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The online shopping exec Walmart hired to take on Amazon is leaving – CNN

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/15/business/marc-lore-walmart-jet/index.html

Signal outage is keeping messages from sending – The Verge

https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/15/22232993/signal-outage-new-users-messages-not-sending

23 die in Norway after receiving Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine: officials – New York Post

https://nypost.com/2021/01/15/23-die-in-norway-after-receiving-pfizer-covid-19-vaccine/

Bill Gates becomes top US farmland owner – Fox Business

https://www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle/bill-melinda-gates-top-us-farmland-owners-us

The Estate Tax May Change Under Biden, Affecting Far More People – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/your-money/estate-tax-biden.html

Indoor dining, bar service could resume sooner under Pritzker’s latest plan; phase 1b of vaccination to begin Jan. 25

Xi Jinping asks ex-Starbucks CEO for help with US-China relations

Sounds like Xi Jinping wants to have a Frappuccino with Howard Schultz.
The Chinese president wrote a letter to the former Starbucks CEO asking him to help strengthen the fraying relationship between the US and China.
In the Jan. 6 letter, Xi encouraged Schultz and the coffee company “to continue to play a positive role in advancing China-US economic and trade cooperation and bilateral ties,” China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.
Xinhua’s report didn’t say whether Xi has written to other American business leaders or what, exactly, he wants Schultz to do.
The letter came two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. His Democratic administration is expected to work more closely with Beijing on issues such as North Korea while largely maintaining President Trump’s aggressive trade policies.
Schultz led Starbucks’ expansion in China before he left his role as CEO in 2017 and stepped down as chairman the following year. The chain says it had more than 4,700 stores in China as of Sept. 27, up from 4,125 a year earlier.
Xi was replying to a letter Schultz sent congratulating the Chinese leader on “building a moderately prosperous society,” according to Xinhua.
Schultz — who considered running for president as an independent in 2019 but decided against it — did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
With Post wires

Coronavirus in Illinois updates: State confirms first case of more contagious COVID-19 variant as 6,642 new cases and 123 additional deaths reported Friday

The city and state announced the first case of SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, on Friday.

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Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that limited indoor restaurant and bar service will be able to resume sooner than previously allowed under his regional reopening plan, though no regions have qualified for indoor dining yet.

Under the new rules announced Friday, restaurants would be able to resume indoor service at 25% capacity or 25 people, whichever is less, once they meet the state bench marks for having restrictions further eased.

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The announcements came as Illinois health officials on Friday announced 6,642 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 123 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,059,324 and the statewide death toll to 18,049 since the start of the pandemic.

Here’s what’s happening Friday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

1:10 p.m.: Early COVID-19 vaccine data shows more people on city’s North Side, lakefront getting immunized than South, West sides

Chicago health officials recently released initial COVID-19 vaccine data, offering a glimpse at how many residents have received the first dose of the immunization, according to their home ZIP codes.

While the data is very preliminary — and likely shaped by the location of long-term care facilities and where hospital workers tend to live ― the numbers so far indicate more residents on the North Side and areas along the lakefront have received the shot compared to those in most South and West side neighborhoods.

—Angie Leventis Lourgos and Jonathon Berlin

12:45 p.m.: Indoor dining, bar service could resume sooner under Pritzker’s latest plan; Phase 1b of vaccination to begin Jan. 25

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that limited indoor restaurant and bar service will be able to resume sooner than previously allowed under his regional reopening plan, though no regions have qualified for indoor dining yet.

Under the new rules announced Friday, restaurants would be able to resume indoor service at 25% capacity or 25 people, whichever is less, once they meet the state bench marks for having restrictions further eased.

As of Friday, stricter rules that have been in effect statewide since Nov. 20 have been lifted in three regions. Those regions are the northwest corner of the state, the central Illinois regional that includes Peoria and Bloomington, and the state’s southernmost counties.

Those three regions will now have higher capacity limits for retail operations and indoor group fitness classes will be allowed. Gatherings of up to 10 people would now be permitted. Under the stricter rules, gatherings were limited to people within the same household.

The looser rules also allow museums, other cultural intuitions and casinos in those regions to reopen.

All other regions, including the entire Chicago region, remain under the stricter rules.

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Pritzker also announced the phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan will begin Jan. 25. That phase will make vaccines available to those 65 and older and workers in essential industries, including teachers, postal workers and grocery store employees.

12:15 p.m.: 6,642 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 123 additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Friday announced 6,642 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 123 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,059,324 and the statewide death toll to 18,049 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials also reported 107,156 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide rolling positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 6.5% for the period ending Thursday.

—Chicago Tribune staff

12:10 p.m.: Illinois confirms first case of more contagious COVID-19 variant, health officials say

Illinois has recorded its first case of a more contagious version of COVID-19, state and Chicago public health officials disclosed on Friday.

The city and state announced the first case of SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, on Friday.

Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine identified the strain while analyzing samples of positive COVID-19 tests, officials said.

The new strain was first identified in the United States in Colorado and has spread to about a dozen states. Though it is believed to spread more easily, officials said there isn’t evidence that it’s more severe or increases the risk of death.

Chicago public health officials said the person with the strain had traveled to the UK and the Middle East in the two weeks prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19.

10:51 a.m.: Illinois speaker’s chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 after lame-duck session, tells lawmakers and staff to self-quarantine

The chief of staff to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and new Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch told lawmakers Friday morning that she, along with two others, tested positive for the coronavirus while the General Assembly was in Springfield for its lame-duck session and inauguration.

