Politics/National Security

Muslims in Chicago say that Trump’s statements have painted a target on their backs

By Arnab Mondal
Medill Reports

As Dilara Sayeed, a 51-year old Muslim in Chicago, entered an office building for a meeting, she had an experience which she had thought almost unthinkable a few years ago.

Besides her office attire, Sayeed was also wearing a colorful hijab, a symbol of her faith. Sayeed is a social activist, an educator and a Harvard alumna. She also ran for election in the Illinois House of Representatives to represent District 5 in 2018. As such, her work and achievements, rather than her religion, had been at the forefront of most interactions.

As Sayeed got into the elevator, however she was confronted by an elderly white woman, a complete stranger, who said she would go to hell for wearing the hijab.

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What I’ve Learned: Jorge Martinez on lessons from the Vietnam War

By Gurjit Kaur
Medill Reports

Vietnam War veteran Jorge Martinez, 72, recounts his experiences during and after the war.

When I was 20 years old, I got drafted — wound up in Vietnam. Uncle Sam sent me a letter of greeting: “You are hereby ordered for induction.”

There was a battle called Hamburger Hill. I had my squad. We had been on this mission for about a week. I was taking what they call point, the first man in the squad at the front of the company, being the guy negotiating the jungle. So everybody follows you. The deal was that we were supposed to alternate every day, one squad one day, another squad another day. Then we’re on the trail and Sergeant Clark, our platoon leader, tells us to stop for a mini break. I’m sitting down and this blond blue-eyed kid from New York sits next to me. A kid named Di Meola. He’s a leader for the other squad.

He says, “Well, how much time you got left.” I go, “30 days.”

I ask him, “How much time you got left?” He says, “I got 60.”

No sooner, Sergeant Clark says, “Martinez, moving out.” I turn around, I tell the sergeant, “Hey Sarge, we’ve been at point three days. We’re supposed to alternate every day.”

He tells my friend, “Di Meola, move it out.” So he gets his squad up. They walk past us. He took point. After five minutes of traveling down a bit of a canyon, he ran into an ambush and got blown away.

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Issues filing for Florida unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a statement Monday calling for the U.S. Department of Labor Investigator General to investigate the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s failure to implement unemployment benefits that were expanded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, citing that only 28% of requests for the benefits had been processed.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has dismissed Sen. Schumer and Sen. Wyden’s request as partisan, systems designed by the department have had difficulty processing the millions of unemployment requests filed by Floridians since mid-March. Gov. DeSantis even compared the system to a “jalopy” that tried to race in the Daytona 500.

Local officials like State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47) have dedicated their efforts to informing Floridians of how to file claims in this difficult time. “This governor has painted a very rosy picture of the unemployment process, blaming the people of Florida for any problems that are taking place,” said Rep. Eskamani.

Rep. Eskamani hosts a weekly Facebook Live briefing to answer questions about the unemployment process. Before a recent town hall, she received 11 pages of questions on a broad range of topics, ranging from technological issues with filing on the mobile site, to difficulty receiving backpay after waiting several months for benefits, and to inconsistent messaging about the requirements for independent contractors.

Rep. Eskamani has donated her legislative salary via Venmo and Cash App to Floridians whose unemployment claims have not been processed yet. “I felt like it was inappropriate for me to get paid when so many folks aren’t getting paid from their tax dollars,” said Rep. Eskamani

Photo at top: The wait queue to enter the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s CONNECT website, which is where Floridians file for unemployment benefits. (floridajobs.org)

Update: Surviving the Parkland school shooting

By Nicole Girten
Medill Reports

He shot into her classroom first.

Ninth grade English teacher Dara Hass sat at her desk in the corner of her classroom, positioned diagonal to the door of room 1216. While her honor students sequestered themselves in small groups to work on a writing assignment as Hass looked over that year’s submissions for the Broward County literary fair in South Florida.

It was Valentine’s Day, the first time in years Hass made dinner reservations to celebrate the holiday with her husband. Two kids complicated things. The couple planned to go to a local restaurant, The Cook and the Cork, known for its wine selection. Hass wouldn’t make it to that reservation

At first, she thought it was a drill. The school had warned to expect a shooter simulation, complete with the sound of gunfire, so when the first shots sounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hass jumped up, turned around and turned down the blinds for the wall of windows in her classroom, as per protocol. “The kids were screaming,” Hass said. “So when I turned around to say, ‘Guys it’s just a drill,’ that’s when I saw the injured students. And I realized it wasn’t.”

One student didn’t make it out of his desk chair, pushed back by the force of the bullets, his back on the desk behind him as he bled.

Hass called 9-1-1 and texted her husband to do the same. The room didn’t have closets or anywhere for the kids to hide. She crouched in her long blue skirt, watching as students put pressure on fellow classmates wounds.

