Riders shed their pants on the Red Line for annual celebration

By Yun Hao
Medill Reports

Shocked commuters watched other riders on the “L” begin to shed their pants Sunday. But shock turned to laughter as it became obvious that it was part of an annual organized event.

The 14th annual Chicago No Pants Subway Ride kicked off Sunday  afternoon with 172 riders pulling off trousers or skirts. But the boxer shorts and skivvies beneath the outer layer stayed put. Continue reading

Northwestern women’s basketball fights off Purdue to lock in 14th season win 

By Jake Meister
Medill Reports

Northwestern University women’s basketball hosted Purdue Sunday evening, emerging victorious after nearly squandering an 18-point lead.

The Wildcats grabbed their first win against the Boilermakers since 2016, squeaking out in a 61-56 nail biter. It marked the second straight game where NU head coach Joe McKeown’s team won by five points or less.

“In the locker room, we were disappointed,” senior Abbie Wolf said. “It really should’ve been a 15- to 20-point game at the end. We let them back into it.”

Senior forward Abbie Wolf goes through pregame warmups prior to winning the game against Purdue Sunday night. The powerhouse player scored double-digit points. (Jake Meister/Medill Reports)

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Chicago demonstrators call for no war with Iran

By Yun Hao
Medill Reports

“Having a dual citizenship — it’s like my parents are getting divorced,” said Negin Goodrich, an Iranian American who came to the anti-war demonstration with a sign featuring a photo of herself and her 75-year-old mother living in Iran.

The peaceful demonstration to denounce any move toward war with Iran took place Thursday afternoon on the Lincoln Park Pedestrian Bridge overlooking Lake Shore Drive.

“I love America as much as I love Iran, and I don’t want to see both of those countries in war,” Goodrich said, adding that she was very worried about her friends and family back in Iran. Her family is too anxious to sleep at night due to the threat of war, she said.

“This is a symbolic picture. It shows that we Iranians are like my mother. They’re not terrorists. They’re not very dangerous, Goodrich said. “They’re just regular people — very peaceful, very kind, and they don’t deserve to be treated like that.” Continue reading

Climate science pioneer Wallace Broecker memorialized at namesake symposium

By Zack Fishman
Medill Reports

The locked office of the late climate scientist Wallace “Wally” Broecker displays a wooden ship’s wheel, mounted on a window-paneled wall behind his former desk. The wheel overlooks the forested campus of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, where Broecker conducted research for nearly 70 years. It originated from one of LDEO’s first vessels used for ocean chemistry testing in the 1960s, and the choice of its current home is no accident: The captain’s wheel is symbolic of Broecker’s leadership at the institution, says paleoclimatologist and LDEO professor Jerry McManus.

Office with desk, ship's wheel and large window
Broecker’s former office is on the second floor of the Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Building in Palisades, New York. LDEO administration hopes to re-open its doors for continued use while preserving Broecker’s memory, although it has not yet come to a decision. (Zack Fishman/MEDILL)

Broecker, who died in February at the age of 87, made significant contributions to the scientific understanding of the oceans, climate and climate change during his long academic career, mentoring several generations of students. Born in Oak Park in 1931 as the second of five children, he received his Ph.D. in geology at Columbia and became an assistant professor there in 1959. Since then, he pioneered the use of carbon isotopes and trace compounds to date and map the oceans, as well as introducing the concept of a “global conveyor” that connects the world’s oceans through heat-driven circulation. Broecker also popularized the phrase “global warming” in a 1975 paper and has been deemed the “grandfather of climate science” by many in the field.

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Mayor Lightfoot’s anti-violence budget sparks debate between non-profits and critics

By Arnab Mondal
Medill Reports

As he leaves his house every morning to go to his job, Kenneth Watkins’ mother wishes him a good day with a smile.

“She used to look so worried whenever I left the house,” Watkins said. “The only thing she used to say to me was ‘Stay safe.’ But she looks so happy and relieved now.”

Watkins works at Chicago Animal Care and Control, where he tends and trains pets in the shelter. “Spending the entire day with these animals puts my mind at ease,” he said. “I love being here, and I really want to change. I don’t want to go back to selling drugs.”

