Stories by Paul Caine

Northern Illinois Farmers Facing Worst Drought in 30 Years

(Chris_LeBoutillier / Pixabay)

After record floods in 2019, northern Illinois farmers are now contending with severe drought. According to state data, this spring was the third driest on record — and those records go all the way back to 1871. Two area farmers join us to share their insights.

Fed Forecasts Strong Economic Growth, but Inflation Concerns Rise

(NikolayFrolochkin / Pixabay)

The Federal Reserve has revised its forecast for inflation this year, predicting that core inflation — which doesn’t include the cost of food or gas — could rise to 3.4% by the year’s end. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that while the economy is growing strongly, the U.S. is still down 7 million jobs.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Work with European Space Agency to Design ‘Moon Village’

A vision of what a permanent human presence on the moon could look like. (Credit: SOM / Slashcube GmbH)

The Chicago-based global architectural powerhouse designs everything from train stations to high-rises to airports. But it also has its sights set beyond Chicago — and even beyond Earth. We learn about a design for a lunar colony grounded in science fact rather than science fiction.

ProPublica Report Exposes Tax Strategies of America’s Super Rich

(Steve Buissinne / Pixabay)

A trove of leaked IRS tax returns analyzed by ProPublica reveals America’s richest billionaires — including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — often pay little to no income tax.

Experts: ‘Reopening Anxiety’ is Real, Widespread and to Be Expected

(WTTW News)

Starting Friday, Chicago and the state of Illinois will fully reopen. It’s a day that many people have longed for, but if you’re experiencing anxiety about a return to something like normal, you’re not alone.

Clean Energy Bill Stalls, But Supporters Still Optimistic for Passage

(Andrey Metelev / Unsplash)

A deal on Gov. Pritzker’s big push to make Illinois a green-powered state has reportedly been close for weeks. But the bill stalled in the Illinois Senate earlier this week. 

Lawyers and Activists Blast Mayor, Police for Lack of Consent Decree Progress

Protesters and police officers wearing riot gear have a standoff near Daley Plaza on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

Community activists and lawyers engaged in efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department have blasted Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD leadership for failing to move quickly on implementation of a court-mandated consent decree that is supposed to ensure change.

Economy is Bouncing Back, but Food Insecurity Persists

The Greater Chicago Food Depository supplies food pantries across the Chicago area. (WTTW News)

The Greater Chicago Food Depository, which supplies food pantries across the area, says in its more than 40-year history it has never seen a hunger crisis like the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss the issue as part of WTTW’s Firsthand initiative exploring poverty.

Chicago’s Top Doctor Says If in Doubt, Keep Wearing That Mask

(WTTW News)

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, talks about the city’s updated mask guidance and what’s now safe for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

NU President Says He Knew ‘Optics’ of Hiring Polisky Would Be Tough

Northwestern University (WTTW News)

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro has faced intense criticism over his handling of sexual harassment allegations involving cheerleaders, donors and Wildcat fans. He joins us in discussion.

Northwestern Team Develops Wireless Monitors for Pregnant Moms

A team of researchers at Northwestern University has developed a suite of wireless pregnancy monitors. (courtesy Northwestern University)

For pregnant women, fetal monitoring devices are a cumbersome array of wires and tape that require constant adjustment and, quite literally, tether the patient to a hospital bed. A team of researchers at Northwestern University is working to change that.

NASA’s Perseverance Mission Begins Hunt for Ancient Martian Life

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its dual-camera Mastcam-Z imager to capture this image of “Santa Cruz,” a hill about 1.5 miles away from the rover, on April 29, 2021, the 68th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The entire scene is inside of Mars’ Jezero Crater; the crater’s rim can be seen on the horizon line beyond the hill. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS)

NASA’S Ingenuity helicopter takes flight on Mars. We get an update on the space agency’s most ambitious mission to date on the Red Planet from local astronomer and space enthusiast Mark Hammergren. 

Economy Roars Back, But Dismal Jobs Report Points to Jobs-Skills Mismatch

(Photo by Brian Lundquist on Unsplash)

The U.S. economy has come roaring back from pandemic lows, but a disappointing jobs report that fell far short of analysts’ predictions highlighted some potentially worrying trends.

