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Rex Tillerson backtracks on offer of unconditional North Korea talksAP photo U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono before a high level Security Council meeting Friday on the situation in North Korea, at United Nations headquarters.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:05:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s declaration before the U.N. Security Council marked a stunning reversal after he proposed discussions with Pyongyang without preconditions earlier this week. That overture was almost immediately rebutted by White House officials. Still, Tillerson had planned to reiterate his call at a special U.N. ministerial meeting on North Korea at the council Friday morning. His prepared remarks suggested only that North Korea would have to undertake a sustained halt in its threatening behavior before talks could begin. But Tillerson changed the script. “North Korea must earn its way back to the table,” Tillerson told the foreign ministers. “The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open.” The debate over offering North Korea unconditional talks reflects the differences within the Trump administration as it runs out of time to prevent North Korea from perfecting a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the U.S. mainland. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent such capability, with military action if necessary. So far, U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea and diplomatic isolation haven’t compelled Kim Jong Un’s government to stop its nuclear and missile tests, or to seek negotiations. Asked Friday if he supported unconditional talks, Trump did not answer directly. “Well, we’re going to see what happens with North Korea.  We have a lot of support. There are a lot of nations that agree with us – almost everybody,” Trump told reporters. He credited China – which accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade – with helping on pressuring North Korea, while Russia was not. “We’d like to have Russia’s help – very important,” said Trump. He raised it in a Thursday phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the issue of starting talks with North Korea, Tillerson’s tone was significantly different from three days earlier. On Tuesday, Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington that “we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions.” He had also called it “unrealistic” to expect North Korea to enter talks ready to relinquish a weapons of mass destruction program it invested so much in developing, although that remained the ultimate goal. The White House quickly distanced itself from Tillerson’s remarks. On Wednesday, a National Security Council spokesperson said North Korea must not only first refrain from provocations but take “sincere and meaningful actions toward denuclearization” for talks to happen. The spokesperson, who was not authorized to be quoted by name and requested anonymity, said that given North Korea’s most recent missile test, now was not the time for talks. Tillerson and Trump have appeared to clash before on North Korea, amid questions about the former ExxonMobil executive’s future as top diplomat. In October, Trump said Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with the North. Trump’s tweet followed Tillerson’s talk about Washington maintaining back-channel communications with Pyongyang. Asked Friday if he and Trump were on the same page, Tillerson denied they were at odds: “The president’s policy on North Korea is quite clear and there’s no daylight at all between the president’s policy and the pursuit of that policy.” He said U.S. communication channels with North Korea [...]


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With Rubio, Corker onboard, GOP finalizes huge tax packageAP photo House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas., speaks to reporters Friday on Capitol Hill in Washington, on the progress of an agreement on a sweeping overhaul of the nation's tax laws.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:01:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Republicans solidified support for their major overhaul of the nation’s tax laws Friday, securing endorsements from wavering senators as they pushed to muscle their bill through Congress next week and give President Donald Trump his first major legislative victory. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Bob Corker of Tennessee announced Friday that they would back the bill, the most sweeping rewrite of the tax code in more than three decades. Their support all but ensures the package will pass the Senate. A day earlier, a key faction of House Republicans came out in support of the bill, boosting its chances in that chamber. “I’m confident we’ll have the votes,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the Republican negotiators on the bill. Portman cast the bill as providing “the kind of middle-class tax relief that’s desperately needed right now. People are looking at flat wages and higher expenses, and this will help.” Democrats disagree, arguing that the legislation would help wealthy Americans and big business at the expense of the poor and middle class. Members of a House-Senate conference committee signed the final version of the legislation Friday, sending it to the two chambers for final passage next week. They have been working to blend different versions passed by the two houses. Corker had opposed the Senate’s original version of the bill out of concern it would add to the nation’s mounting $20 trillion in debt. In recent days, he had said those concerns had not been allayed. “I know every bill we consider is imperfect and the question becomes, is our country better off with or without this piece of legislation?” Corker said in a statement. “I think we are better off with it. I realize this is a bet on our country’s enterprising spirit, and that is a bet I am willing to make.” Rubio had been holding out for a bigger child tax credit for low-income families. After he got it, Rubio tweeted that the change is “a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker.” The tax package would double the basic per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. The bill makes a smaller amount available to families even if they owe no income tax. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said Friday that that amount had been increased from $1,100 to $1,400. Rubio had said he wanted the earlier $1,100 figure increased. Low-income taxpayers would receive the money in the form of a tax refund, which is why it’s called a “refundable” tax credit. Senate Republicans passed their original tax bill by a vote of 51-49 – with Rubio’s support. If they had lost Rubio and Corker, they would have been one more defection away from defeat. On Thursday, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus predicted the vast majority of their members would support the package, boosting the bill’s chances in the House. House and Senate Republican leaders on Wednesday forged an agreement in principle on the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax laws in more than 30 years. The package would give generous tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans – Trump among them – and more modest tax cuts to low- and middle-income families. “I’m confident that at the end of the day, the Senate will approve this conference committee report because no one should be defending the status quo in this horrible tax code Americans have had to live with for too long,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, a top House negotiator. The tax legislation would cut the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from[...]


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President Donald Trump assails FBI leadership, touts loyalty to policePresident Donald Trump speaks during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, in Quantico, Va. “The President of the United States has your back 100 percent,” Trump told graduates, saying law enforcement officers need to be supported. “I will fight for you and I will never, ever, let you down.” (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:01:00 GMT

QUANTICO, Va. – Taking aim at the credibility of the FBI, President Donald Trump unleashed a blistering attack on the bureau’s leadership even as he praised state and local police officers as a bulwark against rising violence and crime.

Trump denounced the bureau for its handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, calling it “really disgraceful” and continuing his questioning of his country’s intelligence and law enforcement institutions as no president before.

“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” the president said. “We’re going to rebuild the FBI, it’ll be bigger and better than ever, but it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it.”

President Donald Trump speaks during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, in Quantico, Va. “The President of the United States has your back 100 percent,” Trump told graduates, saying law enforcement officers need to be supported. “I will fight for you and I will never, ever, let you down.” (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


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4 Palestinians killed in latest Jerusalem fallout clashesIsraeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy during clashes at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank city of Hebron, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:01:00 GMT

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and dozens more wounded along with an Israeli officer in clashes across the West Bank and near Gaza’s border Friday as the fallout continued over President Donald Trump’s announcement last week recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Protests in response to Trump’s announcement, which departed from decades of U.S. policy that the fate of Jerusalem should be decided through negotiations, have yet to relent across various Arab and Muslim countries in the region.

Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy during clashes at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank city of Hebron, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)


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White House signals Western Wall has to be part of Israel

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:00:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Senior Trump administration officials outlined their view Friday that Jerusalem’s Western Wall ultimately will be declared a part of Israel, in another declaration sure to enflame passions among Palestinians and others in the Middle East. Although they said the ultimate borders of the holy city must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the officials – speaking ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the region – essentially ruled out any scenario that didn’t maintain Israeli control over the holiest ground in Judaism. The issue is sensitive because the wall is beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders and abuts some of the Islamic world’s most revered sites. “We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement,” a senior administration official said. Another official later added by email, “We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall.” The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the vice president’s upcoming trip. Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reacted indignantly to the comments. “We will not accept any changes on the borders of east Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967,” Abu Rdeneh told The Associated Press. “This statement proves once again that this American administration is outside the peace process. The continuation of this American policy, whether the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moving the American embassy, or such statements by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation. For us, this is unacceptable. We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.” Pence plans to visit the Western Wall next week. The administration officials said he would be accompanied by a rabbi to preserve the spiritual nature of his planned visit to the hallowed wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. The officials said Pence’s Wednesday visit would be conducted in a similar manner to when President Donald Trump visited in May. Jerusalem’s status has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump’s announcement last week declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital shook up decades of U.S. foreign policy and countered an international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Pence plans to depart for the Middle East on Tuesday after presiding over the Senate’s vote on a sweeping tax overhaul. The vice president will meet Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo and then travel to Israel. Pence’s two-plus days in Israel will include meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a speech at the Knesset and a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has sparked protests in the Middle East, and Abbas pulled out of a planned meeting with Pence. Abbas had originally been scheduled to host Pence, a devout Christian, in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem. A third senior administration official noted the reaction to the Jerusalem decision and “a lot of the emotions that have been displayed on that.” The official said Pence’s trip is viewed as part of “the ending of that chapter and the beginning of what I would[...]



72-year-old woman dies in Algonquin house fireSarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Huntley firefighters investigate a fatal fire at 1020 Grayhawk Drive in Algonquin Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.Huntley firefighters investigate a fatal fire Friday at 1020 Grayhawk Drive in Algonquin.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:58:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN – A 72-year-old woman is dead after a report of a fire and possible explosion Friday afternoon in Algonquin, Huntley Fire Protection District officials said.

Rosemary Schwieger was pronounced dead at 2:21 p.m. at the scene, 1020 Grayhawk Drive, Algonquin, according to a news release from the McHenry County Coroner’s Office. No foul play is suspected.

A second woman was taken to Centegra Hospital – Huntley for smoke inhalation, Battalion Chief Mike Pierce said.

The fire was called in about 1:30 p.m. by a family member.

Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke but no active fire, according to a news release from the district.

A third person was treated and released at the scene.

Zachary Carr, a neighbor, said he was home when the fire began.

“The daughter of the person who lived here came frantically ringing our doorbell and knocking on our door and said there had been an explosion and her mom was in the house,” Carr said.

After he ran into the house, Carr said he was unable to find the person.

The fire and smoke left moderate damage inside the house, Pierce said. No damage could be seen from the outside of the home.

Algonquin, Rutland-Dundee, Carpentersville, Woodstock and Fox River Grove fire units also responded.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office, detectives from the Huntley Fire Protection District, the Algonquin Police Department and the McHenry County Coroner’s Office.

An autopsy will be conducted Monday afternoon to determine Schwieger’s cause of death.

Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Huntley firefighters investigate a fatal fire at 1020 Grayhawk Drive in Algonquin Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.Huntley firefighters investigate a fatal fire Friday at 1020 Grayhawk Drive in Algonquin.


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Family asked court to presume missing Woodstock woman dead, documents showPeople gather for a candlelight vigil Sept. 23, 2010, on the Woodstock Square in honor of Benedetta "Beth" Bentley, a Woodstock woman who went missing in May 2010. The Illinois State Police and Woodstock Police Department are seeking additional information related to her disappearance.Brothers Cooper Bentley and Jeremy Velmont, both of Wooodstock release balloons during an event May 22, 2011, at Emricson Park in Woodstock in honor of their mother, Beth Bentley. Bentley last was seen May 23, 2010, when her friend, Jenn Wyatt-Paplham, said she dropped Bentley off at a train station in Centralia. Police have been unable to verify whether she ever boarded a train.Beth Bentley, a 41-year-old mother of three, has been missing since May 2010. The Illinois State Police and Woodstock Police Department are seeking additional information related to her disappearance.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:57:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – The husband of a Woodstock woman who has been missing since 2010 asked a judge to declare his wife dead months before police announced what could be a major development in her disappearance. However, police documents related to Benedetta “Beth” Bentley’s disappearance are so sensitive that investigators agreed to share them in the pending probate case only if they were shielded from the public. “Specifically, the records contain reports and related documents of an open and ongoing investigation into the disappearance of [Beth Bentley],” Assistant Attorney General Brian Jant wrote in a motion Nov. 28. “If [Illinois State Police] produce these records without a protective order in place, there is a risk that the material may travel into the public arena, thereby interfering with the open and ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by ISP. This could ultimately result in the investigation being compromised and any parties responsible for Ms. Bentley’s disappearance avoiding prosecution.” On Dec. 4, Illinois State Police discovered severely burned human remains and other evidence in rural Jefferson County and are trying to identify the victim, police said Thursday. In light of the discovery, investigators are asking the public for information about Beth Bentley’s disappearance. On Aug. 28, her husband, Scott Bentley, filed a request in McHenry County court to have his wife presumed dead and to give him control of her estate. At the time of her disappearance, Beth Bentley did not have any assets or a will. “... Despite all of the resources and investigations used to locate the whereabouts of Benedetta, the fact that she has not seen her family for over seven years and that she has not been seen or heard of since May 23, 2010, she is and should be presumed dead,” Scott Bentley’s petition said.  Beth Bentley, then 41, disappeared May 23, 2010, after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon with her friend, Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham. Wyatt-Paplham initially told police she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia. From there, Wyatt-Paplham told police that Beth Bentley was expected to take a train back to her Woodstock home, but she never returned, police said. Police and prosecutors have questioned Wyatt-Paplham’s account of Beth Bentley’s disappearance. Wyatt-Paplham was charged in March 2012 with obstructing justice related to Beth Bentley’s disappearance. A judge tossed out the charges later that year. “They told me not to say anything right now,” Wyatt-Paplham said when reached by phone Friday. Scott Bentley, who also is a local attorney, declined to comment on the investigation. “Due to the ongoing investigation by law enforcement, I am not at liberty to provide any such information or comment on the recent developments,” he said in an email Friday. “Doing so could compromise the investigation.” Scott Bentley’s attorney, Guy Youman, could not be reached by phone Friday afternoon for comment on how the recent discovery might affect the pending probate case. A person can be presumed dead when he or she has been gone from home for seven years without explanation, and when no one has heard from that person, despite extensive search efforts, according to state law. At the time Beth Bentley’s missing persons report was filed, Woodstock police, Illinois State Police of Elgin, Illinois State Police of Du Quoin, Mount Vernon police and Effingham police all helped in the search for the mother of three. Off[...]


