Monthly Archives: November 2015

Chicago Sees an Outpouring of Support for French Travelers After Paris Attacks

Paris cityscape with Eiffel towerChicago and Paris. Two very different cities, located halfway across the world from each other, but inexplicably tied together after the recent terrorist attacks in France.

Chicagoans visiting Paris were “ordered… not to leave the city and confined to their apartments and hotels” on Nov. 14, according to the Chicago Tribune, while Parisians in Chicago visited the French consulate on Michigan Avenue, “anxious for answers,” only to find it closed.

Both situations were a result of the Friday, Nov. 13 gun and suicide bombing attacks throughout Paris which left over 120 dead and over 300 injured. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks shortly after the streets of Paris were closed off and residents were told to stay inside.

Some Parisians in Chicago are college students who traveled overseas for a semester abroad; others have been living in the city for years but still consider Paris to be “home.”

On Saturday evening, Parisians and Chicagoans alike came together at the Michigan Ave. embassy to light candles and hold an informal vigil. More vigils followed, as ABC News 7 reported, and the Notre Dame de Chicago on the West Side of the city became a gathering spot for hundreds.

Other Americans worried about their friends and family members who had been visiting Paris at the time of the attacks; although France sees over 300 million visitors each year, there is no city quite like Paris and no better time to visit than during the holiday season.

But Chicagoans showed even more compassion by opening up their homes to stranded Parisians who were unable to find flights back to France after the attack. Using the hashtag #StrandedinUS, local residents were able to get in touch with travelers who needed a place to stay until France opened up its borders.

While this hospitality couldn’t provide the same amount of comfort as being home with one’s loved ones, Chicagoans proved yet again that the city is one of great compassion and understanding.

Six Lawsuits Filed Against Chicago Public Schools for Carbon Monoxide Leak While Hospitalized 78

Carbon Monoxide concept.Several parents of Chicago Public School (CPS) students filed separate lawsuits on Nov. 12 regarding a carbon monoxide leak that occurred two weeks earlier at Prussing Elementary School in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, there are currently six separate lawsuits which allege negligence of CPS for the leak, which occurred on Oct. 30.

The incident quickly made national headlines because it didn’t just involve a small carbon monoxide leak; as CNN and NBC News both reported, 71 elementary school students and eight adults were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Local fire department officials stated that the levels of carbon monoxide were “abnormally high,” but that’s putting it pretty lightly. According to NBC, several young students complained of feeling ill and one student even passed out before school officials placed an emergency call for an ambulance.

When fire officials and an ambulance arrived at the scene, their carbon monoxide alarms went off; additional assistance was called in while the building was evacuated. Fire department workers responded to the call, which had become a “level one Hazmat situation,” and 12 ambulances in total transported students and adults to seven different hospitals in the Chicago metro area.

While the remaining staff and students were taken to another elementary school, the local fire department brought in a mobile AC repair unit to increase ventilation in the school.

Although it is still not entirely clear how high the carbon monoxide levels were, school officials confirmed that the gas leak was caused by the school’s boiler.

Each of the six lawsuits filed against CPS includes two or more counts of negligence on behalf of the students, and two mothers who were helping out with classroom activities at the time of the leak also sued for personal injury damages totaling $700,000.

CPS has not commented on the lawsuits yet. Each lawsuit also names the Chicago Board of Education, School District 229, and the Public Building Commission of Chicago as defendants.

Luckily, it seems that each individual who was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning is recovering — but parents of CPS students are saying that the school’s negligence could have caused irreparable damage.

“Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is produced when various fuels are not burned completely,” says Stephanie Mischke, Vice President, Total Air, Inc. “Many products we use in our daily life can produce carbon monoxide if they are malfunctioning. It seems the boiler at this Chicago Public School malfunctioned somehow. In our homes, we can safeguard our families by installing a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL 2034 safety standard. A CO alarm can provide some added protection, but it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO, so make sure to check your appliances for proper operation and have an HVAC company routinely check your furnace and ventilation system.”

Illinois First State to Make Changes in IRA Policies That Could Help Small Business Workers

Nest EggIllinois became the first state in the country to make significant changes to rules regarding individual retirement savings plans (IRAs) for small business workers. The policy changes are expected to have a positive impact on the saving capabilities of the everyday employee, while also protecting companies and states from getting sued, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Currently, about half of U.S. states are considering adopting similar legislation, which at its core will simply make it easier for small businesses to help their employees save for retirement without a great deal of paperwork and formalities. Right now there approximately 68 million workers without access to employee run retirement plans, such as a 401(k).

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, applauded the state’s efforts as well as the corresponding proposed rule change the Department of Labor itself released at a conference in Chicago on Monday, Nov. 16, according to the investment and financial news source ThinkAdvisor.com.

“Too many people are on the pathway to poverty because they will be solely reliant on Social Security,” Perez said.

