Monthly Archives: September 2015

Chicago Residents Hold Their Noses as Rare Corpse Flower Begins to Bloom

corpseflowerChicagoans are collectively gagging as the pungent odor of a decomposing animal begins to emanate through the city. But enough about the Bears — there’s a really unusual plant that is gaining major buzz around town.

According to Fox News, the Chicago Botanic Garden is home to the rare phenomenon of a corpse flower, a unique plant that is causing a major stink in the Windy City.

Alice, the first of eight corpse flowers to bloom, is 55 inches in height and can be seen in the semitropical greenhouse at the Botanic Garden.

“Head to the Garden now to see (and smell!) the extremely rare phenomenon of a corpse flower in full bloom,” declared the Chicago Botanic Garden on its website.

“Given that titan arums are notably unpredictable flowering plants (and we should know!), we wanted to be sure that she would bloom before we announced her debut. We appreciate your patience!”

As you might have guessed, the plant gets its unique name from the rotten smell that it emits. According to CNN, Alice will probably take about 10 years to reach the size needed to support a bloom.

Oddly enough, its Latin name, Amorphophallus titanum, translates to “huge deformed penis.”

In Russia, red tulips are used to declare romantic love. The corpse plant carries an entirely different meaning if you’re planning on buying one for a gift.

The success of Alice comes on the heels of another corpse plant in the Botanic Garden, Spike, which failed to bloom amid much publicity last month.

The plant’s smell does serve a functional purpose. It lures carrion beetles and flesh flies that are attracted to the smell of decomposition. The insects bring pollen from other plants they’ve visited, which then helps to pollinate the corpse flower plant.

Its odor is more distinct during the nighttime, so the Chicago Botanic Garden says that they will stay open until 2 a.m. for “peak bloom viewing” — and sniffing.

No word yet on if Derrick Rose suffered any further injuries while leaning down to smell the plant.

Three Chicago-Area Schools Reopen After Legionnaires’ Disease Scare

Petri.Parents all across the Windy City are breathing a sigh of relief on Monday, as their children return to schools after a potential health crisis was discovered last week.

According to Reuters, three schools in suburban Chicago were forced to temporarily relocate their students after abnormal levels of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia, were discovered during an annual test of local cooling towers.

School District U-46, which is headquartered in Elgin, moved over 3,000 students and 350 staff members to another location until the threat was resolved. The district says the decision was made “in an abundance of caution.”

“We have no evidence that students or staff were at risk for contracting any illnesses related to these test results,” the district said in a statement.

“We believe, and doctors have confirmed, that students and staff were at very low risk of falling ill due to the findings in the test results.”

Cooling towers serve a great purpose in Chicago, recycling more than 98% of waste water while reducing energy use. However, the entire state of Illinois is still on high alert for health scares after a similar incident earlier this year rocked the community.

According to Fox News, a veterans’ home in Quincy, IL recently experienced a massive Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that sickened 50 residents, killing seven people. Another unrelated death in the area was attributed to the disease, bringing the total fatality count to eight.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the outbreak is not entirely unusual, though they did admit that the number of patients they’ve seen who have contracted the disease is higher than normal.

As for School District U-46, all 19 water cooling towers in question were cleaned and sanitized. They say they’ve put a plan into place to prevent an incident like this from occurring again.

The district added that it will begin to schedule testing before the school year starts, test and sanitize the cooling towers more often, and consult with an infectious disease physician during testing.

Mayor Rahn Emanuel Sued By Chicago Tribune For Concealing Emails

Computer serversPresidential primary candidate Hillary Clinton has been under fire for the past year for conducting official business using private email accounts. The scandal is still underway as the FBI sifts through her personal emails — many of which are now deemed classified and are being censored.

On September 24, Mayor Rahm Emanuel found himself in similar trouble, in light of the lawsuit filed by the Chicago Tribune, which accused Emanuel of conducting official city business via his personal email and text messaging accounts, and of failing to disclose them in the process.

As part of the filed complaint, the judge has been asked to force Emanuel to produce the concealed documents, and to declare the Mayor in violation of the Illinois Records Act.

The Chicago Tribune filed its first lawsuit in June over email chains that that haven’t complied with the Freedom of Information Act, and according to Fox News, Emanuel’s administration has met the act with “a pattern of non-compliance, partial compliance, delay, and obfuscation.”

The lawsuit regarded over two-dozen chain emails that were related to Chicago Public Schools that were allegedly withheld, and some portions were redacted. In response, city officials felt they were in compliance with the law.

When asked about the current lawsuit, Kelley Quinn, Emanuel’s spokeswoman, declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but stated that the administration has complied accordingly.

“We just received the complaint and have not yet had the opportunity to review it,” Kelley said in a statement.

