Public Affairs

UNI volleyball tops standings in MVC mid-season rankings

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

The top six teams in the Missouri Valley Conference are battling to keep their spots and make it to the conference tournament in Springfield, Missouri, Nov. 22 to 24 as the teams enter the midway point of the season.

The MVC has traditionally placed multiple teams in the NCAA tournament, doing so 10 times in the past 12 years, according to Ryan Davis, the assistant commissioner for communications at the MVC.

University of Northern Iowa

The Panthers of Northern Iowa is one of only three schools from the MVC to ever be ranked in the NCAA, and this year, they reached as high as No. 17 in the AVCA poll. This group of women were the only team from the MVC to be ranked at any point of the season, receiving votes in the most recent poll released on Oct. 8.

Currently, Northern Iowa is undefeated in conference play with a record of 9-0, and sit at 13-6 overall for the season. They also lead the conference in kills per set with 14.87 and assists per set with 13.97, which also ranks the group eighth nationally.

As it gets closer to the end of the season, the Panthers will look to junior outside Karlie Taylor, who currently leads the MVC in kills per set with 4.9. Northern Iowa is also led by redshirt-junior setter Rachel Koop with 807 assists.

Illinois State University

This group of women rallied together to currently rank second in the conference with a record of 7-1. Not only are they third in the conference, but the Redbirds rank No. 1 in the conference for overall hitting percentage with a .240.

Leading Illinois State’s offense is freshman middle Marissa Stockman. This young player leads the conference with a .364 hitting percentage. Along with that, she tallied 72 blocks and 147 kills overall.

Stockman is not the only player making an impact for the Redbirds. Sophomore setter Stef Jankiewicz currently sits at third in the conference for assists with 758 while senior libero Courtney Pence heads the defense, racking up 393 digs so far this season.

Bradley University

The Bradley Braves sit in fourth currently with a conference record of 6-2. Although the team only sits in third place, it leads the MVC in four different categories and is ranked fifth nationally in digs per set.

Senior libero Yavianliz Rosado sets the tone for the Braves’ defense with 5.62 digs per set, which ranks her second in the conference in that category. Also leading this Bradley team is senior outside Erica Haslag, who currently has 283 kills on the season, and senior setter Hannah Angeli, who controls the offense with 720 assists on the season.

“Our big goal for this season is to rebuild and make the conference tournament,” said Bradley head coach Melissa Stokes. “Once you get to the conference tournament, it becomes a whole new season. Anyone can make a run for it.”

Valparaiso University

Sitting at 5-3 in conference play, the Crusaders sit at the top of the conference in almost every category. Overall, the team holds a record of 18-5.

Sparking up the Crusaders’ lineup is sophomore middle Peyton McCarthy. She currently leads the MVC in total blocks with 95 and blocks per set with 1.25. Sophomore Rylee Cookery leads the backrow defense with 416 digs, which is also good enough to lead the conference.

Brittany Anderson, a sophomore setter, sets the offense up for this young team, earning 897 assists for the season. With those numbers, Anderson ranks eighth nationally for assists in Division 1.

Drake University

Currently holding a record of 5-4 in conference play, Drake lands the No. 5 spot in the conference. When it comes to team statistics, the Bulldogs rank second in the conference for total team kills.

One of the main contributors to Drake’s offense is senior outside Cathryn Cheek, who leads the team with 227 kills and 46 blocks. Setting up the team’s offense is junior Paige Aspinwell with 528 assists. While Aspinwell and Cheek take care of the offense, sophomore libero Kylee Macke contributed 341 digs so far this season to lead the defensive effort.

Missouri State University

The reigning MVC champions moved themselves up to the sixth spot in the conference standings. Following a slow start to the season, the Bears are making a comeback as the season begins to dwindle down.

Leading the way for this young team is freshman outside hitter Amelia Flynn. She currently leads the team in kills with 235 and is second on the team in digs with 182.  Freshman setter Chloe Rear also contributes to the offensive efforts, recording 657 assists during  her first season of play. On defense, senior libero Emily Butters shines for the Bears, recording 387 digs on the season, which is good enough for a fourth place ranking in the conference.

Four teams won’t make it to the conference tournament, and if the standings remain the same, Loyola-Chicago, Evansville, Southern Illinois and Indiana State will be the ones left out. As teams start to clinch their spots, these 10 teams will fight for one of those six coveted spots in the MVC tournament.

Photo at top: UNI currently leads the MVC rankings heading into the final few weeks of play. (UNI Volleyball’s Facebook page)

10th District candidates debate gun control and climate change among contentious topics

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10th) called for crossing the partisan divide on everything from health care to immigration reform during a debate Sunday with GOP opponent and computer consultant Douglas Bennett.

