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A thousand marchers bring eating disorder awareness and support to Chicago

By Colleen Zewe
Medill Reports

Despite the brisk October weather, Sami Mikret and her family spent Sunday morning marching along Diversey Harbor to celebrate her completion of eating disorder treatment and show others that recovery is possible.

They weren’t alone. More than 1,000 people participated in Chicago’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Walk, making it the largest NEDA walk Chicago has ever hosted.

Since 2009, NEDA walks have aimed to fund eating disorder research, education, prevention and advocacy initiatives.  Chicago’s 2018 walk raised more than $47,000, and NEDA plans walks in 90 total cities each year.

According to NEDA, 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, which is an obsession with healthy eating, and other specified feeding or eating disorders, a diagnosis given to those who do not fit other diagnoses but still struggle with eating. Continue reading A thousand marchers bring eating disorder awareness and support to Chicago

Pilsen residents demand rent controls at Town Hall meeting

Nathan Ouellette
Medill Reports

Demands for rent control and affordable housing took center stage, Monday, in the St. Pius V Church basement, as residents of Pilsen and Little Village rose one by one to voice concerns at Pilsen’s Community Town Hall on Rent Control and Property Taxes.

The Town Hall, conducted both in Spanish and English, focused on lifting the statewide ban on rent controls as residents fight to stay in their homes.  The presence of State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss (D-9) and State Representative Theresa Mah (D-2), co-sponsors of SB2310, Repeals the Rent Control Preemptive Act bill, gave community members the opportunity to meet with their elected officials. 

Continue reading Pilsen residents demand rent controls at Town Hall meeting

American First Nations compete at World Championship Hoop Dancing Contest

Nathan Ouellette
Medill Reports

PHOENIX, Ariz. – A chorus of voices and the echo of drums engulfed the sunbathed amphitheater at the Heard Museum this month as dancers from American Indian and Canadian First Nations gathered for the 28th Annual World Championship Hoop Dancing Contest.

The dances emerged from tribal healing ceremonies. Now, hoop dancing has grown from its traditional roots into a broader and more public celebration.  Individual dancers manipulate colorful hoops with their bodies – often transforming as few as four to as many as 50 hoops into designs coordinated with intricate footwork set to the rhythm of drums and voices. Judges calculate scores based on precision, timing, showmanship, creativity and speed.

Continue reading American First Nations compete at World Championship Hoop Dancing Contest

Tokyo’s pachinko parlors look to next generation of players

By Mindy Tan

Pachinko, a uniquely Japanese form of gambling, is a popular sport in Japan. But interest in the game has been waning, particularly amongst younger players. Parlor operators are trying to revive interest by rolling out luxurious, air-conditioned parlors with uniformed staff, and the industry endeavors to introduce new games on a regular basis. Some parlor operators also offer non-smoking premises, widely considered a radical shift in this industry.

Pachinko & Slot Cyber
Pachinko parlors dot the streetscapes of Japan, with their bright lights, loud bells and whistles, and constant flow of traffic. The game is a popular pastime, and one of the few forms of gambling that is tolerated in Japan. It was not until December 2016 that legislators passed a law that legalizes casino gambling in the country.
Entrance to Pachinko Shop
Players spent ¥23.3 trillion (roughly $205 billion at today’s exchange rate) on pachinko and related slot machines in 2015, according to a Bloomberg report. This is equivalent to about 4 percent of Japan’s GDP.
Steel balls
At Pachinko Maruhan, one of the parlors in Shinjuku, a district in Tokyo, players purchase small steel balls which costs between ¥1 and ¥5. These balls are fed into the machine and players control the speed by which balls are shot into the field by gripping a knob on the lower right hand corner of the machine.
Pachinko Machine
The goal of the game is to shoot more balls into a central funnel. When three matching symbols appear on the screen, you win! Thousands of steel balls are spit out into a well at the base of the machine which are collected by players.
Big Win
Players exchange their winnings for prizes which can range from soft toys to electronics. It is, up to this point, entirely legal. But players often go to small establishments, usually near the main building, to exchange these prizes for cash.
Couple playing pachinko
Pachinko is still a popular pastime, but interest in the game is waning. The number of players has been trending downward after peaking in 1995, as casual players leave the market. The percentage of men under 20 playing pachinko and pachislot, a derivative of pachinko, fell from 11.4 percent to 1.7 percent from 2009 to 2015, according to market data from Sega Sammy Group. The percentage of men in their 20s was 6.8 percent in 2015, down from 24.5 percent in 2009.
Man playing pachinko
To counteract this, pachinko and pachislot machine manufacturers have been making industry-wide efforts to introduce voluntary regulations to curb functions that encourage excessive gambling. They are also forming partnerships to establish industry-wide platforms to increase cost efficiency through the joint purchasing of components.
Photo at top: One of the many Pachinko parlors in Tokyo, Japan. (Mindy Tan/MEDILL)

Japanese novelty food you wish you could get in Chicago

By Shen Lu

Continue reading Japanese novelty food you wish you could get in Chicago

Vulfpeck’s Theo Katzman breezes through Evanston’s SPACE ahead of second album

By Grant Rindner

Ahead of the January release of his second album, Heartbreak Hits, singer and funk-rock free spirit Theo Katzman took the stage at Evanston’s SPACE this month.  Katzman plays guitar and drums in the successful band Vulfpeck and was joined onstage by bassist Joe Dart of Vulfpeck and independent singer-pianist Joey Dosik and Evanston native Julian Allen on the drums.