Indeed, with the rise of smartphones and personal computers, the line of what’s personal and what’s public is becoming seemingly difficult to discern for many government officials. More and more, public officials are conducting public business on their private devices. In fact, in the past six months, there has been an 80% increase in the amount of emails opened on smart phones and tablets.

Taco Bells in Chicago are Now Offering Boozy Beverages

Glass of light beer on a dark pub.Taco Bell has had some wacky promotions over the years. First there was the Dorito-shell taco, and soon after, the fast food chain offered a breakfast menu, featuring items such as a breakfast burrito and a waffle taco.

Now, the fast food taco joint’s Chicago locations are expanding their drink menu, and will be offering beer, wine, frozen mixed drinks, and sangria as a more refined means to wash down that cheesy gordita crunch.

Prior to this shift, the restaurant only offered soft drinks, a beverage that is consumed at a rate of 500 cans per year by the average American.

According to NPR, Taco Bell’s decision to offer alcoholic beverages is an attempt to attract more millennials to the fast food restaurant. Taco Bell hopes that this concept “redefines fast food experience,” facilitating more of a luxury dining experience rather than the typical grab-and-go style.

The new Taco Bell restaurants will instead be called “Cantinas” and will no longer have a drive-through. Unlike old models of the chain restaurant, these cantinas will have open kitchens as well as digital menu boards and mobile applications that will allow patrons to pay and order easily — merging the convenience of a typical fast-food restaurant with a slightly more upscale dining option.

This marketing attempt is fairly new for Taco Bell. For years, the fast-food restaurant relied heavily on a Spanish-speaking Chihuahua to bring customers in via their commercials — making “Me quiero Taco Bell” a household phrase that paid off. But now, Taco Bell is amping up their strategies, bringing in a promotion that is not only attractive to Milennials, but is an act of rebranding that will easily pad that $4 burrito purchase.

Currently, Chicago is the only area where customers making a “run for the border” can sip alcoholic beverages. However, San Francisco will be the next location to pair sangria and Crunch Wrap Supremes.

Invasive Asian Carp Swept Up During the 10th Annual Redneck Fishing Tournament

Look what we caught!For about a decade, boaters have gotten together in Bath, Illinois, to participate in the Redneck Fishing Tournament. This year, the event ran from August 7 to the 8, but it did a lot more than provide ample fishing opportunities for local enthusiasts.

The main goal of the tournament is to collect the largest amount of carp in the two hour time limit given.

However, there is a catch (pun intended): boaters are not able to use fishing poles. Instead, participants must catch the fish as they jump in the air.

According to Peoria Public Radio, creator Betty DeFord started the tournament in 2005 in an attempt to rid the river running along to town from an invasive species of Asian carp.

“We started this as a little fishing event to rid these rivers of the Asian carp so we could take our grandkids fishing,” says DeFord. “We had 1,000 people show up that first event that we had, and it’s just grown every year since.”

The invasive Asian carp species has been killing off large numbers of native fish that are the most desirable to those who fish for work or sport. The carp also pose a threat to boaters, as the 40-pound fish are known to leap out of the water when startled by boat engines.

And it is that same leaping that makes catching them so easy. The carp are able to feel the vibrations of the boat engine, which can cause them to jump out of the water. Once in the air, the fish can be caught with a net.

Freshwater fishing is the most popular type of fishing, with more than 28 million fishermen and women devoting nearly 467 million days to the sport. This is how DeFord knew the tournament would work.

“We look forward to doing it ever year,” said Albert Johnson, a regular competitor. “The whole family: wife, grandkids, daughters, all of that’s here. The sites, the excitement, the fish flying in the air, it’s just lots of fun.”

During the last tournament, participants cleared nearly 10,000 Asian carp out of the river.

Scorned Lottery Winners File Suit Against Illinois

lotteria2

Rhonda Rasche and Danny Chasteen thought their luck had changed, they took a chance and would be rewarded in money. At least that’s what should happen. Rasche and Chasteen are two of the reportedly dozens of lottery winners in the state of Illinois that are being told they can’t collect their winnings, according to the Chicago Tribune. Usually the government withholds up to a quarter of jackpot winnings, in this case they’re not giving up any of the $50,000 prize Rasche is sitting on, while Chasteen won a $250,000 jackpot.

“How the heck can they do this, and they’re still selling tickets?” Rasche said. “If I was the one selling raffle tickets and I didn’t pay, I would be sued or in jail or both. I laugh, but it’s not funny. This could go on forever. (House Speaker Mike) Madigan and (Gov. Bruce) Rauner will never get along. It could be 2018 before I see my money. I don’t trust the state.”

They have decided to take the matter to court and demand action. The motion, filed Wednesday, seeks class-action status saying that the lottery committed fraud by continuing to market and sell tickets for prizes they knew they couldn’t currently provide. It calls for temporary stoppage of lottery ticket sales until the state is in a position to fulfill all obligations. It also states that lottery officials and administration be barred from receiving salary payments until the issue is resolved.