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Algonquin Township legal bills top $312,000Algonquin Township attorney James Kelly speaks during a meeting Wednesday.Algonquin Township Clerk Karen Lukasik listens during an Algonquin Township meeting Wednesday.Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser speaks during an Algonquin Township meeting Wednesday.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:57:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Lawyers representing elected officials have billed Algonquin Township more than $312,000 in the past six months, and legal costs are expected to climb, with taxpayers footing the bills. That’s more than the $299,000 the township has in its general assistance fund to help low-income residents meet basic living requirements. “It’s just a crying shame,” said township Trustee Dan Shea, who sees no end in sight for ballooning legal fees. “In 30 years, I’ve never had anything that was of this level. My estimate is this is going to go over half a million dollars.” Fiscal 2018 for the township began April 1 and will end March 31. Township officials allotted $299,050 for the general assistance fund, a pot of money that includes line items to help low-income residents pay for utilities, prescription drugs, rent and other basic needs. Through nine months, the township has used $88,079 – or 29.5 percent of the fund. The mounting legal fees come from at least four law firms, according to records obtained by the Northwest Herald. Since June, Robert T. Hanlon & Associates has represented Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser and the highway department in a fight against International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Illinois Labor Relations Board. In total, Hanlon’s firm has charged the highway department $202,427, according to billing records. It has billed the department for 571 hours of work. Records show that labor attorney Michael Ernest Avakian has helped Hanlon in his work for Algonquin Township. The Washington, D.C.-based attorney spent hours researching, editing and finalizing responses regarding the union, according to billing records. He spent hours researching the distinction between the highway department and the township’s road district. Gasser’s legal team has claimed that the union failed to serve the proper entity. James Kelly, the township’s hired attorney, is a lawyer with the Matuszewich & Kelly law firm. Kelly represents Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow, a first-term elected official entrenched in a conflict with Clerk Karen Lukasik. Since June, Kelly’s firm has billed Algonquin Township $22,917 for 132 hours of work. July was Kelly’s busiest month: He spent 60 hours working on Lutzow’s case, charging a total of $10,428. Dave McArdle and his firm – Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle – represent Lukasik. For their services since June, the firm billed the township a total of $69,472 for 276 hours of work. Thomas Gooch, the lawyer representing former highway commissioner Bob Miller in his battle against Gasser, billed the township $15,482. Because Gooch represents a former township employee, the township’s insurance covers his fees, Shea said. Joseph Gottemoller, an attorney with Madsen Sugden & Gottemoller, charged the township $1,875 after he stepped in as a receiver in the clerk’s battle with the highway commissioner. The cadre of lawyers has inflated the township’s total legal bills to more than $312,000, billing documents show. That works out to about $3.50 for each of the township’s 88,389 residents. At about $47 a ton, the same money could have bought about 6,640 tons of road salt – enough for all of the township’s roads for more than three years, based on average use of about 2,000 tons a year. Other lawyers tied to Algonquin Township see legal fees only growing in the next six months. “I’ve got news for [...]


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Disney-Fox deal could create a new nerdy nirvanaAP file photo This image provided by Disney shows Chadwick Boseman (from left) as Panther, Paul Bettany as Vision, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff and Don Cheadle as War Machine in a scene from "Marvel's Captain America: Civil War."

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:56:00 GMT

MENLO PARK, California – The coming union of the Disney and Fox media empires is set to create a new nirvana for fanboys and -girls, one that reunites superheroes and sci-fi characters long separated by an energy barrier of corporate legalism. Take, for instance, the fractured world of Marvel superheroes. For years, the X-Men (Wolverine, Storm, Professor X and the crew) and the Fantastic Four (Thing, Invisible Woman, et al) have battled bad dudes from the studios of 20th Century Fox. Meanwhile Iron Man, Black Widow and other Avengers vanquished villains in another corner of the galaxy run by Disney. Almost ne’er the twain did meet – although that could soon change. In a related fashion, rights to the various “Star Wars” films have been scattered all over a galaxy far, far away; those will soon be unified under a powerful Galactic Emp-- er, well, Magic Kingdom. The mouse that ate the fox Disney’s announcement Thursday that it’s buying most of movie goliath Fox for $52.4 billion in stock brings these once disparate franchises together, possibly for as-yet unplanned intergalactic dust-ups. Add the “Avatar” franchise to the blockbuster mix, and the company that launched Mickey Mouse will be an unavoidable presence at the box office and online if the deal goes through. The combined company will account for more than a third of theatrical revenues in the U.S. and Canada, an $11 billion business last year, not to mention a huge chunk of the global theater-going pie, said Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer at market research firm GBH Insights. That would make the Disney juggernaut a more powerful theatrical force to be reckoned with than ever before. Online, Disney has announced plans to launch its own streaming service in 2019, after pulling titles like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and Disney’s “Moana” from Netflix’s streaming platform to move onto its own. After Fox’s deal to send its movies to HBO ends reportedly in 2022, its films will also move to the Disney streaming platforms. “Creating a direct-to-consumer relationship is vital to the future of our media businesses and it’s our highest priority,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors in a Thursday conference call detailing the Fox deal. One big happy death star Those old enough to remember the blaring 20th Century Fox opening to the original “Star Wars” (Episode IV) may no longer have to search far, far, away to find the other titles. The original was made and distributed by Fox, but it was a quirk of the series. Episodes V, VI, I, II, and III were owned by Lucasfilm (bought by Disney in 2012) and distributed by Fox. You can only stream those first six movies endlessly if you buy them and register them through the not-terribly-popular UltraViolet system backed by several studios. (You can also rent them digitally.) “The Force Awakens” – Episode VII – is available to streaming subscribers, though only if you have Starz. The Force may finally put these titles in one place. Buying Fox also will give Disney a majority stake in streaming platform Hulu. The addition of Fox’s regional sports TV networks and National Geographic video programming in the deal could let the new service bundle hugely popular movie and TV franchises, local sports broadcast rights, and distribution platforms into one live online video empire. That would recreate online what the U.S. Supreme Court broke apart in the 1940s. That’s when the court forced Hollywood studios to divest ownership [...]


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Woodstock firefighters, sheriff's deputies respond to 2-vehicle crash in UnionA firefighter investigates the scene of a two-vehicle crash Thursday along Franklinville Road in Union.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:55:00 GMT

UNION – No one was injured after a two-vehicle collision Thursday afternoon in Union.

Woodstock firefighters responded about 1:20 p.m. Thursday to the 4600 block of Franklinville Road for a reported crash, Woodstock Fire Capt. Brendan Parker said.

One of the vehicles was moderately damaged, and no one was injured in the collision. One vehicle had two occupants, and the other had one, Parker said.

McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies also were at the scene, but they were not available Friday to provide information about those involved or whether any citations have been issued.

A firefighter investigates the scene of a two-vehicle crash Thursday along Franklinville Road in Union.


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Family asked court to presume missing Woodstock woman dead, documents showOn Dec. 4, Illinois State Police discovered severely burned human remains and other evidence in rural Jefferson County and are trying to identify the victim, police said Thursday. In light of the discovery, investigators are asking the public for information about Beth Bentley's disappearance. On Aug. 28, her husband, Scott Bentley, filed a request in McHenry County court to have his wife presumed dead and to give him control of her estate. At the time of her disappearance, Beth Bentley did not have any assets or a will. "... Despite all of the resources and investigations used to locate the whereabouts of Benedetta, the fact that she has not seen her family for over seven years and that she has not been seen or heard of since May 23, 2010, she is and should be presumed dead,” Scott Bentley's petition said.Beth Bentley, then 41, disappeared May 23, 2010, after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon with her friend, Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham. Wyatt-Paplham initially told police she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia. From there, Wyatt-Paplham told police that Beth Bentley was expected to take a train back to her Woodstock home, but she never returned, police said. Police and prosecutors have questioned Wyatt-Paplham’s account of Beth Bentley’s disappearance. Wyatt-Paplham was charged in March 2012 with obstructing justice related to Beth Bentley's disappearance. A judge tossed out the charges later that year. “They told me not to say anything right now," Wyatt-Paplham said when reached by phone Friday.Scott Bentley, who also is a local attorney, declined to comment on the investigation. "Due to the ongoing investigation by law enforcement, I am not at liberty to provide any such information or comment on the recent developments," he said in an email Friday. "Doing so could compromise the investigation." Scott Bentley's attorney, Guy Youman, could not be reached by phone Friday afternoon for comment on how the recent discovery might affect the pending probate case. A person can be presumed dead when he or she has been gone from home for seven years without explanation, and when no one has heard from that person, despite extensive search efforts, according to state law.At the time Beth Bentley's missing persons report was filed, Woodstock police, Illinois State Police of Elgin, Illinois State Police of Du Quoin, Mount Vernon police and Effingham police all helped in the search for the mother of three. Officers and police dogs searched the house where she last was said to have been staying, and flyers seeking information about her whereabouts were distributed throughout McHenry County, Chicago, Las Vegas, Arizona and California, according to probate court records.In the probate petition, Youman said that Beth Bentley was a happy person with no foreseeable “reason to disappear.” She had a strong marriage with her husband, Youman wrote. In the time that she has been missing, Beth Bentley has missed her father’s funeral, the birth of her brother’s children and the birth of her first grandson, Youman wrote. She had no money worries and was supported financially by her husband, the petition stated.Other agencies, including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Police, declined to comment. The Jefferson County State's Attorney's Office said Friday that it has no additional information to release. Evidence and information exchanged between attorneys in the probate case has been sealed and is not accessible to the public, according to a judge's order. State police agreed to share correspondence, notes, interviews, recordings, photographs and other materials with the judge and attorneys involved in the probate case under conditions of an agreement that would shield the documents from public view. McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel is expected to preside over a hearing on the probate petition Thursday. Although police are hoping anyone with information about Beth Bentley's disappearance will come forward, there is no active reward for information in the case, Woodstock Deputy Police Chief Arthur Lanz said. Anyone with information is encouraged to call state police at 618-542-2171 or Woodstock police at 815-338-2131.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:54:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – The husband of a Woodstock woman who has been missing since 2010 asked a judge to declare his wife dead months before police announced what could be a major development in her disappearance. However, police documents related to Benedetta "Beth" Bentley's disappearance are so sensitive that investigators agreed to share them in the pending probate case only if they were shielded from the public. "Specifically, the records contain reports and related documents of an open and ongoing investigation into the disappearance of [Beth Bentley]," Assistant Attorney General Brian Jant wrote in a motion Nov. 28. "If [Illinois State Police] produce these records without a protective order in place, there is a risk that the material may travel into the public arena, thereby interfering with the open and ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by ISP. This could ultimately result in the investigation being compromised and any parties responsible for Ms. Bentley’s disappearance avoiding prosecution." On Dec. 4, Illinois State Police discovered severely burned human remains and other evidence in rural Jefferson County and are trying to identify the victim, police said Thursday. In light of the discovery, investigators are asking the public for information about Beth Bentley's disappearance. On Aug. 28, her husband, Scott Bentley, filed a request in McHenry County court to have his wife presumed dead and to give him control of her estate. At the time of her disappearance, Beth Bentley did not have any assets or a will. "... Despite all of the resources and investigations used to locate the whereabouts of Benedetta, the fact that she has not seen her family for over seven years and that she has not been seen or heard of since May 23, 2010, she is and should be presumed dead,” Scott Bentley's petition said.Beth Bentley, then 41, disappeared May 23, 2010, after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon with her friend, Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham. Wyatt-Paplham initially told police she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia. From there, Wyatt-Paplham told police that Beth Bentley was expected to take a train back to her Woodstock home, but she never returned, police said. Police and prosecutors have questioned Wyatt-Paplham’s account of Beth Bentley’s disappearance. Wyatt-Paplham was charged in March 2012 with obstructing justice related to Beth Bentley's disappearance. A judge tossed out the charges later that year. “They told me not to say anything right now," Wyatt-Paplham said when reached by phone Friday.Scott Bentley, who also is a local attorney, declined to comment on the investigation. "Due to the ongoing investigation by law enforcement, I am not at liberty to provide any such information or comment on the recent developments," he said in an email Friday. "Doing so could compromise the investigation." Scott Bentley's attorney, Guy Youman, could not be reached by phone Friday afternoon for comment on how the recent discovery might affect the pending probate case. A person can be presumed dead when he or she has been gone from home for seven years without explanation, and when no one has heard from that person, despite extensive search efforts, according to state law.At the time Beth Bentley's missing persons report was filed, Woodstock police, Illinois State Police of Elgin, Illinois State Police of Du Quoin, Mount Vernon police and Effingham police all helped in the search for the mother of three. Officers and police dogs searched the house where she last was said to have been staying, and flyers seeking information about her whereabouts were distributed throughout McHenry County, Chicago, Las Vegas, Arizona and California, according to probate[...]


