Tuned up: What’s behind Northwestern baseball’s air guitar craze?

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

Baseball, more than any major sport in America, is all about its unwritten rules.

Its traditionalistic nature doesn’t carry the celebratory flair basketball or football does. There aren’t pre-planned touchdown celebrations. No, ‘And one!’ screams or arms extended in celebration, as the pointer finger and the thumb meet to form a three. And no, there’s no Lance Stephenson-esque air guitars.

Instead, the celebrations baseball fans usually see occur at the close of a game (a mosh pit at home plate after a walk-off, or outfielders meeting in center field after the game’s last out for a celebratory handshake), but rarely within the game’s confines.

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Used as the new black: Environmentally conscious shoppers are choosing thrift stores

By Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

Rapidly changing fashion trends can be harmful to the environment, according to a recent analysis by a U.N. consortium. In what’s known as “fast fashion,” retailers constantly flip the floor stock to match popular styles. That has led to production facilities creating more clothing than ever before.

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Toddlers engage more with print books than with ebooks, study says

By Shannon Longworth
Medill Reports

Although many parents choose to read to their toddlers from ebooks, a study published this month in the journal Pediatrics says print books are a better option for a child’s development.

In the study, researchers evaluated child engagement through their levels of verbalization and collaboration, which are two critical pieces of the learning process. Ebooks are popular for their convenience, but the study showed that tablets served as a distraction. Parents spent more time explaining how to use the device than they did reading the story displayed on it.

Photo at top: Families join a weekly story-time event at Women and Children First bookstore in Andersonville. (Shannon Longworth/MEDILL)

Life at a research lab in Israel’s Negev desert

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

SDE BOKER, ISRAEL — Two hours south of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where political drama unraveled amid Tuesday’s Israeli elections, I finished my morning coffee and stepped out into the blinding desert sunshine.

I’m spending this month at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, which are part of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The main BGU campus is located in Be’er Sheva, the Negev desert’s largest city. But I’m at the BIDR outpost 45 minutes south, in Sde Boker, where I’m embedded with researchers tackling water stewardship in the Middle East. I’m reporting by observation and taking notes I’ll later use for Medill News Service stories.
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A pageant for the Chinese community in Chicago

By Carolyn Chen
Medill reports

Victoria M Ng, a second-generation Chinese immigrant,  founded the “Miss Chinese Chicago Pageant” in 2018. Growing up in the Chinese community in Chicago, she hopes to foster the next generation of Chinese American female leaders. Here is her story.

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Chicago Bandits players aim for sustainable careers in professional softball

By Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

Lack of advertising, inappreciable salaries and a shortage of opportunities characterize the state of professional softball.

With only six teams total and pay ranging from $6,000 to $20,000 a year, most professional softball players are unable to make a living out of their athletic career, in contrast to their male counterparts in Major League Baseball.

Despite the odds, women are not giving up and are excited to continue pioneering the National Pro Fastpitch League.

Courtney Gano and Abby Ramirez, two professional softball players on the Chicago Bandits, tell their stories.

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How to ensure your electric vehicle is powered by renewable energy

By Brady Jones
Medill Reports

Driving an electric vehicle plays a critical role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but the impact of this reduction gets diminished if the electricity comes from fossil fuels. The sources of electricity used to power your car must be green too and several choices are available to make that happen.

It all comes down to this: how can you ensure that you are maximizing the amount of electricity that comes from renewable sources used to charge your vehicle?

The two highest contributors of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 were transportation and electricity production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In Illinois, 40 percent of the state’s electricity is produced by coal and natural gas—only 7 percent is produced by wind and solar, reports the U.S. Department of Energy. Fortunately, some power companies offer green energy options for your power. And there are steps you can take to maximize the percentage of renewable sources for your electricity. How you do that depends first on where you live.
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Political priorities: A review of key bills in the current Illinois legislative session

By Noah Broder
Medill Reports

With a progressive legislature and Democrat J.B. Pritzker as governor, a law raising the minimum wage to $15 swiftly passed in Illinois. Other proposals such as raising the age for purchasing cigarettes to 21 and the legalization of recreational marijuana could take hold for Illinois residents in the near future.

While the general assembly often hears and votes on hundreds of bills in the state house and the senate, only a few new high-profile laws affect the lives of most everyday residents.

Gov. Pritzker ran on a platform that considered issues ranging from legalizing marijuana to raising the minimum wage to criminal justice reform. While Pritzker makes these promises, it is the work of the members of the state house and senate to turn the promises into proposals and concrete laws. Continue reading

Chicago’s green space: Inequitable for 100 years

By: Carly Graf
Medill Reports

This July marks 100 years since 17-year-old Eugene Williams drowned in Lake Michigan. The black teenager unknowingly drifted across 29th street while on a raft—crossing the unofficial demarcation between the white and black sides of a South Side beach. White beach-goers threw rocks at him and knocked him unconscious, causing the boy who couldn’t  swim to drown. No arrests were made despite eyewitnesses.

“Race riots that followed were representative of broader racial clashes over Black Chicagoans’ asserting their rights to recreational space,” said Brian McCammack, environmental history professor at Lake Forest College and author of Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago. “Similar clashes happened at Washington and Jackson Parks, among others, as African-Americans flooded into the South Side and, almost always, African-Americans were the victims of white aggressors.” Continue reading

$50 million expansion of Divvy program targets under-served neighborhoods

By Carly Graf
Medill Reports

Divvy will receive a sizeable direct investment to build dock stations in every city ward, modernize its bicycle fleet and create a job training program for youth and ex-offenders, should the City Council green light the proposal.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) recommended these programs as part of an amendment to the existing contract between Divvy and its operator, which was recently purchased by popular ride share company Lyft, Inc., last month.

The $50 million will come directly from Lyft. All new equipment will be purchased directly by the company, but existing infrastructure will remain in city ownership, guaranteeing control over any significant fare pricing changes and fare promotions, according to the statement from the mayor’s office. Continue reading