Chicago Tribune

Science as lifesaver dates back thousands of years to the Nilometer, but now some politicians want to turn back the clock

Five thousand years after the Egyptians demonstrated science’s ability to hold death at bay, Florida’s governor is committed to denying his constituents that benefit. The Egyptians invented a device that archeologists call a Nilometer. Basically a column erected in the upper reaches of the Nile River, it measured the depth of water that would flow downstream to irrigate a narrow ribbon of arable land. Too little or too much predicted a crop failure, famine and starvation — unless grain from a previous harvest was stored. That experience is echoed in the biblical story of Joseph explaining Phar...

As a corrective to ‘The White Lotus,’ the Mexican film ‘The Chambermaid’ puts the manual labor of a hotel’s housekeeper front and center

“The White Lotus,” which wrapped its first season on HBO last week, is a show preoccupied with the inner lives of a group of wealthy white guests at a Hawaiian resort. But the characters who make that hotel stay so plush and cushy? Underwritten and underdeveloped. We never go home with any of the staff. We never see or hear about their lives outside of work. They exist only as a reactive presence to the people they’re employed to serve. It’s such a thin way of constructing a story, even one meant to skewer the guests themselves. There were so many interesting roads not taken in “The White Lotu...

From Bitcoin mining to ATMs, Illinois is positioning itself as a center for the booming cryptocurrency industry

City of the big shoulders, hog butcher for the world, Chicago is looking to add another title for the digital age: cryptocurrency finance center. From one of the Midwest’s largest cryptocurrency mining facilities to a Chicago-based Bitcoin ATM operator, Illinois is becoming fertile ground for the fast-growing digital asset industry, which has developed from an arcane concept into a booming investment in a little over a decade. With little regulation and no backing other than the faith of its fervent believers, cryptocurrency has turned into digital gold for early adopters, despite wild market ...

‘If you want a scary story’: Agriculture, human health and ecosystems at risk as Illinois’ climate is quickly changing

Illinois’ climate is swiftly changing, In an extensive new report released Tuesday, the Nature Conservancy details how Illinois’ climate has transformed and looks forward to what more change might mean for the state’s agriculture, human health and already-stressed ecosystems. “There’s a big message there that we need to be doing everything we can to prevent future climate change by mitigating our use of fossil fuels, particularly,” said Donald Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois, and one of the lead authors of the assessment. “For those things we can’t p...

Live on election night, Colbert, Noah struggle to make comedy out of the unclear presidential results

The comedy Tuesday evening was about as satisfying as the vote-counting.On an election night where the most likely thing happened and America went to bed without a winner in the presidential race or many other key contests, Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah offered up separate live comedy shows attempting to leverage the potentially momentous occasion.But by the time both shows ended in the vicinity of midnight Eastern time, there wasn’t much available in the way of results and so the shows were left to ride largely on prepared bits that they could run no matter the news and on jokes about the n...

As we head into a winter lockdown, who will win? Netflix and DoorDash again? Don't be so sure.

CHICAGO — Last Saturday, I asked my wife how she wanted to spend the evening. “Well,” she said. “We could take the dog for a walk or watch something on a screen.”My face must have fallen. “You know what?,” she said, brightly. “We could do both.”In the first phase of this pervasive COVID-19 nightmare, screens dominated our locked-down lives, providing education for our children, a gateway to buying stuff and almost all of our entertainment options. The economic consequence of this was a massive win for international in-home content facilitators and providers like Zoom and Netflix, a devastating...

The only Chicagoan of the Chicago 7 just wrote a memoir and says he's a fan of the Netflix movie 'Trial of the Chicago 7'

CHICAGO — Lee Weiner was the only defendant in the 1969 trial of the Chicago 7 who was from Chicago. He grew up in South Shore; while facing federal charges of inciting a riot and teaching his fellow protestors to build Molotov cocktails, he was a research assistant in the sociology department at Northwestern University. Yet, in the new Aaron Sorkin movie, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which hits Netflix on Friday, Weiner is barely a supporting character. Which isn’t far from the truth: If the Chicago 8 (as they were initially) was considered a dream team of magnetic war protestors — Abbie Hof...

