Politics/National Security

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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Predicting climate change depends on supercomputers and Germany has Europe’s only supercomputer dedicated to climate

By Lucia Whalen
Medill Reports

Hamburg is home to one of the fastest-thinking supercomputers in the world at the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ). The supercomputer whizzes through global tsunamis of climate data to develop climate models used in landmark blueprints for the future, including the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The German Climate Computing Center is the only high-performance computing center dedicated to climate research in Europe.

Supercomputers are responsible for some of the pioneering breakthroughs in modern science. From biology and space physics to projecting the effects of global climate change, supercomputers are necessary for quantifying the gargantuan mathematical projections and scientific problems assembled by scientists to create models and analyze data. Supercomputers have become an essential tool for climate forecasting because the large quantity of data required to create climate simulations would take years to calculate on a normal computer.

The Misra supercomputer system at the German Climate Computing Center was ranked 80th on the TOP500 list of supercomputers in the world. (DKRZ)

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A guide to the 2020 election polls

By Areeba Shah
Medill Reports

The 2016 pre-election polls predicted that Hillary Clinton’s probability of winning the presidency was about 90%. When she lost, 40% of Americans lost faith in elections, according to NPR.

Yet, the 2016 polls were among the most accurate in history, said Scott Keeter, a senior survey adviser at Pew Research Center. As 2020 approaches, pollsters are changing how they average data by including education to produce more accurate results.

Voter engagement also remains higher compared with previous cycles, helping fuel more specific numbers. Close to 156 million people could vote in the upcoming elections, an increase from the 139 million who cast ballots in 2016, according to the democratic voter-targeting firm Catalist.

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Incumbent doesn’t object to challengers’ nominating petitions despite their expectations

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

“We know the games that they unfortunately play and the tactics they utilize to basically try to silence the voices of anyone who dares to challenge the establishment,” said Anthony Clark, Democrat candidate for Illinois’ 7th U.S. Congressional District in the March 17, 2020 primary election.

Sure enough, Kina Collins, a challenger candidate in the 7th Congressional District, has had her nominating petitions challenged. However, it wasn’t by incumbent Danny K. Davis as expected but by lawyers connected to another challenger candidate, Kristine Schanbacher.

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Leaders prepare for census throughout city, focus on hard-to-count areas

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

City officials are teaming up with civic organizations to prepare for the 2020 Census, especially in hard-to-count neighborhoods like predominantly Latino Humboldt Park. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago households responded to the 2010 census at a rate of only 66% whereas 74% of households responded nationwide.

A key consideration for organizers is that the2020 census will differ from years past by allowing households to respond electronically.

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No more rubber stamps: How city council’s new left is embracing socialism and calling for change

By Beth Stewart
Medill Reports

Mayoral budgets have a history of sailing through the Chicago City Council with little to no opposition. Rahm Emanuel’s first budget saw unanimous support, and in his last year the controversial mayor had a lone dissident. Only one year of his contentious time in office did opposition rise above single digits, as a result of a four-year property tax hike.

So when Mayor Lightfoot’s inaugural budget, which overcame an $838 million deficit with a marginal property tax increase and millions in efficiencies, was approved last Tuesday by the Chicago city council, the 11 no votes signified a sea change.

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Jeff Sessions prompts protests as he speaks at Northwestern

By Nicole Stock
Medill Reports

Huddled outside a performance hall on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus Nov. 5, a group of students banged on the glass panes of the wooden door at Lutkin Hall.

“F…k Jeff Sessions!” they chanted, pounding their fists. Many students and community members gathered to protest the invitee of the campus’ college Republicans group, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Sessions, 72, spoke at 7 p.m. on “The Real Meaning of the Trump Agenda,” according to the Northwestern University College Republican’s advertisement for the event. 

Trump fired Sessions a year after the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation of the President that Trump hoped Sessions would oversee.   
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Thousands of Chicago protesters condemn Trump and his visit to Chicago

By Anne Snabes

Medill Reports

Thousands of Chicago area protesters chanted  calls and held up signs bearing phrases such as “Dump Trump” during President Donald Trump’s visit to the Windy City on Monday.

Trump spoke at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference and then attended a lunch fundraiser at Trump International Hotel and Tower. Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson boycotted the speech and Trump belittled his absence.

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Photography exhibit gives candid and ominous view of what immigration detention facilities are really like

By Carolina Gonzalez
Medill Reports

Barren land, industrial facilities, deserts and then a small concrete building in the middle of the void. These are the scenes portrayed in the 12 panoramic photographs covering the walls of the Gage Gallery in Chicago’s Loop.

Greg Constantine, a famed American social justice photographer, unveiled his latest work this month at the gallery at Roosevelt University. The series sheds a light on how ominous detention facilities really look from the outside, accompanied by stories from people who were caught inside.

People gather at the Gage Gallery for the opening of the documentary exhibit, with Greg Constantine’s photographs of detention centers. (Carolina Gonzalez/Medill)

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