Public Affairs

Will Japan’s ‘Womenomics’ work?

By Shen Lu and Rachel Newman

Tokyo — It’s not news that women across the world feel a lack of equality, but in Japan, the problem is particularly pressing.

Nearly 70 percent of Japanese women feel gender inequality — compared with the world average of 40 percent — three decades after the country enacted an equal employment law, according to a study published last week by Ipsos MORI, a British research firm.

Three in four women around the world believe there are unequal rights in their country, according to a newly published study. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Three in four women around the world believe there are unequal rights in their country, according to a newly published study. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)

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Fukushima: Six Years Later Is It Safe to Go Back?

By Urvashi Verma

Nearly six years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, environmental activists are raising alarms that radiation levels are still dangerously high, despite the Abe government’s reassurances that thousands of residents can return home.

Last week the Japanese government lifted the evacuation orders in the Fukushima prefecture citing radiation measurement levels under 100 mSv per year and pronouncing that safe for residents to return. mSv means 1 one-thousandth of a sievert, which is a measure of the health effect of low levels of ionizing radiation on the human body, according to a Wikipedia entry. But activists say 100 mSv is far from a safe level.

The primary contention of environmentalists regards the acceptable level of radiation for resettlement. “The notion that doses below 100 mSv are safe is not supported by science and contradicts internationally accepted standards,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner at Greenpeace in Tokyo.

Radiation levels of 530 sieverts per hour, considered by some as alarmingly high, were measured in Fukushima’s Daiichi reactor number two in a test conducted by Tokyo Power and Electric Co., known as TEPC0, just last month.
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Smartphones are revolutionizing diagnostics and disease management

By Teresa Manring 

The cell phone in your pocket may soon help you diagnose and monitor diseases.

As mobile phones become more advanced and ubiquitous, researchers are exploring technologies embedded within them to screen for, diagnose and manage health issues between office visits, said researchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston last weekend.

Mobile phones and other personal devices allow for “more continuous measurements, measurements at home, measurements when you actually have a symptom,” said Shwetak Patel, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the University of Washington, at an AAAS press briefing.

Tools such as the camera, flash and microphone on mobile phones keep getting better and better, Patel said.

“Those sensors that are already on the mobile phone can actually be repurposed in interesting new ways, where you can actually use those for diagnosing certain kinds of diseases,” he added.
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Naomi Oreskes urges scientists to take a stand against attempts to ‘silence facts’

By Janice Cantieri

Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes urged hundreds of scientists to step beyond the objectivity of their data and embrace the riskier role as “sentinels” for scientific facts.

“We do need to speak for the facts because the facts don’t speak for themselves,” Oreskes said to an overflowing auditorium at the Boston conference of he American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We live in a world where many people are trying to silence facts,” said the author of “Merchants of Doubt.”

The book and documentary based on it show how the tobacco and sugar industries and climate change deniers cast doubt on scientific facts without ever needing to refute them.
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Solving world hunger for 830 million via satellite data

By Mariah Quintanilla

What do data and satellite imaging have to do with solving world hunger? Everything, it seems. New surveying techniques and open source imaging of diminishing, available and potential cropland are the first steps in assessing problems and solutions for global food security.

To prevent further hunger, researchers must identify factors that may lead to food instability, such as areas prone to frequent drought, floods, erosion or sea level rise. Researchers stressed the need for accurate data and efficient satellite imaging of small family farms and large agricultural systems in a seminar on monitoring food security at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Boston.

The World Food Programme of the United Nations estimates that about one in nine people – about 830 million of us – go to bed hungry every night. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that approximately 870 million people around the world do not have access to nutritious food. With advanced technology and modern open source databases, it’s hard to understand how even more data and better satellite imaging will help the problem of hunger.
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Climate extremes can ignite violence and more intolerant societies

By Janice Cantieri

Rising extremes of droughts, floods or food shortages can reduce a country’s political stability and cultural tolerance, warned scientists at the American Association for the Advancements of Science conference in Boston this weekend.

As global temperatures continue to rise, these and other environmental threats are expected to increase.

“What you have here is a model where different forms of ecological threat are producing stronger cultural institutions,” but stronger in the sense of more regimented, said Joshua Conrad Jackson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “That could carry over into intergenerational changes in cultural institutions.”

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‘More rigs, less regs:’ AAAS experts predict Trump policies

By Teresa Manring

The Trump administration’s stance on reversing environmental regulations, key climate policies such as the Paris Accord and the Affordable Care Act is alarming many scientists and policymakers gathered in Boston for an international science conference.

A panel of analysts predicted “Science Policy in Transition: What to Expect in 2017 and Beyond” at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences 2017 Annual Meeting. Panelists focused on challenges but also opportunities in climate and energy policy, health programs and technology and innovation.

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Marquette Park 4’s exoneration marks milestone for Illinois

By Kara Voght

Theresa Johnson knew there was no way her son, Charles, committed the robbery and murder he’d been convicted of. Convincing others of his innocence, however, was another matter.

“Everybody would just close the door practically in my face,” Johnson said of her repeated attempts to obtain legal help for Charles, who, along with three other men, spent over 20 years in prison for a 1995 double murder and armed robbery they did not commit.

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx rewarded Johnson’s decades of persistence Wednesday morning when she dismissed all charges against Charles Johnson, Larod Styles, Lashawn Ezell and Troshawn McCoy after fingerprint evidence conclusively proved their innocence.  McCoy, sentenced to 55 years in prison, is awaiting his release from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The “Marquette Park 4,” as their attorneys call them, entered prison as teenagers and spent a collective 70 years behind bars.

On Wednesday afternoon, Johnson, Styles and Ezell appeared in a press conference at Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Chicago office, alongside their legal teams and nearly two dozen family members, to discuss their cases.

Theresa Johnson embraces her son, Charles, at Wednesday's press conference to discuss Johnson and three other men's exoneration. (Kara Voght/MEDILL)
Theresa Johnson embraces her son, Charles, at Wednesday’s press conference to discuss Johnson and three other men’s exoneration. (Kara Voght/MEDILL)

The Marquette Park 4’s journey to exoneration began in 2008, when Steven Drizin of the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law received a letter from Charles Johnson. Johnson described giving a false confession to detective James Cassidy, a story that matched many other letters Drizin had received from inmates across the state.

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Union responds to Rauner’s refusal to negotiate

By Bia Medious

State and municipal employees are threatening a strike in response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s refusal to negotiate their new contract.

Rauner wants the union to accept both a four-year wage freeze and $10,000 in additional health insurance costs, which is a 100 percent increase. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 (AFSCME) announced the ongoing vote to authorize a strike during Tuesday’s news conference at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St. Several state representatives also spoke in support of the workers.

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Chicago women voice support for Planned Parenthood

By Stephanie Rothman

As the Trump administration moves to defund Planned Parenthood, funding for centers in Illinois are under threat.

There are seven Planned Parenthood health centers in Chicago, and defunding them would leave many women in the Chicago area in need.

“I am at high-risk for ovarian cancer and breast cancer,” said Yvonne Merill, Chicago resident. “So cheap free testing is really nice.”

Planned Parenthood provided her with affordable birth control services such as the birth control pill and an Intrauterine Device (IUD) as well as other female healthcare needs.

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