Social Justice

Puerto Rico Association of University Professors rallies against proposed budget cuts

By Ankur Singh
Medill Reports

Puerto Rico remains in the midst of a massive fiscal crisis with over $72 billion in debt. To address this crisis, in 2016 the United States Congress created a Fiscal Oversight Board that was not elected through the passage of the PROMESA ACT in order to manage and reduce Puerto Rico’s debt.

The seven-member board was appointed by former President Barack Obama and includes many people from the finance and banking industries.

The board has proposed a series of austerity measures to cut funding for many of the island’s institutions. In particular, the University of Puerto Rico, with its eleven campuses across the island, has been hit particularly hard. Continue reading Puerto Rico Association of University Professors rallies against proposed budget cuts

Your old cell phone could become the medals for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

If you live in Japan, you might have a chance to see top athletes all over the world wear your old phones on their necks next summer.

Well, not quite, but close. The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has been collecting used electronics all over Japan, including old cellphones and home appliances. The plan is to extract the metal and make – you guessed it – Olympic medals.

A Japanese factory is melting the electronics to extract the metal within. (Ⓒ Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo).

“The Medal Project,” as the committee calls it, is a big part of sustainability innovations ahead of the games. Kicked off in April 2017, the project is now near the finish line – March marks the last month of collection, said Tatsuo Ogura, senior manager of international communications for the committee.

“When we started this project in 2017, we expected it to finish in two years,” Ogura said. “We are on the right track and we almost met with the goal.”

The committee fulfilled the 2,700-kilogram goal of bronze collection last June. In October, it met 93.7 percent of the target for salvaging gold and 85.4 percent for silver, Ogura said.

A total of 1,500 municipalities across Japan are involved in the medal project, and they put the signature yellow donation boxes at post offices or street corners for citizens to donate their used devices, Ogura said. They can also donate at 2,400 NTT DOCOMO stores nationwide, Japan’s predominant mobile phone operator.

“We believe that, by supporting schemes like the medal project which encourage participation by the public, we can draw attention to the importance of recycling and help realize an environmentally friendly and sustainable society,” a NTT Docomo representative said in an email.  

The yellow donation box allows people all over Japan to donate their used electronic devices. Many athletes are on board with the project and signed their names to back the cause. (Cyan Zhong/Medill Reports)

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R. Kelly indictment sparks sexual violence conversations among Chicagoans

By Nora Mabie
Medill Reports

Students, educators and community members came together this month to discuss sexual violence against black women and girls at the Pop-Up JUST Art Gallery, a program of the Social Justice Initiative at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Recent charges of sexual abuse against R&B singer R. Kelly ignited the meeting and discussion, part of UIC’s Reimagining Masculinities Initiative and hosted by other UIC cultural engagement centers.
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San Juan outreach program supports local homeless community

By Chris Schulz
Medill Reports
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO –

It’s just before 8 p.m. when we arrive at Iniciativa Comunitaria in the Rio Piedras neighborhood of San Juan.

Every Friday night, Iniciativa conducts Operación Compasión, a nighttime round to serve the local homeless population by providing food, coffee, juice, condoms, clothes, hygiene kits and needle exchange, among other things.

Each week a different member of the organization leads the outreach. Tonight the leader is Emanuel Rivera, a young public health professional, accompanied by his brother Kenneth. Emanuel is already a veteran of the rounds, but this is 17-year-old Kenneth’s first time volunteering. Ivan Figueroa, a local pharmacist who is helping set up but will not join us on the rounds, briefs us about what to expect and what to do while Emmanuel prepares the coffee and juice. Continue reading

The art of motion – hoop dance contest world championships 2019

By Lily Qi
Medill Reports

American Indian and Canadian First Nations hoop dancers gathered in Phoenix to compete with each other in this dance competition to celebrate Native traditions.

The 2019 Head Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest filled Feb 9 and Feb 10 with dances drawing together 36 First Nations from across the Americas. Continue reading

Bernie Sanders rallies in Chicago promising a political revolution

By Jess Martinaitis
Medill Reports

Thousands of supporters gathered to cheer Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) at his rally in Chicago Sunday, his second stop on his second run for president.

