Public Affairs

Show-stopping concept vehicles grandstand music and grill fresh pizza at Chicago Auto Show

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

As the flashiest fleet revved its way into the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, one special model boomed into spectators’ ears and eyes at the pre-show media exhibition. Penetrating bass and beats came from the back of the vehicle.

Kicks DJ, an orange Nissan vehicle adapted into a music powerhouse, has four diaphragms bouncing on what was supposed to be the rear window. Standing near a mixer board extending from the window, the knob-twisting, button-pushing “badass” DJ, Eric Shimp, jammed to the beats.

Eric Shimp of Vehicle Effects in California mixes music with the Kicks DJ’s mixer. (Cyan Zhong/Medill Reports)

“It’s not something that you would really want to drive, but it is fun to be able to take this into a concert venue or a field or a warehouse in this, roll it off the truck and rock a party,” Shimp said.

Aside from being a “superstar DJ,” Shimp is also project manager at Vehicle Effects, a small car-making team in Sun Valley, California. He works with Dennis McCarthy, a famous car builder for Hollywood films including the Fast and Furious series, Justice League and Batman v Superman.

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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.

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Chicago mayors: A mixed legacy on the environment

By 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.

As the world discusses the impacts of climate change, Chicago mayors have taken  role in that conversation. Take a look back at Chicago mayors key moments in the environment and development of the city.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Days before the Polar Vortex, Chicagoans make a splash at the Polar Plunge

By Emma Goodson
Medill Reports

The high hovered at a frigid 14 degrees, though the sun glazed Oak Street Beach as hundreds of people gathered there on Jan. 26.

Some stripped down to bathing suits to participate in the annual Polar Bear Plunge. Some wore costumes, including a polar bear outfit, of course.
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Who’s running for Chicago Mayor – and why?

By: Noah Broder
Medill Reports

As the February 26 election moves closer and early voting begins, 14 mayoral candidates are working to win the critical  50 percent of the vote.

If no candidate receives over half of the vote, there will be a runoff election on April 2 between the top two candidates who receive the most votes.

 The race for Chicago mayor began in earnest in September when current mayor Rahm Emmanuel declared that he would not be seeking re-election. Continue reading