Pharma funds Illinois pols, ‘Sister Jean’ turns 103, Honest Chicagoans talk Air and Water Show and more in your Chicago news roundup

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

SHARE Pharma funds Illinois pols, ‘Sister Jean’ turns 103, Honest Chicagoans talk Air and Water Show and more in your Chicago news roundup
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Illinois Senate President Don Harmon is among elected officials who take campaign money from pharmaceutical companies implicated in the opioid crisis that has been blamed for more than 10,000 deaths since 2016 in Cook County and nearly 23,000 statewide from 2008 through 2021.

Pat Nabong/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.

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 85 degrees. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms and a low around 67. Tomorrow will also be mostly cloudy with showers likely, a chance of thunderstorms and a high near 78. Sunday will be partly sunny with a chance of thunderstorms and a high near 77.

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Afternoon Edition
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Top story

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, other pols keep taking money from pharma companies implicated in opioid crisis

In 2017, Ohio’s attorney general sued Johnson & Johnson and other drug-makers, saying they’d wrongly “led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids.”

In 2019, government lawyers in Oklahoma called Johnson & Johnson the “kingpin” of the opioid crisis, likening the pharmaceutical giant to a Mexican drug cartel.

In 2021, New York’s top law enforcement figure declared that opioids “wreaked havoc on countless communities” and that Johnson & Johnson “helped fuel this fire.”

But Illinois politicians keep taking campaign money from Johnson & Johnson and other companies paying $26 billion to settle lawsuits that accused them of fueling the opioid crisis, campaign finance records show.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, is the most prominent among them. Harmon has accepted these campaign contributions tied to the companies that have been painted by government lawyers across the nation as corporate bad guys in the opioid crisis:

  • $2,000 last September from a Johnson & Johnson political action committee.
  • $2,000 in 2020 from a Johnson & Johnson fund.
  • $2,000 in December from Fidelity Consulting Group LLC, a Rosemont lobbying firm that lobbies for Johnson & Johnson.
  • $7,500 over the past two years from firms that lobby on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington, D.C., trade group to which Johnson & Johnson and other opioid sellers belong.

Robert Herguthhas more on Harmon and other Illinois politicians funded by pharma here.

More news you need

  1. Jurors in the latest federal trial of R. Kelly were expected this afternoon to view portions of graphic alleged child pornography at issue in the case. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled that the videos should not be viewed by the public, but he resisted prosecutors’ calls to clear the courtroom.
  2. A city panel today recommended that Chicago permanently remove its three Christopher Columbus statues and the Balbo Monument in Burnham Park, and consider altering or removing nearly 40 other monuments. It’s not clear if the city will follow the recommendations — Mayor Lori Lightfoot in May strongly hinted at ignoring them.
  3. Mayor Lightfoot today responded to GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey’s latest reference to Chicago as a “hellhole” by defending the city and slamming Bailey’s campaign as a “dumpster fire.” The mayor made her pointed remarks on Twitter after Bailey called out Chicago during a rally at the Illinois State Fair yesterday.
  4. The Chicago Police Board has voted to fire an officer accused of beating and choking a man during an arrest — five months after a judge acquitted him of the charges. The board found that Louis Garcia also didn’t secure the man in the police car, didn’t record the full arrest on his body camera and accused Garcia of lying in a report about the arrest.
  5. CPS officials still support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students but say that first action needs to be taken at the state level, which hasn’t been done. Illinois now requires K-12 students to provide proof of vaccination against a dozen diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, rubella and mumps.
  6. A 13-year-old girl survived a lightning strike in Garfield Park earlier this month after a relative jumped into action, performing life-saving CPR at the scene. She was rushed to Stroger Hospital, where physicians said she was lucky to have received a swift response from her family member, as the lightning caused the girl to fall into cardiac arrest.
  7. The Chicago Air and Water Show will kick off a two-day stint in town tomorrow, with every branch of the military and the Illinois National Guard set to put on a demonstration for spectators. Navy fighter jets began practice yesterday, with the piercing acrobatic rehearsals continuing today.
  8. Once paralyzed after a 2003 boating accident on Lake Michigan, Chicagoan Rob Heitz continued defying the odds today — he swam from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shoreline. Stefano Esposito has more on Heitz’s big feat here.
  9. After last year’s scaled-back celebration, Ruido Fest will be in full effect starting this afternoon, with a stacked lineup touting headlining acts like Cypress Hill and Cuco. The annual alternative Latin rock fest will feature nearly 50 bands performing on three stages over three days in Union Park.
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A bright one

Turning 103, ‘Sister Jean’ is getting ready for another year at Loyola

Tossing out the first pitch at a Cubs home game. A new bobblehead in her honor. The unveiling of a plaque with her name on it at the Loyola University “L” stop — a day when thunderstorms are forecast.

