Chicago schools’ deadlock

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This morning, students at Chicago public schools begin their fourth day without classes. Teachers union, school district and Mayor Lori Lightfoot are at an impasse over whether or not to conduct in-person classes for the nation’s third-largest school district.

  • At the same time, Russia’s sphere of influence is expanding.
  • And, the striking conviction of a judge in Georgia.
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Guest: Nerdshala’ Monica England, and Dave Lawler.

credit: Nerdshala Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sarah Kehoulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Layard, Sabina Singhani and Alex Sugiura. The music is composed by Ivan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments, and story ideas to Niyala as text or voice memos at 202-918-4893.


go in:

  • Chicago public schools reopening in limbo after talks break down
  • Sullivan seeks advice from Russian experts before talks on Ukraine
  • Killers of Ahmaud Arbery sentenced to life imprisonment

Good Morning! Welcome to Axis Today!

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It is Monday, January 10th.

I am Niala Boodhu.

What we’re following today: High-stakes talks on Russia’s growing sphere of influence. Also, a judge hit punishment in georgia

But first, the Chicago school deadlock… is a big deal today.

NIALA: This morning, students at Chicago public schools are starting their fourth day without classes. Teachers union, school district and Mayor Lori Lightfoot are at an impasse over whether or not to conduct in-person classes for the nation’s third-largest school district.

This is an ongoing debate across the country, leaving students, teachers and parents in limbo. Nerdshala Chicago reporter Monica Eng has been following back and forth and is now here with the latest. Hi Monica.

Monica England: Hey Niala.

NIALA: Monica, there is a long-standing tension between the teachers union and the mayor’s office that predates the pandemic. What are the sticking points here?

Monica: As of Sunday afternoon, the three main sticking points are whether kids should be able to do remote learning or if they should be in school, no matter whether the test should be opted in or opted out, and finally, whether Whether or not there should be no criterion that prompts the entire district to go far and wide.

NIALA: Why is remote school not an option right now due to the impasse?

Monica: That’s a really big question, because obviously there are districts across the country that are going away. It seems like a personality conflict as Chicago public schools bought a million laptops and started the school year early, seemingly in preparation for some sort of remote event. And yet it’s not something they’ll admit, right now, when we’re seeing skyrocketing, record-setting cases.

NIALA: Monica, this has become a huge story across the country. This is something that people are talking about in Washington. Do you think this fight in Chicago represents ongoing incidents between teachers and school districts across the county?

Monica: I think to some extent it is. I mean, we obviously have similar parameters that we are in boom, many other places in the country are in boom. But the weird thing is in Chicago, our mayor doesn’t want to do extensive testing, especially if it’s on an opt-out basis.

She said that parents should always choose their children. So we’re kind of different from Los Angeles, DC and New York.

Niala: Do we have any sense to know when this might end and the kids can go back to school?

Monica: Well, over the weekend, Reverend Jesse Jackson stepped in as an unofficial honest pimp calling himself. And, you know, there are three sticking points left, but many people hope that by mid-week, we can either be back at school, remotely or in person. But right now, as of Sunday, when we are talking, they are still pretty much at a standstill on some big issues.

NIALA: Monica Eng of Nerdshala Chicago. Thanks, Monica.

Monica: Thanks.

What to expect from today’s talks on Russia and Ukraine, we’ll be back in 15 seconds.

Welcome to Nerdshala Today, I am Niala Boodhoo.

Russian and US officials are meeting today for high-level talks in Geneva. On the agenda are concerns over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine … and now complicating the situation are deadly protests in Kazakhstan that have killed at least 164 people and detained thousands over the past few days. This led to the deployment of Russian troops across the southern border into Kazakhstan.

Nerdshala’ World Editor Dave Lawler is here to catch us up on all of this quickly. Hi Dave.

Dave Lawler: Hi Niala.

Niala: I just listed a lot going on in that part of the world. What is top of America’s mind when it comes to today’s talks in Geneva?

Dave: America’s focus is still very much on avoiding the crisis in Ukraine. They have actually issued a red alert that Russia may cross the border into Ukraine. There may be an attack. These talks are actually part of a US effort to avoid that outcome. But they’re still at very high stakes, as you mentioned, because there are concerns that the US and Russia, in fact, don’t have that much of an equal footing on this issue. And if these talks break down, it could actually be a Russian excuse to move on to, uh, you know, an invasion of Ukraine or some other act of aggression towards Ukraine. So yes, there are fairly high stakes talks going on in Geneva, even as the situation in Kazakhstan continues.

NIALA: And what happened in Kazakhstan? How is it that so many people have been killed in protest against the government and thousands have been taken into custody as well.

Dave: So it started with these fueling protests last weekend. The fuel price went up, there were protests across the country, but actually in the middle of last week, you had a really violent demonstration in Almaty, the main city of Kazakhstan. There is an internet blackout, so we don’t know exactly what happened, but basically the government was so nervous that they decided to ask this Russian-backed security coalition to bring in troops. So they have foreign troops right now helping to secure the position, which adds another dynamic that the US is certainly looking at. The last time we talked about it, there was an hour-long phone call between President Biden and Vladimir Putin. How has all this changed now?

Dave: Well now you have President Putin trying to recreate the nineties. He wants NATO to push back further. He clearly wants to re-establish Russia’s influence in neighboring countries. You know, it’s a conversation that’s been going on for years, obviously, but Putin thinks he can move this agenda forward at the present moment with the threat of an invasion of Ukraine looming in the background. And obviously the Biden administration is stepping back and saying, you know, basically Russia can’t choose the politics of the countries around it. If those countries want to be part of NATO, if they want to look to the West, that’s their prerogative. It does not depend on Russia. And so, uh, that’s something that I think has been visible there for 30 years. What are the relations between Russia and the West going to look like? But they are certainly being escalated with the threat of a million Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian border. I think the bigger picture is in Ukraine, can the US and Russia get into some sort of accommodation that averts the crisis in the next few weeks. I mean, it’s really the most urgent scenario for the US. It’s become issue number one for Joe Biden, as opposed to saying China and other things he wants to focus on.

NIALA: Dave Lawler is Nerdshala’ World Editor. Thanks, Dave.

Niala: Thanks. He left.

NIALA: You may have seen the news that three white men were sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday for the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. In 2020, Arbery, a black man, was chased and killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood. The three defendants will appear in federal court in February, charged with hate crimes and attempted kidnapping in another trial. Friday’s sentence was unusual. Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley quickly asked for a minute’s silence, representing a fraction of the nearly five minutes Ahmed Arbery spent running and fearing for his life. So we wanted to play back some of what the judge said after that – because the tone, emotion and thoughtfulness of his message strike a chord with a lot of people.

Judge Timothy Walmsley: We are all accountable for our own actions. Sometimes in today’s day and age, that statement gets lost on many. And today the defendants are being held accountable for their actions, here in the High Court today showing that everyone is accountable to the rule of law. Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavor. I’m not sure how this unfolds and persists anyhow. I think in regards to ultimately killing the mod, Arbery holds it all to us all accountable. I read somewhere And I can’t remember where it was that, at the very least, Arbery’s death should have forced us to expand our definition to consider what a neighbor can be and how we deal with them. behave. I would argue that perhaps a neighbor is more than the people who own the property around your house. I also believe that in assuming the worst in others, we show our worst character, assuming the best in others is always the best course of action. And perhaps that is the bigger lesson from this case.

That’s all we have for you today this Monday – I’m Niyala Boodhu – Thanks for listening – stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.


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