Business

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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NU climate change symposium stresses urgency and solutions

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

Excuses that exonerate business-as-usual emission scenarios are not a luxury we can afford as climate change heats up the globe, said Chad Frischmann, vice president and research director of Project Drawdown, a climate change mitigation project envisioned by renowned environmentalist Paul Hawken.

But do not despair, since opportunities and optimism can convert all of us into agents of change, said Frischmann, a plenary speaker at Northwestern University’s two-day climate change symposium this November.

Frischmann laid out several economically viable solutions for a packed audience in a talk based on the New York Times bestseller – “Drawdown – The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.” The book lists 100 solutions based on maximum and immediate impact. As expected, investing in wind turbines and solar farms fall within the top 10 solutions. Some simple, common sense approaches included reducing food waste.

“I can’t believe we already produce enough food to feed everyone on the planet,” said Frischmann, lamenting the fact that nearly a billion people on the planet go hungry while one-third of food raised or prepared is wasted – contributing to 4.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent or nearly 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change. He highlighted these areas where technology could make a significant difference.

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Former Marine Uses Lessons He Learned in the Military to Thrive in the Business World

By Xinyi (Ethel) Jiang
Medill Reports

Before starting 3rd Coast Imaging, Inc., veteran George Chrisopulos was an electronics communications technician in the Marine Corps. His time in the military prepared him for life after the Marines.

“When I was a marine, everything was on paper, and we had to have three copies. And every single file cabinet had to match the other file cabinet exactly,” said Chrisopulos.

That attention to detail has served Chrisopulos well in his printing and imaging business. And he’s not alone. According to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau in April 2017, 2.52 million businesses were majority-owned by veterans, and the top service for veteran-owned firms was professional, scientific and technical service.

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B-Sides Coffee and Tea spins tunes and brews coffee for the South Side

By Xinyi (Ethel) Jiang
Medill Reports

Kevin and Karen O’Malley, Beverly residents and music lovers, are thrilled to be part of the community on a small business level.

The couple opened B-Sides Coffee + Tea on the South Side of Chicago. The shop, located near the 99th Street Metra depot, is a throwback, decorating its walls with old album covers and spinning music from the sixties, seventies and eighties on a turntable.

The coffee shop caters to a steady stream of commuters, as well as parents picking up their children from the nearby grammar school.
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Bucktown nail salon owner calls her business a “passionate hobby”

By Eunice Wang and Natalya Carrico
Medill Reports

Jacqueline Van, owner of Fantasy Nails, has been passionate about nail art since she worked at her parents’ nail salon in Michigan. Even while attending college, she had a part-time job at a salon. After she graduated, Jackie realized that she didn’t want to be stuck in a cubicle all day long, that she was a people person. Now she pours all her love for nails into her own salon on North Avenue.

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Freeze-casting materials in space: Meeting the challenges of vacuums and microgravity

Northwestern University’s SpaceICE team, led by Northwestern Professor David Dunand, is preparing to test freeze-casting of materials in space, in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Bradley University. Fabricating materials is essential for a journey to Mars or for future space colonies. The SpaceICE team is pioneering the freeze-casting instrumentation for the small CubeSat, a cubic satellite that UIUC is building for the 2018 NASA-funded mission. Medill reporter Lakshmi Chandrasekaran is embedding with the researchers as the mission efforts rev up this summer.

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

I was meeting with Krysti Scotti, who kick- started the Northwestern University’s SpaceICE project in the Dunand Lab while she was still an undergraduate. She just finished her bachelor’s degree this spring and is starting work on her Ph.D. as SpaceICE readies for a space launch.

While waiting for Krysti to arrive at the lab, I met with another of Dunand’s first-year Ph.D. students, Stephen Wilke, as he completed freeze-casting experiments with iron oxide nanopowder. We chatted for a bit and I learned that his wife (a fifth year Ph.D. student in environmental sciences at NU) is pursuing a career in science writing in California through a mass communication fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It is a small world and I often seem to be running into Ph.D.s, pursuing science communication as a career! That’s what I am doing in graduate school at Medill after working as a science reporter with a Ph.D. in mathematics. The graduate program gives us a chance to embed with science research teams to produce in-depth stories and I am embedding with SpaceICE.

Krysti arrived a bit late for our 11 a.m. meeting and dashed into the lab! “I overslept,” she says. Considering, that she was up until 6 a.m. working on the research, I am not too surprised.

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Making materials in space – freeze it first

This summer a team of Northwestern University undergraduates will finalize instrumentation designs for a NASA satellite mission that will test the manufacturing of materials while in orbit.  The students are building the device for SpaceICE to study freeze-casting, a process that could eventually be used to build materials on other planets in space colonies.

“In terms of science fiction, the perfect use [of freeze-casting] would be to use soil on Mars and on the moon” to make bricks or other necessities. “We hope we will impact the creation of the first space habitats from planetary sources,” said materials science Professor David Dunand, the lead advisor for the SpaceICE project.

Video: Chicago co-ops gain momentum as sustainability, locavore movements grow

By Grace Austin

Today’s food co-ops in Chicago are not your hippie commune cooperatives of the 1960s and 1970s. They are for-profit businesses that are focused on local, healthy and sustainable produce and goods. But they are keeping the democratic nature of a traditional co-op as well as the emphasis on community engagement and philanthropy work.

Within the past few years, there has been a resurgence of co-ops across the country. Currently, there are about 150 that belong to the National Co+op Grocers association and about 130 are in the start-up phase.

In Northern Illinois, there are co-ops opening in Elgin, Rockford, McHenry, and Batavia.

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Chicago fast-food workers continue call for a $15 minimum wage

By Wenjing Yang

Deshawn Bell, 35, is a fast food worker in Chicago. He has been working at a McDonald’s restaurant for the past ten years and struggles to make ends meet. He joined a march on May 23rd in downtown Chicago that drew 1,500 demonstrators from across the nation to call for a $15 minimum wage. The march was organized by the union-backed advocacy group ‘Fight for $15’ and was timed to send a message the day before the McDonald’s annual stockholder meeting.

McDonald’s Corp. had revenue of $24.62 billion in 2016. Every year, the company and its franchisees employ hundreds of thousands of people, but has long been a target of complaints about the wages it pays those workers.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast food giant increased its hourly wages to $1 above local minimum wage at corporate-owned restaurants in 2015.

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