Perez also called the changes, “another plank in the economic security platform that President Obama and this administration have been building to help create new savings options, ensure workers are getting sound retirement advice, and bolster bedrock programs such as Social Security.”

The issue is not really relevant to big corporations as most offer extensive, and often lucrative, retirement options. Unfortunately, about 50% of workers in the private sector are employed by one of the nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S., according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Many of these smaller companies don’t have the means or incentives to offer such services.

These changes mark a turn as states have been reluctant to attempt any changes for fear of being sued through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which puts the U.S. Department of Labor in charge of regulating retirement plans.

Under the new changes employers will be allowed to automatically enroll employees in IRA plans, so long as they are voluntary and have the option to opt out.

Two Men Temporarily Kept Off of Flight at Midway International Airport After Being Overheard Speaking Arabic

Corporate Jet Side ViewWhile the entire world is on high-alert in light of recent terrorist attacks in Paris, a misunderstanding at a Chicago airport has left many wondering where the line should be drawn between security and discrimination.

According to the Daily Mail, two Palestinian men were waiting to board a flight from Chicago to Philadelphia in Midway International Airport on Wednesday when fellow passengers overheard them speaking Arabic.

The two men, Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, were simply a pizza shop owner from Philadelphia and his friend who were conversing in their native language. A gate agent informed the friends that they would not be allowed on the Southwest flight because passengers feared for their safety.

Khalil immediately called airport security himself to rectify the situation, and after the two were questioned by police, they were finally allowed on the plane.

Unfortunately, the incident didn’t end there. Passengers made Khalil show them the contents of a white box he was holding as he boarded the plane. The box held only some delicious Greek desserts.

“So I shared my baklava with them,” said Khalil.

Similar incidents occur on a regular basis, but the recent tragedy in Paris has left many to assume the worst in airports. An average of eight million people fly every single day, and the likelihood of some passengers speaking Arabic or other Middle Eastern languages is extremely high, which makes detaining every single one of them a questionable tactic.

According to Yahoo! News, there have been several instances of discrimination in airports since the Paris attacks. Midway Airport was the site of another misunderstanding in which six men identified by fellow passengers as Middle Eastern were removed from a Southwest flight after they asked to switch seats, which caused widespread panic and commotion.

In another incident, a Spirit Airlines flight en route to Minneapolis was diverted after a young passenger “heard what she believed to be a conversation during which the subject made a remark about blowing up the plane,” which was later found to be a false claim.

As for the misunderstanding involving Khalil and Ayyad, Southwest Airlines said in a statement that the flight departed after airline employees “completed conversations with customers who approached us during the boarding process.” The company provided no further details on the incident.

O’Hare Airport Offering Flu Shots to Passengers Just in Time for Holiday Travel

get your flu shotAirline passengers traveling through Chicago may not be able to avoid delays, lost baggage or crying babies, but they can avoid a case of the flu, thanks to a new program being offered in O’Hare International Airport.

According to the Daily Journal, Chicago’s Department of Aviation recently announced that it would be offering flu shots at each of O’Hare’s domestic terminals just in time for the holiday travel season.

The shots will be administered by medical professionals from the University of Illinois at Chicago Clinic, and the Department of Aviation is strongly urging all passengers to get the vaccine, which will help curb the spread of germs throughout the airport.

Passengers of all ages can receive a flu shot at post-security kiosks located in Terminals 1 and 3, as well as the UIC clinic in Terminal 2.

Medicare and most other types of insurance will be accepted for those who wish to get the shot. The vaccines are $30 for travelers and $24 for airport employees, both of which are quite the bargain considering the agony of being sick during the holidays.

According to a 2010 recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), “everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.” This is especially true as winter approaches, and airports are breeding grounds for germs if precautionary steps aren’t taken to avoid spreading the flu.

For pregnant women who may have heard rumblings that vaccine shots aren’t safe for those with child, KTIC Rural Radio reports that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that the flu is much more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in those who are not expecting.

Getting the flu while pregnant can result in a host of serious consequences, including miscarriage or a pre-term delivery. The flu vaccine drastically reduces the symptoms and severity of the illness in all women, but it is especially beneficial to those who are pregnant.

In fact, the flu shot is so important that Aviation Department Commissioner Ginger Evans even rolled up her sleeve to get the vaccine. She’s encouraging all travelers and airport employees to follow her lead and help make O’Hare flu-free for the holidays.

‘Ride Illinois’ and State Legislators Make Illinois Even More Bike-Friendly

Young woman cycling in the park at sunsetIllinois residents already know that their state is one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the country, and a couple new improvements aim to increase support for even more people to grab their bikes and head outside.

The first update, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, is that the pavement is finally down for the bicycle path on Washington Street (located between Atkinson Road and the College of Lake County). Drivers and bikers have been eagerly awaiting the finished project ever since August, and it looks almost complete — the only thing left is to remove the orange cones.

Bikers are welcome to visit www.lakecountypassage.com to see a live-traffic video feed of the path — and maybe be the first ones to spot when the orange cones are gone!

