Afternoon Edition: March 29, 2022

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

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Janet Nunez’s children, Iliana and Alexander Godinez, were tested in a study last year to determine lead and manganese levels in children on the Southeast Side.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

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 cloudy with a high near 42 degrees and a chance of showers. Tonight will be cloudy with a low around 40 and showers likely. Tomorrow will be rainy and breezy with a high near 65 and a chance of thunderstorms.

Top story

As her kids struggle in school, a mom wonders if pollution is the cause. A new study could help find an answer.

Janet Nunez worries about her two youngest children who are having difficulties keeping up with their school work — and she wonders if there is a connection to the pollution around her home in the heavily industrial East Side community.

Last year, she enrolled Iliana, 8, and Alexander, 7, in a government-funded study that tests blood, hair, saliva, toenails and baby teeth for the presence of brain-damaging metals, such as manganese and lead.

Southeast Side residents often complain about asthma and other respiratory issues associated with air pollution. But her home’s close proximity to a manganese handling operation, S.H. Bell, and other industrial sites has her particularly anxious about her kids. 

Iliana and Alexander are among 30 Southeast Side children participating in the study.

The project is led by University of Kentucky environmental health scientist Erin Haynes, who previously tested hundreds of children in Southeastern Ohio and found a correlation between high manganese levels in the body and low IQ scores. Manganese is a metal used in steelmaking and for other industrial uses. High levels inhaled can be harmful, particularly to brain function. The study will also use an instant blood test developed by University of Illinois-Chicago bioengineering professor Ian Papautsky.

“From our previous work we know that manganese can affect children’s brains and ability to learn and think,” Haynes said. “I’m interested in the Southeast Side of Chicago because the community raised the problem themselves and they have the right to know if the manganese in their environment is adversely affecting their children.”

The Chicago children will be studied for functional skills and exposure to manganese, she said.

Researchers hope to enroll dozens more children — ages 7 to 9 — in the Chicago study through the end of summer. Haynes’ previous work in the Ohio communities of Marietta and East Liverpool studied around 400 children. 

Brett Chase has more on the study here.

More news you need

  1. A class of 80 brand new Chicago police officers attended a graduation ceremony today at Navy Pier. The event was heavy on tradition, with prayers, bagpipes and speeches from Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
  2. Millionaire businessman Willie Wilson said today he will announce April 11 whether to reprise his 2019 mayoral campaign against Lightfoot. He also insisted his $1.2 million gas giveaway this month was not a vote-buying prelude to it, our Fran Spielman reports.
  3. A new trailer gives viewers their best look so far at “Shining Girls,” an upcoming Apple TV+ series set in Chicago and described as a “metaphysical thriller.” Elisabeth Moss stars as a Sun-Times researcher who learns a recent murder mirrored her own assault six years earlier and sets out to uncover her attacker — who turns out to be a time-traveling serial killer. 
  4. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has announced its 2022-2023 season, a season filled with milestones and milestone performances. Most prominently, the CSO’s 132nd season will mark the conclusion of the tenure of Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti, bringing an end to his 13-year artistic affiliation with the orchestra.

A bright one

For Courtney Reed, ‘Moulin Rouge’ musical role is ‘a dream come true’

For musical theater actress Courtney Reed, the road to Broadway started with a mouse and a precocious red-headed girl in productions at Children’s Theatre of Elgin.

“My first role was as a mouse in ‘Cinderella’,” Reed says with a laugh. “I remember being very nervous.”

But the moment Reed realized she was never happier than when she was on stage came at around the age of 10, when she performed the lead in the popular musical “Annie.”

Courtney Reed stars as Satine in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” running through May 14 at the Nederlander Theatre.

Courtney Reed stars as Satine in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” running through May 14 at the Nederlander Theatre.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Reed, who grew up in Elgin, attended Larkin High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Academy and the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She performed in a few Chicago shows (at Noble Fool and Pheasant Run) before quickly landing in “Mamma Mia!” on Broadway.

Now, after more Broadway success (“Aladdin,” “In the Heights”), Reed is back in town leading the first national tour of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” as Satine, the love-starved courtesan. The stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 movie musical also stars Conor Ryan as Christian, the young composer who falls in love with Satine.

“I love that I get to flex my muscles with this role,” Reed, 37, says. “In the past, I’ve portrayed some amazing characters, but they didn’t necessarily get into the nitty gritty the way that I think Satine does. She is so broken and doesn’t have the ability to just fall in love like Christian does.”

Mary Houlihan has more on the show and Reed’s role here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s your favorite theater in the city? Tell us why.

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 was your favorite movie released in 2021?

Here’s what some of you said…

“‘Encanto’ because my daughter loved it so much.” — Kristine Hulce Romano

“‘Ghostbusters Afterlife.’ I loved the first two, and this one had a lot of the main characters return.” — 2

“‘Cliff Walkers,’ directed by Zhang Yimou.” — Sandor Udvary

“‘West Side Story.’” — Dario Tatum

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