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Algonquin Township legal bills top $312,000Fiscal 2018 for the township began April 1 and will end March 31. Township officials allotted $299,050 for the general assistance fund, a pot of money that includes line items to help low-income residents pay for utilities, prescription drugs, rent and other basic needs. Through nine months, the township has used $88,079 – or 29.5 percent of the fund. The mounting legal fees come from at least four law firms, according to records obtained by the Northwest Herald. Since June, Robert T. Hanlon & Associates has represented Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser and the highway department in a fight against International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Illinois Labor Relations Board. In total, Hanlon's firm has charged the highway department $202,427, according to billing records. It has billed the department for 571 hours of work. Records show that labor attorney Michael Ernest Avakian has helped Hanlon in his work for Algonquin Township. The Washington, D.C.-based attorney spent hours researching, editing and finalizing responses regarding the union, according to billing records. He spent hours researching the distinction between the highway department and the township's road district. Gasser's legal team has claimed that the union failed to serve the proper entity.James Kelly, the township's hired attorney, is a lawyer with the Matuszewich & Kelly law firm. Kelly represents Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow, a first-term elected official entrenched in a conflict with Clerk Karen Lukasik. Since June, Kelly's firm has billed Algonquin Township $22,917 for 132 hours of work. July was Kelly's busiest month: He spent 60 hours working on Lutzow's case, charging a total of $10,428.Dave McArdle and his firm – Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle – represent Lukasik. For their services since June, the firm billed the township a total of $69,472 for 276 hours of work. Thomas Gooch, the lawyer representing former highway commissioner Bob Miller in his battle against Gasser, billed the township $15,482. Because Gooch represents a former township employee, the township's insurance covers his fees, Shea said. Joseph Gottemoller, an attorney with Madsen Sugden & Gottemoller, charged the township $1,875 after he stepped in as a receiver in the clerk's battle with the highway commissioner. The cadre of lawyers has inflated the township's total legal bills to more than $312,000, billing documents show. That works out to about $3.50 for each of the township's 88,389 residents. At about $47 a ton, the same money could have bought about 6,640 tons of road salt – enough for all of the township's roads for more than three years, based on average use of about 2,000 tons a year.Other lawyers tied to Algonquin Township see legal fees only growing in the next six months. "I've got news for you," said Steven Brody, an attorney representing Anna May Miller, Bob Miller's wife and his former secretary. "Half a million would be light." The mounting legal fees have forced township officials to move around money to cover bills. In November, Algonquin Township trustees approved a transfer of $194,870 from the road district’s $3 million coffer into a fund to cover Gasser's legal bills. The move unsettled some township officials and several residents upset about how the most populous municipality in McHenry County has been spending tax dollars. It wasn't the first time trustees had to juggle money to pay for legal bills. In August, the trustees approved the transfer of $70,000 into Gasser’s fund for legal counsel. Trustees also transferred $35,000 from the town fund to cover Lukasik's line item for legal services. Section 3 of the Illinois Municipal Budget Law authorizes transfers between the various items within any fund as long as the transfer does not exceed 10 percent of the total amount appropriated for the fund. The township’s road and bridge budget at the start of the fiscal year was $2.3 million, according to records. The amended budget allots $290,370 for legal counsel. Gasser has spent $242,414, according to December financial records.Trustee Melissa Victor pegs all of the legal trouble on Gasser's election. "It makes me sick to know this money is being spent," Victor said. "And he keeps talking about how he has cut the levy." The Algonquin Township road district this year slashed its property tax levy by 5 percent – a cut that amounts to $196,391. "It makes me really, really sad for the taxpayers," Victor said. "I really truly feel Mr. Gasser is trying to bankrupt the township." Gasser could not be reached for comment.Trustee Dave Chapman said he feels horrible about legal fees he chalks up to "shenanigans." "We had this new regime come in, and from from Day 1 it's been spend, spend, spend, spend, spend," Chapman said. "It really is time to cut it and find other ways of making things happen for the residents." Lutzow said an end to the lawsuits can't come soon enough. "We need to get these lawsuits settled so we can move forward," he said.Trustee Rachael Lawrence said some of the legal fights are frivolous, particularly bills charged by Kelly for helping the township clerk fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests. However, Lawrence said the legal bills tied to Gasser's lawsuit are worth the cost. The highway commissioner's lawsuit is helping uncover questionable spending by his predecessor, she said. Bob Miller, who served as highway commissioner for 24 years, now is the subject of a grand jury investigation into official misconduct related to road district spending over the past decade. He has not been charged with a crime. “I do believe that we owe it to our taxpayers to fully uncover how deep the alleged malfeasance goes,” Lawrence said.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:54:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Lawyers representing elected officials have billed Algonquin Township more than $312,000 in the past six months, and legal costs are expected to climb, with taxpayers footing the bills. That's more than the $299,000 the township has in its general assistance fund to help low-income residents meet basic living requirements. "It's just a crying shame," said township Trustee Dan Shea, who sees no end in sight for ballooning legal fees. "In 30 years, I’ve never had anything that was of this level. My estimate is this is going to go over half a million dollars." Fiscal 2018 for the township began April 1 and will end March 31. Township officials allotted $299,050 for the general assistance fund, a pot of money that includes line items to help low-income residents pay for utilities, prescription drugs, rent and other basic needs. Through nine months, the township has used $88,079 – or 29.5 percent of the fund. The mounting legal fees come from at least four law firms, according to records obtained by the Northwest Herald. Since June, Robert T. Hanlon & Associates has represented Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser and the highway department in a fight against International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Illinois Labor Relations Board. In total, Hanlon's firm has charged the highway department $202,427, according to billing records. It has billed the department for 571 hours of work. Records show that labor attorney Michael Ernest Avakian has helped Hanlon in his work for Algonquin Township. The Washington, D.C.-based attorney spent hours researching, editing and finalizing responses regarding the union, according to billing records. He spent hours researching the distinction between the highway department and the township's road district. Gasser's legal team has claimed that the union failed to serve the proper entity.James Kelly, the township's hired attorney, is a lawyer with the Matuszewich & Kelly law firm. Kelly represents Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow, a first-term elected official entrenched in a conflict with Clerk Karen Lukasik. Since June, Kelly's firm has billed Algonquin Township $22,917 for 132 hours of work. July was Kelly's busiest month: He spent 60 hours working on Lutzow's case, charging a total of $10,428.Dave McArdle and his firm – Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle – represent Lukasik. For their services since June, the firm billed the township a total of $69,472 for 276 hours of work. Thomas Gooch, the lawyer representing former highway commissioner Bob Miller in his battle against Gasser, billed the township $15,482. Because Gooch represents a former township employee, the township's insurance covers his fees, Shea said. Joseph Gottemoller, an attorney with Madsen Sugden & Gottemoller, charged the township $1,875 after he stepped in as a receiver in the clerk's battle with the highway commissioner. The cadre of lawyers has inflated the township's total legal bills to more than $312,000, billing documents show. That works out to about $3.50 for each of the township's 88,389 residents. At about $47 a ton, the same money could have bought about 6,640 tons of road salt – enough for all of the township's roads for more than three years, based on average use of about 2,000 tons a year.Other lawyers tied to Algonquin Township see legal fees only growing in the next six months. "I've got news for you," said Steven Brody, an attorney representing Anna May Miller, Bob Miller's wife and his former secretary. "Half a million would be light." The mounting legal fees have forced township officials to move around money to cover bills. In November, Algonquin Township trust[...]


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72-year-old woman dies in Algonquin house fireRosemary Schwieger was pronounced dead at 2:21 p.m. at the scene, 1020 Grayhawk Drive, Algonquin, according to a news release from the McHenry County Coroner's Office. No foul play is suspected. A second woman was taken to Centegra Hospital – Huntley for smoke inhalation, Battalion Chief Mike Pierce said. The fire was called in about 1:30 p.m. by a family member. Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke but no active fire, according to a news release from the district. A third person was treated and released at the scene. Zachary Carr, a neighbor, said he was home when the fire began."The daughter of the person who lived here came frantically ringing our doorbell and knocking on our door and said there had been an explosion and her mom was in the house," Carr said. After he ran into the house, Carr said he was unable to find the person.The fire and smoke left moderate damage inside the house, Pierce said. No damage could be seen from the outside of the home. Algonquin, Rutland-Dundee, Carpentersville, Woodstock and Fox River Grove fire units also responded.The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office, detectives from the Huntley Fire Protection District, the Algonquin Police Department and the McHenry County Coroner's Office. An autopsy will be conducted Monday afternoon to determine Schwieger's cause of death.

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:41:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN – A 72-year-old woman is dead after a report of a fire and possible explosion Friday afternoon in Algonquin, Huntley Fire Protection District officials said.

Rosemary Schwieger was pronounced dead at 2:21 p.m. at the scene, 1020 Grayhawk Drive, Algonquin, according to a news release from the McHenry County Coroner's Office. No foul play is suspected. A second woman was taken to Centegra Hospital – Huntley for smoke inhalation, Battalion Chief Mike Pierce said. The fire was called in about 1:30 p.m. by a family member. Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke but no active fire, according to a news release from the district. A third person was treated and released at the scene. Zachary Carr, a neighbor, said he was home when the fire began."The daughter of the person who lived here came frantically ringing our doorbell and knocking on our door and said there had been an explosion and her mom was in the house," Carr said. After he ran into the house, Carr said he was unable to find the person.The fire and smoke left moderate damage inside the house, Pierce said. No damage could be seen from the outside of the home. Algonquin, Rutland-Dundee, Carpentersville, Woodstock and Fox River Grove fire units also responded.The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office, detectives from the Huntley Fire Protection District, the Algonquin Police Department and the McHenry County Coroner's Office. An autopsy will be conducted Monday afternoon to determine Schwieger's cause of death.


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Poll: Most believe Trump trying to obstruct Russia probeIn this Dec. 13, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington. Most Americans think Trump did something either Illegal or unethical regarding his presidential campaign's ties to Russia_ and they think he’s trying to obstruct the investigation looking into those connections. A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals a deeply divided country more concerned about health care and the economy than any collusion with the Kremlin (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 15:07:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Most Americans think Donald Trump did something illegal or at least unethical regarding ties between his presidential campaign and Russia — and they think he's trying to obstruct the investigation looking into those possible connections. The deeply divided country is more concerned about health care and the economy than any collusion with the Kremlin, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But the survey also shows that Americans are unhappy with the way Trump is dealing with the investigations led by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller. Most people believe Trump is trying to obstruct the investigations, which have resulted in charges against four of his campaign advisers and increasingly appear focused on the president's inner circle. Four in 10 Americans think the president has done something illegal when it comes to Russia, while an additional 3 in 10 say he's at least done something unethical. And 68 percent disapprove of his response to the investigations. There are significant partisan divisions, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to be concerned about Trump's actions or to feel invested in what the probes uncover. Debra Nanez in Arizona said that she believes Trump broke the law and has been lying to the American people. "If you go back and do a rewind, you say, 'Yep, he's guilty.' He's lied so badly to us from the beginning until now. He was involved in it. He knew what was going on," said Nanez, 65, who doesn't affiliate with a political party. But Mary Ruth Stephenson, 83, of Kentucky says she's not yet sure whether Trump has broken the law. "Unethical, yes. I mean the whole picture of that man is unethical. Illegal? I'll just have to hold that in abeyance until I find out more about what went down," said Stephenson, a registered Republican who says she's unhappy with the current GOP. Overall, 62 percent of Democrats say they think Trump has done something illegal, while just 5 percent of Republicans think the same. Among Republicans, 33 percent think he's done something unethical, while 60 percent think he's done nothing wrong at all. Both Nanez and Stephenson, like 63 percent of Americans, say Trump has tried to impede or obstruct the investigations into whether his campaign had Russian ties. According to the survey, 86 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents and 24 percent of Republicans agree. Still, just short of half of Americans — 47 percent — say they're extremely or very concerned about whether Trump or others involved with his campaign had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government. Those results fall along party lines, too, and are largely unchanged since March. "I feel like there are so many more important issues that we could be focusing on other than something that's basically water under the bridge," said Martina Childers, a 53-year-old Republican who lives in Colorado. She said the economy, taxes, the military and small business concerns are more pressing issues. The Russia investigations? "I don't think that's so important. I just don't," she said. Childers' views reflect the feelings of a majority of Americans. Just 4 in 10 call the Russia investigation very or extremely important to them. By contrast, immigration, taxes and health care are all considered much more im[...]


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Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blazeFILE - In this April 10, 2015 file photo, Monte Rio volunteer firefighter Gabriela Gibson sprays down hot spots on a half-acre fire in timber above Monte Rio, Calif., after a controlled burn crossed containment lines and wind blew embers in to the timber. California’s seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more “controlled burns” that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (Kent Porter/Santa Rosa Press Democrat via AP, File)This Oct. 30, 2017 photo shows a notice warning visitors of controlled-fire operations in Kings Canyon National Park, Calif. California’s seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more “controlled burns” that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (AP Photo/Brian Melley)Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Arson Counter-Terrorism investigators check a burned out homeless camp after a brush fire erupted in the hills in Elysian Park in Los Angeles Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2008 file photo, a firefighter uses a drip torch during a prescribed burn of about 27 acres near Inskip, Calif. California’s seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more “controlled burns” that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (Bill Husa/Chico Enterprise-Record via AP, File)In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, firefighters keep an eye on flames as pockets of unburned vegetation flare up off Bella Vista Dr. in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. After announcing increased containment on the Thomas fire, one of the biggest wildfires in California history, officials Wednesday warned that communities remain at risk and the threat could increase as unpredictable winds whip up again. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)Los Angeles skyline is seen through burned trees after a brush fire erupted in the hills in Elysian Park in Los Angeles Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)In this photo released by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a dozer from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department clears a fire break across a canyon from atop Camino Cielo down to Gibraltar to make a stand should the fire move in that direction, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in the Santa Ynez Mountains area of Santa Barbara, Calif. State fire officials predicted Wednesday night that the Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles will continue to grow as it eats up parched brush and hot, dry weather continues. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)FILE - In this March 10, 2015 file photo, a controlled burn clears about 30 acres along the eastern edge of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in Shasta County, Calif. California’s seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more “controlled burns” that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (Andreas Fuhrmann/The Record Searchlight via AP, File)Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Arson Counter-Terrorism investigator Angel Alvarez checks a burned out homeless camp after a brush fire erupted in hills in Elysian Park in Los Angeles Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 14:45:00 GMT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — One of the thousands of firefighters battling a series of wildfires across Southern California has died, but authorities gave no hint of how. San Diego-based Cory Iverson was assigned to the blaze northwest of Los Angeles, which has become the fourth largest in California history. Iverson, 32, was an engineer with a state fire engine strike team. He died Thursday. Dozens of police and fire vehicles escorted a hearse carrying Iverson's flag-draped body to the county medical examiner's office in Ventura. Iverson had been with the state since 2009 and is survived by his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter, said Fire Chief Ken Pimlott of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was the second death linked to the fire. A 70-year-old woman was killed in a car crash while evacuating as the fire raged last week. Her body was found inside the wrecked car along an evacuation route. Pimlott did not provide any details about Iverson's death but said it was under investigation by an accident review team. A return of gusty Santa Ana winds brought renewed activity to inland portions of the so-called Thomas Fire straddling coastal Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Pimlott said he was "deeply saddened" by Iverson's death but added that fire crews were continuing to focus on their mission. "The firefight in front of us continues to go on. The communities we are protecting are depending on us and we will not fail," he said at an afternoon news conference. Authorities said it now covered 379 square miles (982 square kilometers). That surpassed a blaze that burned inland Santa Barbara County a decade ago. Firefighting costs so far were tallied at $74.7 million, according to Cal Fire. Some evacuations were lifted and the risk to the agricultural city of Fillmore was diminishing. But coastal enclaves to the west remained under threat as crews protected hillside homes in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds. Firefighters made some progress Wednesday on corralling the fire, which continued to spread mostly into national forest land. Since the blaze broke out on Dec. 4, it has burned destroyed 970 buildings — including at least 700 homes. Flames threatened some 18,000 buildings and prompted evacuations of about 100,000 people. Covering more ground than the city of San Diego, it was 35 percent contained. FILE - In this April 10, 2015 file photo, Monte Rio volunteer firefighter Gabriela Gibson sprays down hot spots on a half-acre fire in timber above Monte Rio, Calif., after a controlled burn crossed containment lines and wind blew embers in to the timber. California‚Äôs seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more ‚Äúcontrolled burns‚Äù that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (Kent Porter/Santa Rosa Press Democrat via AP, File)[...]This Oct. 30, [...]