Next up, the public advocacy group the League of Illinois Bicyclists has officially renamed its organization as “Ride Illinois.” According to the group’s president, “Our organization made a bold decision to seek out a new name that would appeal to a wide audience and align them with our mission — a name that would inspire everyone to get on a bike and Ride Illinois.”

And last but not least, the fourth annual Illinois Bike Summit at the iHotel in Champaign was recently held on October 28, 2015. Around 300 people attended and there over 30 speakers and 15 seminars. If you happened to miss the summit, which is sponsored by Ride Illinois, be sure to catch it next year! By that time, you might just be seeing one brand-new bicycling innovation that was a hot topic in this year’s summit: battery-powered e-bikes.

The updates all follow Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s completion of 10 miles of protected bike lanes in Chicago, according toDNAinfo Chicago. Considering that Americans take an estimated nine million bike trips every single day, and that Illinois has a large population of avid bicyclists, it’s not surprising that Emanuel stated he hopes to construct an additional 50 miles of protected bike lanes.

For the No. 2 Most Bike-Friendly City in America (as named by Bicycle Magazine), there are sure to be plenty of additional bike updates in the near future.

Depression Didn’t Kill Robin Williams, Says His Widow — Lewy Body Dementia Did

The widow of late actor Robin Williams has opened up to reporters about her husband’s suicide last August, and she says that depression wasn’t the culprit.

Robin Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a little over a year before he decided to take his own life. According to his wife, Susan Williams (née Schneider), the actor was suffering from Lewy body dementia, which is often comorbid with Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders.

After Williams’s suicide, rumors swirled about why the funnyman had killed himself. But his wife told ABC in an exclusive interview that it wasn’t depression, which most people blamed, nor was it a resurgence of Williams’s former drug and alcohol addiction.

In fact, the actor, who was a Chicago native, had been sober for eight years, and his autopsy revealed neither drugs nor alcohol in his system.

Lewy body dementia, also called dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), can change one’s thinking and reasoning. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it can also cause alternating confusion and alertness, visual hallucinations, delusions, trouble interpreting visual information, and nervous system malfunctions.

All of these issues occur when the disease begins killing the outer and mid-layer brain cells and distorts the surviving cells in brain structures known as “Lewy bodies,” reports Mic.com.

Many people already experience trouble sleeping at night. Research shows that lying awake for periods of 15 to 20 minutes or more can prolong sleeplessness and lead to problems like insomnia. DLB has even more serious consequences than dragging the next day due to lack of sleep. The Alzheimer’s Association explains that patients who suffer from this condition are also prone to acting out dreams, sometimes violently, as the result of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep disorder.

Memory problems and Parkinson’s symptoms are can also occur with DLB, the latter of which can have debilitating effects and impair movement.

As for Williams, shortly before his death he had been experiencing severe stomach pains and digestive problems along with sleeplessness, said his wife.

The numerous symptoms of DLB resulted in her husband’s death, said Susan Williams.

“It was not depression that killed Robin,” she told People magazine. “Depression was one of let’s call it 50 symptoms and it was a small one.”

Popular TV Show ‘Empire’ Features Clothes from Chicago Fashion Designer

Clothing StoreThe Windy City is more than prevalent in the smash-hit television show Empire, but many Chicagoans may not be aware that the stylish wardrobes they see on the show are made by one of their own.

According to local news affiliate Fox 32, a fashion designer named Platinum struck gold when the wardrobe team for the popular show entered his store in search of the perfect threads for their stars.

Platinum is the CEO of Iridium Clothing, which is a Wicker Park boutique store. He and his wife spent seven long years building the business until the crew of Empire stumbled into their store on one fateful afternoon.

“We didn’t really know what the show was going to be about,” Platinum said.

Nor did did they know that their clothing would soon be seen and adored by millions of crazed fans all over the country.

According to The Guardian, a character from the show, Cookie, is a legitimate fashion icon. She’s known for her sleek and often exorbitant styles, featuring elegant linen ensembles with a wide assortment of accessories.

Considering how hot things can get on the show, it’s a good thing Cookie likes to wear linen. In hot weather, people dressed in linen are found to show the skin temperature 3°-4°C below that of their cotton-wearing friends.

You wouldn’t catch Cookie dead in cotton, and you won’t catch Platinum complaining about his newfound fame. He says business is booming ever since his apparel debuted on the show, and he and his wife couldn’t be happier.

“I’m very happy and I feel very fortunate. It’s been amazing and we definitely look forward to continuing our relationship with them,” said Platinum.

Iridium Clothing creates unisex designs with bold patterns. They offer both fitted and baggy clothing with your choice of zippers, straps, and other unique materials.

Despite the grandiose undertones of Empire, Platinum likes to think that he designs clothing that appeals to people from all types of backgrounds.

“The goal of the brand is to create amazing pieces that people can actually afford,” he said.

It looks like you don’t need to run a major hip-hop record label to dress like one.