Smaller winners are still able to obtain their winnings, but for amounts over $25,000 the state comptroller, Leslie Munger, can’t pay out until a new budget is passed for the fiscal year. The budget, which had a July 1 deadline, may not be decided on until late September or October. That isn’t soon enough for winners like Rasche and Chasteen who have already waited over a month only to be told they still can’t have the money they’re entitled to.

State Representative Jack Franks plans to draft legislation that would allow the comptroller’s office to write the checks for the big winners without a budget.

“They’ve got the money, they just don’t have the legal authority to spend it,” Franks said. “My bill will allow them legal authority to do it.”

The only problem with Frank’s plan is that state lawmakers won’t be back in session until September 24, unless the governor calls them back for a special session. Until then Rasche, Chasteen, and the other big money winners are stuck in lottery limbo.

Chicago Tax Hikes Loom as Emanuel Attempts to Balance City’s Budget

Magnifying Glass and TaxChicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is asking local councilmen to vote on a series of drastic tax increases that have left many residents in a debate over what the city should be prioritizing.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel has asked his aldermen to approve a property tax increase as a part of his “capital tax improvement” plan, which is intended to create a new source of revenue to reinvest into the city’s school district.

The Emanuel administration proposed the tax increase in an effort to raise the funds needed for new school construction projects throughout the city, as well as to eliminate some of the school district’s heavy debt payments.

The announcement of the “capital tax improvement” plan comes on the heels of other tax increases proposed by Emanuel just a few days earlier. These plans include both a property tax on homes as well as a garbage pickup fee.

Americans already pay about $140 billion a year in taxes, and several Chicago councilmen are strongly opposed to the tax hikes for a number of reasons.

City council members representing the South and West Sides of Chicago are more upset with the proposed garbage pickup fee than the property tax. Most homes in these areas are worth $250,000 or less, so the effect of an increased property tax would be minimal. However, the proposal would take $11 a month from each family in the area for garbage pickup, which is much more consequential for middle- to low-income residents.

In the affluent downtown neighborhoods of the North Side, an increased property tax would be substantial, based on the value of the homes, while an $11 garbage pickup fee is much easier to dismiss.

Emanuel intends to use the revenue from these tax hikes to make massive increases in police and firefighter pension payments, as well as to help meet the city’s tight annual budget.

South Side Alderman Roderick Sawyer says that he believes the property tax can be “evenly distributed,” and claims that “from talking to most of my colleagues, the consensus is that they’d rather live with a fair-sized property tax increase.”

Downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly believes that people are being far too dismissive of his constituents’ ability to afford the steep property tax hike.

“A lot of people assume that downtown residents are multimillionaires who are taking baths in nickels and dimes, and that’s just not the case,” said Reilly.

“There’s certainly some very wealthy people who live downtown, but I’d argue there’s at least as many or more who made an investment here decades ago, have since retired and are now living on fixed income.”

As Emanuel struggles to find a balance in the opinions of his aldermen, his administration is hoping to have a vote on the tax hikes by the start of winter. If the state doesn’t come up with a solution in the next few months, the school district has said that layoffs will be forthcoming.

Motorola Solutions Will Relocate Headquarters to Chicago By Next Summer

Chicago SkylineMotorola Solutions has just announced that it will be closing its headquarters in suburban Schaumburg and relocating into the city of Chicago by next summer, according to a joint statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office and Motorola officials released on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that the company, a leading supplier in communications devices for government workers and first responders, will be moving 800 jobs from its Schaumburg location into the city, along with its major headquarters operations.

Motorola Solutions has been located in Schaumburg for over 50 years, the Chicago Daily Herald reported, after it acquired a 316-acre farm from the Freise family in 1964 and began building facilities for manufacturing and administrative operations.

The Schaumburg campus now spans 277 acres and, at the height of Motorola’s success, employed thousands of local workers. Motorola intends to sell the campus and lease two buildings from the new owners, spokeswoman Tama McWhinney said. It will consolidate space but will still keep about 1,600 jobs in Schaumburg.

ABC News stated that the new headquarters will be in a 150,000-square-foot space, taking up six floors in a building located at 500 W. Monroe St. in the West Loop neighborhood. The company will have approximately 1,100 employees in the city when the move is complete.

As the Tribune noted, the company’s decision to move into the city echoes a larger trend that has included multiple big-name companies, such as Kraft Heinz, Hillshire Brands, and United Airlines. These companies have all begun moving away from suburban campuses and into a big city, seeking more tech-savvy employees and more opportunities to connect with other tech-focused companies.

For a company so rooted in digital technology, the need for a younger and more educated workforce is essential for Motorola Solutions’ success. Moving into the city will allow the company to allocate more resources toward IT security investments, which is something that nearly 50% of all businesses today are doing, and it will allow Motorola to benefit from the high population of IT professionals in Chicago.

