Monthly Archives: February 2015

Chicago’s West Side Fraternite Nuns Receive Major Donations After Church Boilers Die

Opening up Floor Vent Heater
A group of Fraternite Notre Dame nuns living in and serving Chicago’s West Side just received a major blessing after the church’s two main boilers died — one on Ash Wednesday, and the other just two weeks earlier — leaving the nuns in freezing cold temperatures as Chicago experienced single-digit and sub-zero temperatures during the third week of February.

Although the initial plan was to repair the boilers, which would cost an estimated $40,000, the church eventually decided that a better long-term solution would require more HVAC work, including insulation and piping repairs in addition to boiler maintenance.

Unfortunately, as Sister Marie Valerie told CBS 2 Chicago, the nuns estimated that they would need about $200,000 to fund the new heating system — which the church definitely could not afford, since they give every extra penny to their community, through the church’s daily soup kitchen and food pantry.

The nuns set up electric space heaters and managed to continue operations in the church buildings, which reached a cool 34 degrees at one point. With the assistance of two GoFundMe pages, along with a huge donation from Chicago’s Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, the nuns ended up collecting more than $230,000 in just three days, according to ABC 7 Chicago.

The money will easily pay for a completely new energy-efficient heating system, surely saving money for the church, which loses heat quickly due to improper insulation and 100-year-old infrastructure.

Sister Marie Valerie and Sister Marie Myriam stated that all extra funding will be directed toward community programs that the church already runs.

“We were very impressed by how the people react so fast. They were really concerned about our problem, and we are so happy and we are so grateful,” Sister Marie Myriam stated. “As nuns, we prayed, of course. We prayed and asked God to help us and you see the results are just great, because so many people helped us.”

Early Fertility Check Ups Help Young Women With Future Family Planning Decisions

Mother with baby at home
Getting older ain’t what it used to be, with some now calling 40 the new 30 or even 20. However, the nips and tucks that may be effective in taking years off of a woman’s outward appearance are pointless in terms of turning back the dial on a woman’s internal biological clock.

Did you know that by the age of 40, only two out of five women who wish to conceive without assistance are able to do so? This is just one of many reasons why more and more young women in their 20s are undergoing regular fertility check ups.

Take, for example, Caitlin Wilkinson and Hannah Johnson, two average 20-somethings who both enjoying playing pool. However, they also have something else in common. They’ve both already had fertility checkups.

“My mom has a history of some infertility issues so I always knew that could be something I could face,” said Johnson.

Wilkinson explained, “I have always had very irregular periods and I never knew how that was going to play out in the future.”

Seeking answers to their questions, the young women both underwent fertility awareness checkups, which includes having an ultrasound to measure the ovary health and egg supply.

“When we do an ultrasound, we see that the ovary gets smaller as the woman gets older and the number of little follicles decrease,” said Eve Feinberg, M.D., a fertility specialist with both the Fertility Centers of Illinois and NorthShore University Health System.

The check up also evaluates the blood levels of two key fertility hormones. “We look at follicle stimulating hormone and we want that level to be low. And then we look at AMH or Anti-Malarian Hormone and we want that level to be high,” said Dr. Feinberg.

The number of fertility check ups performed by the Fertility Centers of Illinois has increased by a whopping 1,500%, jumping from just 40 in 2012 to 600 last year. Though the majority of women still wait until their mid-30s — when egg quantities naturally begin to decline — to have a fertility checkup done, doctors say this is beginning to change.

For only $90, the test provides young women with invaluable information in regards to their reproductive health. The fertility awareness checkup also includes a semen analysis for men.

“As the word has gotten out about the success and viability of egg freezing, we’re starting to see more and more younger women coming in to check their fertility potential,” said Dr. Feinberg.

Though Caitlin Wilkinson’s test came back normal, Hannah Johnson’s blood test revealed very low levels of AMH. “When you have a lower level, there’s a potential you could go into menopause earlier or have troubles with fertility,” Johnson explained.

As a result, Johnson and her husband decide to create and freeze embryos as a means of security of security for the future.

