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Insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021

Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump riot outside the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

John Minchillo

The Rundown: A critical moment for American democracy

Good afternoon! It’s Friday, that magical time of the week when my existential dread of “what have I done with my life” disappears for the weekend. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. How do you fix American democracy?

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, a brazen attack that heightened concerns about the future of the country’s democracy.

My colleagues at WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times have been working on the Democracy Solutions Project, a multipart, multimedia series that examines current threats to our democracy, including barriers to voting, cynicism, misinformation, polarization and much more.

And the series looks at potential solutions. This link will take you to the entire series, which is in partnership with the University of Chicago’s Center for Effective Government.

But some highlights include how dark money and self-funding loopholes help skew Illinois politics to favor moneyed candidates. [Chicago Sun-Times]

And how the U.S. Supreme Court has been having a bigger impact on the lives of Americans. [WBEZ]

2. Most owners of assault-style weapons in Illinois appear not to have registered them as required by law

And there are minimal consequences for failing to register, and whether the law is even enforced likely depends heavily on where you live and how authorities discover an unregistered gun, my colleague Matthew Hendrickson reports.

Only 1% of people with firearm owners identification cards in the state had registered by the deadline, according to the Illinois State Police.

It’s not known how many FOID holders possess guns now banned in Illinois, but gun sellers and others say they believe tens of thousands of legal gun owners were likely turned into scofflaws overnight on New Year’s Day.

The state banned assault-style weapons a year ago, but allowed people to keep the ones they already possessed provided they register them before Jan. 1 of this year. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Ed Burke could receive millions in payouts from pension and campaign funds

Former Ald. Ed Burke, who was recently convicted on federal corruption charges, is entitled to more than $540,000 he paid into a city pension fund — and a nearly $2.5 million payout from his campaign fund, my colleagues Mitchell Armentrout and Tim Novak report.

Illinois law does prohibit pension payments to “any person who is convicted of any felony relating to or arising out of or in connection with his service as a municipal employee.”

If the pension board does yank Burke’s benefits, he’ll still be refunded the money he contributed toward his pension — more than $540,000, plus interest, minus any payments he’s already collected.

Burke retired last year with 62 years of service, having first landed on the city payroll at 17, pension records show.

He is scheduled for sentencing in June. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. Connor Bedard will become the youngest All-Star Game player in NHL history

The 18-year-old rookie sensation will represent the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2024 All-Star Game in Toronto, the NHL announced this week.

The news comes after Bedard had been named rookie of the month in November and December.

Bedard was not available to discuss his selection to the All-Star Game last night, but coach Luke Richardson did mention the honor, my colleague Ben Pope reports.

“I’m sure that’s a very exciting time for him and his family,” Richardson said. “He has had a really good start.

“There’s still lots of things for an 18-year-old to learn in this league, but one of them is how to handle the highs and the lows. Right now, our team is on a low, so all the players individually feel partly responsible and that they could do better. But this is a good perk for [Bedard] to put in his pocket, and hopefully [it] gives a little lift to him and a spark to his game.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Chicago scientists race to protect Egyptian artifacts from climate change

For 100 years, Egyptologists, illustrators and photographers from the University of Chicago have worked at a remarkably well-preserved Egyptian temple complex called Medinet Habu, bearing cameras, pens and, in the early days, rickety wooden ladders.

Now, they are racing to record and preserve the ancient history of this place as climate change and seeping groundwater from neighboring farms threaten to erase it, my colleague Stefano Esposito reports.

The scientists live in “Chicago House,” a headquarters for the university in Egypt that was founded in 1924 by “Rockford’s own Indiana Jones” — James Henry Breasted.

He was the son of a Rockford hardware merchant, and he began his education as a theology student but distrusted some translations of the Bible and decided he wanted to see for himself the world described in its pages. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The U.S. economy added a surprising 216,000 jobs last month despite some cooling in the labor market. [AP]

  • President Joe Biden faces increased pressure from his fellow Democrats to curb the number of migrants arriving in the U.S. [New York Times]

  • The FDA authorized Florida to purchase cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. [NPR]

  • Parker Posey will be in the third season of HBO’s The White Lotus, which begins filming next month in Thailand. [Hollywood Reporter]

Oh, and one more thing …

You could soon order a pizza from Cook County Jail.

Block Club Chicago reports Recipe for Change, a nonprofit organization that has taught 4,000 people at the jail how to cook, is working on a food truck to bring food made inside the jail to the public.

Recipe for Change was founded by local chef and restaurateur Bruno Abate, who plans on hiring former inmates so they can make a steady wage.

“There’s still no place worse than this,” Abate said of the jail. “But in any corner of the world, you can create something beautiful.” [Block Club Chicago]

Tell me something good ...

Over my holiday break I watched Rebel Moon on Netflix and woof. But it got me thinking, what’s a bad movie you love to watch? Or a movie that flopped but you thought was amazing?

Ian Mason writes:

“Seeing the movie version of Cats with an audience full of folks that were high on edibles rates up there with one of my most memorable movie going experiences!”

Christina writes:

“I watched Fast X (aka “Fast & Furious 10”) with its dizzying action sequences set in London, Rome, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro. Big cast, silliness, electric cars, street racing and a great soundtrack — can’t wait for the sequel!”

And Billy writes:

“One of my all-time favorite movies is What Dreams May Come from 1998, starring Robin Williams. It is often the butt of the joke (think Family Guy) but its story and visuals are absolutely stunning. It makes me cry both sad and happy tears all in the same movie. I’ve always longed for a remastered version to come out one day. “

Thanks for all the emails this week. It was nice hearing from y’all!

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