Even without the full Vulfpeck family, they kept the crowd rockin’ with Katzman’s songs. Clad in aviators and a denim jacket, he deftly juggled lead vocal duty while switching between the guitar and drums. He ripped through a handful of tracks from his upcoming record, including “My Heart is Dead” and “Plain Jane Heroin,” While Dosik also played selections from his recent Game Winner EP.

Katzman cut his teeth and honed his licks at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, where Vulfpeck  formed. The band’s sound bears more of a jazz and soul influence than Katzman’s solo work, but both share a rich musicality and powerful arrangements – heavy in horns, rich in piano chords and infectious with fretwork.

In addition to producing two albums and four EPs since 2011, the band made headlines with Sleepify, a completely silent album that Vulfpeck fans streamed while they slept. They used the reported $20,000 worth of royalties to finance an admission-free tour in late 2014.

You can pre-order Katzman’s upcoming record on Kickstarter and buy Vulfpeck’s The Beautiful Game, which was released on October 17, via Bandcamp.

Photo at top: Theo Katzman playing a rollicking solo set at Evanston SPACE. (Grant Rindner/MEDILL)

Living a full life in spite of being blind

By Iacopo Luzi

Maureen Reid, 44, lost her vision when she was 27 because of  type 1 diabetes.

Today she works as a job placement counselor at the Chicago Lighthouse, a non-profit organization that assists visually impaired people all over the country.

She agreed to be followed by Medill Reports during the month of May. This photo essay shows how Reid lives a full life.

Photo on top: Maureen together with her dog Gaston on the CTA (Iacopo Luzi/MedillReports)

La Perla: Vibrant San Juan neighborhood emerges from checkered reputation

By Nikita Mandhani

La Perla is an old neighborhood just outside the northern historic city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Stretching about 600 meters along the Caribbean Sea, the neighborhood is tucked between Calle Norzagaray and Fort San Cristobal.

La Perla has been an infamous neighborhood since its early days. In the 19th century, it was the site of a slaughterhouse and home to people — slaves, the homeless and non-white servants — who were required to live outside the city walls.

La Perla’s dwellings were among the first homes built on the waterfront. Today the seaside around Old San Juan is largely home to beautiful restaurants, walkways and hotels catering to tourists, but the hard scrabble neighborhood of La Perla continues to occupy some of the island’s most spectacular coast.

Continue reading La Perla: Vibrant San Juan neighborhood emerges from checkered reputation

Missives from Mongolia: Chasing down the Ice Age

By Sarah Kramer

The Altai Mounts of western Mongolia may be concealing secrets amid the splendor. The breathtaking alpine landscape could hold clues to how abrupt climate change might have impacted our ancestors— and how it may impact our descendants.

This summer, a team of scientists, students and historians trekked through the hills and valleys of the Altai in Mongolia’s Bayan-Ölgii Province looking for traces of the last ice age.

“Everything’s immaculately preserved here,” said Aaron Putnam, currently an assistant research professor with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. Evidence of the enormous glaciers that covered the landscape can be found in gentle slopes, scuffed bedrock and spectacular valleys of the region— if you just know where to look.

Medill News Service reporter Sarah Kramer embedded with the team as they traversed the countryside and climbed into the Altai region, collecting rock samples that could provide insight into some of the most pressing questions in climate science: how and why did the last great ice age end. And what can that tell us about our future? Several stories are in the works and we will keep you posted.

You can see more photos and read the team’s updates from the field at PhD candidate Peter Strand’s blog for the University of Maine.

Medill embedded reporting scholarships are supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York.

Photo at top: Reporter Sarah Kramer astride a Bactrian camel at a tourist outpost in the Gobi. For about $2 USD, those driving across the Gobi Desert can stop and ride camels and horses saddled with traditional Mongolian tack. The team enjoyed the jaunt, but decided to use horses to carry field research equipment up Tsagaan Gol Valley. (Credit: Caleb Ward)

VIDEO: Chicago online florist finds efficiencies, and customers

By Jin Wu

According to IBIS World, by January 2015, there are more than 35,000 offline florists and more than 3,000 online flower shops in U.S. In spite of this strong competition, with only a few thousand dollars invested to start the business, Chicago-based Flowers for Dreams LLC was profitable even in its first year.

The 2-year-old Chicago’s online flower store Flowers for Dreams made more than one million dollars in revenue since it was founded. In 2014, it gained more than $100,000 in profit and a quarter of it, $33,608, was donated to 12 charities. It doubled the number in 2013. Its past Valentine’s Day sales was six times of last year’s Valentine’s Day sales, according to Steven Dyme, co-founder of the business. Continue reading VIDEO: Chicago online florist finds efficiencies, and customers