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Judge Bruce Schroeder speaks to the attorneys about how the jury will view evidence as they deliberate during Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool

The Rundown: A look at the judge in the Rittenhouse trial

Good afternoon! It’s Wednesday, and I’ll have a big surprise later this month for folks looking to get their hands on one of my “Take it W-B-Easy” shirts. Keep your eyes peeled on your inbox. Here’s what you need to know today.

(By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Judge overseeing Rittenhouse trial raises eyebrows

Judge Bruce Schroeder’s behavior during the murder case of Kyle Rittenhouse has caused some critics to question whether the trial is fair.

Among their complaints is how the judge encouraged the jury and others in the courtroom to applaud service members on Veterans Day just as a defense witness who served in the Army was about to testify.

“I think what people are surprised by is some of these … little quirks, maybe, that they’re not used to seeing in judges. There are all sorts of personalities that are on the bench, all across the country,” Julius Kim, a defense attorney and former prosecutor based in Milwaukee who has appeared before Schroeder. [NPR]

Meanwhile, Rittenhouse’s defense team asked the judge to declare a mistrial today before the jury reaches a decision. His lawyers said they received a copy of key video from prosecutors that differs in quality from one seen by jurors.

Schroeder did not immediately rule on the request. [AP]

2. Investigation finds that racial covenants can be found on the books in nearly every state in the U.S.

Racial covenants were written throughout the nation to keep Black people and ethnic and religious groups, such as Asian Americans and Jews, from moving into certain neighborhoods.

While they’ve long since been outlawed under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, racial covenants can still be found in property records in almost every state in the nation, according to an examination from NPR, WBEZ, KPBS, St. Louis Public Radio and inewsource, a nonprofit investigative journalism site.

Their findings raise a big question: What do we do now?

From the report: “In this moment of racial reckoning, keeping the covenants on the books perpetuates segregation and is an affront to people who are living in homes and neighborhoods where they have not been wanted, some say. The challenge now is figuring out how to bury the hatred without erasing history. In some instances, trying to remove a covenant — or its racially charged language — is a bureaucratic nightmare; in other cases, it can be politically unpopular.” [NPR]

3. A record number of Americans died from overdoses as the pandemic spread

Federal researchers estimate that more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses during a 12-month period that ended in April.

Experts say this stunning milestone is likely caused by the growing availability of deadly street drugs, rising mental health problems and the loss of treatment and support programs during the pandemic as Americans isolated themselves to prevent the spread of the virus.

“It’s a magnitude of overdose death that we haven’t seen in this country,” Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues, told The Associated Press.

Many of the deaths involved fentanyl, a highly lethal opioid that has surpassed heroin as the type of drug involved in the most overdose deaths. [AP]

4. University of Chicago students call for more safety measures after recent graduate was fatally shot

At least 200 students from the University of Chicago gathered this week to demand enhanced safety measures after Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, a recent graduate, was killed last week as he walked home from campus, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Zheng is the third student or graduate from the university to be fatally shot this year in Chicago, the newspaper reports.

“My mom actually asked me to consider transferring ... because a diploma is not as important as your life,” said Iris Xiao, who is studying for a master’s degree in public policy. “It’s just so devastating to see something like this.”

University officials have announced a plan that includes more police patrols and increasing the number of surveillance cameras. [Tribune]

5. Should City Hall buy the Chicago Bears?

My friends at the Chicago Sun-Times report an influential alderman wants City Hall, which has long struggled to balance its books, to buy the Chicago Bears, which is reportedly worth more than $4 billion, and then sell shares to fans.

Ald. George Cardenas, who serves as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader and is running for the Cook County Board of Review, wants to hold City Council hearings on the idea and authorize a feasibility study.

The news comes as city officials are concerned the Bears will move to Arlington Heights. But this latest effort to keep the team in the city is a “pipe dream,” says veteran sportswriter Lester Munson.

“The price is too high, and I’m not sure the city belongs” in the football business, he told the newspaper. [S-T]

Here’s what else is happening

  • All American adults could soon be eligible for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. [NPR]
  • Two men convicted in the assassination of Malcom X will be exonerated tomorrow amid doubts over who killed the civil rights leader. [New York Times]
  • The “QAnon shaman” was sentenced to nearly three and a half years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. [NPR]
  • The home of the Los Angeles Lakers will soon be known as the Arena. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

Every time I see something in the news about some crazy-sounding animal or insect, I’m like, “That’s gotta be Australia.”

Case in point: An Australian zoo has acquired a venomous “megaspider” that sounds like the opening act of Arachnophobia.

The funnel web spider measures a little more than 3 inches and “possesses a potentially deadly bite with fangs strong enough to pierce through a human fingernail,” reports NPR.

The spider was donated anonymously to the Australian Reptile Park, and officials are trying to find the donor in the hopes of discovering an area with more megaspiders. [NPR]

Tell me something good ...

The weather is steadily getting colder, and I’d like to know: What are your plans this winter?

Holly writes:

“Every winter my wife and I look forward to doing an adult paint by number, at least one puzzle, and we tend to have more friends over for dinner and card games (when there isn’t a pandemic).”

And Angela writes:

“I spend my time indoors during the winter reading and quilting. A lot of my friends are now expecting grandchildren, so I work on crib quilts so that I almost always have one about half finished and can then personalize it for the parents.”

Feel free to email me at or tweet me at @whuntah, and your responses might be shared here this week.

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