Afternoon Edition: Feb. 5, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Martha Vazquez and her daughter Nicole Hernandez have immune system disorders they believe were triggered by environmental conditions on the Southeast Side.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be sunny with patchy, blowing snow. The high will be near 14 degrees, but wind chill values will make it feel more like -6 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 4 degrees. Tomorrow, more snow is in the forecast, with a high near 14 degrees expected. And Sunday will be mostly sunny, but cold, with a high near 8 degrees.

Top story

Citing ‘legacy of environmental racism,’ report urges City Hall to consider Southeast Side residents’ health

After a period of illness that led to her gallbladder being removed, Nicole Hernandez was being diagnosed early last year for lupus when her doctor asked: Had she ever worked with metals or chemicals?

Hernandez, 18, said she’s never worked with either. But, as a lifelong resident of the Southeast Side, she’s been exposed to air pollution from heavy industry in one of the most polluted parts of Chicago. Other than a rotten smell — “a smell I grew up with,” she said — Hernandez wasn’t specifically aware of the particular environmental hazards all around her.

Air monitors around the school she attended, George Washington High School, have shown high levels of toxic metals in the air, state data shows. Now, a new report is urging city planners to consider high levels of pollution and its effects on the health of people who live in the community.

Hernandez’s older sister Alex also has a history of illness. Having survived pancreatic cancer after being diagnosed at 13, Alex recently was found to have lupus, a disorder that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells.

Martha Vazquez, their mother, has struggled with her own autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto’s disease, which affects her thyroid. Like lupus, Vazquez’s condition saps her energy.

It’s unknown exactly what causes these conditions. But researchers suspect a combination of genetics and environmental triggers.

Vazquez said multiple doctors have peppered the family with questions about the environment around their home.

The Southeast Side is home to the city’s largest industrial corridor — one of more than two dozen areas across the city that historically were designated for manufacturing and other industrial uses. Businesses in the area, called the Calumet industrial corridor, release more than 1 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air every year. And many homes are only a short distance from the sources of the pollution, the new study led by the Alliance for the Great Lakes says.

The authors of the study say city planners should consider the impact these chemicals and other pollution sources have on health as Chicago embarks on a review of the industrial corridor this year. The study points to “the legacy of environmental racism,” noting that the Southeast Side is largely Latino and Black.

“The first priority in industrial corridor planning efforts must be to protect public health and the environment while fostering new patterns of economic and job growth,” something that hasn’t occurred over decades, the study found.

Keep reading Brett Chase’s report here.

More news you need

  1. Hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools officials said they made their “last, best and final offer” to the Chicago Teachers Union in school reopening negotiations, the union said the proposal was “still deficient on the most critical safety issues.” In the union’s view, CPS’ offer fell short in a number of key areas.
  2. Cardinal Blase Cupich has demanded for more than two years now that Catholic religious orders that operate in his territory fully disclose to him any information on their clergy members who now face or previously have faced accusations of child sexual abuse. But Cupich — who heads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, which covers Cook County and Lake County, and who reports to Pope Francis — has kept those findings secret.
  3. A Chicago police officer has been indicted on more felony charges, including attempted murder, for an off-duty shooting that took place while he was allegedly intoxicated. Joseph Cabrera was initially charged last month with aggravated discharge of a weapon and disorderly conduct.
  4. Illinois public health officials today announced another record-breaking day for COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, as the state logged 3,660 new cases of the disease and 83 more deaths attributed to it. A total of 74,965 shots went into arms yesterday, nearly 10,000 more than the state’s previous high mark set earlier in the week.
  5. Chicago Black Restaurant Week, the annual event celebrating Black-owned restaurants in Chicago, will return for its sixth year on Sunday. Nearly 100 restaurants are participating in the two-week event.
  6. After surviving a deadly house fire, recovering from a contagious disease, flourishing in foster care and finding a home with a family in Oak Park, a shepherd mix puppy will appear in Sunday’s broadcast of Puppy Bowl XVII. Check out photos of the 9-month-old pup.
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A bright one

$22K flute left on Blue Line train recovered from Chicago pawn shop, returned to traveling musician

Following days of searching, the mystery of a missing $22,000 flute that was left on a CTA Blue Line train has been solved.

Donald Rabin, a flutist from Missouri who was visiting Chicago, frantically began searching for the flute after leaving it on a train seat when he hopped off last Friday in Logan Square. As Chicago police searched for the pricy woodwind, left to Rabin by his grandmother, the musician’s pleas for help on Facebook grabbed the attention of local and national news outlets — and the person who found it.

Rabin said Lukas Mcentee, a homeless man who scooped up the flute, commented on one of his Facebook posts Tuesday with a photo of the instrument. Mcentee said he found the flute and sent a receipt showing he had used it as collateral for a $500 loan at a West Town pawn shop.

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Donald Rabin plays his flute after police returned it to him.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Gabe Coconate, the owner of West Town Jewelry & Loan, said Mcentee contacted him on Saturday saying he had “a rare flute.” When Mcentee came in later that day, Coconate said he told him it was made of silver and gold. “I had never seen something like that before. I didn’t even think it was gold,” Coconate said, noting that he told Mcentee he needed to verify it was real.

Then on Sunday night, Coconate saw the news coverage about Rabin’s search for the flute. “My wife goes, ‘That’s not the flute that came in?’ And I’m like, ‘Son of a b—-, yes it is. That is the flute,’” he said.

On Monday, Coconate called the cops and told them he had the instrument and wanted to turn it in. Ultimately, Rabin was reunited with his cherished instrument on Thursday.

“I’m just thankful that I have the flute in my hand, that I can make music again and I can make people smile,” he said.

Read Tom Schuba’s full story here.

From the press box

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will try to win their second consecutive Super Bowl on Sunday when they face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Kansas City fans might want to thank the Bears if their team becomes a dynasty, writes Patrick Finley. Super Bowl coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. on CBS-2. The game is scheduled to kick off at 5:30 p.m. (with the Weeknd headlining the halftime show).

Jeremy Colliton has sometimes been accused of being boring, but the Blackhawks coach’s personality has kept the team on a steady pace. Their next game is at 2 p.m. Sunday against the Dallas Stars on NBC Sports Chicago.

And Bulls rookie Patrick Williams embraced the challenge of facing a physical team like the New York Knicks earlier this week, earning praise from his teammates and coach Billy Donovan. The team plays a two-game series against the Orlando Magic tonight and Saturday. Both games tip off at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast by NBC Sports Chicago.

Your daily question☕

How do you plan on spending this very cold weekend?

Email us(please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What are your plans for Super Bowl Sunday?Here’s what some of you said…

“Guess I’ll be staying home… AGAIN… feels like Groundhog Day.”— Irma Dorner Nusret

“Chill out on the sofa with two six packs and a large pizza.”— Scott Brent

“Watching the game alone. Making some ham and beans with cornbread. Drink a beer and cheer on the Chiefs. Oh and take a nap a few hours before the game starts.”— Al Canarsky

“Probably won’t be watching since the Packers aren’t playing.”— Adrienne Mundro

“Chili and tamales.”— Raymond Brack

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed?Email us here.

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