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FBI officials believe Cary, Huntley bank robberies linkedFBI officials said the agency believes the same unknown individual robbed a Chase bank in Cary and a TCF Bank at a Huntley grocery store.A hooded, masked man walked into the Chase bank, 300 Route 14, Cary, on Dec. 1, approached the teller counter and presented a note demanding money.A little more than one week later, an individual wearing a wig and sunglasses robbed a TCF Bank branch inside Jewel-Osco, 13200 Village Green Drive, Huntley.On Wednesday night, a person who the FBI believes is the same individual who perpetrated the previous two crimes robbed another TCF Bank branch at Jewel-Osco in Arlington Heights, 1860 S. Arlington Heights Road. FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon said the person's appearance is what leads investigators to believe it is the same man, who is considered armed and dangerous. Croon said he did not know whether there are any leads on the man's whereabouts. He is described as 5 feet, 8 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches tall with a small build and light complexion. The man wore a black wig with long hair. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading directly to his arrest. Anyone with information should contact the FBI's Chicago Field Office at 312-421-6700. Tips also can be submitted at tips.fbi.gov.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:44:00 GMT

FBI officials said the agency believes the same unknown individual robbed a Chase bank in Cary and a TCF Bank at a Huntley grocery store.A hooded, masked man walked into the Chase bank, 300 Route 14, Cary, on Dec. 1, approached the teller counter and presented a note demanding money.A little more than one week later, an individual wearing a wig and sunglasses robbed a TCF Bank branch inside Jewel-Osco, 13200 Village Green Drive, Huntley.On Wednesday night, a person who the FBI believes is the same individual who perpetrated the previous two crimes robbed another TCF Bank branch at Jewel-Osco in Arlington Heights, 1860 S. Arlington Heights Road. FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon said the person's appearance is what leads investigators to believe it is the same man, who is considered armed and dangerous. Croon said he did not know whether there are any leads on the man's whereabouts. He is described as 5 feet, 8 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches tall with a small build and light complexion. The man wore a black wig with long hair. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading directly to his arrest. Anyone with information should contact the FBI's Chicago Field Office at 312-421-6700. Tips also can be submitted at tips.fbi.gov.


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Vice President Mike Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears voteAP photo Vice President Mike Pence, flanked by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. (right) and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. (third from right) listens to President Donald Trump speak Wednesday during a bicameral meeting with lawmakers working on the tax cuts in the Cabinet Meeting Room of the White House in Washington.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:50:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence will delay and curtail his upcoming trip to the Middle East to be on hand for an upcoming Senate tax vote and take into account the unwillingness of Palestinians and others to meet with him while in Egypt and Israel. The White House said Thursday that Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he can preside over the Senate during a likely vote next week on the Republicans’ sweeping tax package. Pence serves as president of the Senate. Pence also shortened the length of his planned trip to the region after Palestinian officials and leading Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt said they would refuse to meet with him. Pence had originally been scheduled to leave Saturday for Israel, following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said the vice president now would travel first to Egypt and then to Israel. “Yesterday the White House informed Senate leadership that due to the historic nature of the vote in the Senate on tax cuts for millions of Americans, the VP would stay to preside over the vote,” Farah said in a written statement. Trump and Republican lawmakers are hoping for a vote early next week on a package of steep tax cuts for corporations and more modest cuts for families, a top Trump legislative priority. Republicans, who hold a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, can afford to lose just two votes while counting on Pence to break a tie. White House officials said they do not expect to need Pence’s vote. But Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi have missed votes recently because of health issues. Pence’s decision to preside over the Senate would ensure he’s available to cast a tie-breaking vote if necessary. Pence also was forced to adjust his schedule in the Middle East amid protests from leaders over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has condemned Trump’s decision, said earlier this week that he would not meet with the vice president. Abbas had originally planned to host Pence, a devout Christian, in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem. Pence is scheduled to be in Cairo on Wednesday for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a close ally of Trump’s. Pence will arrive in Israel later Wednesday for a visit to the Western Wall. The vice president will then meet Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, deliver an address to the Knesset and later dine with Netanyahu. White House officials said Pence will end his visit to Israel on Friday by meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. White House officials said Pence had no plans to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected. The status of Jerusalem has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Trump’s announcement last week was widely perceived as taking the side of Israel. The decision upended decades of U.S. foreign policy and countered an international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The White House has sai[...]


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Suspect in Charlottesville car attack faces new charge of first-degree murderAP file photo People fly into the air as a vehicle is driven into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally on Aug 12 in Charlottesville, Va. James Alex Fields Jr., the man accused of driving into the crowd demonstrating against a white nationalist protest, killing one person and injuring many more, has a preliminary court hearing.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:50:00 GMT

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The man accused of driving into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville faces a new charge of first-degree murder after a court hearing Thursday in which prosecutors presented surveillance video and other evidence against him. Prosecutors announced at the start of a preliminary hearing for James Alex Fields that they were seeking to upgrade the second-degree murder charge he previously faced in the Aug. 12 collision in Charlottesville that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. The judge agreed to that and ruled there is probable cause for all charges against Fields to proceed. Fields’ case will now be presented to a grand jury for an indictment. Authorities say the 20-year-old, described by a former teacher as having a keen interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, drove his speeding car into a group of counterprotesters the day of the “Unite the Right” rally that drew hundreds of white nationalists from around the country. The attack came after the rally in this Virginia college town had descended into chaos – with violent brawling between attendees and counterdemonstrators – and authorities had forced the crowd to disband. Surveillance footage from a Virginia State Police helicopter, played by prosecutors in court, captured the moment of impact by the car and the cursing of the startled troopers on board. The video then showed the car as it reversed, drove away and eventually pulled over. The helicopter had been monitoring the violence, and prosecutors questioned Charlottesville Police Detective Steven Young about the video as it played. Another surveillance video from a restaurant showed the car head slowly in what Young testified was the direction of the counterprotesters, who were not in view of the camera. The car reversed before speeding forward into the frame again. After that footage, a man in the crowd angrily shouted an expletive and cried out, “Take me out.” He and others left the courtroom. Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, sat quietly in a striped jumpsuit with his hands cuffed during the hearing. His attorney Denise Lunsford did not present evidence or make any arguments at the hearing, although she did cross-examine the detective. Fields was photographed hours before the attack with a shield bearing the emblem of Vanguard America, one of the hate groups that took part in the rally, although the group denied any association with him. A former teacher, Derek Weimer, has said Fields was fascinated in high school with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler, and had been singled out by officials at his Union, Kentucky, school for “deeply held, radical” convictions on race. During her cross-examination of Young, Lunsford asked if searches of Fields’ computer, phone or social media revealed any evidence that he was part of Vanguard America or any other white nationalist group. Young said, “No.” Young also testified that he was among the first officers to respond to the scene where Fields pulled over. No weapon was found in the car, he said. Lunsford asked the detective what Fields said as he was being detained. Fields said he was sorry and asked if people were OK, according to Young. When Fields was told someone [...]


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Judges consider if racial bias in drug stash-house stingsAP file photo Chief U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo speaks from the bench in 2013 in Chicago. A question raised nationwide about whether federal agents display racial bias by staging phony stash-house stings overwhelmingly in black neighborhoods is the focus of landmark hearings in Chicago.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:49:00 GMT

CHICAGO – The question of whether federal agents display racial bias by staging phony drug stash-house stings overwhelmingly in black neighborhoods is the focus of hearings in Chicago that could determine whether agencies curtail or even abandon their use nationwide. A first-of-its-kind panel of federal trial judges on Thursday began two days of hearings on the stings. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives oversees the stings that typically involve agents posing as cartel couriers who talk suspects into agreeing to rob drugs that don’t exist from what they are told are guarded stash houses that also are fictitious. The nine panelists – each of whom presides over 12 separate stash-house cases with 43 defendants in all – chose to hear evidence simultaneously on the question after defense teams in the dozen cases all moved for the indictments to be tossed on grounds of racial bias. How the judges rule in coming weeks – and they could submit a single ruling – is expected to influence how courts around the country deal with similar claims about the stings, which have been a favorite tool of federal law enforcement dating back to the 1990s. Rulings in Chicago also could encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue. Among the panelists is Ruben Castillo, whose ruling in 2013 that there’s a “strong showing of potential bias” in the stings generated years of legal motions and dueling expert reports – culminating in this week’s hearings. He ruled just weeks after he was sworn in as the federal court’s first Hispanic chief judge. Stash-house stings have been criticized on other grounds, including in how agents dangle the prospect of pocketing tens of thousands of dollars to often poor, desperate subjects. Some courts have warned the stings risk crossing the line into illegally entrapping suspects. Authorities insist they’re careful not to entrap anyone, targeting only those with records of violent crimes and who say unequivocally they want in on armed robberies. The answer to the question of whether the stings discriminate by race largely hinges on competing interpretations of statistics. Defense lawyers say the fact that about 80 percent of stings are conducted in predominantly African-American neighborhoods speaks for itself. Their main witness is Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School. In his report for defense lawyers, he notes that out of 94 stash-house defendants in the Chicago area between 2006 and 2013, 74 were black, 12 were Hispanic and only eight were white. That and other data, he writes, proves a “pattern of discrimination.” But government lawyers say it’s only natural that trafficking-related stings are focused where trafficking activity is highest – in low-income areas on Chicago’s South and West sides. Fagan’s report, they contend in one filing, “is riddled with false assumptions ... designed to manufacture a racial disparity where none exists.” Their expert is Max Schanzenbach, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law. After scrutinizing the same data, he faulted Fagan’s methodology. “A straightforward comparison of the stash-house defendants to reasonable comparison groups – those arrested for similar crimes, in particular a home invasion involving a firearm –[...]


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FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality'AP photo Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai takes his seat for an FCC meeting where they will vote on net neutrality, Thursday, in Washington.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:49:00 GMT

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era “net neutrality” rules Thursday, giving internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds. In a straight party-line vote of 3-2, the Republican-controlled FCC junked the long-time principle that said all web traffic must be treated equally. The move represents a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight. The big telecommunications companies had lobbied hard to overturn the rules, contending they are heavy-handed and discourage investment in broadband networks. “What is the FCC doing today?” asked FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican. “Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.” The push to eliminate the rules has touched off protests and stirred fears among consumer advocates, many web companies and ordinary Americans that cable and phone companies will be able to control what people see and do online. But the broadband industry has promised that the internet experience for the public isn’t going to change. The FCC vote is unlikely to be the last word. Supporters of net neutrality threatened legal challenges, with New York’s attorney general vowing to lead a multi-state lawsuit. There also is some hope that Congress might overturn the FCC decision. Mark Stanley, a spokesman for the civil liberties organization Demand Progress, said there is a “good chance” Congress could reverse it. “The fact that Chairman Pai went through with this, a policy that is so unpopular, is somewhat shocking,” he said. “Unfortunately, not surprising.” On Thursday, about 60 demonstrators gathered in the bitter chill in Washington to protest the FCC’s expected decision. Just before the vote, the hearing room briefly was evacuated and searched for unspecified security reasons. The FCC subscribed to the principle of net neutrality for more than a decade and enshrined it in rules adopted in 2015. Under the new rules approved Thursday, the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world could slow down or block access to services they don’t like or happen to be in competition with. They also could charge higher fees of rivals and make them pay up for faster transmission speeds. They just have to post their policies online or tell the FCC. Such things have happened before. In 2007, for example, the Associated Press found that Comcast was blocking or throttling some file-sharing. And AT&T blocked Skype and other internet calling services on the iPhone until 2009. The rule change also eliminates certain federal consumer protections, bars state laws that contradict the FCC’s approach, and largely transfers oversight of internet service to another agency altogether, the Federal Trade Commission. Angelo Zino, an analyst at CFRA Research, said he expects AT&T and Verizon to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new rules because they could give priority to the movies, TV shows and other videos or music they provide to viewers. That could hurt rivals such as Sling TV, Amazon, YouTube or startups yet to be born. [...]