“I thought it would be a great sort of security blanket or insurance policy to have them. So I feel really lucky that I learned about this and was able to be proactive about my health,” Johnson said.

Doctors hope cases like Johnson’s will inspire other young women to look at their fertility and explore options while time is still on their side.

Consumers Flock To the 2015 Chicago Auto Show To See Kia’s Newest Hybrid SUV Concept Vehicle

Cars
The U.S. may have the world’s largest market for passenger vehicles, and if the excitement regarding a new Kia vehicle concept that was recently revealed at the Chicago Auto Show is any indication, American consumers might soon become the largest market for innovative hybrid SUVs as well.

This year’s show, which is being held from February 14 to 22 at the McCormick Center, has already drawn an impressive crowd. The main feature of the show, according to NBC News, is Kia’s new eco-friendly SUV Trail’ster Concept.

The Trail’ster is reportedly Kia’s third follow-up to its “crossover” battery- and electric-powered Soulster Design, which the Korean car manufacturer released back in 2009.

Not only has Kia addressed and fixed the most problems found with battery-powered cars — i.e., poor performance and battery charging issues — but it has also developed additional features for the Trail’ster that often aren’t even included in regular passenger Sedans. AutoGo.ca notes that the impressive 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine in the Trail’ster, which enables all-wheel drive capabilities, is unheard of in the world of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Add to that Kia’s claim that the car could reduce fuel consumption by 25-30%, and it almost seems like the Trail’ster is too good to be true.

To be honest, the Trail’ster hasn’t actually entered the manufacturing stage yet; the “concept” model is simply Kia’s way of measuring consumer interest before producing vehicles on a large scale. But it’s likely that consumers could see Trail’sters hitting the roads sooner rather than later, and NBC News notes that consumer interest in both hybrid vehicles and SUVs are likely to influence Kia’s decision to begin manufacturing the car.

And it’s very possible that the innovative designs of the Trail’ster are exactly what’s making this year’s Chicago Auto Show into a major success already.

Michael Harley, the head of online automotive website AutoWeb, recently stated to the Detroit Free Press that the Chicago Auto Show is much calmer, compared to shows in other cities, making the atmosphere friendlier for consumers. At the same, Harley states, this intimate environment is a good indication of a particular car’s success.

“If an automaker can keep its vehicle secret until Chicago, a vehicle can get the spotlight.”

Nicor Gas to Spearhead $2 Billion Chicago Gas Line Replacement Project

oil well
Nicor Gas will soon undertake a massive $2 billion, nine-year pipe replacement project that will give a much-needed upgrade to about 1,000 miles of aging gas lines throughout suburban Chicago.

According to a February 11 Crain’s Chicago Business article, the program will be funded through surcharges placed on natural gas utility users’ monthly bills. For the average residential consumer, this surcharge will amount to about a dollar per month.

Nicor’s announcement arrives at a time when skepticism continues to mount over a similar project. The estimated cost of Peoples Gas’s program to replace 1,700 miles of gas mains within the city of Chicago has more than doubled in the last five years. This has led Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to cite Peoples Gas for mismanagement, and an audit of the company’s program has been commissioned.

Because of Peoples Gas’s gaffe, Nicor President Beth Reese says there is more pressure for her company to finish its project within budget. If Nicor succeeds at staying within budget, the average natural gas consumer will see monthly bills about $10 higher than they are now when the project is finished in 2023.

In 2015, Nicor will work to replace about 125 miles of suburban Chicago’s old cast-iron and bare steel pipes with polyethylene and treated steel. Work will take place throughout the municipalities of Aurora, Evanston and Oak Park. Additionally, about 90% of the gas mains in Elmwood Park are slated for replacement this year.

The oil and natural gas industry is one of the U.S. economy’s largest, employing about 9.8 million people and representing 8% of the overall economy. Nicor expects to hire an additional 500 internal and contract workers this year, with the number projected to grow in later years as the project continues, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.

“We’re not at our peak by any stretch,” Reese explained.

University of Chicago Medical Center Nurses Threaten One-Day Strike

Entrance to emergency room at hospital
It was late on the night of January 29th when a group of nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center voted, 95% in favor, to threaten to go on strike for one day if the hospital continued refusing to bargain with the nurses’ union, National Nurses United (NNU).