House members and staff were told a day earlier to self-quarantine if they were at the Bank of Springfield Center on Thursday because someone who was at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus.

Those instructions were issued in a memo from Jessica Basham, the chief of staff to the new House speaker, Emanuel “Chris” Welch.”I have been tested daily, and yesterday I received notice that my rapid test was positive,” Basham wrote in an email Friday.

“I have been made aware of 2 other confirmed positives, and my PCR results came back, confirming my own positive.”

Basham wrote that she felt fine Thursday morning but began experiencing mild symptoms later in the day and is quarantining at home.

Both Welch and Madigan tested negative for the virus, a spokesman said. — Dan Petrella

7:05 a.m.: Preckwinkle to join Pritzker for COVID-19 update

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will join Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday for the governor’s occasional coronavirus update, according to their offices.

Preckwinkle and Pritzker were scheduled to give an update on COVID-19 in a downtown media briefing midday. When he’s ventured out of town to give briefings, Pritzker and state health officials often have been joined by local health authorities and elected officials, and Chicago-area officials have joined the state briefings from time to time to discuss coronavirus restrictions or aspects of the fight against the pandemic.

In a statement late Thursday, Pritzker endorsed President-elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, saying that he looks “forward to partnering with the Biden administration to accelerate vaccine efforts, protect the health of Illinoisans, provide meaningful economic support to our workers and small businesses and put COVID-19 behind us once and for all.”

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Officials did not disclose any particular topic for Friday’s briefing, but many briefings lately have centered on the progress of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

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Check back for updates. — Chicago Tribune staff

6:40 a.m.: Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect George McCaskey’s decision to keep Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy? Yes and no, the Chicago Bears chairman says.

In early September, when many across the NFL still wondered if the league would be able to pull off a 17-week season amid the second surge of COVID-19, Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey was asked how the pandemic might affect his evaluation of Ryan Pace in 2020.

The answer then was that how Pace responded to the challenges of running a football team under the unusual circumstances most certainly would play into how McCaskey viewed the Bears general manager.

So it was no surprise Wednesday when McCaskey said the Bears’ handling of COVID-19 precautions over the last 10 months was a notable factor in deciding to bring back Pace and coach Matt Nagy for another season in 2021.

From August on, the Bears had nine players test positive for COVID-19. Four were on the active roster at the time of their positive test and one was a starter — center/guard Cody Whitehair. Three more players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list because of close contacts.

The Bears announced only one coach, offensive line coach Juan Castillo, as having to miss a game because of being a close contact. Personnel within team buildings also were tested, but the results of those tests were not made public beyond general league numbers the NFL released each week.

Read the full story here. — Colleen Kane

6:35 a.m.: Pickleball has been a popular pandemic activity in Hinsdale. Perhaps too popular.

Hinsdale parks were busier than ever last year with the cancellation of so many other activities and events due to the pandemic, park officials said. And the pickleball courts, which opened in 2019, were also heavily used.

“Residents in the area will tell you the courts start(ing) at about 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., they are just continually being used,” said Heather Bereckis, Hinsdale’s superintendent of parks and recreation.

The village parks and recreation department did a survey asking people who play on the pickleball courts in Brook Park, at Columbia and Third Street, for feedback.

The department has scheduled time for open or round robin play, in which people who show up take turns playing games, often getting in line by placing their racquet in the chain link fence.

But players have said that no one adheres to the schedule. Read the full story here. — Kimberly Fornek, Pioneer Press

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Bumble, female-focused dating app, makes its IPO filing public

Bumble made its IPO filing public on Friday, adding fuel to rumors that it will make its stock market debut in time for Valentine’s Day.
The female-focused dating app — which grew in popularity in the Tinder era by only allowing women to make the first move in conversations on its platform — is expected to list on the Nasdaq under the BMBL ticker.
In its filing, Bumble said that it brought in $488.9 million in revenue in 2019, and $376.6 million in revenue between Jan 29 and Sept. 30 of last year.
The app currently draws 42 million users each month, with 2.4 million of them paying for its premium features.
Bloomberg reported last last year that the company will likely seek a valuation between $6 billion and $8 billion. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are working with Bumble on the IPO.
The IPO date hasn’t yet been finalized, but it will land around the lovers’ holiday, though it won’t be Feb. 14 as Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend this year.
Bumble was founded by 31-year-old Whitney Wolfe Herd, who famously left hookup app Tinder after accusing a male colleague of sex harassment and launched the new product in 2014 with features to give women more control over conversations with dating prospects and to keep them from being stalked and harassed.
Bumble is the latest tech company to seek to go public as Silicon Valley’s top firms look to ride the stunning recovery in the US capital markets from the coronavirus pandemic that forced a number of them to postpone their debuts.
Airbnb and DoorDash both went public late last year, with the former seeing its value double almost instantly while the latter has almost doubled its $102 listing price. 

Early COVID-19 vaccine data shows more people on city’s North Side, lakefront getting immunized than South, West sides. Experts say picture might change when shot is more widely available.

This disparity might shift as more health care workers outside of hospitals have access to the vaccine, Arwady said. For example, city data shows home-based health care workers were much more likely to live on the West and South sides, so the city has been trying to prioritize these outpatient workers, including organizing free rides to vaccination sites.

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