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The Rundown: Drag queens vs. misinformation

Good afternoon! The Space Force now has an official anthem, “Semper Supra.” And it’s no “Anchors Aweigh.” Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Illinois drag queens keep the show going despite violent threats and misinformation

Family-friendly drag events in the Chicago area and across the nation are increasingly being targeted by far-right extremists and white supremacist groups, who justify their attacks through false claims children are being “groomed.”

The Chicago Tribune today provides an overview of how this misinformation campaign is playing out locally. For example, the Lincoln Park Zoo currently faces criticism for hosting a drag story time next month.

“It just seems that people don’t understand and they don’t want to learn and come to experience what a joy these shows are and the joy on these kids’ faces,” said drag queen Ginger Forest. “It’s very fun. It’s very wholesome.”

Much of the misinformation locally has been fueled in part by Awake Illinois, a group “rooted in the suburbs that was born from the anti-mask, anti-vaccine fervor of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been criticized for anti-LGBTQ rhetoric,” the Trib reports. [Chicago Tribune]

Transgender and gender-nonconforming children are also facing a spike in harassment.

Lurie Children’s Hospital increased security after it became the latest children’s hospital to be targeted for its gender development program, the Trib reports. [Chicago Tribune]

2. More than 65,000 people in Chicago were homeless in 2020, according to a prominent advocacy group

A report released today by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates 65,611 people experienced homelessness in the city in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a 12.6% increase compared to 2019.

That total is significantly higher than a federal estimate of 5,390 people, which critics say is based on a more rigid definition of homelessness that doesn’t factor in people who live doubled up, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Today’s report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless shows an estimated 49,585 people were living doubled up, making it the most common form of homelessness. [Chicago Tribune]

3. Illinois is among the top 10 states where voting is the easiest

That’s according to a nonpartisan academic study authored by Scot Schraufnagel, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University.

The top 10 states, in order, are Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Hawaii, Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, Illinois and North Dakota.

The states where registering to vote and casting a ballot are the most difficult are New Hampshire, Mississippi, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Texas, Alabama, Wyoming, South Carolina, Missouri and Ohio.

When it came to voter fraud, Schraufnagel’s analysis found cases remained around the same before and after changes in voting laws.

“There was either equal amounts of fraud before and after the change, or it went the other way, where New Hampshire restricted voting and actually saw more fraud,” he told The New York Times. [NYT]

4. The creator of Serial says the evidence that freed Adnan Syed was long available

The award-winning Serial podcast today released a new episode after Adnan Syed walked out of a prison as a free man for the first time since he was a teenager.

Syed was convicted in the 1999 murder of high school classmate and former girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a case that became more widely known after Serial host Sarah Koenig exposed problems in Syed’s trial.

Now, Koenig says much of the evidence cited in freeing Syed was known for decades.

“Yesterday, there was a lot of talk about fairness, but most of what the state put in that motion to vacate, all the actual evidence, was either known or knowable to cops and prosecutors back in 1999,” Koenig said in the new episode.

“So even on a day when the government publicly recognizes its own mistakes, it’s hard to feel cheered about a triumph of fairness. Because we’ve built a system that takes more than 20 years to self-correct. And that’s just this one case.” [AP]

5. The best places to take a hike that aren’t too far from Chicago

Right now is a great time to go hiking. It’s not too hot and not too cold. And there are plenty of free and uncongested hiking trails within three hours of Chicago, reports Zachary Nauth for WBEZ.

Nauth created a handy hiking guide that includes 20 trails worth checking out before winter comes barreling toward us.

“The joys of fall hiking include the turning of the leaves in late September and early October, dissipating mosquito and tick populations, and cooler weather,” Nauth writes.

“This list is not all-inclusive, and is based on a combination of in-person exploration over the past three years, online sources and conservation groups like Openlands.” [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The head of the United Nations today warned world leaders that “our world is in peril — and paralyzed.” [AP]
  • A Texas sheriff has launched a criminal investigation into the flights of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. [NPR]
  • A U.S. task force of medical experts for the first time is recommending adult screenings for anxiety. [Washington Post]
  • Here’s how you can help people in Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Fiona. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

A group of scientists have calculated the total number of ants on Earth and came up with the “unimaginable” number of nearly 20 quadrillion individuals, reports The Washington Post.

“For every person, there are about 2.5 million ants,” according to the newspaper.

The news comes as some scientists are sounding the alarm over a “bugpocalypse” after observing sharp declines in insect populations in Germany and elsewhere as a result of habitat destruction, pesticides and climate change.

But when it comes to ants, it’s unclear if their numbers are rising or falling. [WaPo]

Tell me something good ...

What are you looking forward to doing this fall?

Dave writes:

“I am looking forward to seeing my whole family at Thanksgiving! It’s been 2018 since we visited the in-laws on odd years.”

And Renuka writes:

“My middle baby’s birthday falls in October and it brings such joy to the sunless outdoors. We go apple picking in simple Michigan and crazy busy County Line Orchard, visit harvest fest at Indian Boundary Park in West Ridge, carve and eat pumpkins, watch changing leaf colors and feast on Halloween tricks and treats.”

Feel free to email or tweet me, and your response might be shared in the newsletter this week.

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