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Delta orders 100 Airbus jets valued at more than $12.7 billionAP file photo A Delta Airlines sign overlooks the unloading area Oct. 13, 2016, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:47:00 GMT

Delta Air Lines has picked Europe’s Airbus over Boeing for a huge order of new jets. Delta said Thursday that it will order 100 Airbus A321neo jets with a sticker price of $12.7 billion and take an option to buy another 100 jets, a deal that Chicago-based Boeing had hoped to land. Financial terms of the order were not disclosed so it isn’t known how much Delta will actually pay Airbus. Airlines typically get huge discounts off the sticker price of new planes. Atlanta-based Delta announced the order just before beginning its annual meeting with investors. CEO Ed Bastian told investors that travel demand remains strong both on international and U.S. routes. He said Delta expects fourth-quarter revenue for every seat flown 1 mile – a measure of ticket demand and average fares – to rise about 4 percent from a year ago, up from Delta’s previous forecast of 2 to 4 percent. But costs for fuel and labor are rising, too. Bastian said Delta’s fourth-quarter operating margin will be around 11 percent, at the low end of the company’s previous prediction. In afternoon trading, shares of Delta Air Lines Inc. were up $1.58, or 2.9 percent, to $55.21. Despite the setback, Boeing Co.’s shares also rose, adding $2.39 to $294.23. Delta’s selection of Airbus jets comes after Boeing challenged a smaller Delta order of planes from Canada’s Bombardier. Boeing charged that the sale price was artificially low and amounted to dumping. The U.S. Commerce Department sided with Boeing and proposed stiff duties on Bombardier jets. Airbus CEO Tom Enders said the win strengthens a relationship with Delta that his company has built over many years. He said most of the planes would be assembled in Mobile, Alabama. Boeing said it made a “strong but disciplined offer” to Delta. “Delta remains a valued customer, and we’ll continue exploring ways to best meet their needs in the future,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said in an email. The Airbus A321neo is a single-aisle, mid-range plane that competes with Boeing’s 737 Max. Delta said it will begin getting the 197-seat jets in early 2020 to replace smaller planes. Boeing’s bid was hurt by the trade fight and a perception that the A321neo could be better than the comparably sized planes in Boeing’s Max lineup, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with aviation consulting firm Teal Group. “Boeing had little chance here,” he said. More than three-fourths of Delta’s planes are Boeing or McDonnell Douglas and include the planes most likely to be replaced by new Airbus jets. Delta’s 178 MD-80-series planes average 21 years in age. Airlines have been ordering bigger planes to carry more passengers and earn more revenue without adding flights. That especially is important at busy East Coast airports where it can be hard to squeeze in more flights. Delta also announced that it will get a large amount of maintenance and repair work for Pratt & Whitney engines used on Airbus A321neo and Bombardier C Series jets flown by Delta and other air[...]


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Salvation Army raises more than $131K during Colonial Cafe Match Day in McHenry, Kane countiesThe Salvation Army, serving the Fox Valley in Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties, raised more than $131,000 Saturday as part of its seventh annual Colonial Cafe Match Day.The Salvation Army, serving the Fox Valley in Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties, raised more than $131,000 Saturday as part of its seventh annual Colonial Cafe Match Day.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:46:00 GMT

The Salvation Army, which serves the Fox Valley in Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties, raised more than $131,000 Saturday as part of its seventh annual Colonial Cafe Match Day. The restaurant matched donations up to $30,000, according to a news release from The Salvation Army. Donations came in the form of change, cash and a tradition – silver and gold coins. One gold coin was dropped into a red kettle at Jewel-Osco in Cary, another was left at Joseph’s Marketplace in Crystal Lake, and a silver coin was dropped in at the McHenry Ace Hardware. The three are worth about $1,500 total. A gold coin, worth $1,250, also was left in the kettle outside the Starbucks in downtown Geneva. McHenry County residents proudly claim to be the first to have started the gold coin tradition, said Capt. Carol Lewis of The Salvation Army McHenry County Corps. “They say it happened for the first time in Crystal Lake about 30 years ago,” Lewis said. The first coin was a South African Krugerrand, and some of the valuable currency still pops up every year. “We have these mystery Christmas angels, and every year these coins appear,” said Lt. Betsy Clark of The Salvation Army Tri-City Corps. “We’re just so grateful for these people who, in a fun kind of magical way, help support what we’re doing.” Clark said in a statement that the Match Day’s success was thanks to its generous donors and hardworking volunteers. “We are greatly appreciative of all who participated,” Clark said. The $30,000 match donation from Colonial Cafe will be divided among the four units, according to the pro-rated funds raised. Donations still are needed through Dec. 23 to reach the red kettle campaign goals in each community, the release said. This year, local units face a shortfall because of a shorter bell-ringing season and not being able to ring Dec. 24 because it is a Sunday. The Fox Valley Corps has yet to raise more than an average of 50 percent of these goals: $200,000 – Tri-City Corps $200,000 – Elgin Corps $200,000 – Crystal Lake/McHenry County Corps $250,000 – Aurora Corps Visit www.registertoring.com or call a local corps to become a volunteer. St. Charles (serving St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, Campton Hills and Wayne) – 630-377-2769 Elgin (serving northern Kane County) – 847-741-2304 Aurora (serving southern Kane and Kendall counties) – 630-897-7265 Crystal Lake (serving McHenry County) – 815-455-2769 The Salvation Army, serving the Fox Valley in Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties, raised more than $131,000 Saturday as part of its seventh annual Colonial Cafe Match Day.The Salvation Army, serving the Fox Valley in Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties, raised more than $131,000 Saturday as part of its seventh annual Colonial Cafe Match Day.[...]


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FBI believes Cary, Huntley bank robberies linkedThe FBI believes the same unknown individual robbed a Chase bank in Cary and TCF Bank at a Huntley grocery store earlier this month.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:46:00 GMT

FBI officials said the agency believes the same unknown individual robbed a Chase bank in Cary and a TCF Bank at a Huntley grocery store.

A hooded, masked man walked into the Chase bank, 300 Route 14, Cary, on Dec. 1, approached the teller counter and presented a note demanding money. A little more than one week later, an individual wearing a wig and sunglasses robbed a TCF Bank branch inside Jewel-Osco, 13200 Village Green Drive, Huntley.

On Wednesday night, a person who the FBI believes is the same individual who perpetrated the previous two crimes robbed another TCF Bank branch at Jewel-Osco in Arlington Heights, 1860 S. Arlington Heights Road.

FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon said the person’s appearance is what leads investigators to believe it is the same man, who is considered armed and dangerous.

Croon said he did not know whether there are any leads on the man’s whereabouts.

He is described as 5 feet, 8 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches tall with a small build and light complexion. The man wore a black wig with long hair.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading directly to his arrest. Anyone with information should contact the FBI’s Chicago Field Office at 312-421-6700.

Tips also can be submitted at tips.fbi.gov.

The FBI believes the same unknown individual robbed a Chase bank in Cary and TCF Bank at a Huntley grocery store earlier this month.


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DeKalb County judge: Crystal Lake man's employer must turn over emails in libel caseThomas G. SalviGene Lowery

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:46:00 GMT

SYCAMORE – A DeKalb County judge has ruled that the employer of a Crystal Lake man being sued by DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery must turn over any work emails that specifically reference Lowery.

Lowery filed the lawsuit in January 2016, seeking $300,000 in damages from Thomas G. Salvi for libel. Salvi, a doctor of internal medicine and former Republican candidate for state representative who lives in Crystal Lake, sent emails in 2015 to then-DeKalb Mayor John Rey and City Manager Anne Marie Gaura, in which he called Lowery “evil” and “a thug,” and urged them to fire him.

In September, Salvi’s lawyer, Thomas Scherschel, filed a motion to quash Lowery’s subpoena for all emails Salvi sent or received through his work account with Centegra Health System.

“There is no basis for the plaintiff to subpoena emails from the defendant’s employer other than to harass and embarrass the defendant as a pretrial tactic,” the motion reads.

Judge William Brady ruled Wednesday that any emails specifically referencing Lowery, dating back to Jan. 1, 2015, must be turned over.

On Aug. 30, Brady filed an order that included Lowery’s withdrawal of claims that the emails caused him health problems, and on Sept. 20, the defense filed a motion seeking nearly $3,800 for the time spent trying to obtain medical records pertaining to Lowery’s heart problems, court records show.

Brady also ruled Wednesday that the defense’s motion be continued, that Lowery must appear in court at 2 p.m. Feb. 16, Salvi must appear at 2 p.m. March 7, and a general conference will happen at 9 a.m. March 28.

Lowery’s complaint cites five emails as evidence, sent May 16 and Nov. 21, 2013; and May 19, Sept. 21 and Sept. 23, 2015, in court records.

Salvi’s first email was to Mark Biernacki, who was DeKalb’s city manager in May 2013. In the email, Salvi said he was “terrorized” by Lowery and called him an “evil man,” records show.

“If you think he’s done a good job for your city, then God help you and your city,” Salvi wrote, the records show. “I can be of no help to you.”

Records show that Biernacki forwarded the email to then-Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu.

“I have no plans to respond to this, nor to tell Gene about this,” Biernacki wrote. “ … Maybe keep this for now in the event he contacts us again.”

Records show that on Nov. 21, 2013, Salvi sent an email to Rey in which he called Lowery “a terrible cop, an unethical man and horrible leader.”

Public officials must meet a higher standard of “actual malice” in libel cases, meaning that information is published with the knowledge that it is false, or with reckless disregard for its truth. Lowery said in his complaint that Salvi showed actual malice against him, and that his intent was to get Lowery fired.

Thomas G. SalviGene Lowery


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Rotary Club of Woodstock to help about 1,200 families this holiday seasonVolunteer Jim Ponstein of Woodstock organizes bags during packing night for the annual Christmas Clearing House on Wednesday in Woodstock.Volunteers Doug Lewandowski (left) of Woodstock and Dan Hess of Woodstock tie bags containing gifts for families in need during packing night for the annual Christmas Clearing House on Wednesday in Woodstock.Volunteer Jill Norman of Woodstock directs another volunteer during packing night for the annual Christmas Clearing House.Volunteer Butch Schnulle of Woodstock hands out stuffed animals to be packaged for the annual Christmas Clearing House.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:46:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – About 1,200 local families will benefit from the Rotary Club of Woodstock’s annual Christmas Clearing House event this year.

The Rotary Club of Woodstock works with community members, local businesses, the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Toys for Tots and hundreds of volunteers to bring Christmas to families in need during the holiday season. Volunteers gathered to pack presents and food this week in preparation for Saturday’s delivery.

“The community really steps up and supports it,” Christmas Clearing House Chairman John Hanlin said. “It’s a pretty impressive show.”

Recipients reside within Woodstock School District 200 boundaries – Woodstock and western Wonder Lake – and will receive food for a family dinner and presents for the kids, Hanlin said.

“Our goal first and foremost is community service,” Hanlin said. “To be able to give to a family that doesn’t have the means for a holiday meal or toys for their children is right at the heart of community service.”

Numerous McHenry County business owners have added their own contribution this year by selling specialty products, drinks and desserts to benefit the cause.

“Growing up in our hometown, Marengo, we realized the positive impact local business can have on its community,” said Mike Dallas, owner of Scorched Earth Brewing Co. “Raising our family and operating the brewery here in McHenry County gives us the unique opportunity to give back and help our neighbors.”

For volunteers, the event is an opportunity to do their part during the holiday season.

“I moved back to Woodstock recently and wanted to come out and help,” Emily Russell said. “I have always enjoyed volunteering and was raised to help someone in need.”

Volunteer Jim Ponstein of Woodstock organizes bags during packing night for the annual Christmas Clearing House on Wednesday in Woodstock.Volunteers Doug Lewandowski (left) of Woodstock and Dan Hess of Woodstock tie bags containing gifts for families in need during packing night for the annual Christmas Clearing House on Wednesday in Woodstock.Volunteer Jill Norman of Woodstock directs another volunteer during packing night for the annual Christmas Clearing House.Volunteer Butch Schnulle of Woodstock hands out stuffed animals to be packaged for the annual Christmas Clearing House.


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Pablo's Mexican Restaurant in Crystal Lake to serve less fortunate on ChristmasPablo's Mexican Restaurant owner Jennifer Falbo (right) greets longtime customers and friends Bob and Debbie Tastsides of Crystal Lake in 2014. Pablo's will serve Christmas dinner to the less fortunate this year.Pablo's Mexican Restaurant line cooks Carlos Cordoba (left) and Ismael Geron (center), and head chef Noe Garcia, prepare lunch orders Jan. 16, 2014. Pablo's will open from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 25 and serve Christmas dinner to the less fortunate this year.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:45:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – A lot of restaurants won’t be open for Christmas.

But given that their family has moved south, the owners of Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant have decided to open for a couple of hours on Christmas Day and serve a free meal to the less fortunate.

Owner Jennifer Falbo said she and husband, Fred Falbo, were trying to figure out what to do for Christmas.

“I don’t know, I’m kind of bummed,” Jennifer Falbo recalled Fred saying.

“I said, ‘How about we cook and have less fortunate people come in for a Christmas meal?’ ” she said. “He started crying – my manly man husband.”

After they took a minute to collect themselves, they put the plan in action.

Pablo’s will be open from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 25 to serve homeless veterans, single parents and families who don’t have the means to provide a meal. The restaurant, at 230 W. Virginia St. in the Country Corners Shopping Center, could stay open past 4 p.m. depending on how much food the Falbos have left to cook.

“We’re not going to turn anyone away,” Jennifer Falbo said.

They will cook a traditional Christmas meal with ham, turkey and perhaps another meat, along with mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole and more. There will be treats such as candy canes, too.

Several local businesses have chipped in.

Pablo’s is asking for donations of socks, gloves, hats and toys to give an added gift to those who stop in for the meal. The gifts can be wrapped by the Pablo’s team.

The owners announced the event Tuesday morning on the restaurant’s Facebook page. By Wednesday afternoon, the post had been shared 330-plus times.

“We just want to feed people, give back and make people happy,” Jennifer Falbo said. “No judgments – we just wanted to give people time to enjoy Christmas dinner.”

Fred Falbo – who in addition to being part-owner and serving as a bartender and fixer-upper of the building when things break – has carried much of the load in preparation for Christmas dinner, Jennifer Falbo said.

Pablo’s has been in business in Crystal Lake for 31 years. The Falbos bought it from former owner Paul Morin almost four years ago.

