Public Affairs

Majority of Americans now accept climate change, support carbon tax

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

Remember this tweet from President Donald Trump as the Midwest shivered through record low temperatures?

Despite the nation’s chief executive still denying climate change, America’s public sentiment on climate science is shifting to acceptance and a call for action.

The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released the results of a poll in January surveying Americans’ stance on climate and energy issues, showing that seven in 10 Americans now believe climate change is a reality.

More than 70 percent of Americans believe climate change is a reality. (Courtesy of EPIC/AP-NORC)

While partisan difference persists – 86 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans believe climate change is real – it has become a majority opinion across party lines, said Lindsay Iversen, deputy director at EPIC.

The poll results showed not only increasing support for the science of climate change but also a general willingness to take action on it. Forty-four percent of participants said they support the implementation of a tax on carbon-based fuels.

“The fact that people are willing to support a carbon tax on all of their income and across a number of different realms, not just in the narrow application with their electricity bill, I think that’s suggesting an openness to a bigger picture policy,” Iversen said.

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From homelessness to finding a home

By Lu Zhao
Medill Reports

The single room occupancy (SRO) residence on Kenmore Avenue occupies a clean, quiet and lovely part of Uptown, dotted with a chain of Vietnamese and Chinese shops.

The building is close to the Argyle station on the Red Line, only a three-minute walk away.

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I wasn’t sure whether I could find Shea Allen at the SRO. She doesn’t have a phone and often goes out panhandling. Luckily, I ran across her at the elevator as she was heading to find her boyfriend, Tony Eovaldi. They hadn’t seen each other for three days.

Shea, 30, came from St. Louis with Tony last June. Hoping to find more job opportunities in Chicago, they didn’t make it and then ran out of money. Panhandling on the street and living in a small shack became their life. Then Shea’s heart condition and an amputated finger made her eligible to move into the SRO, one of the 168 rooms in the dwelling, in January. Continue reading

The future of shopping expands–grab and go at Amazon’s 4th store in Chicago

Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

Amazon launched a fourth automated check-out store in Chicago this month, giving Chicago and Seattle most of the 10 stories open nationally.

The latest Amazon Go store opened at 111 E. Wacker Dr. at the Illinois Center this month,  offering 1,950 square feet of ready-to-eat foods and grocery essentials. Its “Just Walk Out” technology allows shoppers to walk in a store, grab items they want and simply walk out with everything automatically charged.

A store without cashiers or checkouts? Although it sounded like a gimmick when the first Amazon Go store opened to employee testers in 2016 in Seattle at company headquarters. It has expanded rapidly to the 10 stores operating across the U.S, including four each in Seattle and Chicago and two in San Francisco.

Chicago’s first Amazon Go store, located at 113 S. Franklin St., debuted in September 2018. The second and third, which opened in October and November, are located at 144 S. Clark St., and 500 W Madison St.

Photo at top: Chicago’s fourth Amazon Go cashierless store opened this month. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Social media brings Chicago Native Americans home to their reservations

By Lily Qi
Medill Reports

Pamala Silas used to hold annual meetings in downtown Chicago with other Menominee tribal members who lived in the area.

“I could get a hundred people to come to a meeting two times a year. I gave them a nice dinner, we had a presentation, the tribal leaders would come, we gave little gifts,” says Silas, who lives in Avondale.

Now meetings are no longer all downtown, with smaller breakfast meetings hosted in the suburbs as well.

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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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