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News In Brief: January 2, 2022

A round up to round off 2021. Welcome to 2022!

By News

A wide-mouthed character tilts its head back and gobbles up a variety of news briefs and debris. Illustration by Jade Sheng.

Illustration by Jade Sheng.

Happy New Year, everybody! In the spirit of the great-big-roundup that happens at the end of the calendar page, we gathered some of F Newsmagazine’s most beloved and engaging stories from the past year. Spoiler: SAIC is a bunch of demon-loving romantics. But first, some local, national, and international stories that caught our attention.

How long can you hold it? City Council works on pilot program for more public restrooms. 

You know the feeling. You’re out on a jog, you’re near the end of a meeting, you’re on I-80 somewhere in Nebraska, and you’ve got to go. It’s uncomfortable, potentially embarrassing, and physically and mentally, well, draining. In reality most of us will make it to a bathroom (or at least a well-concealed bush). But for the many facing homelessness in the city of Chicago, it’s much harder to find relief. 

In October, the Chicago Tribune reported that the city of Chicago has fewer than 500 restrooms “with few or no barriers to entry, such as security check-points or client-only access, in a city of 2.7 million people.” Of those roughly 500 restrooms, only 350 exist in public parks (meaning that people don’t have to enter a building to access it), and 79 of those close during the winter. 

The report also found major gaps on the map, with zero public restrooms in the Magnificent Mile shopping district. Furthermore, nearly all of the public restrooms that are open 24-hours are in police stations, the Tribune reports, “which discourages people reluctant to engage with law enforcement.” And of which, many people are likely unaware in the first place.

At the time the article was published, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s press secretary indicated that there were no efforts underway to remedy this situation. In mid-December, however, a group of 19 alderpeople signed on to a plan for a city-run pilot program to open more public restrooms. Block Club Chicago reported that the Mayor declined to comment on the resolution, yet the City Council members seem undeterred. 

“For our neighbors experiencing homelessness, the lack of access to safe and clean restrooms is much more than an inconvenience,” Tedd Peso, Strategic Partnerships Director at The Night Ministry, a homeless shelter, said in a press release that Block Club Chicago reported on. “It is a matter of human dignity and both personal and public health.”  

Don’t take it for granted. Chicago Public Libraries open on Sundays. 

Speaking of public facilities, last week, on December 19, all 81 of Chicago’s public libraries were open. Why is this a big deal? Because it’s been over a decade since Chicago’s public libraries have been able to open on Sundays. 

In 2011, hoping to close a city budget shortfall, then Mayor Rahm Emmanuel (now known as Ambassador Rahm Emmanuel) cut $8 million from the library budget, effectively eliminating about a quarter of the libraries’ workforce and forcing neighborhood branches to close on Sundays. From 2012 to 2019 only Harold Washington Library and three regional libraries were open on Sundays (and only open from 1 – 5 p.m., at that). 

An $18 million property tax hike in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget provided the funding to re-open local branches seven days a week. For many, access to a local library means access to the internet, an essential component for school-aged children in an age of remote learning.

According to US Census data, 20% of children in Chicago live in households without internet connections. In neighborhoods on the South and West sides, that number is closer to 40%. Daniel Cooper, director of research for the Metropolitan Planning Council, told NPR that connectivity is fundamental to making sure that there aren’t gaps in who can learn and work from home. However, just as the doors opened, the Omicron variant pushed its way in, threatening the budget’s efficacy after only one week. 

Learning from the past, rewriting the future. Chile writes a new constitution with climate change in mind. 

The United States Constitution, that coveted piece of parchment, has been running this place since 1787. And though we’ve tacked on some amendments here and there, the idea of rewriting it to fit “these unprecedented times” has never really crossed anyone’s mind. Really? Electoral college and all? OK.

Chile isn’t quite as attached as us Americans, and they’ve taken to writing a new constitution suitable for the conditions and concerns of the 2020s. A big one that they’re (ahem, *we’re*) facing: Climate change. Specifically, Chile’s lithium-rich deserts are increasingly the site of mining as major world powers combat climate change by shifting energy dependence to lithium batteries. 

After months of social and environmental protests against the mines, a committee of 155 Chileans have been elected to write a new constitution according to the New York Times. The committee will face a variety of contemporary decisions, including: “How should mining be regulated, and what voice should local communities have over mining? Should Chile retain a presidential system? Should nature have rights? How about future generations?”

Chile’s current constitution was written in 1980 by people close to its then military ruler, Augusto Pinochet. As the NYT reports, that constitution “opened the country to mining investments and allowed water rights to be bought and sold.” As the global demand for batteries surges, the price of lithium is rising rapidly. With the old constitution in place, the wealth generated by this resource is disproportionately distributed to the heads of a few major corporations, with local residents bearing the brunt of the damage. The constitutional committee will have to rethink the water rights of Chile’s desert, and in doing so, may redistribute access to the lithium-rich brine beneath its desert surface. 

“We have to face some very complex 21st century problems,” Maisa Rojas, a climate scientist at the University of Chile told the NYT. The committee hopes to have a draft of the constitution ready by July 2022, after which it will be voted on. 

Finally, it’s shout-out season! The stories that grabbed your fleeting attention this year. 

The most read story on this year was “Heartbreak Anonymous: Relationship Advice” by Olivia Canny. This once-in-a-lifetime (literally) advice column popped up in July as part of our “Summer of Love” special issue. What a bunch of hopeless romantics. 

What do art school students love as much as love? According to our social media stats: Video game humor, weed, and unions. Yeah, sounds about right. 

As if we aren’t cripplingly self-aware enough, every year we send a bunch of our articles and illustrations off to a panel of experts to decide whether we’re doing it well or wasting our time. Thankfully, this year they seemed to like a lot of what we’re doing. 

Lela Johnson, infographics editor, won five individual Pacemaker Awards (Associated Collegiate Press), including first place in the Informational Graphic category for her “Policing in the USA” story. Teddie Bernard, comics editor, illustrated the second place Cartoon of the Year, their politically poignant cartoon “Happy Curfew.

Lela and Teddie also won a number of Pinnacle Awards (College Media Association), along with Olivia Canny and Jason Rodriguez for the F News podcast, “Nicole Marroquín on the power of rebel youth”; previous managing editor Leo Smith for “Pay Day: Salary Growth and Inequality at SAIC”; and designer Justine Guzman for the “Dear Sports Fans” page in our April Issue. 

Finally, a super special shout-out to a 2012 article called “Here Follows a List of Several Demons and Their Sigils of Summoning” by Dijana Kadic, which remains our most popular story ever on, with over half a million views and counting. What’s most remarkable about the story, besides the fact that the demons are arranged alphabetically, oh, and besides the fact that there is a “Lord of the Most,” is that this article still has an active comments section. The most recent comment popped up less than a month ago. To user SAM: I hope you’ve since found Elim.

Thanks for sticking with us, through hell and back. Happy New Year. 

Parker Yamasaki (MANAJ 2023) is the managing editor at F Newsmagazine. She is constantly looking for a sunnier place to sit.

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