Schneider added that he is part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to “fight for the values and priorities of our community” and identify common ground between parties for policy solutions moving forward.
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DASH diet helps pregnant women control weight gain

By Colleen Zewe
Medill Reports

Many pregnant women struggle with weight gain, but those who begin pregnancy overweight or obese risk developing diabetes, high blood pressure and other serious prenatal conditions that can cause harm to their unborn babies.

Many of these women fear harming their unborn babies if they gain too little during pregnancy. But a recent Northwestern medical study helped pregnant, overweight women limit their weight gain, and found that obese or overweight women can safely restrict their calories to prevent health conditions without causing harm to themselves or the baby.
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Van Dyke suggested shooting McDonald before arriving on scene

By Becky Dernbach
Medill Reports

A defense witness revealed this week that Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was talking about shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald before he ever saw him.

“Why don’t they shoot him if he’s attacking them?” Van Dyke asked when he first heard the radio reports that McDonald had popped a squad car’s tire with a knife. Still a block and a half from the scene, he said to his partner, “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot the guy.”

Psychologist Laurence Miller, an expert witness in forensic and police psychology, confirmed these comments during cross examination. He testified that Van Dyke reported these reactions to him in an interview about the night of the fatal shooting, Oct. 20, 2014. Van Dyke confirmed the comments as well during cross-examination when he took the stand Tuesday in his own defense.

The prosecution in Van Dyke’s murder trial repeatedly stressed these comments in closing arguments Thursday before sending the officer’s case to the jury. The jury of 12, including just one black member, is now deliberating the fate of Van Dyke, the white police officer who shot black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke faces charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and official misconduct. The jury also has the option to consider charges of second-degree murder, an option offered during jury instructions by Judge Vincent Gaughan in Cook County criminal court. Continue reading

Star-Studded global climate summit mobilizes action plans to combat climate change

Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

If climate activists and local governments can’t work with Washington on climate change, they plan to work around it. More than 300 U.S. cities including Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have vowed to uphold the Paris Agreement – bypassing the Trump Administration’s intention to withdraw. And now dozens of cities worldwide made or renewed commitments moving toward zero carbon emissions by 2030 at a global climate summit in San Francisco last week.

Against the backdrop of deadly Hurricane Florence and accelerating climate change, hundreds of leaders in government and business are taking solutions into their own hands. They came to the Global Climate Action Summit, a week-long series of events in the Bay Area to mobilize efforts that could put the planet on a path towards lower (or zero) carbon emissions to avoid the worst effects of global warming. A wide range of players from indigenous groups focused on preserving forests, to billionaire investors committed to financing a transition away from carbon fuels committed to more than 500 action steps during the summit.

Thousands of delegates, speakers and reporters convened in calls to action by some of the most prominent figures in the environmental movement – former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice President and “Inconvenient Truth” author Al Gore, naturalist and animal rights activist Jane Goodall, and actor-turned-environmentalist Harrison Ford, currently vice chair of Conservation International’s board of directors.

“Cities are where it’s happening,” Al Gore said during a kick-off event hosted by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “Cities are where the solutions are being found. For reasons I don’t fully understand, but some of you may, cities are far more responsive and creative in finding policy solutions.”

“You wouldn’t know it from reading the headlines that we are making progress,” said Bloomberg, a co-chair and one of the main organizers of the summit. “The headlines focus on the political fights in Washington. But the real action is happening in cities, states and the private sector. And the good news is those groups are positioning the United States to uphold our end of the Paris Agreement no matter what happens in Washington.”

Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown, among others, spoke of the urgency of the climate crisis at the main summit plenary events on Thursday and Friday. The summit focused on ways to aid and inform the parallel climate negotiations of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The calls to action focused on five key areas that cities and regions could undertake to bypass inaction by parent governments: healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship, and transformative climate investments.

“Since the White House announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, more than 3,000 U.S. cities, states, businesses and other groups have declared their commitment to the Paris agreement,” wrote Brown and Bloomberg in a Los Angeles Times op-ed during the summit. “Together, these groups form the third-largest economy in the world, and they represent more than half the total U.S. population. They have been ramping up actions to cut carbon pollution and move toward the goals in the Paris agreement, just as the rest of the world is doing.”

Summit leaders view inaction at the top acute in the United States, where President Donald Trump’s Administration has vowed to back out of the Paris Agreement while threatening to undermine the Clean Air Act and roll back President Barack Obama’s clean power agenda.

Bloomberg set the tone by stressing that solving climate change was an economic opportunity. “California is a great example of how fighting climate change and growing the economy grow hand in hand,” Bloomberg said. “That’s something we also saw in NYC. We created a record number of jobs while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint by 19 percent.”

