Hey there, it’s Wednesday! And happy birthday, Mom! Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)
Chicago Public Schools will begin the upcoming school year with only remote learning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced today. The change in plans is because of a rise in COVID-19 cases in Chicago, officials said.
The news comes after a stunning series of events yesterday that began with the city’s public health commissioner saying schools could safely reopen with in-person classes. Later in the day, news leaked that the Chicago Teachers Union was planning a strike vote due to safety concerns over the district’s initial proposal to offer some in-person classes.
Lightfoot today said the decision to only offer remote learning for the beginning of the school year was based on science — and not the CTU’s threat of a strike. [WBEZ]
Speaking alongside the mayor today was Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner. Arwady said Chicago is seeing a rise in cases and once again warned that reaching an average of 400 new cases a day would cross a “line in the sand,” forcing officials to bring back some restrictions.
Chicago is currently seeing a weekly average of 351 cases a day, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. [Crain’s]
State officials today announced 1,759 news cases and 30 additional deaths. The state’s seven-day average was 1,573 cases as of yesterday, according to The New York Times. That’s a 30% increase from the average two weeks ago. You can find more information about Illinois’ numbers in this link. [WBEZ]
The Chicago-based utilities giant pleaded not guilty today despite admitting its role in a bribery scheme that allegedly sent $1.3 million to allies of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Sun-Times reports.
U.S. District Judge John Kness insisted on a formal plea. Lawyers had previously said a plea would not take place because ComEd reached a deal with prosecutors. That three-year agreement would drop charges against ComEd if the company pays a $200 million fine and abides by other terms of the deal.
While court filings have implicated Madigan and several others, the speaker has not been charged with wrongdoing. ComEd is expected to cooperate with federal authorities in their ongoing investigation. [Chicago Sun-Times]
WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos and Dave McKinney recently reported that the eight-year bribery scheme came at a cost for Illinois residents. [WBEZ]
The goal is to secure an agreement by the end of this week so that Congress can approve it next week, reports The Washington Post, but it’s unclear if that’s possible.
The White House and congressional Democrats remain far apart on several issues, such as enhanced unemployment benefits. Democrats support renewing a $600-per-week boost to jobless payments that expired July 31. The Trump administration recently proposed reducing that number to $400 a week.
Republicans argue that many Americans made more money while receiving the extra $600 a week in jobless payments than they did when working. But a recent study from three Yale economists found that workers who received those benefits returned to work at about the same rate as others. [Washington Post]
Meanwhile, thousands of foreign workers received stimulus payments in error. [NPR]
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will not travel to Milwaukee for this year’s convention that begins on Aug. 17. The former vice president will instead accept the party’s nomination from his home state of Delaware, convention officials announced today.
Organizers also announced that no national Democratic officials will travel from out of state to the convention due to health concerns.
The news comes as Republicans continue to discuss how and where to hold their convention. President Trump has suggested the possibility of speaking from the White House grounds. [NPR]
Meanwhile, Biden said he would halt border wall construction if elected, but he would not tear down parts of the barrier added by the Trump administration. [NPR]
And a majority of Americans support voting by mail, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll. [Politico]
Rescue workers are digging through rubble and searching for victims from yesterday’s enormous explosion that wounded thousands of people. Lebanese officials believe the explosion was caused by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored near the city’s port.
As NPR points out, ammonium nitrate is the same material used by Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. McVeigh’s bomb used just two tons of the fertilizer.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the port held an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. Authorities have ordered anyone involved with the material’s storage at the port to be put under house arrest. [NPR]
The blast was so strong that it could be felt more than 100 miles away in Cyprus. Here are satellite images of Beirut’s port before and after yesterday’s explosion. [NPR]
Here’s what else is happening
- Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told members of Congress today that the investigation into Michael Flynn was “legitimate” as the Department of Justice seeks to dismiss the case. [NPR]
- Chicago activists call for defunding the Department of Homeland Security. [WBEZ]
- Historian Allan Lichtman, who developed a system that has accurately predicted U.S. presidential elections for four decades, talks about what he thinks will happen in this year’s election. [New York Times]
- Caesar McCool, also known as “Caesar the No Drama Llama,” is a therapy llama and “llamactivist” helping calm tensions in Portland. [Washington Post]
Oh, and one more thing …
Grab some popcorn and a respectable amount of snark because Nerdette Recaps with Peter Sagal returns next week!
Greta Johnsen, Tricia Bobeda and Peter Sagal from NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me will review movies from the ’90s, beginning with the fashionable Clueless. The gang will also tackle an impressive list of films that includes Independence Day, White Men Can’t Jump, Dazed and Confused, Pulp Fiction and Toy Story.
Click the link to find a trailer for this season of Recaps. [WBEZ]
Tell me something good …
I need book recommendations. What’s a good book you recently read?
David Matthews writes:
“I’m in the middle of Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History. What a relief to know that deep down people are good at heart. It may seem hard to believe at times — times like the present, for instance — but in spite of our differences we are inclined to get along and help each other more often than not. There is power in friendliness, and, in the course of time, the friendly have prospered.”
And Melanie Holmes writes:
“Laurie Frankel’s This is How it Always Is feels both topical and timely, and is filled with the quandaries of parenthood. In the LGBTQ genre, this may not have been your grandma’s book at one time, but it needs to be now. As a parent myself, I agree with Frankel’s quote: ‘Wider ranges of normal make the world a better place for everyone.’ ”
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