Jan 4, 2021

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 554 words, a 2-minute read.

🚨 Situational awareness:

  1. Indiana will be the exclusive home state for NCAA March Madness in 2021, with games centered around Indianapolis. [Indianapolis Star]
  2. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has emerged as the leading candidate to be President-elect Biden's commerce secretary, Hans Nichols scoops.
1 big thing: Teachers fear for lives as schools gear up

Chicago Teachers Union vice president Stacy Davis Gates speaks on Dec. 12. Photo: Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Efforts to reopen America's public schools are running up against teacher unions who say they're more scared of COVID-19 than losing their jobs.

  • “The fear of losing our jobs is real,” Chicago Public Schools teacher Lori Torres said at a news conference.
  • “But the fear of this virus is greater than that fear.”

The big picture: The powerful Chicago Teachers Union says some of its staff won't return for in-person class, and it's holding a teach-in today on the dangers of school reopening plans, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The union blasted the reopening framework as "arbitrary":

  • Today: Pre-K and special education teachers return.
  • Next Monday: Those students return.
  • Feb. 1: Kindergarten–8th graders return.

Between the lines: Public health officials — including in Chicago — say schools can safely reopen for in-person instruction.

  • They are pushing for reopening because of the toll that remote learning has taken on young students, particularly minority and poor children.

The bottom line: "PBS NewsHour" talked last month to 21 teachers across the country about the impulse to leave teaching amid all the risk and uncertainty.

  • An unnamed 38-year-old middle school teacher said: "I am scared. ... I’m afraid when I enter the doors of my school. NONE of the children wear masks and my colleagues are getting sick. I live in a very rural area with large community spread. ... Every day my frustration maxes out."
  • A teacher in Atlanta said: "I talk to teachers in a lot of different situations (public/private, rural/urban, currently remote/hybrid/in-person and both middle and high school) for my job, and I’m not sure I could name a teacher who ISN’T considering leaving teaching."
  • But Darren Masterson of Mayville, Michigan, said: "I am a proud educator. ... I trust the science to be scrutinized and recommendations to be changed over time. Yet I will not back away from serving my students and their families."
2. Pic du jour: Round 2
Photo: Shannon Stapleton-Pool/Getty Images

Nurse Sandra Lindsay, who was the first American to receive an approved COVID-19 vaccine, receives her second dose at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens.

3. Catch up quick
Julian Assange at the Old Bailey today in London. Court artist sketch: Elizabeth Cook/PA via AP
  1. The U.S. extradition request for Julian Assange was denied by a U.K. judge.
  2. The U.K. is getting a third wave of lockdowns. Go deeper.
  3. Dominion Voting Systems plans to sue attorney Sidney Powell "imminently" for defamation and is continuing to explore similar suits against President Trump and others, CEO John Poulos told the Axios Re:Cap podcast.
  4. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries are expected to sign an agreement toward ending a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf after 3½ years.
  5. More than 170 U.S. business leaders are urging Republicans to drop their plans to object to certifying the 2020 election results. Go deeper.
  6. Slack had an outage today, prompting a great N.Y. Times headline: "Is Slack Down? Yes" — followed by "Slack is Restored." [Subscription]
4. 1 spy thing: CIA seeks more diversity
Via CIA.gov

"New year, new look": The CIA has a new website that it hopes will draw a more diverse pool of job applicants.

  • The big picture: CIA director Gina Haspel is a woman, and women head all five of the agency’s branches, but intelligence agencies still lag the federal workforce in minority representation, AP reports.