The road ahead: How Bruce Rauner might be able to work with the General Assembly

By Eric Cortellessa 

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner unveils his transition team and discusses his plan to work with Democratic leadership in the General Assembly.
Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner unveils his transition team and discusses his plan to work with Democratic leadership in the General Assembly.

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner is vowing to make Illinois the most compassionate and competitive state in America. He ran his campaign based on restoring the health of the state’s fiscal house and improving its economy. But he hasn’t fleshed out any actual plan for how to accomplish his goals, according to many analysts who are watching his moves closely.

“So far we haven’t seen much out of Rauner as to what policies he is going to push for once he gets in office,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science at University of Illinois Chicago and a former Chicago alderman.

With Rauner’s inauguration approaching, many political experts are wondering what course of action he will pursue once he takes office.

Continue reading “The road ahead: How Bruce Rauner might be able to work with the General Assembly”

Assyrians in Chicago concerned about internally displaced in Iraq and Syria

By Ramsen Shamon

An internally displaced child sleeps on the floor of Saint Joseph's church in Arbil, Iraq. Photo by Allen Kakony/A Demand For Action
An internally displaced child sleeps on the floor of St. Joseph’s Church in Arbil, Iraq. Photo courtesy of Allen Kakony/A Demand For Action

Chicago-area Assyrians are seeking ways to help their brethren in Iraq and Syria. Territorial expansion by Islamic radicals, know as ISIS, or the Islamic State, has caused devastation and displacement of the region’s indigenous Assyrians, who are Christians. And now they face a brutal winter.

Assyrians in Chicago also are worried that their distinct culture and language may not survive in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

“It breaks my heart in multiple ways,” said Sargon Yaro, a high school math teacher and deacon of Rogers Park’s Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, Saint George’s Cathedral. “First, as a people, being evicted from a place that belongs to us. Being the indigenous people [of Iraq], we not only get evicted, they take our churches.”

Continue reading “Assyrians in Chicago concerned about internally displaced in Iraq and Syria”

Central clearing of OTC derivatives raises questions

By Megan Hart

The financial crisis of 2008 put the spotlight on the massive but opaque market for over-the-counter swaps and other derivatives that blew up following the failure of Lehman Bros. and threatened a global financial collapse.

With Lehman’s demise, American Insurance Group was instantly on the hook to pay out billions of dollars in credit default swaps, insurance-like contracts, it had sold. Until that moment, few outside Wall Street had ever heard of the contracts.

Lawmakers passed the Dodd-Frank Act of financial reforms in 2010, a document 16 times the length of “Moby Dick” that put regulators on the hot seat to reign in risky OTC contracts and prevent such a collapse from ever happening again.

But four years and dozens of new regulations later, no one is entirely sure the law is having the intended effect. Continue reading “Central clearing of OTC derivatives raises questions”

Metropolis Coffee Co. brews up strong sales

By Brittany Magee

Metropolis Coffee Company is one of Chicago’s premier small batch coffee roasters. Jeff and Tony Dreyfuss opened Metropolis in the Edgewater neighborhood in 2003. The father-son team has a retail coffee shop and roasting facility with 300 wholesale clients in the Chicago area and many more across the country. Dreyfuss says sales have risen by an average 20 percent per year, which he credits to the company’s mission to produce high quality coffees in sustainable ways that “have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”

Catch the rhythm: Study promotes dance as exercise

By Katherine Dempsey

BAILA, Spanish for “dance”, is also the name of a research program that revs up that cha cha cha as an exercise regimen. Several sites across the Chicago area, like the church and the senior center in this story, host the study. The study is investigating whether dancing regularly works better than attending health education classes at encouraging older Latinos to get physical activity. David Marquez, associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is heading up the study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Catch the rhythm in this video.  Since data collection began in 2013, four sites have completed the study over eight months, and four other sites are still going through the program. Right now, Marquez’s team is gathering people to participate in the study at a ninth site.

Unpacking social media in the hotel industry

A Yelp users looks at the page for the Godfrey Hotel.  The Chicago hotel subscribes to Check Mate, a mobile platform that allows hotels to track the social influence of its guests. / megan k. rauch / MEDILL
A Yelp user looks at reviews for the Godfrey Hotel. The Chicago hotel subscribes to CheckMate, a mobile platform that allows hotels to track the social influence of its guests. / megan k. rauch / MEDILL

By Megan K. Rauch

Seth Rau is a self-described travel junkie. The Ohio native has visited nearly all 50 states and countless countries. Rau says he enjoys exploring new hotels and restaurants, and he frequently writes reviews of them on Yelp and TripAdvisor, both online review sites.

