Trending News for March 24:

Buttigieg to remake America’s crumbling infrastructure; EU tussle with the UK over AstraZeneca jabs escalates; Gen Z getting screwed by remote work; Waubonsie Valley wins Central Boys Swimming; Chicago’s ‘cultural historian emeritus’ career continues even in ‘retirement’.


Buttigieg looks to remake America’s crumbling infrastructure — and boost his own brand in the process

WASHINGTON — On March 4, little more than a year after presiding over his final meeting with the South Bend city council, 39-year-old U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sat in the Oval Office preparing for his next incarnation.

The precocious former mayor from Indiana had already run for president, impressing some and annoying others, and had been appointed to a Cabinet-level position by President Biden, his former rival. Now, he was on the verge of using his new position as a bully pulpit for massive social and economic transformation.

Within weeks, the Biden administration will introduce a massive infrastructure plan that, if realized, could be as transformative as the Works Progress Administration was during the Great Depression. But much like that famed antecedent, the infrastructure plan is sure to be criticized by Republicans as a ploy to usher in socialism.

Buttigieg will be the administration’s salesman, making the case to Republican governors and mayors that supporting the infrastructure plan will be in their best interests. He has also pledged to turn the Transportation Department into an unlikely crucible of progressive policy, vowing when he first came to Washington that the agency would “rise to the climate challenge.” He has also promised to apply an “equity lens” to infrastructure projects.

“Black and brown neighborhoods have been disproportionately divided by highway projects or left isolated by the lack of adequate transit and transportation resources,”
Buttigieg tweeted in December.
“In the Biden-Harris administration, we will make right these wrongs an imperative.”

EU tussle with the UK over AstraZeneca jabs escalates

“This is not about EU v. the UK. This is a problem with AstraZeneca,” claimed an EU diplomat this morning.

He and I were discussing the latest thorny chapter in EU efforts to secure the Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs written into the bloc’s contract with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company.

The debate is now focused on a production plant in the Netherlands, manufacturing AstraZeneca vaccines.

Boris Johnson is calling a number of EU leaders ahead of their meeting on Thursday, to try to ensure that AstraZeneca jabs – or components of jabs – produced in the Halix factory won’t be blocked by the EU and kept from the UK.

EU officials say there has been no formal request by the UK for export from Halix – yet.  But the already-existing cross-Channel strains surrounding the vaccine are infamous by now.

The EU insists AstraZeneca made different and contradictory promises to Brussels and to the UK in their respective contracts, signed last year.

They say the EU-AstraZeneca contract promised:

  • to ensure vaccine deliveries to the EU using production facilities in both the EU and the UK
  • an assurance from AstraZeneca that it had no other contracts which could get in the way of it fulfilling its commitments to the EU

“Yet at the same time, AstraZeneca appears to have promised the UK priority for the first X million doses – using production facilities in the EU, as well as the UK. This doesn’t add up. Though this isn’t the UK’s fault,” concluded the first EU diplomat I spoke to this morning.

“If you include the 20 million AZ doses promised to us already in December, that’s 120 million jabs we expected from AstraZeneca by the end of this month. If the EU sees 30 million of those, we’ll count ourselves lucky,” the diplomat snorted.

AstraZeneca denies that it is failing to honor its contract with the EU. It says the contract commits the company to make the “best reasonable efforts” – which, it says, it is doing, faced with production challenges.

Gen Z is getting screwed by remote work, Microsoft survey finds

Millions of people are embracing a new way to work. The coronavirus pandemic has compelled employers to largely accept remote-working arrangements to keep employees safe and flexible schedules to let workers take care of the family. But though large margins of people Microsoft surveyed in January about work habits said they hope the flexible office will remain when COVID-19 subsides, Generation Z workers are struggling.

A new study from Microsoft, released Monday, found that among the more than 31,000 workers it surveyed,
 73% hoped remote work options would continue when the pandemic ends. Even Gen Z applicants were slightly more likely to apply for a job with remote options than for one strictly in an office. But those workers are also facing particular drawbacks.

Gen Z workers, born roughly between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s, responded to Microsoft’s surveys generally by saying they’re more stressed and find they’re struggling more than their peers. They tend to be single, since they’re younger, leading them to feel isolated. And since they’re early in their careers, they don’t have the financial means to create a good workspace at home if their employer won’t pay for it. And they’re not having those in-person meetings that sometimes help them land in career-advancing projects, or even to get in good with the boss. 

“Without hallway conversations, chance encounters, and small talk over coffee, it’s hard to feel connected even to my immediate team, much less build meaningful connections across the company,” wrote Hannah McConnaughey, a product marketing manager at Microsoft who’s a Gen Z worker. “Networking as someone early in their career has gotten so much more daunting since the move to fully remote work — especially since switching to a totally different team during the pandemic!”

Gen Z is not alone in struggling, of course. Tech employees with children have faced resentment from colleagues as they struggle to balance work with overseeing kids who are learning at home. And though companies have attempted to offer more benefits for parents, including more paid time off, tech industry employees, in particular, tell surveyors they feel worked to the bone.

Employees also say they want flexibility rather than fully remote jobs. Of the workers Microsoft surveyed, 73% said they want remote work options to stay, with 46% saying they plan to move now that they can work remotely. Still, 67% said they want more in-person work or collaboration too. In short: We don’t seem to know what we want yet.

This is why Microsoft’s survey underscores the complex new world we’ll all face when social distancing guidelines ease and we enter the new normal. A century ago, the new world that arrived after World War I and the 1918 pandemic gave birth to the Roaring ’20s, highlighted by rising wealth and quality of life. The present-day new normal seems increasingly poised to raise the quality of life once again, by giving many workers more time away from the office and more flexibility to care for the family.

The great COVID pandemic work experiment has largely been a success. Big tech has gotten bigger, with some of the highest profits it’s ever seen. Productivity has risen among well-established companies too.




Waubonsie Valley vs  Naperville Central Boys Swimming

Waubonsie Valley Warriors wins the swimming meet against the Naperville Central swimming teams.

The warriors start off with winning the 200 medleys, finishing the relay with a time of 1:40, just a second ahead of Naperville Central. The 50 free ended in Central’s favor, but the race was neck and neck.  Waubonsie takes the 200 yards free and later the 500-yard freestyle later in the meet.

Though the meet was close, the Warriors combined 6 race wins and a relay win, giving Warriors the win over the Redhawks.



The storied career of Chicago’s ‘cultural historian emeritus’ continues even in ‘retirement’

Tim Samuelson is a self-proclaimed “history nerd” who turned a lonely and unpopular existence as a kid into a life-long career that continues to benefit Chicago.

Samuelson recently “retired” from the job after being Chicago’s first and only cultural historian. However, he still is cataloging artifacts and doing it for free.  Money was never the motivation for him as he has a love of history and Chicago architecture. His love of Chicago and its history started from when he was a child, making forbidden solo trips downtown on the CTA to look at a list of historic Chicago buildings and would go from building to building collecting sample doorknobs.

Even though Samuelson is retired, he still wants to tell the stories of the city and use history to help make the present better.