Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. September 29, 2022.

Editorial: Medicine is investigating the wondrous possibilities of virtual reality

Some of the most exciting things to read about are advances in medicine -- new discoveries and new technologies that make it possible for more people to survive disease and disaster, and ultimately to live less compromised and fuller lives.

What is filling us with gratitude and wonder this week, is news that Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton has started a study on adult stroke patients to determine if virtual reality therapy can be a good complement to their regular therapy.

The early stages are showing some promise, as researchers start by determining how well the patients tolerate VR. The 20 or so Marianjoy patients will have six sessions -- 30 minutes of virtual reality followed by a half-hour of conventional therapy per session -- over the course of two weeks. Their progress is charted, including how much time is spent in those activities and the range of motion in the shoulders, elbow, forearms and wrist. A “hide and seek” game with animated penguins is designed to exercise a patient’s cervical range of motion.

The study is spearheaded by Dr. Mahesh Ramachandran, the hospital’s chief medical officer and a stroke rehabilitation specialist, and Dr. Dhruvil Pandya, a neurologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield. The doctors hope to publish their findings, but the timing will depend on the study being completed and what the results are.

The Marianjoy study will add to the canon of knowledge being assembled all over the country, looking at how virtual reality games and challenges can improve the effectiveness of more traditional physical and occupational therapy for patients, including stroke patients. A recent New York Times story pointed to an analysis of 27 studies done at the University of South Alabama, which found that, in general, virtual reality therapy combined with traditional therapy is more effective than traditional therapy alone.

“Everyone that we have actually tested has given us positive feedback,” Pandya told our Katlyn Smith. “The next step is to look at clinical outcomes, whether this, along with the traditional rehab therapy, does it improve outcomes?”

Moreover, virtual reality is emerging as a tool in other medical disciplines as well. Last November, the Food and Drug Administration authorized marketing the first virtual reality product earmarked to treat chronic pain. Other studies are seeing uses for VR in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, and even in surgery.

How does it work? In short, researchers say virtual reality can “nudge” the human brain in ways that other media cannot, and it motivates patients to keep at it. Basically, it’s fun. And how amazing is it that fun can be good for us?

We wish Drs. Ramachandran and Pandya, and their study patients, successful outcomes. What’s good for them may turn out to be good for millions.

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Chicago Tribune. September 3

Editorial: Northwestern’s new football stadium looks like a luxury game-day experience with unimpeachable funding

Thanks to the Chicago Bears and the perennial arguments over Soldier Field, conversations about stadiums and renovations are commonplace for us. But the plan put out in recent days by Northwestern University for a new Ryan Field in Evanston breaks the typical mold of these things in two fascinating ways.

One is that the proposal for what is essentially a new college football stadium in Evanston is fully funded with nary a dime, it seems, to be procured from the public purse. Thanks to the foundational largesse of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan family (insurance can be a profitable business), the cost of this massive Central Street, Evanston project — reportedly as high as an eye-popping $800 million — is to be fully funded by private donations.

Northwestern, always mindful of the political implications of these things, has been anxious to note that the stadium will not affect tuition costs or take away from faculty raises or scholarships or whatever. It’s touted as a self-contained venture. And assuming this is what the Ryan family specifically wanted to support, that would appear to be the case.

The second — equally striking — is that the stadium actually will have some 12,000 fewer seats. Instead of the current capacity of 47,130, the new Ryan Field will only seat about 35,000.

When did you last hear of a new stadium project designed to reduce capacity by some 25%? We can’t recall, either.

The architects of the new stadium, Kansas City sports architects HNTB, who’ve been quietly on this job for some time, were previously involved in the renovations of both the famed horseshoe at Ohio State and the Big House in Ann Arbor. For the record, the $226 million expansion of Michigan Stadium, completed in 2010, added a new tower with 83 suites and 3,200 club seats. Michigan Stadium seats 107,601. And in Columbus in 2019, HNTB helped Ohio State spend $42 million to add loge boxes. Ohio Stadium now seats 104,944.

And at the University of Nebraska, KNCB pushed the seating capacity up to 90,000 after a $64 million renovation.

In all those cases, the work was about renovation, but also about adding capacity and increasing the potential gross ticket sales.

Not only has Northwestern gone in precisely the opposite direction, but it has done so to a major extent. Building it 25% smaller amounts to far fewer fannies in seats, even if the old benches now will be seats with backs. Looking back at the various reports on these plans in professional publications, it looks like Northwestern first intended to redo the existing stadium and then switched gears and decided to start over.

Those with no love for purple will snicker that this small capacity (some 15,000 below the next-smallest Big Ten stadium) is a not-so-tacit self-acknowledgement of the limited appeal of Northwestern football, even in the decades to come. Unlike many of its Big Ten rivals, Northwestern rarely sells out and on the rare occasions when it does, the capacity crowd usually comes courtesy of the Chicago-based fans of the visiting team.

Certainly, this is an admirable and rare dose of realism since the improvements genuinely appear focused on improving the fan and student-player experience, and they’re clearly designed to match Northwestern’s brand as a private school with one foot in traditional Big Ten football madness (for those who wish to partake) and one foot in something more, well, refined.

If this plan were for a hotel, it would be for an upscale boutique operation designed to contrast with the huge, convention-oriented Marriott in that other college town. Ah, the luxury of lots of donated money.