On a recent trip to Argentina, Rau was pleasantly surprised to discover that the boutique hotel where he was staying had given him a 10 percent discount on his bill. The reduction came after the hotel staff had seen that Rau had written a favorable review on TripAdvisor, which specializes in hotel reviews. Continue reading “Unpacking social media in the hotel industry”

West Side churchgoers protest decisions in Ferguson and New York

By Eric Cortellessa

Hundreds of churchgoers took the streets Sunday to express their frustrations after recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

“We just want to stand up for justice and let people know that black lives really do matter, said protester Shardai Gossett.

Continue reading “West Side churchgoers protest decisions in Ferguson and New York”

Chicago’s homeless LGBT youth need help finding shelter

By Tanni Deb

Ahniyha Johnson, 23, was homeless for three years because her family did not accept her for being transgender. Her experience inspired her to attend college to become a social worker. (Tanni Deb/Medill)
Ahniyha Johnson, 23, was homeless for three years because her family did not accept her being transgender. Her experience inspired her to attend college to become a social worker.

When Zanariah Phillips, 26, revealed to her family that she was transgender, she was beaten, ostracized and ridiculed to the point where she could not handle living at home anymore. The family of a friend took her in at the age of 14, but she moved out three years later.

“They made me feel wanted and welcome but for some reason I didn’t feel welcome,” she remembers. “I felt like it was a pity party.”

Phillips spent some nights at shelters and other times, she slept in the locker room at the Center on Halsted, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center. When she was 21, she found a job and was able to save enough money to rent an apartment.

Like Phillips, there are many LGBT youth in Illinois who struggle to find housing.

Continue reading “Chicago’s homeless LGBT youth need help finding shelter”

Body image issues and eating disorders affect some gay men

By Tanni Deb

Angel Saez, a personal trainer and gay male entertainer at Baton Show Lounge, maintains his body by working out seven days a week. Saez is healthy and fit but many gay men, unlike Saez, take it too far by over-exercising and going through unhealthy diets.
Angel Saez, a personal trainer and gay male entertainer at Baton Show Lounge, maintains his body by working out seven days a week. Saez is healthy and fit but many gay men, unlike Saez, take it too far by over-exercising and having unhealthy diets. (Photo courtesy of Angel Saez)

 

Angel Saez is a personal trainer, as well as a gay male entertainer at Baton Show Lounge, a nightclub that also hosts drag shows. He said advertisements geared towards the homosexual community influenced him to begin working out when he was 16. To this day, he continues to maintain his body because that is what pays his bills. The 38-year-old not only watches what he eats but also exercises seven days a week.

“I do an hour and a half of cardio and after that, 45 minutes of workout,” he said. “I avoid sweets, sodas and I don’t drink alcohol.”

While Saez stays healthy by eating three meals a day, several of his gay friends “do not eat at all” to stay fit.

“They think that by not eating is how they’ll get a good body,” he said. “[But I know] that’s not the correct way to do it.”

Continue reading “Body image issues and eating disorders affect some gay men”

Boeing shares look ready for takeoff in 2015

By Janel Forte 

Boeing Headquarters in downtown Chicao Janel Forte/Medill News Service
Boeing Headquarters in downtown Chicago. Janel Forte/Medill News Service

Boeing Co. looks like it’s going to cruise right into 2015.

The Chicago-based aerospace giant is the beneficiary of a sustained cyclical boom in demand for commercial aircraft.   That boom is being driven by a variety of factors, including Boeing’s successful rollout of the high profile 787 Dreamliner and other fuel-efficient planes.

The 787’s huge development costs burdened earlier years’ profits, and the aircraft ran into a variety of embarrassing problems in the early phase of its entry into the market. But those issues are now in the past.

At the same time, Boeing’s customers – airlines around the world – are reaping a big financial windfall as plummeting oil prices reduce their jet-fuel costs. It seems likely that if those trends remain in place, Boeing shares could be well on the way to returning to their 52-week high of just over $144 in the upcoming year.

Continue reading “Boeing shares look ready for takeoff in 2015”

Rooftop Greenworks grows along with its gardens

By Holly LaFon

The world is becoming more crowded, and more people are moving to cities. Beautifying, conserving nature and feeding more people have become key priorities. One company with a solution is Chicago-based Rooftop Greenworks LLC. It designs and installs beautiful, useful rooftop gardens and wall hangings that thrive in urban centers and can grow vegetables.