“Maybe that will be the orchestra from heaven doing some banging around up there,” says the focus of all the attention, a tiny woman with a cherubic face. Or as her father used to tell his jittery children, “the angels rolling the barrels of beer around.”

Forgive Sister Jean Dolores Bertha Schmidt, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary — or Sister Jean, as she’s better known to legions of Ramblers basketball fans — if she doesn’t quite remember all that’s planned in the days surrounding her 103rd birthday, which is Sunday.

But don’t ask her how she’s going to manage it — like our Stefano Espositodid during a recent interview with Sister Jean.

“Hmmm? ... Oh, I sleep well,” she says, a flicker of surprise or perhaps irritation at the question.

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Less than a week before her 103rd birthday, Sister Jean reflects on life, love and basketball during a conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times at Loyola University yesterday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Three years into her second century, Sister Jean, the team chaplain for the men’s basketball team, navigates the walkways and plazas at Loyola with a walker or a wheelchair for longer distances. She broke her hip a few years back and has twice-weekly therapy for it. Is she considering slowing down a bit? Not a chance.

She’s often asked to pose for pictures — with little kids, big kids, parents.

“When reporters want to talk with me, I never say no. When people want to take pictures, I never say no,” she says. “If it makes anybody happy what I do and if it’s good for the community and Loyola, I always say yes.”

Espositohas more with Sister Jean here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s something Chicago does better than anywhere else?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: As a Chicagoan, what do you think of the Air and Water Show?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Since I was a child always enjoyed the spectacular show. Used to live on our boat in the harbor and always lived the week before the show with all the practices.” —Harry S Brinker III

“It’s great for some people but, meh. The best thing about the Air and Water show is that fall is approaching. However, let people have their fun if that’s what they are into. For most Chi-town people, we actually don’t go. Just saying.” —Vicki Trinidad

“It’s an iconic summer event and the pilots are lucky to have the most beautiful American skyline.” —Erika Hoffmann

“It always makes me feel bad for the vets and others suffering with PTSD. Personally, it unnerves me and I dread this time of year annually.” —Rah Easton

“It’s mostly fun for the pilots, everybody watching just be going home with a neck cramp.” —Krystali Ramrz

“It’s fabulous. It’s a tradition. Chicago has a beautiful lakefront and the air and water show celebrates that part of our great city.” — Peggy Freitag

“It’s absolutely terrible. It makes entertainment out of war planes. It traumatizes pets, vets, and others in the community with high anxiety. Something that drops bombs on one group of people should not be entertainment for another.” — Heather Dhamo

“It’s entertaining to see the airplanes fly over Lake Michigan and around the city. It takes your breath away.” —Maurice Snell

“It’s iconic. I absolutely love it.” —Sheri A. Mendez

“A billion dollars worth of social programs whizzing by us at supersonic speeds and deafening decibels. Technological marvels to astound us while the horrors of war and flagrant waste of appropriations remain hidden in plain (plane?) sight.” —John Donnell

“Love the sounds of the planes and getting to see them practice.” — Carolyn Cohrs

“I think it’s a phenomenal waste of money (especially given record high fuel costs) that only serves to further the fetishization of the military.” —Laurie Alfaro

“A day when we can all FLY HIGH respecting our military and our great country.” —Stanley Richard

“I always have mixed feelings about it. I admire the technological know-how on display, but I wish it were directed towards something other than warplanes.” —Dennis Fritz

“It’s loud and it scares my cat. It sucks.” — Rob Samuelson

“I love it, but it’s sad because it marks the end of summer.” —Nancy Kinsch

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

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