Health and Science

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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Solitary confinement: A human rights issue within U.S. borders

By Aqilah Allaudeen
Medill Reports

Gabriel Guzman spent three years of his 10-year prison term locked up in a small box-like cell for more than 22 hours a day. His time in solitary was broken up into stints of about four months each. Some were brought after he took part in fights but others, he said, were unwarranted.

He had next to no freedom and prison guards controlled almost every aspect of his life, he said.

“Your life becomes dictated by rules, regulations and other people controlling it,” he said. “It’s not the same in all prisons, but in Lawrence (Correctional Center in Sumner, Illinois) they handcuffed us and escorted us to the showers. We had no freedom.”

Released about three years ago after completing his sentence, Guzman, 33, now volunteers in Chicago to help other inmates. He  washes laundry and rugs for a living.

At any given time, some 61,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement in the United States. While this marks a drop from an estimated 80,000 prisoners in solitary in 2014, many experts and activists argue that solitary confinement is unnecessary as there are better and more humane alternatives.

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Scientists investigate how the “ocean pump” is slowing global warming

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

Scientists are taking a serious look at ocean biological systems that temper carbon levels in the atmosphere and trap them in the ocean depths, a way to slow global warming and put off the 2° C temperature rise that would trigger disastrous levels of sea level rise, extreme temperatures, rainfall and drought.

Climate scientist Jennifer Middleton calls these systems the ocean’s biological carbon pump and explained how it works at the annual Comer Climate Conference in southwest Wisconsin this fall.

Middleton, a post-doctoral research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is studying these systems in the hope that scientists can find ways to use them to help mitigate the effects of climate change related to fossil fuel emissions.

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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. Approximately 1 degree C of global warming has occurred already with industrialization.

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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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Illinois sees more gun trafficking from Indiana, crime data shows

By Ashley Hackett
Medill Reports

Gun regulations in Illinois have become more strict over the past five years, and guns used in Illinois crimes are coming increasingly from outside the state, a recent study shows.

Nearly 3,460 people were shot in Chicago in 2017, and the city saw 664 murders plus seven people killed by on-duty Chicago Police officers that year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Michael Coates, a doctoral candidate studying American politics at the University of Maryland, co-authored a 2017 study examining state gun control policies. Coates concluded that guns linked to crime scenes are “more likely to be purchased in states with less regulatory barriers when a state increases the stringency of its gun control laws,” so the supply market will shift out of state.

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Illinois embraces indigenous legacy through ethnobotany

By Katie Rice
Medill Reports

When Gina Roxas was about four years old, she was hospitalized with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Heartbroken at being separated from her family, she ripped the IVs out of her arms, cried and refused to eat while in the hospital. Her condition deteriorated, and doctors had to restrain her.

One day, her father came to visit her and told doctors he’d see what he could do about his daughter’s illness.

“He grabbed me, wrapped me in a blanket and walked out the door,” Roxas said. “And he [carried me to] my great-grandmother’s (house) and gave me to her. And she healed me. She healed me with her prayers, with her teas and with her herbal rubs. It’s not scientifically proven that I was healed, but I’m still here, right?”
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