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Old Lyme honors veterans despite parade cancellation

By Dave Peck
Medill Reports

The echo of “Taps” could be heard this past Memorial Day in Old Lyme to honor its veterans. With the annual parade canceled, few were in attendance on the Duck River Cemetery — no chatter, no applause, no gun salutes. Despite the small turnout, veterans like Robert Roser, 91, were thankful to share the moment with his fellow VFW Post 1467 members.

Photo at top: Veterans of Post 1467 gather on Memorial Day (Dave Peck/MEDILL)

Business as unusual: opening businesses and canceled school leave parents with tough decisions

By Joshua Skinner
Medill Reports

On April 19th, Texas Gov, Greg Abbott announced a series of executive orders. Among those were the closing of schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year and the gradual reopening of businesses.

The two orders have the potential to create a problem for parents, forcing them to choose between going to work or making sure their children learn their schoolwork at home. Luckily, there’s a law for that.

Photo at top: Daniella, 6, and Elia Martinez, 4, read schoolwork at home. (Lisa Martinez/MEDILL)

Facebook group gathers thousands to protest Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order

By Bre’onna Richardson
Medill Reports

A group of Michigan residents are frustrated with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. Protesters fear the restrictions violate their rights. They say the governor shouldn’t decide what they can and can’t do.

Photo at top: Protestors at “Operation Gridlock” surrounding Michigan’s state capitol. (Robert Wiersema/Facebook)

Data accounting for prison COVID-19 cases projects 100,000 death increase

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

The ACLU of Indiana released findings Wednesday stating that a new data model projects the national COVID-19 death toll could be 100,000 deaths higher than previously projected.

“We are likely facing massive loss of life — both in Indiana jails and in our communities — if dramatic steps aren’t taken to reduce our incarcerated population,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections, over 200 inmates and 100 staff in Indiana prisons have tested positive for COVID-19. Three inmates have died from the virus.

The ACLU of Indiana has written open letters to Gov. Holcomb and other local officials in Indiana’s 10 largest cities asking them to reduce the number of Hoosiers who are incarcerated during the pandemic. Afterwards, the organization submitted an emergency petition to the Indiana Supreme Court requesting immediate action to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state’s correctional facilities but the petition was denied.

Now the ACLU of Indiana is asking Hoosiers to sign a call to action urging Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) to take steps to reduce Indiana’s prison population.

“We called on people and continue to call on people to contact Gov. Holcomb to urge him to take statewide action,” Henegar said. “After we heard from the state Supreme Court, we started calling for people to contact the governor so we could have them share their stories and their perspective. We know that a majority of Americans believe that reducing the jail and prison population is the right thing to do in the time of this crisis.”

Photo at top: Social distancing on a spring evening in Downtown Indianapolis. (Samone Blair/MEDILL).

We, Not Me: An introduction to democratic socialism

By Joshua Skinner
Medill Reports

Socialism might simultaneously be the most feared and loved ideology in the world. The mere mention of the word conjures up visions of utopia and the most horrific crimes of the 20th century.

When Americans hear the word “socialism,” it’s just as likely to convey images of famine and genocide as it is democracy and cooperation.

That’s beginning to change. An upstart political party, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), is attempting to bring it’s brand of socialism to the United States, pitting itself as an alternative to both Democrats and Republicans.

A haven for American youth, the DSA has grown to over 60,000 members nationwide. But that number doesn’t reflect their political influence.

More importantly, nearly every account of the DSA isn’t through the eyes of its members, but from an outside perspective.

In We, not Me: An Introduction to Democratic Socialism, Medill Newsmakers breaks this trend, speaking with Chicago DSA members about their local and national vision, policies, and the best path forward for America.

Photo: Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to nearly 10,000 supporters at Grant Park in Chicago. (Joshua Skinner/MEDILL)

Not only the youth: These unexpected voters also want Sanders’ America

By Gurjit Kaur
Medill Reports

In 2016, Paula and David Grapes voted for Donald Trump. But this year the married couple hope that Senator Bernie Sanders becomes the next leader of the United States. “He’s the last honest politician,” said Paula Grapes, 54. In March, she and an estimated 15,000 others gathered at a Chicago rally in Grant Park, wearing shirts and pins with Sanders’ name and image and holding blue and white “Bernie” signs.

The shift from a Republican to a Democrat, particularly from Trump to Sanders, may seem radical; however, Nick Kachiroubas, an election expert and professor at DePaul University’s School of Public Service, said it’s not as odd as it may appear because many Trump voters wanted (and continue to want) an atypical politician. “They still want somebody who’s an outsider, somebody who’s different, who doesn’t think like what they would consider to be the political mainstream,” Kachiroubas said. “And although Bernie’s policies are 100% different, he provides them another alternative that’s similar in style.”

The Grapes chose Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 in part because they dislike “old school” politicians, and they still do. Yet, substance matters just as much to them when it comes to Sanders. Continue reading