Public Affairs

Failing healthcare on the island of Vieques

By Arnab Mondal
Medill Reports

Thousands of concrete blocks are lined up, side by side, on the edges of Luis Muñoz Rivera Plaza in Vieques, a tiny island in Puerto Rico. Some of the blocks are dyed with color, and most have names scribbled on them.

At first glance, the colorful blocks, red ribbons and heart decorations on the stage at the end of the plaza seem like part of a festival. However, the sheer number of names on the blocks is reminiscent of memorials. At first glance, one might wonder if the names on the blocks belonged to victims of Hurricane Maria. Not only did Vieques suffer mass destruction due to the hurricane, but the island almost entirely lost contact with the outside world for about two weeks.

After Maria, Vieques was left without proper water and power supply for a long time. Combined with the flooding of its only hospital, the Centro de Diagnostico y Tratamiento de Vieques, the resulting death toll on the Viequenses was severe. Hence, the idea that the local community might be building memorials to the victims hardly seems like a stretch.

However, a few of the blocks stand out from the rest. These blocks don’t have any names scribbled on them. Rather, each one contains only a single letter. Put together, they spell out messages like “Hospital” or “Niños Muriendo” (“Children Dying”).

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Q&A: “Stop listening to haters,” says the youngest Muslim to be elected

By Arnab Mondal
Medill Reports

Bushra Amiwala, the daughter of two Pakistani immigrants, became the youngest Muslim elected official in the country at the age of 21 in 2019.

She was a DePaul University freshman when she ran for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2017. She lost in the Democratic primary but decided to run again for the Skokie School District’s Board of Education in 2019, which she won.

In this interview, Amiwala discusses the challenges she’s had to face as a Muslim American woman, as well as the prevalent issues in her constituency.

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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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Virginia schools providing food and laptop pickup for students

By Yousef Nasser
Medill Reports

Schools have been closed in the state of Virginia for two months due to COVID-19. In Prince William County, schools are providing food and laptop pickup for their students. Learn more about how schools are reacting to COVID-19 and what challenges still lie ahead.

Photo at top: A Prince William County food service employee packages a meal at Lake Ridge Middle. (Yousef Nasser/MEDILL)

Travelers struggle to get refunds after canceling flights amid coronavirus pandemic

By Henry Ren
Medill Reports

Genie Schwartz canceled her late April flight from West Haven, Connecticut, to Wilmington, North Carolina, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Connecticut residents to eliminate non-essential travels in late March. She then called American Airlines to refund her $400 airfare, only to be offered a travel voucher valid until December 2021.

“I don’t know when it will be safe to travel again,” Schwartz said. “I would really like my money back.”

The 73-year-old had also scheduled a trip to London in mid-May through a local travel agent. The agent had canceled all of Schwartz’s trip reservations and the travel insurance, except for the flights with Delta because the agent was waiting for Delta to cancel the flight.

“If Delta doesn’t cancel, again, I’m stuck,” Schwartz said.

Like Schwartz, thousands of travelers are unable to get cash refunds from major U.S. airlines after proactively canceling their flights amid the coronavirus pandemic. For compensation, they are offered a full travel credit usable in one to two years, depending on the airline.

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COVID-19 leaves international student stuck in Chicago

By Michael Thomas
Medill Reports

Prabash Tiwari is an international student studying in Chicago. With college campuses closed and classes moved online, he’s trying to get home to his family in India. Since Tiwari is originally a citizen of the U.K., he’s not allowed to fly into India. He hopes the government reevaluates its border laws. Until then, he’s forced to wait.

Photo at top: Prabash Tiwari sits alone in his Chicago apartment.(Michael Thomas/MEDILL)

On the road again: Essential road travel during coronavirus

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

Several states have ordered residents to make essential trips only during the coronavirus pandemic. But for those of us who need to hit the roads, what should we expect? With light traffic and low gas prices as positives, see what else to be prepared for.

Photo at top: A highway sign in Indianapolis alerts residents to only make essential trips. (Samone Blair/MEDILL)

COVID-19 on campus

Allegra Zamore
Medill Reports

The coronavirus pandemic has created a difficult landscape for both administrators and college seniors. University teams have had to make tough decisions, and may face even more challenging times as the fall semester gets closer. It’s clear that no one has the right answer, but everyone is just trying to make the best of the situation.

Photo at top: Shenandoah University campus in Winchester, Virginia. (Scott Spriggs/Shenandoah University)

From China to the US: Tracking 14 days in exile

By Henry Ren
Medill Reports

Two days after Xu Wu retrieved his passport in Shanghai, the Silicon Valley software engineer boarded a plane to Cancún after a 21-hour overnight layover at Frankfurt Airport. It was Feb. 18, just over two weeks after the Trump administration barred the entry of foreign citizens who had visited mainland China in the 14 days prior to the travel ban.

On the same day, Mrs. Li, who asked we identify her by the last name only,  went to the U.S. Embassy in Barbados to renew her visa. The 30-year-old Chinese woman works in Miami. Yida Yao, a research assistant at the University of California, Berkeley, was anxiously waiting for his Thai visa to be issued. Steven Li, a visiting undergraduate student who now studies in Boston, asked multiple airline companies whether he could travel with a passport issued in Hubei, the center of the coronavirus outbreak.

Thousands of Chinese nationals who planned to travel to the U.S. for work or school were stuck in China due to the travel restriction and these four were among them. To circumvent the restriction, they would have to travel and stay in a third country for 14 days to qualify for entering the U.S

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Tokyo can still reap benefits of hosting Olympics by modeling successes of London Games

By Sally Ehrmann
Medill Reports

With COVID-19 continuing to spread across the world, the legacy of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics could be the first canceled games due to a pandemic rather than war. If that happens, many wonder whether the estimated $29 billion price tag will have been worth it.

But looking at past successful games shows that economics may not be the only way to measure the success of hosting the Olympics. Eight years after London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games, for example, the city still reaps benefits from a complete transformation of a formerly blighted neighborhood.

“You can look to a qualitative or quantitative legacy. Quantitative, you can capture all that. Job creation, money generated,” said Charles Runcie, a former sports journalist with the BBC. “Then, you must count the qualitative stuff, the feel-good factor. Are more events coming here? Has the city benefited overall?”

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