The number of ‘structurally deficient’ bridges in Cook County is growing

By Kelly McGowan & Kevin Sherman


The Outer Drive Bridge, also known as the Link Bridge, is a 1930s-era structure that is deemed “structurally deficient” by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Thousands of Illinois bridges are structurally deficient, according to data gathered from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).

Illinois comes in fourth with the number of bridges the state possesses with 26,775 as shown in the table below. Illinois also ranks fourth out of 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, concerning numbers of structurally deficient bridges, according to the FHA data compiled in 2017.

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Paris Attacks 2015


On the night of Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, in Paris, gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants, and bars, almost simultaneously. Attacks and bomb blasts left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. Directly after the attacks, the government declared a state of emergency throughout France and a tightening of border controls. Here is a tour of the events that developed that night.


The Opioid Epidemic by the numbers

Overdose is the leading cause of death among Americans 50 and under. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and others (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. In 2016, 42,249 people died from overdosing on opioids. The visual graphic below shares data that was recorded about opioid use in America during 2016. Data has been collected from the United States of America’s Department of Health and Human Services.



National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Drugs of Abuse: Opioids. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available at

Chicago Cubs’ historical attendance highlights

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Wrigley Field was originally named Weeghman Park when it opened in 1914. Original capacity was 14,000 fans. It was home to the Chicago Whales of Federal League. The Cubs moved from the West Side Grounds to Weeghman Park for 1916, after the Federal League folded. The ballpark was renamed Cubs Park in 1919 and became Wrigley Field in 1926. Since the stadium’s opening, the field has gone through countless changes in an effort to accommodate more fans. Highest season attendance at Wrigley Field was 40,743 in 2008. Every 2008 date drew at least 37,000, and crowds exceeded 40,000 Average per date also topped 40,000 in 2007. The Cubs have outdrawn the White Sox for the past 24 seasons.

Inspecting such patterns in attendance turnout would not be complete without noting team highlight that year. The record for most home runs hit in a season at Wrigley Field is 233, set in 2004. The most ever by the Cubs at home in a season is 137, also in 2004. The record for most home runs by opponents is 125 in 2006. Through the 2016 season, there have been 13,030 home runs hit at Wrigley Field.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic using data

After alcohol intoxication, opioids are the most common cause of poisoning in patients presenting to North American emergency departments (Substance Abuse, 2011). Most opioids misused by patients originate from prescription medication. These two main types of nonmedical opioid use represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. Some individuals who abuse opioids are seeking euphoric effects, but others have developed dependence through chronic opioid use and are merely trying to avoid opiate withdrawal. Opioid-related harm has now reached epidemic levels: emergency department visits for nonmedical use of prescription opioids more than doubled from 2004 to 2011, accounting for an estimated 488, 000 visits in 2011. Deaths have more than tripled since 1999, with an estimated 16, 235 deaths attributable to prescription opioids in 2013 (Kolody, Courtwright, & Hwang, 2015). Here is a graphic that adopted data collected by the CDC on opioid-related deaths.

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Kolodny A, Courtwright DT, Hwang CS, et al. The prescription opioid and heroin crisis: a public health approach to an epidemic of addiction. Annu Rev Public Health. 2015;36:559-574.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency. Drug abuse warning network, 2011: national estimates of drug-related emergency department visits. Accessed September 14, 2015

Homicides in Chicago: Explore our community

August was the deadliest month in Chicago in 20 years. During August, according to Chicago’s Police department, they have documented 75 gun-related homicides in one weekend. Documenting such crimes is necessary for future understanding that can help prevent such atrocities. Many of the families of slain victims have not seen justice.

It all started Aug. 4 – the midpoint of the most violent weekend this year in Chicago. It saw 75 people shot and only one alleged shooter has been charged. There is much debate to be had regarding how the Chicago Police have been handling such crimes. Chicago Tribune crime reporter, Jeremy Gorner,  has come forward to explain the lack of convictions for criminal cases. Stating “residents and crime experts agree that consistently the Chicago Police do not hold those who commit violence accountable.” Such discourse has cast a shadow on the entire city.

One useful tool for presenting such recordings of crime data can be shown by mapping the location of the incidents.  Below is a map intended to share records of gun-related homicides in Chicago during summer 2018. Each pinpoint is a shooting victim who has lost their life as a result of gun violence.  Data represents a number of victims, not shooting incidents. Homicides tend to peak in the summer months. The high number of casualties underscore an ongoing discussion over violence in Chicago.

