The Rundown: Activists to protest the release of Jason Van Dyke

Jason Van Dyke
Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke and his attorney Daniel Herbert listen during Van Dyke's sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, in Chicago, for the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool
Jason Van Dyke
Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke and his attorney Daniel Herbert listen during Van Dyke's sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, in Chicago, for the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

The Rundown: Activists to protest the release of Jason Van Dyke

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Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and I can relate a little too well to this video when I’m walking my dog, Princess Leia, down our icy alley. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Chicago activists are planning a downtown rally to protest the release of Jason Van Dyke

Rev. Jesse Jackson and a coalition of other Chicago activists are calling on the Justice Department to charge former police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The news comes as Van Dyke is scheduled to be released from prison on Feb. 3, serving under half of an 81-month sentence for the murder. The group of activists say they will hold a rally on that day at Federal Plaza in the Loop beginning at 5 p.m.

“The crime and the time do not correspond,” Jackson said this week.

Jackson said he will lobby both of Illinois’ senators to press for federal charges against Van Dyke. But as the Sun-Times reports, studies show the Justice Department rarely charges police officers. [Sun-Times]

2. A new version of the omicron variant does not appear to be more dangerous

The new version, known officially as BA.2, is spreading in parts of Asia and Europe. At least three cases have been reported in the U.S. so far, according to The Washington Post.

There is currently no evidence suggesting that BA. 2 is more transmissible or deadly than the original omicron variant. There is also no evidence indicating that BA. 2 can better evade protections from vaccines and previous infections.

BA. 2 has become the most dominant strain in Denmark, according to Anders Fomsgaard, a virologist at the State Serum Institute in Denmark.

He told the Post that “we are not so concerned, since we so far do not see major differences in age distribution, vaccination status, breakthrough infections and risk of hospitalization. Also, despite the high infection rate of BA. 2, the numbers of hospitalizations [in] ICUs are decreasing.” [WaPo]

Meanwhile, Democratic elected leaders across the country are changing their responses to the pandemic, pivoting away from lockdowns and mandates and toward keeping schools and businesses open now that vaccines are widely available. [NYT]

3. Russia conducts military exercises as the U.S. puts 8,500 troops on high alert

The Kremlin ordered numerous military exercises throughout Russia after the U.S. and NATO made a series of military moves aimed at deterring Russia from invading Ukraine.

Some of the military exercises took place near Ukraine, where Russian troops were receiving heavy-duty armored vehicles and other equipment at rail platforms in Belarus, an ally to Russia.

The flurry of military activity comes after the Pentagon put 8,500 troops on high alert. And it comes after NATO deployed more military forces in Eastern Europe.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today warned Ukraine could become a “wasteland” if Russia invades the country.

“Ukrainians have every moral and legal right to defend their country, and I believe their resistance would be dogged and tenacious,” Johnson told members of Parliament. “No one would gain from such a catastrophe.” [New York Times]

4. More people from out of state are getting abortions in Illinois

The Chicago Tribune reports almost 10,000 people from out of state sought abortions in Illinois in 2020, a 29% increase compared to the previous year.

The newspaper cites the most recent data available from the Illinois Department of Public Health, which show people from out of state made up 21% of the 46,243 abortions were performed in 2020.

The rise comes as Republican-led state legislatures across the nation have taken steps to restrict access to the procedure. Health experts say those efforts are forcing more people to travel to other states, like Illinois, where lawmakers have vowed to protect access to abortions. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups are seeing a boost in fundraising as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the future of Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion. The money could play a key role in upcoming state and midterm elections throughout the U.S. [AP]

5. What’s fueling the volatility on Wall Street?

Stock markets suffered more turbulence today with the S&P 500 falling as much as 2.7% before rebounding.

Investors are jittery as they wait to see how the Federal Reserve plans to combat inflation that has hurt businesses and consumers. The central bank today began a two-day meeting to discuss its next steps, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell will hold a news conference tomorrow.

Spooking investors is the expectation that the Federal Reserve will take more aggressive steps to get a handle on runaway inflation. The Fed is also expected to raise interest rates as soon as March and do so several more times this year.

“The markets really want to have a clear understanding of what the Fed’s going to do and how fast they’re going to do it,” Lindsey Bell, the chief money and markets strategist at Ally Invest, told The New York Times. “Volatility will persist until that larger clarity is truly understood.” [NYT]

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department today reported that manufacturers of some computer chips had less than five days’ worth of supplies late last year, illustrating the severity of a global wide shortage that has helped fuel inflation. [WaPo]

Here’s what else is happening

  • You can put down the No. 2 pencil, because the SAT exam is going digital. [AP]
  • Despite criticism from parents, Chicago Public Schools says it won’t change how it reports COVID-19 cases. [WBEZ]
  • Billionaire Mark Cuban launched an online pharmacy aimed at lowering prices for generic drugs. [NPR]
  • Neil Young wants Spotify to remove his music due to vaccine misinformation spread by podcaster Joe Rogan. [BBC]

Oh, and one more thing …

Every time you poop, you’re helping Chicago officials track COVID-19.

The city recently joined statewide and national efforts to monitor our sewage for levels of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Curious City looks into how the program works, why monitoring wastewater can be useful and what’s next as city officials plan to invest $2.14 million in its wastewater efforts over the next two years. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

This week is expected to be a cold one, with more snow possibly on the way. I’d like to know what tips you have for staying warm when Chicago becomes frigid.

Dan writes:

“I spend a good couple of hours outside volunteering on Tuesday nights, and when the sun goes down in January it gets cold. I find that the two sock method, specifically using a tight fitting dress sock and then a heavy wool sock, works far better than two wool socks; it also fits in your shoes better as well.

“If you don’t have long underwear, try wearing long PJ pants in a pair of jeans. You can make them easier to get on by using your socks to hold the PJs down when you put on the jeans. As for my fingers, I find the same sock trick works. Light thin gloves with waterproof gloves on top seems to do a good job of keeping the heat in and water out.

“Also, those face masks? They keep the germs and some of the cold out as well. An unexpected lifehack courtesy of the pandemic.”

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

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