Hey there! It’s Friday, and I fell asleep at 7:30 pm last night. This pandemic has awakened my inner old man, and I’m totally here for it. Here’s what you need to know today.
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If current coronavirus trends continue for another day, restaurants and some bars in Chicago and Cook County can reopen to a limited number of indoor customers on Saturday, Illinois health officials announced today.
Only establishments that sell food would be able to resume indoor service, and capacity would be capped at 25% or 25 people per room, whichever is less.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this month urged Gov. JB Pritzker to lift restrictions on bars and restaurants, which have particularly suffered financially from the pandemic. But health experts say going to restaurants and bars is among the riskiest activities. A Japanese study found that people are 20 times more likely to catch the virus indoors than outdoors. [Block Club Chicago]
Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools, facing a possible teacher walkout on Monday, announced that it will begin vaccinating teachers in mid-February. [Chicago Sun-Times]
And cases in Illinois and throughout the nation are falling. But health officials are concerned that new variants of the virus will spread faster than the country can distribute vaccines. [New York Times]
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will transfer the article of impeachment on Monday, which will trigger the Senate’s second trial of former President Donald Trump.
“There will be a trial,” Schumer said. “It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial”
The news comes a day after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants to postpone the trial until mid-February so Trump and his legal team can review the case and prepare a defense.
Senate rules state a trial must begin almost immediately, but senators could reach an agreement to delay the start of oral arguments. Schumer and McConnell have been negotiating over the rules for the trial.
Some Democrats hope they can split their days between an impeachment trial and tackling President Joe Biden’s agenda, including confirming his cabinet nominees and begin discussions on a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. [NPR]
Meanwhile, nearly one in five people facing federal or District of Columbia charges from this month’s insurrection have served or are currently serving in the military. [NPR]
President Biden continues to sign a flurry of executive orders today, focusing on providing immediate economic relief to Americans hit hardest by the pandemic as he waits for Congress to sign off on his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
Biden wants to provide more benefits to families struggling to afford food by boosting benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Weekly food aid would increase by 15% to 20% for families of four, according to the White House.
Biden is also seeking to allow workers to claim unemployment benefits if they quit their jobs due to safety concerns during the pandemic, and he wants to boost the minimum wage for federal workers and contractors to $15 per hour. [AP]
The president earlier this week signed an executive order that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in schools, the workplace and health care. [Washington Post]
4. Chicago police union president faces more calls to resign after controversial comments on U.S. Capitol attack
Business leaders and major labor unions are calling on Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara to resign after he defended rioters at the U.S. Capitol.
The group includes the heads of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Committee, Illinois Restaurant Association and the powerful SEIU Local 1 union.
“The comments made by FOP president John Catanzara in recent weeks regarding the organized violent attack on the United States Capitol in Washington were deeply disturbing and disconnected from reality,” the group wrote in a letter. “Mr. Catanzara’s statements drove home for us that he is an obstacle to the reform and accountability Chicago’s police department needs.” [Crain’s Chicago Business]
The evening of the attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol, Catanzara told WBEZ that he sympathized with the mob. “It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way,” he said, later adding, “I don’t have any doubt that something shady happened in this election.” [WBEZ]
Catanzara later apologized after he was criticized by the leader of the national Fraternal Order of Police. [WBEZ]
Japanese officials say the games can safely move forward, with the Olympic Torch Relay set to begin on March 25. But doubts are growing as many countries are tightening their borders due to a fast-spreading coronavirus variant first discovered in Britain last month.
Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, said he “can’t be certain” about the games “because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus.” Pound this week suggested the games should not have spectators.
And nearly 80% of Japanese think the games should be canceled or postponed again, according to a poll this month from broadcaster NHK.
International Olympic Committee Chief Thomas Bach said yesterday that there is “no plan B” for the games, which kick off on July 23. [NPR]
Here’s what else is happening
- The largest snowstorm of the season could hit the Chicago area on Monday. [Chicago Tribune]
- A class-action lawsuit against the scandal-plagued ComEd was shot down by a Cook County judge. [WBEZ]
- Cook County jail, a virus hot spot, has begun offering vaccines to guard. [WBEZ]
- Home-run king Hank Aaron died today at 86. [NPR]
Oh, and one more thing …
The next Ghostbusters film includes a new ghost named Muncher, who looks like me after I eat a bunch of hotdogs and go on a rollercoaster ride. Or does the ghost look like a melting, blue-version of that McDonald’s abomination known as Grimace?
Anyway, the ghost made its debut in the latest episode of Spain’s MasterChef Junior, of all places. [CBR]
He’ll appear in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which won’t be released until November. [CNBC]
Tell me something good …
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’d like to know who is one of your favorite Black authors.
Ann Doemland writes:
“Octavia Butler was a remarkable author who used science fiction as a means of exploring issues of race. All her books are fascinating. To me the greatest is Kindred. A Back woman in contemporary L.A. finds herself thrown back in time to the Maryland plantation where her ancestors were enslaved.”
“James Baldwin is not the best Black writer this country has produced. He was the best writer this country has produced.”
And Joyce Miller Bean writes:
“Without a doubt, my favorite Black author is Langston Hughes. From spinning jazz into poems, to capturing through short stories, plays and more the poignancy and pain caused by racism, Hughes was a master. He also had a deliciously wry wit. Just read his story ‘Who’s Passing for Who?’ about a white couple passing for Black so they could experience the real Harlem — or are they a Black couple passing for white to escape the vicious effects of racism? — to see what I mean.”
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