Afternoon Edition: March 18, 2022

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

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker (left) and Cardinal Blase Cupich have stayed in regular contact via text messages and emails during the pandemic, communications in which they often heaped praise upon one another.

Sun-Times file

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 see showers and a possible thunderstorm, with a high near 44 degrees. Tonight will also be rainy with a low around 37. Tomorrow brings a 50% chance of rain and a high near 44, while Sunday will be sunny with a high near 60.

Top story

Text pals: J.B. Pritzker, Cardinal Blase Cupich in close contact amid the pandemic, messages, emails show

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s strict COVID-19 response over the past two years drew considerable resistance from the public at times, but he found a behind-the-scenes ally in Cardinal Blase Cupich, text messages between the two leaders show.

Pritzker and Cupich were in frequent contact, according to newly obtained records that show they texted and emailed each other repeatedly from early 2020 into this year.

The written communications — obtained from the governor’s office by a public records request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act — offer an unusual look at the relationship between the governor and the top Catholic cleric in the region.

They show that the two men heaped praise on one another for the way each dealt with the challenges brought on by COVID.

The communications also show Cupich — the spiritual leader, appointed by the pope, of Catholics in Cook and Lake counties — coordinating the Catholic church’s response to the pandemic with the governor’s office.

Cupich’s good relationship with Pritzker — as well as with other powerful Democratic politicians in Illinois — stands in contrast to how his predecessor, the late Cardinal Francis George, interacted with politicians. Though cordial, George was loath to put himself in a situation in which the church’s independence might come to be questioned as a result.

Robert Herguth has more on the contents of some of these messages here.

More news you need

  1. The mother of Malcolm James, who died in police custody in southern Wisconsin, appeared alongside Rainbow Push Coalition leaders today to urge state and federal officials to investigate his death. James had called 911 last June, saying he was suicidal, and reportedly died after being pepper-sprayed, tased and restrained by police.
  2. A ruling by a federal judge today will allow the star witnesses in Jussie Smollett’s trial for staging a hoax hate crime to sue Smollett’s lawyers for defamation. Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo claim that Smollett attorney Tina Glandian smeared them on national TV and on podcasts in 2019, assailing the pair as liars and suggesting they wore “whiteface” makeup to pose as racist, homophobic attackers.
  3. Federal prosecutors are recommending a minimum of two years in prison for former Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta, who pleaded guilty late last year in a red-light camera bribery scheme. Prosecutors say Presta “cynically exploited” what was supposed to be a public safety initiative.
  4. A day after creating traffic jams with his offer of free gas, businessman and mayoral candidate Willie Wilson said today he will do it again next week — and this time he will be giving away $1 million worth. Wilson said he will also expand the number of stations involved in the giveaway to 50, with some of them in the suburbs as well as Chicago.
  5. Tensions boiled over between Proviso teachers and the west suburban school administration this week, with the union demanding the ouster of the superintendent after a confrontation at a board meeting. This comes after a year of contract negotiations and 10 days of a strike.
  6. On her campaign website, ShawnTe Raines-Welch, who is running for Cook County judge and is the wife of Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, declares in bold letters: “Evaluated by bar associations; Found qualified and recommended.” But one prominent group rated her “not recommended,” Herguth reports.
  7. For this year’s Academy Awards, organizers announced they would tighten their live broadcast of the ceremony by airing pre-recorded, edited presentations of eight Oscar categories — prompting outrage from many in the business. Ahead of next week’s awards, our critic Richard Roeper argues that this is the right call and offers his predictions for who will take home an Oscar in each of the main acting categories.

A bright one

In a cobblestone nook in the West Loop, this mural is to your left and right and above, too

Magical realm — that’s the vibe that Logan Square artist Jason Brammer says he was going for with a dreamy, three-sided mural in the West Loop’s Fulton Market area.

He painted it in 2020 on opposite walls and the ceiling of a cobblestone nook in the 100 block of North Peoria Street, setting meandering vines against a backdrop of a hazy blue sky pocked with a smattering of clouds.

“The story to the mural is that I want to welcome walking visitors into the space by creating a magical realm that draws the gaze skyward with growing vines and swirling tendrils of gold,” says Brammer, 47.


Jason Brammer completed this mural in the 100 block of North Peoria Street in the Fulton Market area in 2020.

Robert Herguth/Sun-Times

He says he views it as a “portal to” the Gin Alley residential and retail district.

The idea behind the imagery, he says, “is the mythological notion of a tree or plant connecting us to a higher plane. In mythical terms, this can be seen in the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ fairy tale, Yggdrasil — the ‘World’s Tree’ from Norse mythology — and other cosmological traditions.”

Brammer has a studio in Humboldt Park and has lived in Chicago for more than 20 years.

More on Brammer’s magical mural here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s your favorite part of March Madness?

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

Yesterday, we asked you: What do you think of Willie Wilson’s gas giveaway effort?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Great idea in theory, however he should have only had a limited number of free fill ups per gas station and spread the love a bit wider to prevent the horrible traffic issues that happened today because of it.” — Lisa Marie Pierce

“I think he should do a $200,000 Sephora give away because I don’t drive and I haven’t been to Sephora since the start of the pandemic! Now add inflation! I’ve only been able to buy cheap makeup. Help me Willie! 🤣” — Erica Palmer

“I think it was an amazing act of benevolence. I think his fingers are on the pulse of the community, however next time I would hope he would distribute gift cards and let drivers go at their convenience and not all at once to tie up city streets all on the same day.” — Matt Yarbrough

“It was an admirable effort. The logistics of execution needed a little work.” — London Thomas

“Vouchers or gas cards would have been smarter.” — Cheryl Thomas Johansen

“Who are you kidding? People lining up at midnight to get gas and the tremendous traffic snarls. Gift cards would’ve been a more simple and adequate gesture.” — Lydia Caceres

“It was a great gesture, but next time he needs to get with a team to help him execute some organization and structure. Because traffic was insane!” — Annette Butler

“His intent was great but the process should have been discussed with the mayor and police superintendent prior to implementing. The issues that happened Thursday may have been prevented with the right plans in place.” — Delores Lewis

“Nobody can do anything without being judged or critiqued. It was an awesome gesture leave it at that. Thank you is all that needs to be said.” — Mike Glenn

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

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