who said something horrifying about every 10 minutes all year long, we had a big traffic spike.”

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Standing in solidarity with Yemen, Chicagoans rally to end the U.S.-backed war

By Aqilah Allaudeen
Medill Reports

Some 70 people rallied in  Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago recently to end the war in Yemen. Chicago Area Peace Action, or CAPA, a grassroots organization that works to reduce and eliminate the danger of nuclear weapons and militarism, organized the rally.



Hassan El-Tayyab, the policy and organizing director at CAPA, emphasized the need for citizens to call Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), to urge her to co-sign a bill that would end U.S. military involvement in Yemen.

The U.S. Senate recently passed a resolution 63 – 37 to debate ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. The wide margin reflects growing discontent with U.S. involvement in the war, and the Trump administration’s handling of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudis in the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

“Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in remarks in Geneva earlier this year.

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Pittsburgh aftermath: Evanston religious leaders consider active shooter responses

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

The thousands-year-old nightmare of anti-Semitism erupted again on Oct. 29, when 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue died in a shooting, likely the deadliest attack against Jews in U.S. history.

Illinois religious communities, like so many faith groups around the world, recoiled in response, condemning the attack and gathering at solidarity events to mourn the victims. “It was a wake-up call that this could happen in our communities,” said Andrea London, the senior rabbi at Beth Emet, a reform synagogue in Evanston.

Evanston’s interfaith group of religious leaders who routinely work together discussed active shooter responses at a recent meeting, London said. She said  religious leaders are considering  programs such as active shooter training.
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