Trump's America gets caught with its pants down in 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm'

We’ll zip up the matter of Rudy Giuliani’s pants in a minute. First, though, let’s pretend the new “Borat” movie has people talking about anything else.It goes by the droll, broken-English title of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Sacha Baron Cohen’s most useful satiric creation — the exuberantly bigoted idiot journalist from Kazakhstan first introduced on Cohen’s “Da Ali G Show,” then given his own, wonderful, hit-and-run 2006 feature — captures intermittent flashes of lightning in his return to an America even more alarming than the gun-toting Dogpatch of the second Bush term, as depicted in th...

College grads struggle to launch careers in a pandemic economy. 'I chose the worst year to get my life together'

CHICAGO — Kevin Zheng had big plans lined up as he prepared to graduate in the spring with a degree in criminal justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago.The 23-year-old thought he’d enter the job market well-prepared, with an internship at the Chicago Police Department on his resume.But the COVID-19 health crisis upended that plan. His internship was canceled, his graduation was delayed until August, and he sat in his bedroom for the virtual commencement ceremony. Now he’s looking for a job in a pandemic-induced recession.“I chose the worst year to get my life together,” said Zheng, ...

Was it realistic to expect college students to follow COVID-19 protocols? The science suggests no.

Back in June, leading adolescent brain researcher Laurence Steinberg wrote a New York Times op-ed predicting that students returning to college campuses during a pandemic would not go well.“These plans are so unrealistically optimistic that they border on delusional and could lead to outbreaks of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff,” wrote Steinberg, who is a professor of psychology at Temple University and the author of “Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence.”He was right, of course. A late September survey conducted by the New York Times looked at more than 1...

An Illinois university got major pushback for cutting religion, French and anthropology. But other colleges are dropping the humanities too

CHICAGO — Scott Sheridan didn’t expect his 23 years of teaching at Illinois Wesleyan University to end like this.Though fewer students are pursuing degrees in his areas of study these days, many still participate. This semester, more than 50 students at the campus in Bloomington are taking advanced classes in French cinema and Italian cultural history. The spots filled up so quickly that more were added, Sheridan said.But programs in French and Italian won’t continue beyond this school year. And neither will those in religion, anthropology, American cultural studies and three other academic de...

'Trial of Chicago 7': Aaron Sorkin takes Mayor Daley's 1968 nightmare to court

Brilliantly cast, full of juicy verbal confrontations and only slightly undermined by its director, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” hits the righteous indignation spot. The writer is Aaron Sorkin. The director is also Aaron Sorkin.It’ll certainly hit home for Chicagoans who remember 1968 and 1969, as well as Chicagoans who know full well what has boiled these few months of 2020, and why.In late August 1968, the Democratic National Convention began and soon became a secondary narrative. Lincoln Park and, across the street from the Conrad Hilton Hotel convention headquarters, Grant Park drew tens o...

Donald Trump's involvement in sports might be the most divisive -- but he isn't the only president who has meddled

President Donald Trump’s comments about sports have been among the most bombastic of his time in office.He called NFL players who kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice “sons of bitches” who needed to be “fired.” He implied that LeBron James isn’t smart.He often takes to Twitter to poke at leagues for low TV ratings. He recently lobbied for Big Ten football’s return.It seems no other president has so frequently weighed in on sports — at least not so derisively.“It is unusual,” said Fred Frommer, author of “You Gotta Have Heart,” a history of Washington baseball. “The c...

The earliest COVID-19 patients faced stigma, bigotry. But experts say their contributions to science taught much about the virus

CHICAGO — She was known as Patient 1.The Chicago woman in her 60s had traveled on Christmas Day to Wuhan, China, where she cared for her elderly father who had fallen ill to a mysterious, undiagnosed respiratory sickness.After returning to Chicago in mid-January, her own symptoms emerged: fever, cough and fatigue, followed by nausea and dizziness.While hospitalized for pneumonia, she became the first patient in Illinois and the second in the nation to test positive for the novel coronavirus, a new and little-understood illness that would soon burgeon into an international pandemic, sickening m...

