Jobless claims hit 45-year low

By Juliette Rocheleau
Medill Reports

The U.S. initial jobless claims for the week ended January 13 plunged to 220,000, its lowest number in almost 45 years, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday, pointing to a robust labor market.

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Experts say blockchain technology will be useful in many industries

By Alexa Adler
Medill Reports

As bitcoin prices fluctuate, indicating uncertainty about the ultimate viability of cryptocurrency, other use of its underlying blockchain technology is increasing and may represent the future of information transfer technology in many industries, including banking, and to some extent, healthcare.

In downtown Chicago, cryptocurrency experts gathered Wednesday evening to discuss future uses of blockchain in multiple industries before an audience of many developers at a Future of Blockchain meetup.

“I think everybody views bitcoin as the first proof of concept of blockchain and everybody is waiting to sort of see what’s next, what happens, and how does it evolve,” said Dr. Tejas Shastry, vice president of data science at GreenKey Technologies.

In blockchain transactions, data is transmitted and stored in multiple nodes distributed throughout the cloud. While it has potential applicability in many industries, some industries might be better suited for it than others, the experts said, notably industries that handle transactions and data fully digitally.

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The era of big seaweed is upon us

 

Marine researcher Loretta Roberson believes rethinking how we grow seaweed has the potential to clean up oceans, replace fossil fuels and protect coastlines from violent weather. She’s headed to Puerto Rico early this year to put her theories to the test.

 

By Rebecca Fanning
Medill Reports

On the southern coast of Puerto Rico, there’s a place where abandoned sugar plantations dot the shoreline, residents of illegal homes dump waste directly into the ocean and blooms of green algae rise to the surface, a visual reminder of the water pollution that’s present here. Known to many as one of the island’s largest estuaries, Jobos Bay is framed by two major power plants and several economically depressed towns. It’s also the site of the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a federally protected area recognized for its seagrass beds, coral reefs and mangroves.

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The River Whisperer

 

The co-director of the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise dishes on the waterway’s history, its recent transformation and the ‘craziest thing’ he’s ever seen while hosting a tour.

 

By Emily Clemons
Medill Reports

Chicago offers plenty of activities for visiting tourists and adventurous locals alike – ghost tours, gangster history jaunts and more dazzle spectators while perpetuating the urban legends of the Windy City.

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One man working to separate myth from reality is Tom Carmichael, co-director of the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady. Since joining the foundation in 2007 and becoming a tour director in 2009, Carmichael has been witness to the Chicago River’s transformation and ever-developing history, and has introduced thousands of tourists to the buildings along the river’s banks.

Carmichael spoke with Medill Reports about his 10 years volunteering with the Foundation, and how not even a body in the river will get in the way of a quality cruise.
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The Cretaceous Shuffle

After 17 years front-and-center, the Field Museum’s toothy crown jewel Sue is moving upstairs to make way for an even larger predator.

By Adam Cohen
Medill Reports

Almost 67 million years after her death, the world’s most famous dinosaur named Sue is moving once again. In February, the Field Museum’s iconic Tyrannosaurus rex will be taken down from her prominent perch in Stanley Field Hall and moved to a new exhibit on the institution’s second floor. In Sue’s place will go an arguably even more awe-inspiring specimen – a cast of Patagotitan mayorum.

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Fighting the war against phosphorous

Almost a year after the settlement between environmental groups and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, progress is inching forward in reducing dangerous levels of phosphorous in the Chicago River.

By Morgan Levey
Medill Reports

It’s common knowledge amongst environmentalists that phosphorus is a harmful nutrient in bodies of water, making them uninhabitable for marine life by spurring algae growth and choking oxygen levels. It’s particularly destructive in waterways that flow out of cities, where highly polluted effluent spreads downstream, contaminating tributaries and entering larger bodies of water.

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Chicago sits nearly 800 miles away from the Gulf of Mexico, yet phosphorus from the Chicago River has a damaging reach and historically has been the single largest contributor to what scientists call the “dead zone,” an area in the Gulf roughly the size of New Jersey where fish can’t survive. And closer to home, phosphorous has been detrimental to the water quality of the lower Des Plaines and Illinois rivers.

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Last dance in the Big Easy

The new ‘funkumentary,’ Do U Want It?, is director Josh Freund’s cinematic love letter to the band Papa Grows Funk and the New Orleans music scene.

By Morgan Levey
Medill Reports

For 90 minutes on a winter evening a vortex opened in Chicago’s Davis Theater and the crowd was transported down south, to the land of crawfish boils and funk music. Do U Want It?, a feature-length documentary about the former New Orleans-based band Papa Grows Funk, made its Chicago debut as part of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival. Billed as a “funkumentary,” the film examines the joy of making music in New Orleans, but the hardship of making it big anywhere else.

Medill Reports sat down with Josh Freund, one of the film’s co-directors and a Medill alum (BSJ 2012), after the movie’s screening.

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On Tall Ships, This Woman Finds Freedom

By Kate Cimini
Medill Reports

Although tall ships were exclusively the province of men when they were used to ship lumber after the 1871 Chicago fire, the replica ships that sail Lake Michigan these days more often than not feature a few women on their crews.

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New PACs Aim to Empower Women Candidates, Voters

  • by Kate Cimini
    Medill Reports

For Sameena Mustafa, it was about the principle of the thing.

A first-time candidate running for Congress in Chicago’s 5th district, where she lives, Mustafa decided to eschew any and all corporate donations, even refusing a friend’s donation from her dental practice. The former real estate advocate and comedian believed focusing her fundraising around individual donors would be a way to give voice to her constituents.

“When the Democratic Party began taking money from corporations in the ‘70s we diverged from our ideals,” Mustafa said. “We forgot we represented people, and we need to re-focus on individuals.”

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Winter Water Wonderland, by boat

 

Even though the temperatures are dropping, Chicago’s water taxi service is in full swing. These 5 gems along the Chicago River await you.

 

By Jacqueline Lumley
Medill Reports

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or the first time in almost a decade, the city of Chicago will extend river taxi service past Thanksgiving through mid-December in 2017. For less than $10, you can purchase a day pass and ride from the Loop to Chinatown and beyond, taking in Chicago’s storied architecture along the way. That makes now the perfect time to welcome winter with Medill Report’s guide to a full day of snowy riverboat rides and delicious food.

Morning: Coffee at The French Market

Start your day with some fresh brew from Chicago’s French Market. Located in the Ogilvie Train Station, this market hosts space for more than 30 artisan food vendors, with choices ranging from high-end charcuterie to fresh-baked croissants to ice cream. It’s the perfect spot for a grab-and-go breakfast before embarking on your riverboat adventure.

Route: Turn right after exiting Ogilvie Train Station and head toward the river down Washington Avenue. Walk down the staircase and wait for the 10 a.m. water taxi at the Ogilvie/Union (West Loop) stop. You can purchase your ticket on board or ahead of time online.
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