Public Affairs

The Doomsday Clock sends a message: The world is closer to catastrophe than ever since World War II

By Henry Ren
Medill Reports

The hands of the Doomsday Clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight on Thursday, indicating that the world is closer to catastrophe than ever since The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists debuted the symbolic clock in 1947.

The Bulletin announced the move to 100 seconds from a mere 2 minutes to midnight in the annual resetting of the clock based on the threats of nuclear disaster, climate change and disruptive technologies.

“We now face a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin.

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Cancer mortality rate records largest single-year drop ever

By Sally Ehrmann
Medill Reports

Cancer survival rates are climbing with early diagnosis and new therapies, according to the latest annual report from the American Cancer Society released earlier this month. The report documented the largest single-year drop ever in cancer deaths.

The 2.2% decline in cancer deaths from 2016 to 2017 falls in line with a greater overall trend, which has seen the death rate from cancer fall a total of 29% in 26 years.

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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

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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Chicago area recycling industry struggles after China bans waste imports

By Lucia Whalen
Medill Reports

Before China halted the importation of plastic and other recycling waste from around the globe, the majority of Americans were living in a fool’s paradise. For most people, recycling ended at dumping paper, plastic and glass in a large bin – blue in Chicago. From there, most people paid little attention where the stuff landed.

That all changed in 2018, when China implemented its “National Sword Policy,” implementing strict restrictions on waste and metal imports coming in from other countries. China’s plastic imports are now down by 99%, with paper imports down by a third. Suddenly recycling is front and center in the news, and the public is more aware of the fact that their recycling was, in fact, being exported to another country, and that suddenly the world was facing a crisis in waste.

“China, the biggest buyer of scrap material from the U.S., stopped buying and the tariffs came in.  You have the biggest buyer of scrap material saying, ‘We’re done. We don’t have enough mills to process the materials we have now,'” said Joshua Connell, a managing partner at Lakeshore Recycling Systems. “China was the biggest buyer of our plastic commodities and now they’re not buying from us anymore. We have too much supply and not enough demand in North America for that supply,” Continue reading

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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Triumphs and tribulations of the Chicago Red Stars franchise reflects the evolution of the NWSL

By Krystina Iordanou
Medill Reports

Within a seven-day span, the Chicago Red Stars experienced the triumph and defeat that comes with competition.

On a beautiful autumn Sunday in Chicago, the Red Stars defeated the 2018 Thorns to reach their first National Women’s Soccer League Championship in franchise history. Just seven days later, the Red Stars suffered the largest deficit loss ever in an NWSL championship, losing 4-0 to the North Carolina Courage on the reigning team’s turf.

Despite the lopsided loss, the Red Stars showed an inspiring effort throughout the entire 90 minutes, even after going down three goals in the first half. The Red Stars journey as an organization emulates the same hurdles we have seen the league struggle through since its inaugural season in 2013. Continue reading

A grandfather’s battle against the lead in drinking water

By Henry Ren
Medill Reports

Hyde Park resident Gordon Berry had never imagined that the drinking water in his century-old house could be contaminated by lead, until his 2-year-old granddaughter, who resided with him, had a routine blood test in January 2016.

“They found lead in her blood,” Berry said.

Horrified by the result, Berry “immediately” called the city to test the water. He didn’t hear the test results from the city until an investigative reporter knocked at his door in early May 2016.

“She said, ‘did you know this house has the highest lead content in the water of any house measured in Chicago?’”

“And we would never have known but for her,” Berry said.

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Compulsive loyalty at Starbucks and clues to it from a neurology lab

By Annie Krall
Medill Reports

Starbucks has learned how to make customers keep coming back for more thanks to their rewards program.

And they’re not alone.

Thousands and thousands of businesses use rewards programs to draw customers in and keep them loyal. But why is potentially getting the next stamp or another level up so enjoyable to us?

Talia Lerner, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and her team of researchers are trying to answer that question and many more. Using mice as test subjects they are analyzing the neurological pathways that make compulsive behaviors so difficult to stop, especially when it comes to alcoholism or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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