Pablo's Mexican Restaurant owner Jennifer Falbo (right) greets longtime customers and friends Bob and Debbie Tastsides of Crystal Lake in 2014. Pablo's will serve Christmas dinner to the less fortunate this year.Pablo's Mexican Restaurant line cooks Carlos Cordoba (left) and Ismael Geron (center), and head chef Noe Garcia, prepare lunch orders Jan. 16, 2014. Pablo's will open from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 25 and serve Christmas dinner to the less fortunate this year.


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Crystal Lake attorney arrested in connection with DUI gets probation on gun chargesThe Crystal Lake Police Department executed a search warrant at Donald F. Franz’s residence at 358 Dartmoor Court in Crystal Lake. Items seized during the search included 36 high-powered rifles, assault rifles and shotguns; 20 assorted handguns; and thousands of rounds of firearm ammunition.Donald F. Franz, 51, of Crystal Lake was charged Jan. 19 with aggravated driving under the influence, aggravated battery and aggravated resisting a peace officer, among several other charges.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:45:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake lawyer who had more than 50 rifles and other guns confiscated from his home will serve two years of probation and pay thousands of dollars in fines after accepting a plea deal Wednesday. Donald F. Franz, 51, of the 300 block of Dartmoor Court, pleaded guilty to failing to surrender his firearm owner’s identification card and obstructing a peace officer. Carroll County Judge Val Gunnarsson sentenced Franz to two years of probation, five days in the county jail and $2,345 in fines, according to sentencing information filed in the McHenry County Circuit Clerk’s Office. Gunnarsson was appointed to preside over the case after McHenry County judges recused themselves because the matter involved a local attorney. Franz’s attorney, Edward Donahue, was not available to comment on the conditions of the sentence. Franz is expected to be free from probation Dec. 13, 2019. He was arrested Jan. 19 when police responded to North Williams Street in Crystal Lake for the report of a drunken driver. During a search of Franz’s house, officers found 36 high-powered rifles, assault-style rifles and shotguns; 20 assorted handguns; and thousands of rounds of ammunition, authorities have said. Franz is believed to be a hunter. In addition to the two charges Franz pleaded guilty to, the attorney also was charged with aggravated battery to a peace officer, possession of a firearm with a revoked FOID card, carrying a concealed firearm while under the influence, possession of ammunition without a FOID card, illegal use of a driver’s license and aggravated driving under the influence with a revoked license. Those charges were dismissed as part of the negotiated plea, sentencing records show. Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Derek Hyrkas could not be reached to comment on whether the police department would return the guns to Franz. According to an Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ruling, Franz’s law license is suspended for at least two years. The commission first filed a complaint against Franz in 2014, claiming that he pressured a client to sign a document that would require the client to pay $10,000 for an attorney in a divorce case, without explaining other possible options. An additional count was added to the complaint last year, accusing Franz of challenging a client to a duel and insulting him during an argument about money. In October, a third count was added to the complaint, accusing Franz of sending threatening emails and voicemails to a former client, commission counsel Scott Renfroe and ARDC administrator Jerome Larkin. According to the complaint, Franz threatened to kill Larkin over the ARDC’s efforts to sanction him as recently as September 2016. The Crystal Lake Police Department executed a search warrant at Donald F. Franz’s residence at 358 Dartmoor Court in Crystal Lake. Items seized during the search included 36 high-powered rifles, assault[...]


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Texas man charged in abduction of teen near Harvard faces child porn chargesFrancisco Tulul, 19, of the 10200 block of Harwin Drive, Houston, Texas

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:44:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A 19-year-old Texas man accused of kidnapping a 15-year-girl faces new child pornography charges filed Thursday in McHenry County.

Francisco Tulul, of the 10200 block of Harwin Drive, Houston, is charged with possession of child pornography, a felony typically punishable by three to seven years in prison.

McHenry County Assistant Public Defender Angelo Mourelatos, who was appointed Thursday to represent Tulul, said he didn’t have enough information to comment on the new charges.

McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies responded about 1:30 p.m. Nov. 23 to the 11000 block of Route 14 near Harvard for a report of a missing 15-year-old girl, according to a news release at the time.

Tulul and the girl had been talking with each other on social media, and he was driving from Houston at the time to see her, according to the release.

Police said they believed Tulul intended to bring the teen to Houston.

A statewide search began, and Illinois State Police found the girl with Tulul at 7:20 p.m. at a rest stop in Edwardsville, according to the release.

Someone with an Illinois address posted $2,000 bail on Tulul’s behalf Dec. 1, and he was released from the McHenry County Jail before being arrested again Thursday.

It is unclear whether Tulul was in Illinois when he was arrested the most recent time. The child pornography charges stem from the same Nov. 23 investigation, McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandra Rogers said in an email Thursday.

McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney John Gibbons declined to comment, citing an office policy to not talk about ongoing cases.

Tulul is due in court Friday morning. A judge has not yet set a bond amount on the new charges.

Francisco Tulul, 19, of the 10200 block of Harwin Drive, Houston, Texas


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Hebron man to serve 6 years on sexual assault convictionPlacido E. Hernandez-Estrada, 31, of the 12000 block of McKinley Avenue, Hebron

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:43:00 GMT

HEBRON – A Hebron man was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to charges of sexually assaulting a young girl.

Placido E. Hernandez-Estrada, 31, of the 12000 block of McKinley Avenue, accepted a plea deal that landed him six years in prison on a predatory criminal sexual assault conviction.

After serving his sentence, Hernandez-Estrada will be taken into federal custody to handle an outstanding immigration warrant, McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather said Thursday.

The charge Hernandez-Estrada pleaded guilty to Wednesday was filed Oct. 1, 2015. He was taken into custody Sept. 26, 2017, and brought to the McHenry County Jail.

Additional details about the gap between when Hernandez-Estrada’s charges were filed and his incarceration were not available. Court documents related to the case have been impounded because the accusations involve a minor.

The victim of the sexual assault was younger than 13 at the time, according to details available through the county’s public access database.

Hernandez-Estrada’s attorney, George Kililis, could not be reached for comment.

McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Rita Gara read aloud in court two statements submitted by the victim and her mother.

“When I see his family or friends out in public, they stare at me and say mean things about me,” the victim wrote.

She also expressed feeling “betrayed, scared and alone.”

The victim’s mother said the abuse caused pain for the whole family.

“My life has been turned upside down from what he did,” the mother wrote. “This isn’t something you can get over and move on [from].”

Placido E. Hernandez-Estrada, 31, of the 12000 block of McKinley Avenue, Hebron


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Rotary Club of Woodstock to help about 1,200 families this holiday seasonThe Rotary Club of Woodstock works with community members, local businesses, the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Toys for Tots and hundreds of volunteers to bring Christmas to families in need during the holiday season. Volunteers gathered to pack presents and food this week in preparation for Saturday’s delivery. “The community really steps up and supports it,” Christmas Clearing House Chairman John Hanlin said. “It’s a pretty impressive show.”Recipients reside within Woodstock School District 200 boundaries – Woodstock and western Wonder Lake – and will receive food for a family dinner and presents for the kids, Hanlin said. “Our goal first and foremost is community service,” Hanlin said. “To be able to give to a family that doesn’t have the means for a holiday meal or toys for their children is right at the heart of community service.”Numerous McHenry County business owners have added their own contribution this year by selling specialty products, drinks and desserts to benefit the cause. "Growing up in our hometown, Marengo, we realized the positive impact local business can have on its community," said Mike Dallas, owner of Scorched Earth Brewing Co. "Raising our family and operating the brewery here in McHenry County gives us the unique opportunity to give back and help our neighbors.”For volunteers, the event is an opportunity to do their part during the holiday season. “I moved back to Woodstock recently and wanted to come out and help,” Emily Russell said. “I have always enjoyed volunteering and was raised to help someone in need.”

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:43:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – About 1,200 local families will benefit from the Rotary Club of Woodstock's annual Christmas Clearing House benefit this year.

The Rotary Club of Woodstock works with community members, local businesses, the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Toys for Tots and hundreds of volunteers to bring Christmas to families in need during the holiday season. Volunteers gathered to pack presents and food this week in preparation for Saturday’s delivery. “The community really steps up and supports it,” Christmas Clearing House Chairman John Hanlin said. “It’s a pretty impressive show.”Recipients reside within Woodstock School District 200 boundaries – Woodstock and western Wonder Lake – and will receive food for a family dinner and presents for the kids, Hanlin said. “Our goal first and foremost is community service,” Hanlin said. “To be able to give to a family that doesn’t have the means for a holiday meal or toys for their children is right at the heart of community service.”Numerous McHenry County business owners have added their own contribution this year by selling specialty products, drinks and desserts to benefit the cause. "Growing up in our hometown, Marengo, we realized the positive impact local business can have on its community," said Mike Dallas, owner of Scorched Earth Brewing Co. "Raising our family and operating the brewery here in McHenry County gives us the unique opportunity to give back and help our neighbors.”For volunteers, the event is an opportunity to do their part during the holiday season. “I moved back to Woodstock recently and wanted to come out and help,” Emily Russell said. “I have always enjoyed volunteering and was raised to help someone in need.”


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Police: Human remains possibly tied to Woodstock woman's 2010 disappearancePeople gather for a candlelight vigil Sept. 23, 2010, on the Woodstock Square in honor of a missing Woodstock woman, Beth Bentley. After the recent discovery of severely burned human remains in Jefferson County, the Illinois State Police and Woodstock Police Department are seeking additional information related to her 2010 disappearance.Angela Montgomery wears a Beth Bentley button during a balloon release for Bentley on May 22, 2011, at Emricson Park in Woodstock. Bentley last was seen May 23, 2010, when her friend, Jenn Wyatt, said she dropped Bentley off at a train station in Centralia. Police have been unable to verify whether she ever boarded a train.Beth Bentley the 41-year-old mother of three, has been missing since May 2010. Illinois State Police and the Woodstock Police Department are seeking additional information related to her disappearance.

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:41:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – State and local police are asking the public for information about the 2010 disappearance of a Woodstock woman after recently finding severely burned human remains in southern Illinois. Benedetta “Beth” Bentley, then 41, of Woodstock disappeared May 23, 2010, after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon with a friend. Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham initially told police that she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia. Bentley was supposed to be taking a train back to her Woodstock home, but she never returned, police said. Police and prosecutors have questioned Wyatt-Paplham’s account of Bentley’s disappearance. Illinois State Police discovered severely burned human remains and other evidence in Jefferson County and are trying to identify the victim, police said. “Information was developed, which led the ISP to a rural location in Jefferson County,” police said in a news release Thursday. “Suspected human remains and other evidence were recovered at the location. Investigators are attempting to positively identify the remains, which were badly burned.” Woodstock and state police are investigating the disappearance of the mother of three. Woodstock Deputy Police Chief Arthur Lanz referred questions to the state police. State police declined to comment on why they believe the remains may be related to Bentley’s disappearance. “Because of the open status of this case, no additional information regarding the investigation is being released at this time,” state police said. Anyone with information about Bentley or the incident is encouraged to contact state police at 618-542-2171 or Woodstock police at 815-338-2131. Jefferson County is in southern Illinois, about an hour and a half east of St. Louis. Centralia is a city with a population of about 13,000. Most of the city is in Marion County, but parts reach into Clinton, Jefferson and Washington counties. McHenry County prosecutors charged Wyatt-Paplham with obstruction of justice in 2012. Police said Wyatt-Paplham had lied to them when she said she did not have contact with Bentley on or after May 25, 2010. They also said Wyatt-Paplham lied when she said she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia so that Bentley could take a train back to Chicago. However, a judge later tossed out the case against Wyatt-Paplham. Amtrak had no records of Bentley buying a ticket or boarding the train, police and prosecutors previously said. Phone records indicate that Wyatt-Paplham called Bentley’s cellphone later than she initially told police, and that contact was made “numerous times,” investigators have said. One call lasted at least five minutes, but it is not known whether Bentley herself answered the call. Amtrak had no records of Bentley buying a ticket, and no one recalled seeing her in the vicinity. Bentley’s husband, Scott, a local attorney, could not be reached for comment [...]


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McHenry County Board passes resolution for state pension plan alternativeMcHenry County Board member John ReinertMcHenry County Board member James Kearns

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:23:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board passed a resolution Tuesday night to approve an alternative for countywide elected officials who wish to opt out of the $35.8 billion Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Approved with a 23-0 vote, the resolution creates a plan that would offer elected officials in nine county offices the opportunity to enroll in a deferred compensation plan with a one-to-one contribution match – but only if they do not participate in the IMRF. The plan, developed by board members John Reinert and James Kearns, comes on the heels of a proposal from McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks that aimed to end IMRF participation for the County Board chairman, state’s attorney, county clerk, circuit clerk, treasurer, auditor, recorder, coroner and sheriff. The county coroner, recorder and sheriff already have opted out of receiving pensions. Reinert said the biggest benefit of the alternative is the money it would save the county and state. "We haven't done an actuary test on it, but the IMRF for a typical [official] costs about $11,000 a year per person," Reinert said. "If they collect that pension for 40 years, the IMRF would be paying them for all those years. With this, we're done." Reinert hopes other leaders across the state will see McHenry County's work on alleviating pension debt as an example and start their own campaigns. "Pensions are the biggest drain on the Illinois economy," Reinert said. "If we could get this to grow statewide, we could really go far." Although the pension debate has been a hot-button topic at recent County Board meetings, some board members worry that cutting elected officials' pensions would be a problem in the courts. The pension resolution gives elected officials the option to enroll in a 457 deferred compensation plan – a retirement plan for government employees that is similar to a private 401(k) plan – starting Jan. 1. The county would provide a one-to-one contribution match that would not exceed $8,000 a year. In June 2016, all 24 members of the McHenry County Board voted to end participation in the IMRF for themselves and those elected after them. The resolution not only eliminated eligibility for new members on Dec. 1, but also the accumulation of credit for pensions for existing members, including the chairman. In February 2016, Franks asked the IMRF to open an investigation into whether County Board members were working the required 1,000 hours a year to quality for pensions. The IMRF could not find evidence to conclude whether County Board members worked enough hours to get pensions. Franks called the resolution a “common-sense alternative” to help right the state’s ballooning pension problem. HOW THEY VOTED Yes: Christopher Spoerl, Robert Nowak, Thomas Wilbeck, Joe Gottemoller, Donald Kopsell, Chris Christensen, Kay Rial Bates, Paula Yensen, Michael Skala, John Jung Jr.[...]


