Video: Quest for LGBTI respect in South Africa

By Jiayan Jenny Shi

Matshidiso Mofokeng is a lesbian feminist and soccer player in South Africa. Living in a patriarchal society, Mofokeng has experienced discrimination because of her sexuality. Now she is a member of Chosen FEW, a lesbian soccer team that works in sports to end homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

Photo at top: Mofokeng practices soccer Feb. 10  in the backyard where she meets lesbian friends in Vosloorus. (Jiayan Jenny Shi/MEDILL)

A prescient entrepreneur rides the solar-power wave

By Urvashi Verma

The anticipated ending of the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit for solar power installations caused a record-breaking boom in the solar industry last year. Now that the credit has been extended until 2021 sales are expected to surge again as both electric utilities and consumers take advantage of the federal incentive before it expires.

“That was definitely one of the reasons we did it. We did not know how long it would last. At the time we thought it was ending in 2016. My husband and I wanted to make sure we got the 30 percent credit,” said Nicole Virgil, who installed a 7.1-kilowatt solar array on her house in Elmhurst, Ill., last year.

The U.S. solar market doubled its annual record last year, topping out at 14,625 MW of solar electric, or photovoltaic, panels installed, a 95 percent increase over the 7,493 MW installed in 2015.
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The Remedy brings smiles to ‘L’ riders at the Lake Stop

By Manasi Kaushik

The Remedy, a Chicago-based musical group from the South Side, performs at the Red Line’s ‘L’ stop to bring hope, happiness and joy to the lives of people.

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Chicago sommeliers enjoy the taste of growing popularity

by Kara Voght

On a balmy February Sunday, the Second City Sommeliers, a group of expert wine service professionals, transformed West Loop’s City Winery into a sommelier’s training ground. In one corner, tables hosted wines made from the same grapes grown in different regions, testing a sommelier’s ability to distinguish geographic influences. In another, a high-top table teetered with two dozen stemware glasses, each holding a pour of liquor for visual and olfactory inspection. Along the bar, two wines often confused with one another sat side-by-side for in-depth comparison.

Fifty young professionals milled about the cavernous bar, expertly swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting wine at each station. Many of them wore blazers affixed with pins indicating their advancement through the Court of Master Sommeliers, the standard bearing organization of wine service.

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Jewish community leaders say Devon Avenue is ‘dormant,’ not ‘dead’

By Nicole Cardos

Business owner Avrom Fox said his religious bookstore Rosenblums World of Judaica is a social gathering spot.

“We have everything that one needs to celebrate the entire Jewish life cycle, from birth to death and all the holidays in between,” Fox said, adding that there are also books for those interested in the religion from a historical and cultural point of view.

The making of a Jewish monument from Nicole Cardos on Vimeo.

Now in its sixth year of residence in Skokie, Illinois, Rosenblums was previously located on Devon Avenue in West Ridge in Chicago. Fox said he purchased the store from its previous owner in 1990 at its Devon Avenue location, when the Jewish community was reflected in the storefronts on the now-majority South Asian shopping street.

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Fed raises interest rates as expected

By Yingcong (June) Fu

The Federal Reserve’s policy makers raised the federal funds rates rate by 25 basis points on Wednesday as expected, following their two-day meeting.

The federal funds rate–the rate that banks charge each other for overnight loans–was increased to a range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent. It was the third quarter-point rate hike since the Fed began raising interest rates in December 2015.

It was the third quarter-point rate hike since the Fed began raising interest rate in December 2015. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)

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Evanston’s European style bakery attracts customers for decades

By Yingcong (June) Fu

Noah Plotkim, a resident of Evanston, has been coming to Bennison’s Bakery twice a month for ten years to buy his favorite donuts. “I think it’s the best bakery in Evanston for sweets,” Plotkim said.

Bennison’s Bakery, located at 1000 Davis St. in Evanston, has been there since 1938. With an average of 700 customers per day, Bennison’s chalked up revenue of $3.5 million last year, said Jory Downer, the owner, who’s the second generation to run the family-owned bakery.

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Respect brings home care to the 21st century

By Rachel Newman

Ross Kimbarovsky’s elderly grandfather was living independently in his Chicago home when he developed a rare form of cancer. Kimbarovsky and his mother were his grandfather’s primary caretakers, but as his condition worsened, it was clear that they couldn’t do it alone.

Their hope quickly turned to frustration when they turned to local home care agencies and were met with inconsistent pricing, unreliable scheduling and under-qualified staff.

Shortly before his grandfather’s passing in 2015, Kimbarovsky reached out to his friend, Bruce Masterson, who had a similar experience caring for his mother-in-law. Together, they founded Respect, a home care agency for the 21st century.

Users can manage their loved one’s care through Respect’s mobile app. The app sends clients a notification when the caregiver arrives and departs at their loved one’s home. It allows them to communicate with caregivers via messages and photos and schedule activities in advance.

Users can even use the app to split payments among family members, who may be dispersed across the country.

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Business inventories rise in January, signaling economic growth

By Katherine Hyunjung Lee

Business inventories for manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers in January increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent, after a 0.4 percent rise in December, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Auto inventories posted the sharpest rise — up a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent. Economists said a broad increase in other durable goods categories, such as furniture, appliances and building materials, were a good sign.

“Inventories will provide support to headline GDP for the first quarter of 2017,” Daniel Sanabria, senior economist at Comerica Bank, wrote in a blog post.

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Explosive Ulta Beauty will open 100 more stores

By Beixi Xu

Gina Torres, a Chicagoan who works in Home Depot, just finished shopping in Ulta Beauty’s North Avenue store.​

“I am a fan of the store, and I get my cosmetics here, today I got my new eyeliner,” said Torres. “I live not far from here, only three to five miles. I usually drive here, and the parking is free in this area.”

Based in Bolingbrook, Ulta Beauty Inc. is the largest national beauty retailer featuring cosmetics, fragrances, skin and hair care products and salon services. As of Jan. 28, 2017, Ulta Beauty operates 974 retail stores across 48 states and offers more than 20,000 products from over 500 well-established and emerging beauty brands through its website.

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