There is no set date for the strike, and it’s entirely possible that the strike won’t happen at all if the hospital administration can reach a compromise with the union regarding safety and staffing issues.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, the nurses are frustrated by a few different issues:

  • The hospital’s refusal to address unsafe staffing levels;
  • The hospital’s proposal to “replace with clinically competent RN ‘charge nurses’ on each unit with managers focused on budgetary concerns”
  • The hospital’s plan to put more weight on the requirement that nurses with daytime shifts should be “forced to unsafely ‘rotate’ their schedule” and work both day and night shifts.

    Ultimately, the nurses’ union says that the problems come down to two fundamental issues: putting too much stress on the understaffed nurses, and therefore putting the hospital’s patients at risk.

    The Medical Center has responded to the possible strike with contempt and frustration, saying that it is “extremely disappointed with the outcome of [the nurses’] vote, which authorizes the NNU to call a strike at any time and for any length of time.”

    As the Chicago Tribune notes, the NNU’s arguments do seem valid. The nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center have been working diligently, without a contract, since October 2014. When the hospital announced in January 2015 that it planned on eliminating incentive pay for nurses who work 24-hour shifts, and that it wants the nurses to double their health care contributions by July 2016, the nurses attempted — without much success — to negotiate with the hospital.

    Unfortunately, understaffed units are becoming all too common in hospitals across the country. As more Americans struggle to afford health insurance, and avoid seeking medical care until they have no other option but to go to the emergency room, it’s estimated that hospital ERs alone see about 110 million patients per year. It only makes sense that other units within the same medical facilities would suffer from overcrowding and understaffing as well.

    Negotiations at the U of C Medical Center are reportedly still underway, and the NNU has stated that the nurses genuinely want an agreement to be reached before a strike becomes necessary.

Chariots of Fire: The Many, Many Benefits of Running

chicago+winter+running

Of all the sports we cherish today, running is one of the oldest (as well as the simplest) athletic traditions in human history. Humans have been running competitively as early as the second millennium B.C.E. — most famously in the ancient Greek Olympics. The marathon, in particular, is one of the most revered races today, and has been repeated around the world ever since the ancient Battle of Marathon nearly 3,000 years ago!

Though times have changed, the marathon — which is always 42 kilometers (or 26 miles) — has not. It is thought that nearly half a million Americans every year participate in a marathon. Half-marathons alone number at about 2,000 in the U.S.! Even if you exclude the specific race, the fact remains that nearly 57 million Americans went jogging or running at least once in 2012. That same year, there were more than 15,000 5K running events. This month, there are six major running events in Chicago alone. There certainly isn’t a shortage of runners in the United States.

Why do so many people decide to run? What’s the big deal? Well, there are a number of reasons, all of them good.

Here are three:

    1. It’s good for you: Like all forms of exercise, running is beneficial for your health. It can reverse or at least hamper the effects of aging. Running and other kinds of exercise, if done consistently, is known to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 60%. The US Department of Health advises adults to exercise at least two-and-a-half hours every week.
    1. It’s steeped in tradition: The Greeks, as mentioned, pioneered competitive athletic events such as the marathon. They weren’t the only group of people, though, that cherished the sport of running. Formal running, cross-country events date as far back as the 19th century in Europe. For example, the English invented a running game called “hare and hounds” (or “paper chase”) in the early 19th century. A runner, or “hare,” would be chased after another group of runners, or “hounds.” The hare gets a head start and leaves bits of paper behind him so that the hounds can follow him. It is very much like a large-scale version of hide-and-seek. Though that is one example, the “paper chase” demonstrates just how popular running games have been through the generations.
    1. It’s a social event: Running is a great way to spend time with people. Try running in a group or, better yet, in a running event! One thing is for sure: there won’t be a shortage of people.

There are other reasons to run, of course, but no matter what, running is a popular and cherished athletic activity that has been around seemingly since humans learned how to use their legs. Running certainly isn’t going anywhere.

What do you think of running? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom. We look forward to your input. Happy trails!