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Former 'Apprentice' star Omarosa denies White House firingFILE - In this Dec. 13, 2016 file photo, Omarosa Manigault smiles at reporters as she walks through the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. The White House says Omarosa Manigault Newman, one of President Donald Trump’s most prominent African-American supporters, plans to leave the administration next month. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:11:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Former "Apprentice" star Omarosa denies she was fired from her job at the White House — and she's teasing that she has stories to tell about what she's seen and heard there. In an interview Thursday with ABC's "Good Morning America, Manigault Newman also said reports that she made a scene while being escorted from the White House grounds this week are "100 percent false," and questioned why no photos or video of the alleged ruckus had surfaced. She said she resigned after a conversation with White House chief of staff John Kelly about some of her concerns. Her White House pass has been cut off, according to the Secret Service, although she will remain on the staff through the administration's one-year mark. "John Kelly and I had a very straightforward discussion about concerns that I had, issues that I raised and, as a result, I resigned and it will be taking place Jan. 20, when I leave this very interesting administration," Manigault Newman said. She also denied reports that she tried to enter the White House residence to see President Donald Trump, calling those reports "ridiculous" and "absurd." The outgoing presidential adviser alluded to seeing and hearing things during her 11 months in the White House that made her unhappy and uncomfortable. She declined to elaborate, citing her continued employment by the White House. "But when I have a chance to tell my story ... quite a story to tell, as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people," she said. "And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear." One of Trump's most prominent African-American supporters, Manigault Newman was an assistant to the president and director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, working on outreach to various constituency groups. But the office languished under her watch and Kelly had indicated that changes were forthcoming — including her dismissal, according to two White House officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss personnel matters because they were not authorized to speak publicly about them. Better known by only her first name, Manigault Newman was escorted from the White House complex Tuesday night but was allowed to offer her resignation, according to the two officials. The U.S. Secret Service, which provides security for the president, tweeted Wednesday that it was not involved in her termination or in her escort from the grounds. Some published reports said Secret Service officers had physically removed Manigault Newman from the complex. The agency confirmed that a pass granting her access to the complex had been deactivated. "Our only involvement in this matter was to [...]


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Terminated Algonquin Township Highway Department employee calls for lowering Gasser's salaryAlgonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser attends the Algonquin Township meeting Wednesday.Former McHenry County Board member Nick Chirikos speaks during Wednesday's Algonquin Township meeting.Algonquin Township Trustee Melissa Victor speaks during the Algonquin Township meeting Wednesday.Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow speaks during the Algonquin Township meeting Wednesday.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:16:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Nick Chirikos, a former road district employee fired on Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser’s first day in office, showed up to Algonquin Township’s monthly meeting Wednesday and called for trustees to lower the salary of his former boss. “My concerns are many regarding our local township government and, in particular, its road district,” said Chirikos, a former McHenry County Board member. “Once a vibrant and well-functioning organization, which almost had unanimous support of its residents, it has devolved into a chaotic, factious and deeply conflated state.” Chirikos, who received a termination notice along with road district employees Derek Lee and Andrew Rosencrans, said the township’s recent struggles are the product of the election that replaced former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller. He said the township’s board should lower Gasser’s salary of about $94,000. “With his election, Mr. Gasser assumed a fully developed salary of a 30-plus-year veteran road commissioner without so much as a day’s worth of experience in this highly technical position,” Chirikos said. “The position of road commissioner should be an appointed position, hiring dependent upon and paid according to experience, knowledge and formal training of that candidate.” Chirikos asked the board to consider lowering Gasser’s salary to coincide with his level of experience. Gasser, who sat near the front of the room Wednesday night, did not comment on Chirikos’ remarks, and the meeting continued. Township trustees went on to approve an audit of 2016-17 claims as follows: $185,078 in the equipment and building fund, $11,370 in the general assistance fund, $98,093 in the town fund and $198,556 in the road and bridge fund. Trustee Melissa Victor shared her concern with the road district’s spending on engineering fees for various road projects. “My main concern is that we’re spending all this money, and we don’t have them in the line item,” Victor said. “We’re supposed to always stay under 100 percent, but my concern is that we’re at like 433 percent.” The original 2016-17 road district budget allotted $30,000 for engineering. As of Dec. 1, the road district has spent $130,130.39, or 434 percent of the budget. “Can we be spending and writing checks out when we don’t have the money there to pay it?” Victor said. “That’s where my concern is.” The engineering costs are tied to work on Dennis Avenue and the Edwards Road bridge, Gasser said. “We need to have that amended budget,” Gasser said, “and that will bring that back into line.” In January, Algonquin Township officials plan to amend the road and bridge budget to put more money in the highway commissioner’s engineering line item to pay for engineering costs tie[...]


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McHenry County Women's Power Luncheon panel shares wisdom of successDanielle Gulli (center), executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, speaks Wednesday during the Women's Power Luncheon at the Crystal Lake Country Club.Katrina McGuire, president of the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce, answers a question Wednesday during the Women's Power Luncheon at the Crystal Lake Country Club.Katrina McGuire, president of the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce, speaks Wednesday during the Women's Power Luncheon at the Crystal Lake Country Club.Sally South of the Richmond-Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce speaks during a Q&A session Wednesday at the Women's Power Luncheon at the Crystal Lake Country Club.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:15:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Women aspiring to be community leaders can find many role models in McHenry County. McHenry County Magazine’s Women’s Power Luncheon brought a group of those role models together Wednesday at the Crystal Lake Country Club, where a panel of executive directors from area chambers shared their stories about covering unique corners of the county and their journeys toward professional and personal development. Here’s a look at some of the wisdom the panel of seven woman leaders had to share: Mary Margaret Maule, Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, on change: “At the end of the day, we all face crisis, we all face challenging times, we all face change. ... Adapt to a never-ending, always-evolving, ever-changing landscape.” Katrina McGuire, Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce, on seizing opportunities: “Every time I see an opportunity, I just want to grab it. I’ve had several opportunities, some failures – if you want to call it that – more learning experiences, but [through] every single one of those I’ve met amazing people.” Sunday Graham, Huntley Chamber of Commerce, on the best advice she can give: “My best advice would be stay true to yourself; recognize what your strengths are. Focus on those, and leverage and maximize those opportunities, but also recognize where your opportunity to grow is. Find that mentor to help you to develop those skills to be a coach and to be coached. When you’re young, you sort of have this, ‘I’m going to go out and change the world’ [mentality], and that’s great, but eventually you need to recognize where your development is. I think every woman that’s had a great professional career has had that mentor.” Kay Bates, McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, on being fearless and pursuing a goal: “Even though you may not have a natural gift in a particular area, you are called upon to represent your organization, your business. ... You need to pursue that. Just do it, is my two cents. You may just develop a latent talent.” Lynn Caccavallo, Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce, on perseverance: “Life was white-picket-fence perfect. All that changed with a phone call in August of 2008. In an instant, my entire life changed. Six months later, our lives were shattered in a million pieces when my 41-year-old husband, Randy, lost his short battle with cancer, leaving me behind to raise our four children, ages 10 through 18. I was faced with a future of complete uncertainty, which seemed hopeless and dark. Who was I? No longer a wife, no longer someone’s partner, no longer a stay-at-home mom, how would I survive? How would I be able to raise these children? Would our lives ever be normal or happy again? With both fear and fearlessness, I forged my way forward through the darkness, because truly the only way out[...]


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Snow to pepper McHenry County through Thursday: National Weather Service

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:12:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for McHenry County, warning of an elevated risk of snow.

The snow falling Wednesday in McHenry County was because of a clipper system tracking throughout northeastern Illinois. The largest accumulation of snow is likely to fall at the Wisconsin border, according to the service.

McHenry County can expect less than an inch of snow on the ground and cold, blustery wind that was expected to blow through the area Wednesday evening.

Gusty, northerly winds up to 35 mph may turn northeast for a time, which likely would produce some lake effect snow showers across far northeast Illinois. That system will move east into Indiana overnight.

An elevated risk of snow will stretch into Thursday and drop off by Friday, according to the service.

Temperatures on Wednesday night were expected to be in the teens, and highs will be in the upper 20s Thursday during the day, according to the service.


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GOP says it's got a deal on taxes; cuts coming for next yearHouse Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, center, embraces Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, as House and Senate conferees after GOP leaders announced they have forged an agreement on a sweeping overhaul of the nation's tax laws, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, looks on at far right. Democrats objected to the bill and asked that a final vote be delayed until Senator-elect Doug Jones of Alabama is seated. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:09:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Confident congressional Republicans forged an agreement Wednesday on a major overhaul of the nation’s tax laws that would provide generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans – Donald Trump among them – and deliver the first major legislative accomplishment to the GOP president. Middle- and low-income families would get smaller tax cuts, although Trump and GOP leaders have billed the package as a huge benefit for the middle class. The measure would scrap a major tax requirement of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a step toward the ultimate GOP goal of unraveling the law. “The cynical voices that opposed tax cuts grow smaller and weaker, and the American people grow stronger,” Trump said at the White House. “This is for people of middle income, this is for companies that are going to create jobs. This is for very, very special people, the great people of America.” The business tax cuts would be permanent, but reductions for individuals would expire after a decade – saving money to comply with Senate budget rules. In all, the bill would cut taxes by about $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, adding billions to the nation’s mounting debt. The legislation, which still is being finalized, would cut the top tax rate for the wealthy from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, slash the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and allow homeowners to deduct interest only on the first $750,000 of a new mortgage. The top tax rate currently applies to income more than $470,000 for married couples, although lawmakers are reworking the tax brackets. The standard deduction would be nearly doubled, to $24,000, for married couples. Details of the agreement were described by Republican senators and congressional aides. “It’s not my vision of perfect, but again, this is definitely going to be a strong pro-growth tax package,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. Republicans see passage of the legislation as a political imperative, proving to voters they can govern as the GOP fights to hold onto its majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans said they expect the package to increase economic growth, generating additional tax revenue and lessening the hit to the budget deficit. Independent economists aren’t as optimistic. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said she and her colleagues expect a “modest lift” to economic growth from the tax package. Yellen said at a news conference that the likelihood of lower taxes is why Fed officials expect the economy to grow at 2.5 percent in 2018. But growth then would slip back closer to its recent 2 percent average. She said that any wage growth likely would stem from the low unemployment rate rather than the tax cuts. [...]


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Tillerson says U.S. open to possible talks with N. KoreaSecretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives to speak at the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:09:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has softened America’s stance on possible talks with North Korea, calling it “unrealistic” to expect the nuclear-armed country to come to the table ready to give up a weapons of mass destruction program that it invested so much in developing. Tillerson said President Donald Trump endorses this position. Tillerson’s remarks Tuesday came two weeks after North Korea conducted a test with a missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard – a milestone in its decades-long drive to pose an atomic threat to its American adversary that Trump has vowed to prevent, using military force if necessary. “We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions,” Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank. He said that the North would need to hold off on its weapons testing. This year, the North has conducted more than 20 ballistic missile launches and one nuclear test explosion, its most powerful yet. “Let’s just meet and we can talk about the weather if you want to. We can talk about whether it’s a square table or a round table if that’s what you are excited about,” Tillerson said. “But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards.” Although Tillerson said the goal of U.S. policy remained denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he added it was “not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program. They’ve too much invested in it. The president is very realistic about that as well.” Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of Seoul’s Unification Ministry, said of Tillerson’s comments that Seoul wishes for talks to “happen soon” if they contribute to the goal of finding a peaceful solution for the North Korean nuclear problem. He said Washington and Seoul both maintain a firm stance that North Korea’s nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated and should be completely discarded in a peaceful way. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement later Tuesday that: “The president’s views on North Korea have not changed.” “North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world. North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea,” she said. In public, Trump has been less sanguine about the possibilities of diplomacy with Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian government, which faces growing international isolation and sanctions as it pursues nuclear weapons in defiance of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. [...]


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Chicago approves paying $31M to 4 wrongfully convicted menFILE - In this Jan. 17, 2012 file photo, Harold Richardson, left, Vincent Thames, second from left, Terrill Swift, and Michael Saunders, right, pose for a photo after a hearing in Chicago for the four men known as "the Englewood Four," whose 1994 rape and murder convictions were overturned in November 2011. New DNA evidence linked another person to the crime. The Chicago City Council approved Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, a $31 million settlement to be shared by the men who each spent more than a decade in prison. The police misconduct settlement is one of the largest in the history of the city . (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:09:00 GMT

CHICAGO – The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a $31 million settlement to be shared by four men who were exonerated by DNA evidence after being imprisoned for more than a decade for a rape and killing.

The decision to accept the police misconduct settlement – one of the largest in Chicago’s history – followed a heated exchange between aldermen.

Some argued the city is too quick to settle such lawsuits, while other aldermen blamed the police force, saying it has looked the other way for years and even rewarded abusive officers.

The case before the council involved the 1994 rape and strangulation of Nina Glover and the convictions of four men who were teenagers at the time of the 30-year-old prostitute’s death.

Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson and Terrill Swift were between 15 and 18 years old when they were arrested, and they served as long as 17 years before DNA evidence cleared them and linked the crime to a now-dead career criminal.

A judge overturned their convictions in 2011 and issued each of them certificates of innocence. Saunders and Richardson were set free after 17 years in prison.

