The Rundown: Why Illinois struggles to tackle climate change

power plant
Michael Sohn / AP Photo
power plant
Michael Sohn / AP Photo

The Rundown: Why Illinois struggles to tackle climate change

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Hey there! It’s Tuesday, and I didn’t win Illinois’ vaccine lottery, soooo I’ll be writing this newsletter a little longer. 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. Despite summer of extreme weather, Illinois appears deadlocked on plan aimed at fighting climate change

A green energy bill introduced this week in the Illinois legislature is reviving the debate over how far the state is willing to go in combating climate change, a fight that has pitted two blocs of Democratic support against each other, reports WBEZ’s Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney.

Environmentalists and labor unions are divided over a key issue: phasing out fossil fuel power plants. Gov. JB Pritzker has sided with environmentalists in pushing for a firm date to close the plants, while labor unions seek concessions allowing the plants to stay open longer.

Searching for a compromise, Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Monday that would fulfill some of Pritzker’s priorities in a green energy plan, such as putting the state on better footing to take advantage of the expansion of electric vehicles.

But it provides a backdoor for a coal-burning plant in downstate Illinois to remain open, possibly indefinitely, and Pritzker has vowed to veto the bill if it appears on his desk. [WBEZ]

2. The union representing Chicago firefighters and paramedics is against the city’s vaccine mandate

The union president representing the city’s firefighters and paramedics says he is “100%” against Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate for all city employees, saying he believes it should be a personal choice.

Jim Tracy, the head of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, told the Chicago Sun-Times that a vaccine requirement is not the same as safety requirements for firefighters entering burning buildings.

“I’m not going to go into a fire with a T-shirt and pants, but when you stick something in someone’s arm it’s a different story,” he told the newspaper, which points out that three members of the union have died from COVID-19.

Lightfoot earlier this month announced that all city workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. [Sun-Times]

The news comes as the highly contagious delta variant reverses the state’s progress in curbing infections. A new CDC report found a church camp and conference held in central Illinois earlier this summer resulted in 180 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19. [Chicago Tribune]

3. What’s next for Afghanistan?

President Joe Biden today addressed the nation about the end of the war in Afghanistan, defending his handling of the U.S. withdrawal as an “extraordinary success,” citing more than 120,000 people being airlifted out of Afghanistan.

But thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. and allies remain in the country, as well as up to 200 Americans, after U.S.-led evacuations from Kabul’s international airport ended yesterday, reports The Associated Press.

The Taliban must now confront a growing humanitarian disaster made worse by its lightning fast return to power. Many Afghans live in squalid camps, a drought has created a food shortage and the nation’s economic crisis has worsened as the local currency loses value. [AP]

Meanwhile, here’s some background on the Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, which claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Kabul and counts the U.S. and Taliban as enemies. [New York Times]

In Chicago, hundreds of Afghan refugees could resettle in the area, reports WTTW, causing immigration groups to scramble to deliver aid. [WTTW]

4. Louisiana suffers from widespread power outages in Hurricane Ida’s aftermath

Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents are without power and no timetable for when electricity will be restored. Some areas outside of New Orleans are also grappling with major flooding and damage to homes and businesses.

And people who remained in New Orleans, like tourists, are having a hard time finding flights because an airport canceled all incoming and outgoing commercial flights for a third day.

In Houma, which is about an hour outside of New Orleans, residents are struggling without air conditioning, refrigeration or other more basic needs.

“There’s no running water. There’s no electricity. Our desperate need right now is tarps, gasoline for generators, food, water,” pastor Chad Ducote told The Associated Press. [AP]

5. Can the internet be transformed into a virtual reality universe?

Is the future of the internet a world where people can hang out in a virtual coffee shop while dressed as an avatar of Ariana Grande dressed as Pikachu?

That’s what some big tech companies are betting on, though not specifically in the way I described.

For years, experts in the tech and video game industries have pondered the possibility of the metaverse, a “massive communal cyberspace, linking augmented reality and virtual reality together, enabling avatars to hop seamlessly from one activity to the next,” reports The Washington Post.

The idea of a metaverse is gaining traction at Facebook, which recently unveiled a virtual workplace for remote workers and is increasingly experimenting with virtual reality. And it comes as CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this summer said Facebook should be known as a “metaverse company.” [WaPo]

Here’s what else is happening

  • A white Chicago cop has been put on desk duty after a viral video showed him restraining a Black woman while she walked her dog. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • The Chicago Police Department is having a difficult time recruiting enough rookies to replace retiring officers. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Asian Americans in Chicago are pushing for greater representation in the City Council after census data showed their community is growing faster than other racial groups. [WBEZ]
  • Mike Richards, who recently stepped down as a host of Jeopardy! due to offensive comments he made in the past, is now out as the executive producer of the quiz show and Wheel of Fortune. [Axios]

Oh, and one more thing …

I once saw a mouse in a dumpy apartment I had during college and could not fall asleep for the rest of the night. So when I saw a story about an 80-pound cougar being moved from a New York City apartment, I was like, “Nooope. I’m good.”

As NPR reports, an 11-month-old female cougar was being kept illegally as a pet in the Bronx. The owners “recognized that a wild cat is not fit to live in an apartment and surrendered her,” according to the station.

The cougar, nicknamed Sasha, was taken to the Bronx Zoo, where she received veterinary care, and is now headed to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. [NPR]

Tell me something good …

The new school year is here, and I’d like to know: What is one of your favorite memories of going to class, either grade school, high school or college?

Kristin LaTour writes:

“In the late ’80s, those Baby on Board signs got really popular. My chemistry teacher came into class with a brown sack and proceeded to take out a board, a nail, a baby doll and a marker. He wrote something on one side of the board, then nailed the doll to the other. ‘That’s your new hall pass,’ he said as he rested the edge of the board in the chalk rail. He’d written Baby on Board on the other side.”

Feel free to email me at therundown@wbez.org or tweet me at @whuntah.

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