The smaller capacity also is a mighty clever way to head off likely opposition in Evanston, notoriously known for NIMBY tendencies and for disapproving major development projects that bring traffic and crowds to residential areas. By reducing capacity, Northwestern effectively has blunted any possible opposition on those grounds from neighbors. The university also has promised to turn the new Ryan Field into a place that the community can use for various activities. There’s even what looks to be a lovely new public park alongside the stadium.

The only issue here is likely to be the university’s plan for an unspecified number of concerts in the new stadium, perhaps drawing concert business away from Wrigley Field. That will be subject to neighborhood scrutiny, we’ll wager, but there is precedent for concerts in this part of Evanston. The venue known as Space presented Elvis Costello in an outdoor setting this summer, not far from the stadium at the Canal Shores Golf Course. If Evanston can stand that “mini-Ravinia,” they probably can handle the likes of Billy Joel playing like a Wildcat on the piano.

And many neighbors likely will see these shows as a convenient amenity.

The original stadium was the work of the illustrious architect James Gamble Rogers, known as a master of so-called “collegiate gothic” and well represented at Yale University, too. But what is now Ryan Field has been messed around with plenty over its history so it’s hard to imagine too many lamenting its exit for something fresh. Whether the new building will end up being “architecturally significant,” as the university claims, remains to be seen.

But Northwestern fans will look forward, we bet, to hearing, “We’re going to ’Move. Those. Chains.” ringing out in new digs.

Unlike deals where the Chicago Bears and other NFL and major league teams from other sports have requested all kinds of public largesse for their dreams, the Northwestern plan certainly is unimpeachable on financial grounds, and it sure looks like it will be a spectacular place to watch college football.

As notable philanthropic gifts in Chicagoland sports go, this one is a big deal.

And since stadiums take a while to build, maybe old Soldier Field is about to see more comings and goings than we thought.

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Chicago Sun-Tribune. October 2, 2022.

Editorial: Illinois not immune to misguided claims of election fraud

The objective of those writing threatening letters in Illinois is no different than the scams of out-of-state Republicans who want to bombard and wear out election officials with complaints that hold no water.

It doesn’t matter that U.S. security officials proclaimed the 2020 presidential election was “the most secure in American history.”

It doesn’t matter that more than 60 lawsuits brought by Donald Trump and his allies alleging election fraud were dismissed by judges across the country, including judges appointed by Trump himself.

It doesn’t matter that a group of prominent conservatives issued a 72-page report over the summer that dissected every accusation of fraud and misconduct in six battleground states and concluded Joe Biden legitimately won his seat in the Oval Office.

Some Americans simply cannot fathom, or admit, that Biden defeated Trump, as we pointed out last week in repudiating ring-wing activists’ shameful attempts to eliminate thousands of voter registrations and ballots for upcoming midterm races in mostly Democratic-leaning jurisdictions in Georgia, Texas and Michigan.

These efforts to incapacitate the democratic process in the name of “election integrity” have not, sadly, eluded our state.

The “stop the steal” crowd has proven relentless, infecting every part of our country with its arsenal of misinformation — even here in Illinois.

Swarms of form letters have been sent to election officials here threatening legal action for unsubstantiated claims of wrongdoing and voter fraud, WBEZ reporters Dan Mihalopoulos and Dave McKinney reported last week.

The letters, which of course offer no proof of misconduct, demand access to voter records the nonpartisan website Votebeat said cannot even be used to demonstrate fraud. But that detail isn’t important to these scribes, who sent the copycat missives to places across the country, including Chicago’s Board of Election Commissioners, the Cook County clerk’s office and the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The objective is no different than the scams of out-of-state Republicans who want to bombard and wear out election officials with complaints that hold no water.

And like the push to “vet” voter rolls in swing states, the puppet masters behind the mass letter sending campaign are wealthy Trump-supporting election deniers, including My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

Here in Illinois, Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey said there is no doubt Biden won the election fair and square. Still, he keeps pushing the narrative that election fraud is rampant and has vowed to get close to 4,000 poll watchers for the November general elections.

David Paul Blumenshine, the man Bailey enlisted to recruit poll watchers, also doesn’t deny the 2020 election results. But it is hardly comforting to know Blumenshine attended the Jan. 6 rally that descended into violent chaos at the U.S. Capitol.

Crying wolf about nonexistent problems in the voting process is as detrimental as fraud.

“False charges corrode our democracy and leave a significant share of the population doubting the legitimacy of our system, seriously weakening the country,” as the conservative authors of the “Lost, Not Stolen” report put it.

A gold standard no more?

For years, America was seen as the gold standard for democratic ideals and political civility. Even when our elected officials made mistakes or disagreed in the past, there was a perception that all were striving for the greater good. Leaders in all corners of the globe looked to us as a model to emulate.

After Trump’s presidency and his and his supporters’ illegitimate claims of voter fraud, our overseas counterparts are no longer envious. Some might even turn to us as a template for less honorable causes.

Take Brazil, which held its first round of general elections over the weekend. Should he lose, right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” is gearing up to contest the results.

As polls show him trailing, Bolsonaro’s allegations that the country’s elections are rigged and that electronic voting machines are faulty are gaining traction online. Election fraud and Trump are also being mentioned in countless messages by Bolsonaro supporters on the social media app Telegram, a recent investigation by the newspaper Estadãofound.

Sadly, it is a tale we all know too well. It’s bad enough that Americans who call themselves patriots are bent on setting the country on a collision course with reality. How sad that others around the world are also drinking from that poisonous well.

Let’s hope the voices of reason will ultimately prevail to drown out the lies.

END