Welcome to the Reader‘s morning briefing for Tuesday, July 18, 2017.

  • R. Kelly is allegedly running an abusive “cult” and holding young women “prisoner”

R&B singer R. Kelly is allegedly holding several young women “prisoner” in rental homes in Chicago and Atlanta as part of an abusive “cult”, according to an explosive investigative report from Chicago-based reporter Jim DeRogatis and published by Buzzfeed. The families of two of the women, both aspiring singers, told DeRogatis and local police, who have performed welfare checks, about the disturbing situation. Three former R. Kelly insiders had similar stories: “They said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.” The women are allegedly cut off from the outside world and their concerned families. “I have not talked to my daughter in more than a year,” a mother of one of the women told Buzzfeed. “We’ve had deaths in the family, birthdays, and I haven’t heard from her and she hasn’t been here for any of it. I didn’t even hear from her on Mother’s Day. All I want to do is bring her home.” [Buzzfeed]

  • Chicago Water Department e-mails show attempts at firearms deals and jokes about the city’s gun violence

The latest batch of e-mails from the Chicago Water Department show “a supervisor in the scandal-plagued water department used his city email account to negotiate firearms deals and make light of deadly Fourth of July violence in black neighborhoods by offering ‘Chicago Safari’ tours,” according to the Tribune. A report from inspector general Joseph Ferguson revealed the new e-mails, including racist messages about the “Chicago Safari” package to see crime scenes, at least one murder and observe “lots of animals in their natural habitat” from former district water superintendent Paul Hansen. In the newly released e-mails Hansen also tried to negotiate deals to buy at least four guns. [Tribune]

  • Farmers: There are too many farmers’ markets in Chicago

Farmers from Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan are growing frustrated that the city keeps adding more farmers’ markets. Despite more markets popping up, the number of farmers isn’t growing. “They’re creating more markets, but they’re not creating more of us,” Crystal Nells from Indiana’s C&D Farms told DNAinfo Chicago. “Last time I checked, there’s only seven days a week. We can only be so many places at one time.” There are too many small markets in too many neighborhoods instead of larger markets, and it’s not necessarily worth it for farmers to sell at all of them. “It used to be there was the Tuesday market, and that’s all there was, and everybody came,” Nells said. “You’d go to a market and make a lot of money. Now you’ve got to be at a lot of markets to make the same amount.” [DNAinfo Chicago]

  • Report: The Illinois budget may actually add to the pension debt, Moody’s still considering downgrading Illinois bonds to junk

It took 736 days for the Illinois General Assembly to reach a budget deal,     and the deal it passed may actually add to the mounting $130 billion in pension debt, according to Bloomberg. The budget plan “allows the state to sink deeper into the hole by giving it five years to phase in hundreds of millions of dollars in increased contributions to four of its five retirement plans,” Bloomberg reported. “The phase-in of the actuarial assumption is another exercise in kicking the can down the road, but we’re not sure how far the can travels,” Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System spokesman Dave Urbanek told Bloomberg. “You pay less now, pay more later.” Moody’s Investors Service is still considering downgrading Illinois bonds to junk because of the “severely underfunded retirement system.” [Bloomberg]

  • Trump cuts program to help CPS students prevent teen pregnancy, STDs

President Donald Trump has cut an Obama-era program that helps prevent teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among Chicago Public Schools students. The CHAT Program helped lower the city’s teen birth rate to a historic low, according to the mayor’s office. “Though [the Chicago Department of Health] will continue to provide the same services, this move severely undermines our ability to ensure our programs are the most effective they can be and in turn could reverse the historic gains our young people have made,” Chicago Department of Health spokeswoman Anel Ruiz told DNAinfo Chicago. [DNAinfo Chicago]

  • Michael Jordan expands restaurant chain to Oak Brook

Michael Jordan may have lived in Highland Park when he played for the Bulls,     but he chose to locate his first suburban restaurant in Oak Brook. Michael Jordan’s Restaurant opened in the Oak Brook 22 office and retail center Monday. It’s a little different than his high-profile steak house on Michigan Avenue, serving more southern-inspired food than steaks. [Eater Chicago]