Enzyme Could Help 700 Million People with Chronic Kidney Disease

(geraldoswald62 / Pixabay)

Scientists in Australia have identified an enzyme that could help millions of people around the world. Rabiah Mayas of the Museum of Science and Industry discusses that and other science stories making headlines.

As US Economy Surges Back, Economists Forecast 2021 Boom

Consumer spending is on the rise -- but for how long? (WTTW News)

The U.S. economy grew at 6.4% in the first quarter of 2021 as the combined impact of a mass vaccination rollout and federal stimulus checks triggered a surge in consumer spending. But how long can this economic boom last?

Bears Fans Looking for Game-Ready Reinforcements from NFL Draft

(WTTW News)

The NFL Draft gets underway Thursday evening and after a disappointing and deflating end to last season Bears fans are hoping for some game-ready reinforcements. 

Vaccine Mandates Legal, But Employment Experts Say Incentives May Work Better

(WTTW News)

More and more colleges and universities are making vaccination for COVID-19 a requirement in the fall. Other businesses are more circumspect. But during a global pandemic, should vaccines be mandatory? And what are your rights if you refuse a vaccine?

US, Chinese Scientists Grow Monkey Embryo With Human Cells. But Why?

(Credit: Weizhi Ji / Kunming University of Science and Technology)

For the first time, an international team of scientists has been able to successfully grow monkey embryos containing human cells, sparking fears of human-monkey hybrids. We go behind the headlines to understand the science.

Fractured Chicago Gangs Lead to Anarchic Culture of Violence

(WTTW News)

As gangs were targeted by police and federal authorities using anti-racketeering laws from the 1970s onward, many gang leaders were incarcerated in federal prisons. That left behind a more fractured and anarchic gang culture, say gang experts.

Pandemic Takes Toll on Children’s Emotional and Mental Health, Survey Finds

(WTTW News)

The mental and emotional health of Chicago children has been hit hard by the pandemic, according to researchers at Lurie Children’s Hospital, who surveyed more than 1,500 parents across the city—including all 77 community areas—about the impact of the pandemic on their child’s behavior.

Federal Funds Seen as Key to Reviving Public Transit

The coronavirus pandemic and mitigation measures to control it have led to a huge drop in ridership on public transit. As more and more people get vaccinated and the economy reopens, are riders going to come back? (WTTW News)

The coronavirus pandemic and mitigation measures to control it have led to a huge drop in ridership on public transit. As more and more people get vaccinated and the economy reopens, are riders going to come back?

New Burns and Novick Documentary Explores the Life of Ernest Hemingway

A still image of Ernest Hemingway from the new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS documentary “Hemingway.” (Courtesy of PBS)

The life of the Oak Park native is the subject of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s newest PBS documentary. The six-hour, three-part series explores the writer’s complex life behind the carefully cultivated public image as well as his influence on generations of writers who followed him.

Northwestern Study Says 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapons Ban Worked

Mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, have once again brought questions of gun control to the fore. One possibility with Democrats in power in Washington is a revival of a federal assault weapons ban. (WTTW News)

The last assault weapons ban expired in 2004, but a new study finds that had that ban remained in place, as many as 30 mass shootings could have been prevented. We speak with the study's lead author, Lori Ann Post, and Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. 

Puerto Ricans May Soon Get Say on Island’s Long-Term Territorial Status

Marilia Gutierrez and Edilberto Cheverez join WBEZ's Michael Puente to discuss Puerto Rico’s future status. (WTTW News)

The Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act calls for the creation of a “status convention” of delegates elected by Puerto Rican voters to determine the island’s long-term territorial status, whether that be statehood, independence, or perhaps a variation on the current arrangement.

Chicago Has More Lead Service Pipes Than Any Other US City, Illinois the Most of Any State

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

Illinois may have as much as a quarter of all lead service pipes in the country, according to U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is leading the push for a bipartisan infrastructure bill to rebuild the nation’s water systems. We discuss what else is being done to address the issue.

Chicago Business Owners Optimistic with Full Reopening in Sight

Many Chicago businesses have not survived the pandemic and many more are only just hanging on. News that a full reopening is on the horizon is offering hope for struggling businesses. (WTTW News)

With the announcement Thursday that the state could soon begin easing restrictions as more people get vaccinated, there’s hope for struggling businesses. Business owners from across the city tell us how they’re staying afloat and share their hopes for a better year ahead.