Hacking Democracy

The U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election (Whitaker, 2018). They did so by leaking stolen emails and inflaming tensions on social media. Congress and Robert Mueller investigate Russian interference involving whether the campaign of Donald Trump conspired with Russia. The 2016 presidential election took the world by storm creating a key moment of the twenty-first century. There has been an array of groups who are working to make sense of this election and what it means for the future of democratic life. Lots of explanations have been created and shared through public discourse.  What has been discovered is how social media helped with such meddling. The media has a lot of control as to what viewers see and think. Such control shows how media specifically social media played an important role in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

When the internet became a mass consumer-oriented media in the mid-1990s, tremendous hype surrounded its potential for realizing a new form of political participation (Boczkowski, & Papacharissip, 2018). Many early internet advocates saw the rise of social media as the ultimate delivery into the public sphere. Early supporters saw online communities as enabling a powerful form of bottom-up democratic participation that could challenge traditional forms of journalism. After the outcome of the 2016 election, many surprised political pundits, progressives and liberals scrambled to identify culprits

In addition to challenging the value of the Electoral College, some questioned the role fake news played in the spread of disinformation. Experts point to suggest that the internet has played an integral role in the false sharing of information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.  The defeat of Clinton at the hands of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has generated an outcry from scholars who point to the role of social media in influencing the results of the election (Boczkowski, & Papacharissip, 2018). Arguments as to why social media might have contributed to President Trump’s election have included the sway of fake news articles, algorithms that create filter bubbles, the influence of strong political opinions expressed through social media and how social media sorts people into echo chambers that limit their exposer to different points of view (Boczkowski, & Papacharissip, 2018). No one is immune to these points of view.

Social media has generated a new medium that has changed mainstream media. Now anyone can document information and share it with the masses. Social media sites can often be used as the medium that users can post and share whatever they want. In some cases, users might be sharing information that might be misleading in nature without even knowing. Stories created with the intention to deceive are called fake news (Jack, 2017).  Fake news is not something new. However, it has been a phrase that has had much attention recently. Donald Trump and his team quickly repurposed the term by calling several mainstream news outlets such as CNN, and the New York Times (Boczkowski, & Papacharissip, 2018).  The problem of fake news has become a large issue in an era of social media. Lots of information that people come across on social media may appear to be true but, often are not (“Explained: What Is Fake News,” 2018).  An issue with social media sites is that they allow users to share and post information that can be distributed to a large number of people that sometimes are not true. There is also a growing concern as to how to control fake news stories. Social media sites such as Facebook have been called on to stop such stories from being shared on their site.

Facebook officials revealed that during the run-up to the election they had several hundred accounts that they believe were created by a Russian company (Shane, S., & Goel, 2017). The company was linked to the Russian government that bought $100,000 in ad space pushing disruptive ads during and after the election (Shane, S., & Goel, 2017). On both Facebook and Twitter, Russian trolls were shown using automated accounts called bots, who sent out divisive messages against Democrats, particularly in opposition. While on Twitter, hundreds of accounts were used to spread anti-Clinton messages as well as share leaked material obtained by Russian hackers (Shane, S., & Goel, 2017). Research by FireEye found messages that showed “clear signs of intermittent human control” (Shane, S., & Goel, 2017).  One giveaway was when hundreds of accounts tweeted within seconds of each other and were sent out in alphabetical order. Lee Foster leads the FireEye team which is examining Russian interference whose team discovered hundreds of accounts tweeting #WarAgainstDemocrats. Most of the accounts that tweeted that hashtag had been hijacked or fraudulent. One Twitter user named Rachel Usedom had her account taken over and renamed @ClintonCurruption.  She did not even know that it happened until she was told by Twitter officials. Twitter, unlike Facebook, does not require real names and does not prohibit automated accounts (Shane, S., & Goel, 2017). Therefore, allowing Russian bots to send tweets out on a massive scale.

Thirteen Russian nationals have been charged with illegally trying to disrupt the 2016 elections (Shane, S., & Goel, 2017). Some of the ways they did so were with fraudulent social media accounts, creating political rallies, and online political advertisement. The individuals in question have been charged with creating hundreds of social media accounts and impersonating fictitious Americans. Also, in the indictment which stated that they staged political rallies around the country from June to November (Parlapiano, & Lee, 2018). The rallies were promoted through social media channels which were accounts registered under fake American aliases. The indictment also points to the group who paid for advertisements on social media (Parlapiano, & Lee, 2018). They expressively supported Donald Trump and opposed Hillary Clinton.

American democracy has been struck by changes in media technology (Allcot & Gentzknow, 2017). In the new millennium, the growth of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has a different structure than previous media technologies. Users can spread content with no significant third-party filtering, fact-checking, or editorial judgment (Allcot & Gentzknow, 2017). The ability to share anything online in some cases allow false or conspiracy-driven news to the masses. One extreme example of this occurred during the election. Conspiracy theorists spread a story about Hillary Clinton over blogs and other forms of social media. The internet allowed such a story to spread rapidly through its interconnected structure. Conspiracy theories are defined by Keeley (1999) as “a proposed explanation of some historical event (or events) regarding the significant causal agency of relatively small group of persons—the conspirators—acting in secret.” The conspiracy theory shared was known as Pizzagate. The main theory revolved around a claim that Clinton was involved in a child sex ring operation at the Comet Ping Pong in Washington, DC (Marwick, & Lewis, n.d., p.6). The story gained traction after evidence was discovered that Clinton sometimes goes to that restaurant. Further, WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the Clinton campaign that included conversations with the restaurant’s owner about a fundraiser for the Clinton campaign (Marwick, & Lewis, n.d., p.7). The conspiracy theorists along with people who shared the story fueled such allegations that can be categorized as disinformation. Disinformation is information that is shared deliberately to mislead readers. Disinformation in some cases creates propaganda.

