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  • Rich Hein/Sun-Times
  • Illinois house speaker Michael Madigan, who keeps a low profile, caught at the Thompson Center in December

Welcome to the Reader‘s morning briefing for Wednesday, August 9, 2017. 



  • Michael Madigan is now the longest-serving state house speaker in American history

Illinois house speaker Mike Madigan is now the longest-serving state house speaker in U.S. history, according to the National Congress of State Legislators. Madigan, who was first elected to the post in 1983, surpassed former South Carolina lawmaker Solomon Blatt’s record of 11,893 days as speaker on Saturday. But he doesn’t appear to be celebrating—his spokesman, Steve Brown, said that the topic hasn’t even come up, adding simply “He’s had a long career.” Madigan, who’s 75, still has six years to go if he wants to beat Blatt’s record 53 years of serving in a state house. [Tribune]

  • Chicago named “restaurant city of the year” by Bon Appetit

Bon Appetit magazine has named Chicago its “restaurant city of the year” for 2017. “Chicago is clearly America’s most exciting city to eat in right now,” the magazine’s special projects editor, former Time Out Chicago staffer Julia Kramer, wrote. “I can’t remember a time that I’ve been as psyched to eat there as I’ve been this year. Where other cities fall into soulless trend cycles, Chicago has a way of generating distinctively personal restaurants.” [Sun-Times] [Bon Appetit]

  • Prompted by soda tax, Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin is considering a run against board president Toni Preckwinkle

Prompted by the controversial new penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin is considering a run against the price hike’s champion, Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle, in 2018. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, a poll just released by an “ally” of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association—which went to court to block enforcement of the “pop tax” and is now appealing the judge’s ruling in its favor—found that 87 percent of voters disapprove of the levy. Cook County is facing “a real crisis in leadership,” Boykin, formerly chief of staff for Congressman Danny Davis, told Crain’s. “I’ve met with thousands of my constituents in the last week or so, and they’re mad as hell. . . . They’re going to go to DuPage County to buy not only their soda but their groceries.” [Crain’s Chicago Business]

  • Emanuel’s private e-mails suggest he used the sanctuary city issue to improve his battered image

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “own private emails expose his attempts to use his pro-immigration stance to shore up a national media image that took a beating after the November 2015 release of video showing a white Chicago Police officer firing 16 shots at black teenager Laquan McDonald,” according to a Sun-Times news analysis. At the mayor’s instigation (though not, he insists, for any political reasons), the city has filed a preemptive lawsuit seeking to block Attorney General Jeff Sessions from cutting off federal funding for sanctuary cities, as he has threatened to. It’s a sticky issue for the mayor, who as a presidential advisor during the Clinton administration urged a crackdown on illegal immigration, calling for “record deportations of criminal aliens” in one memo to the then president. In May, Emanuel sent e-mails touting his pro-immigration “One Chicago” campaign to prominent national media figures including ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and MSNBC’s Mark Halperin. “Today, I launched a new public facing campaign [sic] . . . to shine the light on our values of tolerance and respect for dignity,” he wrote to Stephanopoulos. “The goal is to counter the negative rhetoric against immigrants and remind residents that we are united as one people. . . . Hoping to talk with you about the campaign in more detail if you are interested.” [Sun-Times]

  • Former Northwestern professor Wyndham Lathem was denied security clearance by French officials months before fatal stabbing

Six months before he was charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 26-year-old Trenton Cornell-Duranleau, fired Northwestern professor Wyndham Lathem was denied permission to conduct research at the prestigious Institut Pasteur, which specializes in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Lathem, who worked in Northwestern’s Department of Microbiology-Immunology, was initially approved by the Paris-based institute, but then failed to get final security clearance from French authorities. “They need to make sure people who are working with the materials are professional and can be trusted,” Institut Pasteur spokeswoman Aurelie Perthuison told the Tribune via e-mail. While French officials did not provide a reason for the rejection, work with dangerous pathogens is highly restricted, and Lethem specializes in Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes bubonic plague, which killed between 75 and 200 million people during the Black Death of the Middle Ages and still turns up in about 1,000 to 3,000 cases per year. According to the Tribune, Lathem is now under “intensive observation” (aka suicide watch) in a California county jail. Andrew Warren, his British codefendant, is expected to appear in court Friday. [Tribune]