General Interest

Self-identification or tribal membership: Different paths to your heritage

By Lu Zhao
Medill Reports

It was a surprise for the 8-year-old girl when she first learned she is a Native American many years ago. Pamala Silas still remembers that day. She had transferred to a new school. Huddling in the chair, sitting beside her younger sister, Pam was introduced by the teacher as an “American Indian.” She couldn’t believe what she heard.

“What? Why did she say that?” Pam, in her 50s and proud of her heritage, said she harbored as a child stereotypes of Native Americans that, all too often, people saw on TV. “They’re all naked and crazy!”

Pam went home and asked her foster mother why they called her an Indian at school.

“Well, you are,” her foster mother said. She took out an encyclopedia, went to the American Indian section and showed Pam a picture of a man with a headdress on a horse. “You’re an Indian.” Continue reading

Trump calls border migrants a “tremendous onslaught,” sparking concerns from mental health experts

By Carly Graf
Medill Reports

President Donald Trump described the U.S. and Mexican boundary as “our very dangerous southern border,” during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, reigniting concerns about punitive immigration practices and mental health impacts.

His rallying cry included a call to Congress to put the “ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers and human traffickers out of business.”

In the shadow of the longest government shutdown in history, spurred by a political standoff over funding for a border wall, scrutiny of the administration’s policy rekindled also after a January a report from the Office of the Inspector General. The report revealed that thousands more children may have been taken from parents than initially reported.

Continue reading

Chicago mayors: A mixed legacy on the environment

Dwight A. Weingarten
Medill Reports

When Chicago’s first Mayor William B. Ogden took office in 1837, he along with two alderman crafted the city seal.

The city’s motto, “Urbs in Horto,” or City in a Garden, that appears at the bottom of the seal, quickly lost much of its literal meaning even with huge parks left amid all the development. Ogden himself, upon leaving office, helped transform the city into one of the nation’s leading railway hubs over the course of the next decade. Continue reading

Paul Vallas shines at student-led mayoral forum

By Nora Mabie
Medill Reports

Junior Sandra Garcia stands outside the Carl Schurz High School auditorium with a big Ziploc bag filled with red and blue buttons.

“Are you 18?” she asks students as they enter the auditorium. If she gets a yes, Garcia hands them a button, labeled “VOTER” in big block letters. If no – no button.

Garcia is one of about 30 students on Carl Schurz’s student council who helped plan the student-led Mayoral Forum on Monday. With roughly 300 Schurz students registered to vote, interest in a candidate forum was high.

Continue reading

Demystifying artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning

By Xieyang Jessica Qiao
Medill Reports

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL) – these buzzwords are used so interchangeably that they become fluid in interpretation. But while these emerging technologies are intertwined, they provide different levels of application.

DL is a subset of ML, and ML is a subset of AI, the umbrella term that is common to all three. In a diagram, AI is the biggest circle encapsulating ML and DL. But the progression toward smaller circles takes us to more sophisticated and brain-like systems of analyzing data and learning from it for new applications.

“Human intelligence exhibited by machines, that’s the formal definition of AI,” said Jason Mayes, senior creative engineer of Google. “Now, there are two types of AI: artificial general intelligence (AGI) and narrow AI.”

Hollywood movies such as “The Terminator” revel in the idea of AGI, where machines can successfully perform any intellectual task a human being can. While human beings might automate products and services in the future with AGI, we are now still in a phase called narrow AI.

Continue reading

Safety requirements for Antarctic researchers can take out your wisdom teeth

By Stephanie Fox
Medill Reports

What do Antarctic climate scientists and Nordic Vikings have in common?

More than you might think.

After being cast out of Iceland for murdering his neighbor, Erik the Red, the notorious Viking who walked the Earth around 985 A.D., braved the unforgiving seas in search of a new home. That’s according to Christopher Klein’s History article “The Viking Explorer Who Beat Columbus to America.” Wrapped in layers of pelts, tools in hand, the Viking dropped anchor on new land. Gradually, he took control, founding the first European settlement in what is today Greenland. Continue reading

FDA taking a firmer stance on e-cigarette regulation in 2019

By Emma Goodson
Medill Reports

The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to move on stricter regulation of e-cigarettes – electronic nicotine delivery systems – if youth usage of these products continues to rise in 2019.

Commissioner Scott Gottlieb voiced the agency’s concerns at a recent public hearing focused on eliminating youth use of electronic cigarettes.

“In recent years, we’ve appeared poised to slay one of the most pernicious public health challenges of our times – the death and disease caused by cigarette smoking,” Gottlieb said at the hearing in Silver Spring, Maryland. “Sadly, this progress is being undercut – even eclipsed – by the recent, dramatic rise in youth vaping.”

Continue reading

Chicago Chill – Temperature drop empties streets as students and commuters stay home

Chris Schulz
Medill Reports

January 30, 2019, marked one of the coldest days in Chicago’s history, with an early morning low of -23 degrees and a frigid high of -10. Schools, businesses, and public attractions all closed their doors against the dangerous cold, encouraging everyone to stay indoors. Downtown Chicago, devoid of its characteristic bustle, looked eerie and abandoned. Continue reading

How this nano startup tackles big problems at the smallest scale

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

A floating birthday balloon that sticks to the wall. A sponge absorbing water. An exploding soda can. A bottle rocket.

These seemingly unrelated items are all analogies Benjamin Hernandez uses to explain his startup, NuMat Technologies, a nanotechnology company in Skokie that tackles big problems at the smallest possible scale.

Think of birthday balloons. When they float around and rub against the wall, they stick to it because the electrical properties of gas determine that it likes to stick to surfaces, the 35-year-old founder said. Continue reading

Latinx residents and young candidates join forces for upcoming Cicero elections

By Ankur Singh
Medill Reports

On a cold Monday night at the V Bar in Berwyn, the room radiated energy as a group of young people gathered to build a grassroots political campaign that has never been seen before in their community.

“Some of you might recognize me as the voice of the announcements from the class year of 2012,” said Gerardo Nava, as he introduced himself as a supporter.

“I have been involved politically, not so much in Cicero because, at this point if you live in Cicero, you know how the politics are. But now we have the opportunity to take that landscape and make it our own. I’m really excited to see what can happen,” added Brenda Hernandez, campaign manager for Morton High School District 201 board  candidate Esteban Rodriguez. Continue reading