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How prisoners count: the politics of prison gerrymandering in Illinois

By Joel Jacobs
Medill Reports

In Illinois, each person’s vote is not counted equally. A single vote for a state representative in Cook County is likely to wield less influence than one in Randolph County downstate.

Why? Because Randolph County is located in Illinois House District 116, which is home to the Menard and Pinckneyville prisons. They hold about 4,500 inmates, half of whom were sentenced from Cook County, around 300 miles away.

These prisoners cannot vote, but they are counted as residents of the 116th District by the census, giving each voter in the district a bit more power. During the last round of redistricting, each Illinois House district was drawn to include approximately 109,000 people based on census counts, meaning that prisoners account for more than one in twenty-five residents of Illinois House District 116.

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Facebook groups establish community in one of Chicago’s newest neighborhoods

By Amy Sokolow
Medill Reports

Nicole Rohr Stephens moved back to Chicago from Alabama last year and almost immediately found out she was pregnant. The 34-year-old marketing manager had previously lived on the city’s North Side, but after relocating to the South Loop, she realized she had no idea where she would eventually send her unborn child to school. “When we moved back, we were joining like a completely different neighborhood, different vibe,” she said. “We didn’t know our neighbors; we didn’t know anything about the area.”

Stephens did what many people do today to solve a problem: she turned to Facebook. She first found a local dog walker and veterinarian on the “South Loop Dog and Pet Owners” Facebook group before turning to “South Loop Parent’s Group” for daycare recommendations. Stephens even began walking around the block after work with other pregnant women she met from that group. Now that they all have babies all around the same age, “that’s been kind of cool to like, you see everybody hitting the same milestones with their kids at the same time after we spend time walking together,” she said.

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Homeless women face heightened threats of violence on streets

The woman’s full name in this story is being withheld to protect her privacy.

By Sally Ehrmann
Medill Reports

Jen struts through the Harold Washington Library Center, stopping only to drop a few fraying books into the return bin. She produces a deep guttural laugh as she steps outside into the brisk November air and lights a cigarette.

She is a mother to an adult son and two cats. She is a sister, a friend and an animal lover. She is working toward her associate degree at Harold Washington College.

The 54-year-old Chicago-area resident faced hardships in her life, molding her into the woman she is today. Recently, she faced a roughly yearlong bout of homelessness.

“I may be down, but I will never be out,” Jen said. “I’m like a cat. I will always bounce back. I didn’t let it break me. It didn’t break my spirit. I had dark days, but I got out of it.”

Jen is not alone in her experience as a woman experiencing homelessness. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, about 39.5% of all homeless individuals in Chicago identified as female in 2018. While women may be the minority, experts agree that women face greater threats of violence, harassment, assault and hygiene problems when living on the streets. Continue reading

Auto-voter registration in Illinois not complying with law, experts say

By Megan Sauer
Medill Reports

Jay Young  celebrated in 2017 when then-Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the automatic voter registration bill into law. Young, among several other nonprofit and voting rights advocates, thought Springfield’s approval signaled the end of a long, painstaking process that had required months of political appeasing and redrafting legislation.

“It felt like a big event and everyone in both houses seemed to get behind something this vital,” said Young, 47, the executive director of Common Cause Illinois, a pro-demoracy organization in Chicago. “The process, from that really high point to where we are today, has been really frustrating.”

Although lawmakers purposely built extensions into the bill to allow government agencies time to implement AVR by July 2018, over a year has passed since its initial deadline. As far as Young and other members of the Just Democracy coalition are concerned, the inclusive “spirit” of the AVR bill has not been implemented “anywhere in the state” of Illinois. Continue reading

CPS teachers take on second jobs to keep their ‘heads afloat’

By Zoe Collins Rath
Medill Reports

Tara Stamps is hunting for another job in either a hotel or an airport. The STEM teacher at Laura S. Ward Elementary School said she loves teaching but she needs another source of income because she will have to stretch $119 for another week.

“Cost of living in the city forces you to do creative budgeting or get a second job,” she said.

Stamps represents 1 in 6 teachers who work a second job, according to the Pew Research Center. The study found 18% of teachers had a second job during the 2015-16 school year and the second income during the school year made up an average 9% of their income.

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