Promising a political revolution to the crowd of more than 12,000 well-wishers, the senator credited Chicago, where he spent four years as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, as the city that taught him about “racism and poverty and other social ills.”

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A moment bigger than a campaign: 33rd Ward Aldermanic Candidate Rossana Rodríguez-Sánchez heads into a runoff

By Justin Agrelo
Medill Reports

At a watch party on election night in the back room of Chief O’Niell’s pub in Avondale, a group of nearly 100 people wait.

Live music from a local youth band fills the room as people socialize, drinks in their hands and enthusiasm in the air. Like many other watch parties throughout Chicago’s 50 wards on Tuesday night, this group intently waits on a candidate and an announcement.

The candidate who brought them all together is Rossana Rodríguez-Sánchez,  a youth educator who is running to become the next alderman of the 33rd Ward.

Arriving just before 9 p.m., Rodríguez-Sánchez, 39, is greeted with cheers, applause, and hugs. With a smile across her face and tears in her eyes, she slowly makes her way towards the front of a small stage tucked in the corner of the room. She greets everyone on her way.

Then she dances.

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Rodriguez wins 22nd Ward seat in decisive victory

By Chris Schulz
Medill Reports

Democrat Michael Rodriguez won the 22nd Ward aldermanic seat Tuesday, with 63.9 percent of the vote, defeating three other candidates.

Rodriguez succeeds longtime Alderman Ricardo Muñoz. After representing the 22nd ward for 25 years, Muñoz announced in July that he would not seek reelection and endorsed Rodriguez’s candidacy. Rodriguez also counted on the endorsement of freshman Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th), who represented the 22nd ward before Muñoz.

Rodriguez applauded supporters at Home Run Inn Pizza on 31st Street on election night. “We did this together. That’s how we do this, and that’s how we’re going to run our office. Everyone in.”

A lifetime resident of Little Village, Rodriguez is the Democratic Committeeman of the 22nd Ward, as well as executive vice chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Previously, he worked as executive director of Enlace Chicago, a Little Village nonprofit.

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Chicago hardened controls on cybersecurity with heightened concerns about electronic voting

By Jessica Xieyang Qiao
Medill Reports

Amid the ongoing 2019 mayoral elections and an increasing number of nationwide data breaches, Chicago beefed up cybersecurity controls to defend against potential voter fraud and hacking.

Yet, the cybersecurity environment remains flawed and technology challenges facing the government cast doubts on maintaining the reliability of electronic voting, according to cybersecurity experts.

The decentralized U.S. election landscape

The U.S. election ecosystem is distributed across states, counties and municipalities. Because each jurisdiction runs its own election and the environment is highly decentralized, there is luckily no single location through which a foreign hacker can attack the entire system. But damage can still be done.

“Hackers can change the attitude of people toward an election system. That’s what we need to protect ourselves against,” said Sujeet Shenoi, director of the Cyber Security Education Consortium,  during a panel discussion organized by Global Cyber Security Initiative (GCSI) on Feb.25. “But as far as technical hacking is concerned, it’s very hard to have a large-scale electoral change.”

Yet, because elections tend to be run at local levels, some jurisdictions may lack the technical expertise to defend against foreign hackers.

“It’s so decentralized – a lot of these jurisdictions are small and don’t even have an IT department,” said Kevin McDermott, chief technology officer of Cook County Clerk’s Office.

Toward that end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded grants last year for the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center to strengthen cyber threat prevention.

“In Illinois, we have the Cyber Navigator Program, which takes federal money to create a cybersecurity mechanism,” McDermott said. “There’s a great deal of energy at both local and national levels to build the infrastructure, both physical and information-wise, and to develop protocols for each organization.

This video, produced by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, was shown at the panel discussion.

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Chicagoans rejoice at LGBTQ mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot’s historic victory

Ariana Puzzo
Medill Reports

Cheers erupted as supporters embraced each other on election night whenever the statistics showed mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot in the lead as the top voter-getter in a field of 14 candidates.

The former federal prosecutor made history when she, along with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, became the candidates for the April 2 runoff. The election will produce Chicago’s first black female mayor.
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