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Here’s one: An Illinois Department of Transportation plow clears snow off the roadway on the Kennedy Expressway, I-90/94, after the Chicago area was hit with more than 6 inches of snowfall, Friday morning, Jan. 28, 2022.

Brian Rich/Chicago Sun-Times

The Rundown: A vote for Plowy McPlowface

Hey there! My antidepressants deserve a Medal of Honor with the gloomy weather we’ve had this week. Anyway, here’s what you need to know today.

1. Sure, there’s the upcoming city elections. But have you heard about Plowy McPlowface?

Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation today launched a naming contest for six plows. Talk about perfect timing on this snowy day.

The Chicago Tribune has some great suggestions to get the creative process flowing: Snow-prah Winfrey, Bill-izzard Murray, Salt-er Payton, Jane Brrrrr-ne and Mrs. O’Leary’s Plow.

“Entries will be accepted at until 20,000 are received or Jan. 6, 2023, whichever happens first,” the newspaper reports. “Only one submission is allowed per device and entries can be a maximum of 50 characters in length.”

Fifty finalists will then be selected for a round of voting that ends on Jan. 31, 2023. [Chicago Tribune]

2. An indicted Chicago alderman says she’s medically unfit to stand trial. The Feds say she went to a salon and beauty store.

Federal prosecutors today accused Ald. Carrie Austin of exaggerating her health issues, saying they have FBI surveillance showing the council member walking “unassisted” to a salon and beauty store, reports my colleague Jon Seidel at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Attorneys for Austin last month said her deteriorating health prevented her from passing a six-minute walking test, and she struggles even with the help of a portable oxygen concentrator.

But prosecutors say they only saw her using an oxygen mask when she left a medical facility in November. Afterward, she went to a restaurant and entered and exited “unassisted,” according to prosecutors.

Austin is accused of taking home improvement materials as kickbacks from a developer overseeing a $50 million development in her ward. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. How concerns about crime and public safety are playing out in City Council races

The upcoming City Council races may show what voters — on a more local, neighborhood level — believe is the best way to combat a rise in crime during the pandemic.

Council members have typically pushed for more police officers in their wards, a major reason why efforts to “defund the police” didn’t gain much momentum at City Hall.

But several challengers say it’s past time to rethink that strategy, report WBEZ’s Mariah Woelfel and Tessa Weinberg. These challengers say the council should reduce the Police Department’s budget and use that money to fund programs and services addressing the root cause of crime.

“You can’t police away these problems,” said Mueze Bawany, who is campaigning to represent the city’s Far North 50th Ward. “You’re asking people to comply, rather than showing them what love and justice looks like.” [WBEZ]

4. Elon Musk faces a growing backlash after several journalists were suspended from Twitter

Twitter suspended the accounts late yesterday of several journalists who cover the social media platform, sparking yet another firestorm under new owner Elon Musk.

Now, lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe may turn up the regulatory heat on Twitter and other companies owned by Musk, including Tesla and SpaceX, reports The New York Times.

“There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” tweeted Vera Jourova, a vice president of the European Commission.

Musk, a self-proclaimed proponent of free speech, said the accounts were suspended when a “crazy stalker” confronted a car carrying one of his children.

The suspensions affected reporters at The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America and other publications. [New York Times]

5. Brittney Griner says she’ll play in the upcoming WNBA season

In her first public statement since being freed from Russia a week ago, Brittney Griner today said she plans on returning to the basketball court with the Phoenix Mercury.

“I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon,” Griner wrote on Instagram.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist had been jailed in Russia since February in what U.S. officials called a “wrongful detention.” Griner today said she was “grateful” to be back in the U.S.

“It feels so good to be home!” Griner wrote on Instagram. “The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.” [NPR]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Workers at six Chicago-area Starbucks are on strike through Sunday. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Staffing problems continue to hamper reform efforts at the Chicago Police Department, a new report warns. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • An airline mix-up sent a couple’s dog on an international adventure. [NPR]
  • Researchers say time is an illusion. So why do I have deadlines? [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

If you haven’t checked out The Rundown podcast yet, there’s a really fascinating episode out today. I know, I’m biased. But hear me out.

My colleague Erin Allen takes a deep dive into the controversy surrounding Kanye West, who now goes by Ye.

And, as someone who reads the news and then tells you about the news, I thought I knew all I needed to know about the West drama.

But Erin talks to Jeffry McCune Jr., a professor and the director of the Fredrick Douglass Institute of African & African American Studies at the University of Rochester.

McCune, who used to teach a class about West, points out a lot of nuances that I was completely unaware of. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

It feels like the holidays are speeding toward us. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Sheron writes:

“Our family looks forward to going to Illumination at Morton Arboretum. We started going each year when my granddaughter (12 now) was little and, except for the drive through year, have done this for the last eight or nine years. We get hot chocolate, roast marshmallows and enjoy the lights and music and brisk air!”

And Mary Lynn Kuh writes:

“Every December, my parents would put up the ‘Goose Egg Chart,’ which helped them keep Santa informed of our niceness and naughtiness. Xs for good behavior and Os for bad behavior. Boy did we fear the big fat ‘goose egg,’ and I really think it impacted our conduct! LOL! And on Christmas morning, the chart was GONE! Presumably taken back to the North Pole to be filed in our records.”

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

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