Propaganda is designed in order to shape and alter attitudes and behaviors. Fake news grew in attention during the election. Fake news after the election had been identified as misleading propaganda that spread through social media. Apart from Russia’s complex propaganda system including bots, teams of paid human trolls, and networks of websites that were linked to their right-wing agenda (Timberg, 2018). Russia has denied any involvement in the meddling in the 2016 election.

Confidently the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency jointly stated with “high confidence” that the Russian government ordered an influence campaign during the election. Since the election, many have argued that social media played an integral role in exposing people to fake news. The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 election reflects a troubling combination of rising trends in political communication namely, the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories, propaganda, and fake news.  These developments are worrisome because they stand in opposition to central principles of democracy. The internet has fundamentally transformed the way people receive information. One downfall that social media brings is that it allows content to be shared easily with a large number of people. A lesson that was learned from the 2016 election is that some news stories are deliberately written to deceive. Another kind of fake news is known as disinformation which was shared on Facebook and Twitter to change people’s opinions about a candidate. The information that was shared was done by the use of bots. Bots had a large role to play in the run-up to the election. Many hundred fake accounts were used to spread pro-Trump propaganda. In an era of new media, journalism is not dead. There is a need to adapt to changes that social media brings.  The changes happening in the news industry are brought on by rapid advances in technology that should not be seen as a threat to mainstream media but instead complementary.


Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. doi:10.3386/w23089

Boczkowski, P. J., & Papacharissi, Z. (2018). Trump and the media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

“Explained: What Is Fake News? | Social Media and Filter Bubbles.”, 27 Mar. 2018,

Fixmer-Oraiz, N., & Wood, J. T. (2015). Gendered lives: Communication, gender, and culture (Twelfth ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.

Jang, S. M., & Oh, Y. W. (2016). Getting attention online in election coverage: Audience selectivity in the 2012 US presidential election. New Media & Society,18(10), 2271-2286. doi:10.1177/1461444815583491

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Marwick, A., & Lewis, R. (n.d.). Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online | Data & Society. Retrieved April 8, 2018, from

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Shane, S. (2017). The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election. Retrieved April 09, 2018, from

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Timberg, C. “Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread ‘fake News’ during Election, Experts Say.” The Washington Post. November 24, 2016. Accessed April 09, 2018.

Whitaker, B. (Writer). (2018, April 4). 60 Minutes [Television series episode]. New York, NewYork: CBS.

Top 10 restaurants that any foodie would love

Located at the center of America’s agricultural heartland and bordering the nation’s great waterways, Chicago is one of the world’s great food cities. Like many cities, they are blessed with the abundance of many different cultures that brings diverse cuisine. From the pizza to the hotdogs, from the hamburgers to polish sausage, there is lots to love about Chicago’s food. If you find yourself asking “where is a good place to eat,” here are the top 10 I would recommend.

The Hidden Connection Between Domestic Abuse and Mass Shootings

In Texas and beyond, mass shootings have roots in domestic violence. In 2017, mass shootings in America reached an all-time high. With each shooting brings an outcry of support for gun laws. A shooter’s mind is an unsolvable riddle: nobody can seem to predict who the next one will be. There is, however, a trend that can look at one quality that many shooters have that has been overlooked.

Mass shootings have become all too familiar in America, such as the one that occurred in Texas during November that claimed 26 lives. Or a month earlier in Las Vegas where the shooter killed 58 people. In the wake of each massacre, many people are asking why. A large portion of mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years have roots in domestic violence. It was reported the gunman in Texas assaulted his wife and their young children in 2012. It is also interesting to look at how perpetrators of domestic violence during 2009 and 2016 accounted for 54 percent of mass shootings.

Looking at an analysis of Google search on Google Trends, both of the shootings mentioned in this article have spikes when searching both “mass shootings” and “domestic violence.” Locating the dates of both the Texas (October) and Las Vegas (November) shootings show spikes on the day of each shooting. Also, while the search for domestic violence also spiked. Looking at the image of the United States, shows that “domestic violence” dominated search visits compared to “mass shootings” in 2017. It is a good sign that people are finally making connections between these occurrences as apparent in the graphs below.  For the future, domestic violence should not be forgotten when it comes to policies on owning a gun.