All posts by ezrakaplan

PETRO PERIL: The changing landscape of oil by rail

5 crude oil derailments in 2013.
10 derailments in 2014.
4 derailments within one month in 2015.
At this rate, the U.S. is on track to have its worst year for oil-carrying train derailments.

By Ezra Kaplan

Over 40 crude oil-filled trains, each a mile long, roll through Chicago every week, according to documents obtained from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. That’s about 17 million gallons—or 400,000 barrels of what is known as “Bakken crude”—flowing through Chicagoland each day.

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More oil than ever is rolling on U.S. rails

By Ezra Kaplan

A 21 percent jump in the number of tank cars of crude oil traveling by U.S. rail in 2014 over 2013 represents a new record total of nearly half of a million cars of crude, according to the Association of American Railroads.

A total of 493,126 crude oil tank cars moved through the country last year. The new numbers reflect the ongoing domestic oil boom as well as a slowing of growth. The growth was significantly less than in the previous four years. Tank car numbers skyrocketed 255 percent in 2012 compared to 2011.

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Chicago leads the way as a global city

By Ezra Kaplan

On a recent Friday, in the main ballroom of the Standard Club in downtown Chicago, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted a half-day International Women’s Day Global Health Symposium. Speakers from the public and private sectors addressed a crowd of 365 of which nearly half were young people and over three-quarters were women.

The February event was part of the Council’s ongoing Women and Global Development Forum, which was established in 2009 to “engage Chicagoans in discussions about the role of women in solving global health, international development, and socioeconomic challenges facing the world today.”

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VIDEO: Tugboats, pushing along the Illinois economy

The Illinois waterways provide a cheap and efficient route for manufacturers to transport raw materials and products. Each year this industry contributes $6.4 billion to the state’s economy, according to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. The barges transporting the hundred of millions of tons of freight yearly depend on tugboats to get to the destination. The tugs push and pull the barges, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in packs of up to 15, from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

Captain Teddy Long is with Calumet River Fleeting Inc. and has navigated these waterways for 35 years.

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Illinois remains lethargic on medical marijuana

By Ezra Kaplan

Marla Levi is a 52-year-old Chicagoan with multiple sclerosis. With the support of her doctor, she applied and was accepted into the state-funded Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. This means that she qualifies and has a medical need for medical marijuana. It has been nearly three months since she got her papers but she has yet to fill the prescription.

The law that allows medical marijuana also stipulates that it must come from the state. But Illinois hasn’t grown any marijuana.

Sound like a Catch-22?

It is.

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VIDEO: A ride-hailing service with a personality

By Ezra Kaplan

Ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber have exploded into major metropolitan areas. The services allow non-professional drivers to connect with paying riders through a mobile app. From the convenience of a mobile phone, a passenger can request a driver pickup. Once in the car, the user experience is just like that of riding in a taxi, except, at the end of the ride, the payment is completed electronically with no money changing hands. Kyle Lovett is one of the many Lyft drivers getting Chicagoans to their destinations. Continue reading

Musical instruments on planes: If it fits, it flies

By Ezra Kaplan

Traveling artists will have an easier time flying with their musical instruments following a Department of Transportation rule change requiring all airlines to allow musicians to carry instruments just like any other piece of baggage.

“At DOT, we know how important instruments are to musicians and are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that they are not damaged while being transported on airlines,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Continue reading