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U.S. Capitol building

In this Nov. 2, 2020, file photo sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Patrick Semansky

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Congress Rushes To Reach Stimulus Deal

Hey there! It’s Friday, and Princess Leia, my dog, is feeling much better now. Thanks for the well wishes. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Congress scrambles to nail down stimulus deal as deadline approaches

Last-minute snags have hit negotiations between Democrats and Republicans as they rush to secure a deal on a $900 billion relief plan, which includes a second round of stimulus payments, enhanced jobless benefits and aid to small businesses.

Both sides appeared to be very close to coming to an agreement until Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., moved to insert a measure preventing the Federal Reserve from restarting an emergency loan program that helped businesses and state and local governments during the pandemic, a Democratic aide told The New York Times.

The newspaper also reports that Democrats are also mounting a last-ditch effort to provide a direct stream of funding to state and local governments. Republican leaders oppose the idea.

The disagreements come as lawmakers run out of time to reach a compromise and approve a spending bill in order to prevent a government shutdown. Lawmakers will likely work over the weekend if they can’t forge an agreement today. [NYT]

2. Illinois surpasses 15,000 deaths from COVID-19

The state hit that grim milestone as public health officials today announced 181 new deaths and 7,377 confirmed cases.

The average number of fatalities is slightly increasing. Over the past seven days, Illinois reported an average of 138 deaths per day, up 3% from the average two weeks ago. Because day-to-day numbers can greatly fluctuate, health experts look at the rolling, seven-day average to get a better idea of which direction the pandemic is heading. [WBEZ]

Nationally, Illinois has reported the fourth-largest number of COVID-19 deaths among all 50 states and U.S territories in the last seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [CDC]

Meanwhile, it’s still not clear why Illinois and other states are receiving fewer vaccine doses than originally expected, raising questions about Operation Warp Speed’s ability to quickly distribute vaccines. [WBEZ]

And Vice President Mike Pence today received a vaccine in a televised event aimed at showing the vaccine is safe and effective. “I didn’t feel a thing!” Pence said. [NPR]

3. Trump plans to issue several pardons today

President Donald Trump could issue a “wave of pardons” today, reports Axios, citing unnamed sources who have been briefed on the plans.

It’s not clear who will be included, but the president has considered pardoning several friends and allies. Axios reports former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are among the more controversial pardons under discussion. [Axios]

Republican lawmakers are debating whether Trump should pardon Edward Snowden. Sen. Rand Paul is one of the biggest supporters for the pardon, saying the former National Security Agency contractor is a whistleblower and not a traitor. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, disagrees and says Snowden is not a victim. [CNN]

Meanwhile, a new political action committee controlled by Trump when he leaves office has raised more than $60 million. [New York Times]

And Jared Kushner reportedly approved the creation of a Trump-campaign shell company that paid members of the president’s family. [Daily Beast]

4. Hackers also compromised Microsoft in cyberattacks on U.S. federal agencies

Microsoft’s products were breached by hackers who infiltrated the networks of several government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon and the Commerce Department, Microsoft President Brad Smith said.

The hackers gained access to the networks by compromising the software company SolarWinds. The hackers are also believed to have used malware to infect computers at thousands of companies and organizations. [CNBC]

Cybersecurity experts believe Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, was behind the massive cyberattacks. President Trump has not made any public comments on the hack. But the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the hack “poses a grave risk” to the country. [NPR]

That warning comes as evidence suggests hackers also hit the federal agency that maintains the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. [Politico]

5. Police union boss faces firing from the Chicago Police Department over Facebook posts

John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, could be fired from the Chicago Police Department over incendiary and profane Facebook posts.

In a 2016 post, Catanzara wrote, “Wtf its [sic] seriously time to kill these m***********s,” according to records from the Chicago Police Board, a civilian panel charged with disciplining officers. Catanzara told the Chicago Sun-Times he was referring to people who killed cops.

In a post from 2017, Catanzara said of Muslims: “Savages they all deserve a bullet.” And in another post, he suggested someone perform a sex act on him.

Last night, Police Board member Andrea Zopp ruled Catanzara will face an evidentiary hearing after she reviewed his case. Earlier this year, the head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates police misconduct, recommended Catanzara’s firing, but Police Superintendent David Brown disagreed and called for a one-year suspension. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The Supreme Court punted on ruling whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count. [NPR]
  • President-elect Joe Biden said he has “great confidence” in his son Hunter, who faces a federal investigation into his tax affairs. [NPR]
  • Suffering a dramatic plummet in ridership, Chicago-area transit agencies brace for drastic service cuts. [WBEZ]
  • Amazon workers at an Alabama warehouse plan to vote on whether to become the first union at the online retail giant. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

I don’t know if there’s anything I can say about 2020 that doesn’t sound like a huge understatement. That’s why I keep watching this video produced by WBEZ that looks back at the year in 52 photos.

It’s so strange to see all of the stuff that happened and think, “Wait, that happened this year?” Illinois began selling legal recreational weed. Trump was acquitted of impeachment charges. Kobe Bryant died. And there’s the pandemic. [WBEZ]

Check out the video, and feel free to send us your pictures from 2020. Tweet your photo here, and we might share it on our social pages.

Tell me something good ...

What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the pandemic is over?

Barb writes:

“I will fly to Edinburgh, Scotland with friends & attend the Military Tattoo in a belated celebration of my 75th birthday! I may even indulge in some Scotch whiskey!”

Karen writes:

“I am going to dance like there is no tomorrow .... forget Prince and party like it’s 1999 .... let’s party like it’s the end of 2020!!!!”

And Naomi writes:

“I will go to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I will see something — anything — at the Nederlander or the Cadillac Palace or the CIBC or Lifeline Theatre on the far North Side or any one of Chicago’s many theatres. Then I will go back to the Art Institute and the CSO. Again and again. And simply breathe in the art and music that sustains me.”

Thanks for all the responses this week. I’m sorry I couldn’t include them all, but it was nice hearing from y’all.

Have a nice night! If you like what you just read, you can subscribe to the newsletter here and have it delivered to your inbox.

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