Some of the major new commitments announced during the summit include:

  • 12 major cities—including Tokyo, Seoul and Oslo—joined an existing network (now of 26 municipalities) pledging commitment to the C40 Cities’ “Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration.” This means using zero-carbon buses by 2025 and “ensuring a major area of the city is zero emission by 2030.”
  • 72 cities committed to adopting a climate action plan by 2020 and become emissions neutral by 2050.
  • A coalition of companies launched of the “Climate-Resilient Value Chains Leaders Platform,” including Coca-Cola and Mars that will assess climate risk in their supply chains.
  • Some 277 cities and counties committed to upholding the Paris Agreement as part of the summit’s “We Are Still In” initiative, among them cities that originally backed the accord when Trump announced plans to withdraw in June 2017.

The business-friendly attitude of the summit proved problematic at points. On Thursday morning, entrance to the plenary sessions in the Moscone Center was blocked by protestors critical of California Governor Jerry Brown, who they believe has not done enough to move away from the state’s substantial oil and gas portfolio. California in particular has suffered in recent years from the effects of climate change, experiencing a mix of intense drought and historic wildfires that have ravaged the interior of the state.

Nevertheless, the choice of locating the summit in San Francisco was strategic, as both the city and the state of California itself have become leaders in supporting renewable infrastructure and industry. “My plan is an integrated plan built up over time,” Brown said. “And we welcome any suggestions but I believe California has the most far reaching plan to deal with emissions as well as oil and production.” Brown also reminded attendees that if California was a country, it would have the third largest economy behind China and the US.

Later this year, the U.N. Climate Conference will be held in Katowice, Poland. Earlier this year, a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warned that we are very close—less than one degree of global warming away—to producing a series of positive feedback loops that will generate what was ominously described as a “hothouse Earth” scenario.

“We are all rich or poor,” Harrison Ford said in a speech during the opening plenary. “Powerful or powerless. We will all suffer the effects of climate change, and we are facing what is quickly becoming the greatest moral crisis of our time.”

Photo at top: California Governor Jerry Brown called for urgent action to control climate change at  the “Global Climate Action Summit” on Friday. (Aaron Dorman/Medill)

Chicago’s CircEsteem uses circus arts to empower young people

By Alissa Anderegg

When Antoinette Mpawenayo, 17, first came to Chicago from Tanzania, she struggled with the language and the culture.  “English is not my first language,” she said. “I was bullied by students at school.”

Her  refugee caseworker saw something in the way she moved around and suggested she join a circus program that had helped other young people like her. Antoinette is now a key performer in CircEsteem, a non-profit that has taught circus arts to more than 10,000 youths in the Chicago area.

Founded in 2001, CircEsteem’s social impact mission aims to build confidence in young people like Antoinette, and create a sense of community among its diverse performers.

Photo at top: CircEsteem students perform in their showcase performance. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

For one urban farmer, the future is fungi

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

Terry Noland’s 1958 rockabilly hit “There Was A Fungus Among Us” may not have been a direct reference to mushrooms when it was released. But the title merits momentum today, when there are many fungi among us in nature and in our kitchens. Researchers  have recruited them for soil remediation, water filtration and even oil spill cleanup.

“I call them the digestive system of the Earth,” said Belkacem El Metennani, owner and sole operator of a small Chicago mushroom farm. “When a tree falls down, mushrooms decompose it and turn it into a compost, into a fertilizer, for the rest of the trees.”

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As Chicago’s five-year housing plan expires, local organizers call for rent subsidies

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

Members of the Chicago Housing Justice League want increased access to safe, affordable housing and greater protection for people from the 30,000 evictions filed in Chicago every year. The league  calls for rent subsidies and local input to troubleshoot the problem.

The league and dozens of other housing organizations on Wednesday released recommendations for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, aiming to influence the city’s forthcoming five-year housing plan.

Recent Chicago housing developments are “glass boxes, looming down, of people that live self-contained lives trying to avoid interacting with anybody else, if they can help it,” said Frank Avellone, senior attorney and policy coordinator Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. That’s the opposite of an effort to strengthen renter rights and improve eviction protection, he said.​ Continue reading

Big Ten Media Days kicks off with Fitzgerald, Harbuagh & more

By Nick Mantas
Medill Reports

Big Ten conference head football coaches stepped up to the microphone to face the media and talk about their upcoming seasons. The Medill Reports sports team was at the 2018 Big Ten Media Days as well.


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Cherry Bombe Jubilee cultivates community for women changemakers in the food world

By Maia Welbel
Medill Reports

Between sips of Direct Trade coffee and hard kombucha, women at Cherry Bombe Jubilee this April in New York City talked food, business, and how they are making a difference in a male-dominated industry.

The Cherry Bombe Jubilee conference brings together and celebrates women in the food industry. Created by the founders of the indie magazine, Cherry Bombe, the Jubilee turns the tables on the lack of female attendance at the world’s most prestigious food conferences. Founders Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu host the event and curate a lineup of chefs, bakers, restaurant owners, food writers, and more to speak and socialize. Continue reading