Illinois Governor Drinks Chocolate Milk to Demonstrate His Commitment to Diversity

CHICAGO — In an awkward onstage appearance this week, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner drank a glass of chocolate milk to demonstrate his belief in diversity. "It's really, really good," Rauner said after taking a sip of the sugary drink.

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AAA Study Finds No Scientific Basis for Drugged Driving Laws Based on THC Levels

Legal limits for driving on pot not backed by science, study shows

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Immigrant Raids Must Stop

As members of Congress, we have traveled to remote corners of the world and had our eyes opened to some of the worst human suffering imaginable -- abject poverty, meager wages, poor working conditions, paltry access to legal counsel and a jarring lack of fairness in the courts.

We never imagined that we would witness the same injustices in a small American town just a five-hour drive from Chicago.

During a visit to Postville, Iowa, last weekend, site of the May 12 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid of the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant, we saw firsthand how a broken Immigration system devastates a small town.

Mothers bound to electronic bracelets were allowed neither to work nor to return to their home countries, leaving them without recourse to pay rent or feed their children. Wives and children -- many of them U.S. citizens -- were left to wonder where their husbands and fathers had been taken, or where they would go next. To this day, more than half of the wives do not know where their husbands are.

Meanwhile, a 16-year-old boy spoke of working 17-hour shifts, six days a week, without overtime on the kill floor of a meatpacking plant. Women from the slaughterhouse spoke of male supervisors demanding sex in return for decent hours, decent pay and decent treatment on the job. These workers were victimized, only to be herded like animals when ICE swept the plant and left their employers without punishment.

There is no mistaking that these men and women are suffering at the hands of the U.S. government and our president. Our broken Immigration system has paved a way to the objectification of human beings at the expense of our labor laws, U.S. workers' safety and basic family values.

Instead of taking a stand against the outright victimization of workers -- many of them minors, and all of them legally entitled to labor protections -- the Bush administration decided that meatpackers posed a greater threat to our security than suspected terrorists or physically abusive employers.

Almost two years to the day before the administration sent 900 ICE agents to storm Agriprocessors, President George W. Bush appeared before the American people and declared: "We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time."

Postville has plainly shown that we are neither of those things. We are not "lawful" when we interrupt investigations spearheaded by our own Department of Labor. We are not lawful when we implement fear tactics and deportation-only policies simply to score cheap political points with conservative pundits. We are not lawful when we railroad men and women through the judicial process, without adequate representation or a full understanding of their rights.

We are certainly not "welcoming" when hardworking mothers and fathers are prohibited from raising their U.S. citizen children in the country of their birth, or when those who work the longest hours at the most undesirable jobs are treated like terrorists, simply for waking up and going to work.

There is no other reasonable response than to demand that Bush remember his words of welcome and his commitment to law, by placing a moratorium on Immigration raids until we have passed effective, comprehensive reform. The nation that we love, respect and serve is better than this. Bush stood before the American people and proclaimed:

"An Immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because all elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all."

But headline-grabbing tactics like the Postville raid had nothing to do with comprehensive reform. Bush has forgotten his promise.

No one benefits when taxpayers pay $590,000 a month to jail Postville's detainees. As a society, we fail when our factories are less safe, when the perpetrators go uncharged or when our laws remove infants from nursing mothers and create broken homes for U.S. citizen children.

We can all agree that we need Immigration reform that is tough on enforcement. However, any system which fails to respect the enormous contributions immigrants make to our workforce, that fails to reflect our proud history of welcoming those who seek a better life and that fails to protect all U.S. workers and our homeland, fails the American people.

The Postville raid failed our nation on all three of those levels. Any future raid would be equally and profoundly inexcusable and cause yet another avoidable blight on our history.

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune.

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