“Our company began in this city 87 years ago, and today we’re pleased to announce that our headquarters is coming home,” said CEO and chairman Greg Brown. Motorola Solutions’ predecessor, Motorola, was first founded in 1928 on Harrison Street.

‘This Is the Part Where I Break Free…” — 2 Cows to Chicago’s High School for Agricultural Sciences

cow

The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences certainly provides plenty of entertainment and educational experiences that normal American high schools never see, but even this school never dealt with cows on the loose — until the first day of September, that is.

Principal William Hook said that he was getting ready to go home around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1 following a program for freshman and sophomore orientation when he received an unusual call: two of the school’s cows were wandering around on 115th St., near Pulaski Road.

Luckily, the cows were still fairly close to home; the school, which is located at 3857 W. 111th St., has a 12-acre pasture for its six cows.

According to the Chicago Tribune and DNAinfo, the high school uses the cows for teaching purposes — along with plenty of other farm animals that are all well-cared for and which haven’t escaped from their pens, save for “a wily chicken or two,” since Hook has been principal.

Hook immediately responded to the call and found a police officer directing traffic around the two escapees, even though they both behaved quite well and stayed on the sidewalks.

A few staff members and approximately a dozen police officers from three different police departments came to assist the principal and lead the cows back into their pasture, which ran alongside the sidewalk. Some bystanders offered to help, but considering that the cows weigh around 1,400 lbs. each, most people simply took pictures and offered moral support.

The other four cows stood in their pasture, calmly watching the event, and offering their moral support as well.

The cow-wrangling team corralled the first animal through a nearby gate leading into the pasture, which only took about 10 minutes. The second cow was a little more stubborn and kept walking down Pulaski Rd., so it took about 40 minutes to herd it back to safety.

All in all, both cows were home safe and sound by 9 p.m.

Hook stated that the cows likely broke the straps which hold the chain link fence to larger posts. Once these straps were broken, the fence folded over and the cows were able to walk underneath it.

Students have since mended the fence and the school’s agricultural construction program has stated that its students may look into adding an electric fence to the current chain link one.

There may be over 89 million cows in cattle ranches in the U.S. today, but there’s no doubt that the Mount Greenwood community considers these rogue bovines to be extra-special.

Unruly Woman’s Violent Rampage on Chicago Flight Results in Emergency Landing

futuristic airport and airplane in windowTalk about a wild ride from start to finish: A female passenger’s bad behavior on a plane from Miami to Chicago caused the plane to make an emergency stop in Indianapolis on Monday afternoon.

According to ABC7 in Chicago, the woman’s unruly behavior aboard American Airlines Flight 1284 led to her arrest.

Marian Frendt, a passenger on the flight, told ABC7 that the woman seemed “disoriented” during the flight, “not being able to find her seat, walking back and forth… And when she came to the back, she was sweating profusely.”

From there, things only got weirder. Another passenger, Jim Saviano, told ABC7 that the woman was repeatedly screaming expletives at the back of the plane.

Frendt then witnessed the woman’s interaction with another passenger. “She started kicking the seat of the passenger in front of her,” Frendt said, “and he apparently turned around to complain. And she hit him.”

After that, a flight attendant took the woman to the back of the plane.

“She was trying to talk the girl down,” Saviano explained. He said that the woman “seemed really calm” and talked to the flight attendant about her boyfriend.

Yet apparently the passenger’s rampage hadn’t yet ended.

“And then, all of a sudden, she grabbed [the flight attendant] by the face, kissed her, and then punched her in the face,” Saviano said.

According to other passengers, the pilot used the intercom to ask “large passengers” to restrain the woman. One of those passengers was Darnell Wilson of Chicago.

“She was on the ground,” Wilson said, who assisted three others in restraining the woman. “She wouldn’t stand up. She kept hollering that she was going to mess herself, like she was cursing people out. It was really absurd.”

Each day around eight million people board commercial jets like this one, but public safety incidents are rare. Because the woman became erratic while the plane was flying over the Indiana/Kentucky border, the Indianapolis Airport Authority authorized the emergency landing at 5:44 p.m.

Unfortunately, the madwoman still hadn’t given up. When the authorities from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office met the woman on the plane, she kicked one of the officers as he was attempting to arrest her.

As the woman was finally escorted away in flexi-cuffs, several passengers filmed the arrest.

In the end, the anonymous passenger was charged with battery with injury, battery without injury, battery of a public safety officer, criminal recklessness, disorderly conduct, and disruption of the operation of an aircraft.

She was taken to Marion County Jail. Her name has not yet been released.

As for the rest of the 150 or so passengers, they finally arrived at O’Hare International Airport about 90 minutes late. The flight attendant needed an ice pack for her face but was otherwise unharmed.