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Stories by Nick Blumberg

Hospital Beds Lying Empty Around Illinois

A new report from Crain's Chicago Business found in 2013 nearly four out of every 10 hospital beds in Illinois were vacant. We'll talk with reporter Kristen Schorsch about why there are so many extra beds and what hospitals can do about the problem.

Students Caught in Middle of PARCC Debate

Teachers, parents, and administrators have been debating whether schools should start implementing the PARCC standardized test, designed to align with the new Common Core standards. We talk with two educators about whether it's time to put the PARCC in place and the value of standardized testing.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

| Kristen Thometz

Toni Preckwinkle is heading into her second term as president of the Cook County Board. She hopes to reform juvenile criminal justice and reduce the daily jail population, and has goals for the regional economy and public health. She joins us.

Martin Luther King, Jr. & Civil Rights Today

As we reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., we take a look at his lasting impact and what the Civil Rights struggle can tell us about the social movements of today.

Rauner Takes Aim At Political Hires

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed another executive order Thursday morning, this one requiring that the state of Illinois publish the names of political hires. Rauner accused the Quinn administration of carrying on in the tradition of imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Could Aldermanic Races Reshape City Council?

| Kristen Thometz

Aldermanic races around the city are heating up, with candidates getting kicked off the ballot, charges of intimidation, and packed fields of contenders. With less than six weeks until the municipal election, we check in on some of the races with our panel.

Author Wes Moore On Finding His Life’s Work

Wes Moore is a Rhodes scholar, combat veteran, and nonprofit executive. In his new book, The Work: My Search For a Life That Matters, Moore writes about how his widely varied life experiences helped shape who he is, and how the lessons he learned can help us find a sense of purpose.

Mayoral Candidate Willie Wilson

| Travis Cornejo

Chicago businessman Willie Wilson has put $1 million of his own money into his effort to take down incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel. We talk with Wilson about his background, why he wants to be mayor, and whether he thinks he has enough support to win.

CPS IG Says School Employees Stole Nearly $900,000

| Kristen Thometz

Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler says CPS employees orchestrated a plan to steal nearly $900,000 from the district. Other findings include unethical conduct and possible criminal behavior, according to a new report.

Flu Vaccine Falling Short

Chicago’s been in the grip of an especially bad flu season this year, sending people to the hospital and keeping children home from school. We look at why influenza has been so difficult to fight.

Wild Travels Around the U.S.

The team behind Wild Chicago's unusual take on the Windy City takes its act on the road in a show called Wild Travels, debuting on WTTW11 in January. We'll talk with producer Harvey Moshman and host Will Clinger about the hangover doctor, the neon boneyard, the pinball museum, and much more.

Chicago’s Dwindling Neon Signs

Photographer and long-time neon sign enthusiast Nick Freeman joins us to talk about his new book, Good Old Neon: Signs You're In Chicago. Freeman has documented hundreds of neon signs around Chicagoland, some of which no longer exist.

Words of the Year 2014

Vape? Bae? Lumbersexual? What do you think the Word of the Year for 2014 should be? University of Chicago linguist Jason Riggle tells us what words were on everybody's lips this year and why.

Congressman Schock on 2015 Spending Bill

| Rhyan Zuercher

Congressman Aaron Schock talks about the issues facing the new Congress and much more.

Can Cities In Illinois Go Bankrupt?

| Kristen Thometz

The Better Government Association reports that some Illinois municipalities struggling with high debt loads and troubled budgets could be looking at bankruptcy as an option to get out of a financial hole -- even though it's technically illegal.

Guitar Maker Ian Schneller

Guitar Maker Ian Schneller

Specimen Products is the brainchild of Ian Schneller. He's an artist and musician who makes and repairs stringed instruments and audio equipment. He also runs a school that teaches people to make a variety of instruments and audio equipment; but Schneller's real hope is that his students discover the disappearing art of making things by hand without the aid of a computer.

Send Us Your Word of the Year!

Vape? Bae? Lumbersexual? What do you think the Word of the Year for 2014 should be? Share your nominations in the comments section below. And join us on Wednesday, Dec. 17, when we hear from linguists who tell us what words were on everybody's lips this year and why.

Chicago's Fire Safety Deadline Approaches

Time is winding down for Chicago high-rises to comply with the Life Safety Evaluation Ordinance. We get the latest from the Department of Buildings Commissioner Felicia Davis.

Antarctic Explorers Discuss Their Dangerous Trek

National Geographic explorers Mike Libecki and Cory Richards tell us about their trek to a never-before climbed 2,000-foot summit in Antarctica called Bertha's Tower.

McPier Board Set to Vote On DePaul Arena

The price tag for the new DePaul University arena slated to be built on the Near South Side appears to be growing dramatically -- as much as 75 percent more than the original estimate.

Complaints About O’Hare Noise

| Kristen Thometz

Residents in Chicago and the suburbs complain that changes to takeoff and landing patterns at Chicago O'Hare International Airport are making previously quiet neighborhoods excessively noisy.