Public Affairs

500,000 revelers expected downtown for the 60th St. Patrick’s Day parade

By Christine Smith

Dust off your greenest attire, lads and lassies. St. Patrick’s Day is upon us once again.

With the holiday under a week away, Chicago prepares to go Irish for the day when it hosts its 60th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade this Saturday. Continue reading

Supreme Court justices are skeptical of pension reform arguments

By Meredith Wilson

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — During oral arguments Wednesday, Illinois Supreme Court justices  found fault with Senate Bill 1, a law to alleviate the state’s financial burden of public employee pensions.

Justice Robert Thomas interrupted the attorney for the state, Solicitor General Carolyn Shapiro, several times, asking her about the basic facts of her briefs and the culpability of the state in the pension crisis.

In particular, Thomas hammered Shapiro about the extent of the state’s emergency powers, which she contended could be invoked  to trump a constitutional clause protecting pensions.

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VIDEO: How Chicago organizations help youth combat dating violence, sex trafficking

By Tanni Deb and Grace Eleyae

On this edition of Medill Newsmakers, we discuss what some Chicago organizations are doing to educate young men on how to combat teenage dating violence and sex trafficking. Featured organizations are members from the Allied Against Violence Project, an anti-domestic violence program that empowers teenage males to build healthy relationships; the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, a group educating youth to combat sexual exploitation; and Her Story Theatre, which showcases plays to raise awareness for social change for both women and children.

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Wikipedians are Editing the Gender Gap

By Lucy Vernasco

If you walked by room 613 at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago’s Flaxman Library on Saturday, you heard the sounds of furious typing and laughter as a diverse group of students and Chicago residents discussed feminism and the internet. Continue reading

Illinois remains lethargic on medical marijuana

By Ezra Kaplan

Marla Levi is a 52-year-old Chicagoan with multiple sclerosis. With the support of her doctor, she applied and was accepted into the state-funded Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. This means that she qualifies and has a medical need for medical marijuana. It has been nearly three months since she got her papers but she has yet to fill the prescription.

The law that allows medical marijuana also stipulates that it must come from the state. But Illinois hasn’t grown any marijuana.

Sound like a Catch-22?

It is.

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Bipartisan drug proposal garners praise from drug professionals

By Dani Anguiano

Drug policy experts and substance abuse professionals have called for strong action to tackle heroin abuse as well as expressed optimism about a $25 million legislative package to be proposed by Illinois lawmakers.

House Democratic Assistant Majority Leader Lou Lang, (D-Skokie), and state Rep. John Anthony, (R-Morris), recently announced their plan to propose legislation that will address what health-care professionals describe as a heroin epidemic. The legislation would require, among other things, the development of a drug prevention program for schools, the establishment of a medication take-back program, and increased access to drugs that fight heroin overdoses.
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GMOs: The scarlet letters of the grocery aisle?

By Shanley Chien

You walk down the aisles at Whole Foods spotting milk, cookies, pasta, and a variety of other products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. The label tells you the foods don’t contain genetically modified organisms  – GMOs.

But the image of a butterfly sitting on a blade of grass shaped like a check mark subconsciously reassures you that this product is “safe.” After all, if it’s safe enough for a butterfly, it’s safe enough for you and your family. You put it in your basket, perhaps because people like Dr. Oz and food blogger Vani Hari of Food Babe tell you GMOs are unhealthy.

GMOs add to the nutritional value and preservation of foods and most scientists vouch for their safety. But critics abound.

“We have the whole government working against us,” Hari said in an interview on the Carolina Connection Talk Radio. “They don’t want Americans to figure out that these could be causing health issues, that they haven’t been tested, and they are increasing pesticide and herbicide use.”

Organizations and advocacy groups such as the Non-GMO Project, Dr. Oz, Food Babe, and other anti-GMO crusaders say GMOs are unnatural and unhealthy, according to their websites. Continue reading

ISIS takes aim at Iraq’s ancient past

By Ramsen Shamon

The Islamic State, or ISIS, is using everything from sledgehammers to bulldozers to rewrite Iraq’s cultural history, a priceless legacy of art and archaeology that they consider inappropriate according to their interpretation of the Quran.

A recent video released by ISIS showcases their destruction of historical objects in Mosul’s museum, some dating back to as early as the 7th century B.C. According to Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, ISIS bulldozed the ancient site of Nimrud, a capital of the Assyrian Empire in the 800s B.C.

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Indiana HIV Outbreak Continues to Grow

By Jamie Friedlander

Southeastern Indiana health officials confirmed today an HIV outbreak there continues unabated. As of March 6 there are 44 confirmed and 11 preliminary cases of HIV. The outbreak is connected to injection of the prescription drug Opana, an opioid painkiller that contains oxymorphone, a narcotic pain reliever.

State officials first reported the outbreak Feb. 25, after identifying  26 confirmed and 4 preliminary HIV positive cases since mid-December. These cases have been reported in Scott, Clark, Jackson, Perry and Washington counties. Continue reading

Garcia and Emanuel ‘likely even’ heading into April 7 runoff

By Matt Yurus

Ogden & Fry’s latest poll on Chicago’s mayoral race reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia are “likely even.”

Dr. Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Garcia supporter, said that he is now a legitimate candidate, but the “critical element” to winning could boil down to whether Garcia can raise enough money to deliver his message to Chicago voters before the April 7 runoff.

Medill Reports’ Joe Musso contributed to this report.

Dick Simpson says Garcia is now a legitimate candidate to become Chicago’s first Latino mayor. (Matt Yurus / Medill)