Thames and Swift already had been released after serving a dozen years.

An FBI report unsealed this year accused investigators of pressuring the then-teenagers and manipulating them into giving false confessions.

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2012 file photo, Harold Richardson, left, Vincent Thames, second from left, Terrill Swift, and Michael Saunders, right, pose for a photo after a hearing in Chicago for the four men known as "the Englewood Four," whose 1994 rape and murder convictions were overturned in November 2011. New DNA evidence linked another person to the crime. The Chicago City Council approved Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, a $31 million settlement to be shared by the men who each spent more than a decade in prison. The police misconduct settlement is one of the largest in the history of the city . (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)


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Bombing shows subway’s vulnerabilityPolice officers patrol in the passageway connecting New York City's Port Authority bus terminal and the Times Square subway station Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, near the site of Monday's explosion. Commuters returning to New York City's subway system on Tuesday were met with heightened security a day after a would-be suicide bomber's rush-hour blast failed to cause the bloodshed he intended. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:09:00 GMT

NEW YORK – The crude pipe bomb that exploded beneath the streets of New York this week served as a chilling reminder of the vulnerability of the city’s subway, a 24-hour-a-day operation with 472 stations and more than 5 million daily riders. While police say the nation’s largest subway system has some of the tightest security possible that still allows busy New Yorkers to get where they’re going, they acknowledge they can’t be everywhere or anticipate every kind of attack, particularly in this era of lone-wolf terrorism. “It’s very difficult and it’s getting harder,” John Miller, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “This is not the al-Qaida model, where a cell of people who are communicating with a base are an intelligence problem.” Instead, he said, the threat is coming from people “where the conspiracy is within the confines of their own mind.” Investigators said that appears to be what happened Monday, when a Bangladeshi immigrant indoctrinated into terrorism through internet videos strapped a bomb to his body and set it off in a busy passageway. He was the only one seriously hurt, suffering burns on his hands and torso. Akayed Ullah, 27, was charged with federal terrorism-related offenses punishable by up to life in prison and was informed of the charges via video Wednesday as he lay in his hospital bed. He did not enter a plea and said little during the hearing, which lasted a little more than 10 minutes. It was the second lone-wolf terror attack on the city in six weeks. On Oct. 31, a man in a rented truck mowed down cyclists and pedestrians on a crowded bike path, killing eight. But the blast this week was the first bombing on the subway in 23 years, a streak police attribute in part to a multilayered security approach that begins with 3,000 officers underground every day, patrolling trains and platforms. That’s bolstered by hundreds of security cameras, including one that captured detailed pictures of Monday’s explosion, and roving teams of officers with heavy weapons and dogs to sweep subway stations and trains. Officers are outfitted with pager-size radiation detectors to guard against a radioactive “dirty bomb.” Police also conduct tens of thousands of random bag searches in the system each year. Yet those officers are confronted daily with thousands of people of every background, from every corner of the globe, carrying big backpacks, suitcases and large boxes, with no easy way of knowing whether any of those items contain a bomb. As a result, police have to rely on riders as their eyes and ears, constantly reminding them, “If you see something, say something.” “Look up[...]


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Zippy Shell to host toy drive at Algonquin WalmartZippy Shell is collecting toys Saturday for The Salvation Army in Algonquin.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:08:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN – Zippy Shell will collect toys Saturday for The Salvation Army in Algonquin.

The Pack the Shell Toy Drive will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at Walmart, 1410 S. Randall Road, according to a news release from Zippy Shell of Northern Illinois.

People are invited to drop off and donate unwrapped toys and nonperishable items.

Zippy Shell is a portable storage and moving company.

Zippy Shell is collecting toys Saturday for The Salvation Army in Algonquin.


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Marengo bank appoints County Board member Michael Skala to board of directorsPrairie Community Bank in Marengo has appointed Michael Skala to its board of directors

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:08:00 GMT

MARENGO – Prairie Community Bank in Marengo has appointed a member of the McHenry County Board to its board of directors.

The bank’s board now will include Michael Skala.

Skala is the owner and president of Woodstock-based Innovative Component Sales Inc. He also is the District 5 McHenry County Board representative and has sat on boards for the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. and District 158 Education Foundation, according to a release from Prairie Community Bank.

Skala lives in Huntley with his wife and daughters.

“The entire board joins me in welcoming Mike,” Chairman Tim Young said. “We are honored to have him as a director.”

Prairie Community Bank offers banking and other financial services in the Marengo, Union and Elgin areas.

Prairie Community Bank in Marengo has appointed Michael Skala to its board of directors


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Crowd gathers to deflect anti-gay activists at Geneva churchSupporters of the First Congregational Church of Geneva, which is welcoming to the LGBT community, stand outside Sunday to protect parishioners from anti-gay activists.The First Congregational Church of Geneva has been targeted by anti-gay activists for its welcoming stance toward the LGBT community. Supporters came out Sunday to form a barrier between the activists and parishioners.Supporters of the First Congregational Church of Geneva, which is welcoming to the LGBT community, talk to anti-gay activists who approached the church Sunday.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:07:00 GMT

GENEVA – When anti-gay activists approached members of a Geneva church that is welcoming to the gay community, organizers of a rapid response email and text message blast brought out a crowd that intervened. Geneva resident Colin Campbell said he went to the First Congregational Church of Geneva, 321 Hamilton St., Geneva, about 9:30 a.m. Sunday and saw seven men standing on the sidewalk. “I was hopeful this group wouldn’t show up again,” Campbell said. “I walked over to see who they were, and they were asking me if I was a follower of Jesus Christ and gave me a flyer that said, ‘Love kills pride.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much’ and walked away and called my wife.” Campbell said he and a church member had set up emails to go to a list of people who said they wanted to be notified if the church needed help. The call to his wife was to put the rapid response team into action. “Within about five minutes, people started showing up,” Campbell said. “Within about 30 minutes, there were probably 50 people there.” Campbell said people who responded were not only from Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles, but also from Elgin, Aurora, Fox Lake, McHenry, Sycamore and DeKalb. The anti-gay group targeted the church last month, approaching its parishioners and telling them the church’s welcoming status to the LGBT community is against what the Bible teaches. On Nov. 26, about 300 people stood in front of the First Congregational Church of Geneva to provide support if the anti-gay group were to return. The anti-gay group did not approach parishioners that Sunday or on Dec. 3. Church member Carolyn Fabian said she was at another church for a concert that morning when she got a text. “I never anticipated this level of support,” Fabian said. “[The anti-gay activists] were right at the first step, and I was trying to figure out how to push them back, and these guys just made a wall and were chanting ‘Love wins,’ and they backed off all the way to the grass, and we were able to get people into the church OK. It was fantastic.” Fabian created the “Got love?” rainbow signs that apparently made the church a target for anti-gay activists. Aaron Viland, 19, of St. Charles said he created the “Love kills pride” posters that he put up on city utility poles in response to the “Got Love?” signs. Viland said he and others went to the church to hand out literature. “Most of them were not really open to having conversations,” Viland said of people they tried to talk to. “A couple were at least open-minde[...]


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Harvard reduces building fees to attract new residential developmentHarvard Mayor Michael Kelly

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:06:00 GMT

HARVARD – The city has lowered its building and impact fees in an effort to attract new development in Harvard.

The City Council voted last week to reduce residential building fees for home construction, which includes permit and inspection fees and school, park, library and fire protection district impact fees.

The decision to lower fees is part of an active strategy to bring in new residents as Harvard’s retail and manufacturing industries grow, Mayor Michael Kelly said in a statement.

Kelly noted the 200,000 square feet of new construction underway in Arrowhead Industrial Park, and he said the creation of an enterprise zone could continue to attract business growth.

“The new Harvard-Woodstock enterprise zone has put our community on the radar of expanding companies,” Kelly said.

Fees to build a 1,500-square-foot home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a basement and garage will total about $8,043, which is less than half McHenry County’s average fee of about $20,441 for the same size home, city officials said.

The amount of fees range depending on the community. In Hebron, the cost to build the same house would total about $12,469, and in Huntley, the cost would be $35,540, Kelly said.

“Harvard’s fee structure was already one of the lowest in McHenry County,” he said. “The City Council created this bold new ordinance to make it crystal clear that Harvard has the lowest fees to build a new home in this county by a wide margin.”

Harvard Mayor Michael Kelly


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Woodstock teen cited after drowsy driving crash, police say

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:06:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A Woodstock teen has been cited for his involvement in a three-car crash after he fell asleep at the wheel Tuesday, police said.

McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies and the Woodstock Fire Protection District responded to the crash at 2:54 p.m. Tuesday in the 2000 block of Greenwood Road near Woodstock, Deputy Sandra Rogers said.

A 59-year-old Woodstock man was driving north in a 1999 Chrysler Sebring and turned left into a driveway when a 19-year-old Woodstock man fell asleep at the wheel of a 2004 Dodge Neon and rear-ended the Sebring, Rogers said.

This caused a chain reaction of events, and the Sebring hit a 2011 Ford Fusion, which a 54-year-old Huntley man was driving south on Greenwood Road, Rogers said.

The Neon’s engine compartment then caught fire. The driver was able to escape, police said.

Woodstock fire officials took the Huntley man and the Woodstock teen to the hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening, Rogers said.

The teen was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, Rogers said.


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Judge won't dismiss charges against Crystal Lake man who said McHenry County officials violated Trust ActNicefaro Macedo-Hernandez poses with his son, Savas Macedo, and daughter, Melissa Macedo, for a photo in 2016.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:05:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A judge said he won’t dismiss the domestic battery charges against Niceforo Macedo-Hernandez, who asked that the charges be dropped after he spent 40 days in federal immigration custody.

Macedo-Hernandez appeared in court Wednesday beside his defense attorney, George Kililis, and a court interpreter.

Kililis had asked Judge Michael Feetterer to dismiss misdemeanor charges against Macedo-Hernandez, arguing that his client’s due process rights were violated when he was transferred to an immigration detention center after posting bond.

Macedo-Hernandez claimed that his four-day detention in the McHenry County Jail and his transfer to the Wisconsin detention center violated the Trust Act. Macedo-Hernandez was in federal custody from Sept. 1 to Oct. 10.

Kililis was not available to comment.

According to the act, which took effect Aug. 28, law enforcement agencies can’t detain a person solely because of their immigration status.

Furthermore, the act bars law enforcement from complying with an immigration detainer or administrative warrant after that person posts bond.

Feetterer ultimately ruled that no Trust Act violation occurred.

“... A federal deportation officer took [Macedo-Hernandez] into custody after bond was posted on his state charges. At that point, he was in federal custody. The Trust Act does not apply to federal officers,” Feetterer wrote in his order.

Macedo-Hernandez’s daughter, Melissa Macedo, has said that she waited eight hours to post $500 bail for her father, but a correctional officer told her he wouldn’t be released.

She was told that he was going to be transferred, Kililis said.

Feetterer said in the order that three weeks after Macedo-Hernandez’s arrest, the family arrived to post his bail.

“Although they were never prevented from posting, after speaking with the deputy on duty, they chose not to,” Feetterer wrote.

Macedo-Hernandez eventually posted bond on the immigration warrant, and he has been living with his family since Oct. 10.

He pleaded not guilty to the domestic battery charges, and the case is expected to go to a jury trial in March.

Nicefaro Macedo-Hernandez poses with his son, Savas Macedo, and daughter, Melissa Macedo, for a photo in 2016.


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Convicted sex offender gets 2 years of probation for dressing up like Santa at Huntley fundraiserTaylor Blaul, 33, of the 5700 block of Aspen Court, Crystal Lake

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:04:00 GMT

HUNTLEY – A former substance abuse counselor and convicted sex offender will serve two years of probation for dressing up like Santa Claus at a Huntley animal shelter’s Christmas fundraiser. Taylor Blaul, 33, of the 5700 block of Aspen Court, Crystal Lake, apologized during his sentencing Wednesday in McHenry County court. Blaul previously was sentenced to four months in McHenry County Jail and three years of probation for sexually abusing a young boy. In 2014, Blaul was seen kissing a young boy at the Woodstock city pool, and the boy told investigators that Blaul had fondled him on more than one occasion. He told police that the abuse started in September 2013. As a result of that sentence, Blaul was required to register as a sex offender for life, meaning he was barred from certain activities, including dressing as Santa Claus, McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Victor Escarcida said. On Dec. 4, 2016, Blaul put on a Santa suit for a fundraiser at Animal House Shelter, where he worked, charging documents show. In Illinois, child sex offenders cannot participate in holiday events involving children younger than 18. “He was working in a place where you expect kids to be present,” Escarcida said in court. “Children love dogs, and they love Santa Claus.” Blaul pleaded guilty to the felony charge Oct. 11. Escarcida asked McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather to sentence Blaul to three years in prison, while Blaul’s defense attorney, Dan Hofmann, told Prather that if she gave his client probation, she would never see him in her courtroom on new charges. Blaul is required to continue attending counseling as a condition of his sentence, which includes 60 days in the county jail. If Blaul does not commit another crime while he is out on probation, he likely won’t be required to serve any jail time, according to the sentencing order. While higher management at Animal House Shelter knew about Blaul’s convictions, other employees might not have, Hofmann said. According to the shelter’s website, Animal House hosts a “Pictures with Santa” fundraiser, and encourages people to bring their pets and entire families to take photos with Santa. The shelter typically has someone who dresses as Santa for the event, but on this occasion, the weather was poor and he couldn’t make it, Hofmann said. In the market for a new Santa, shelter workers turned to Blaul, he said. “I was work[...]


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76-year-old Union woman seriously injured after car hits ice, slides into utility poleA 76-year-old Union woman was seriously injured after the car in which she was a passenger crashed into a utility pole Wednesday morning in Union.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:04:00 GMT

UNION – A 76-year-old Union woman was seriously injured after the car in which she was a passenger crashed into a utility pole Wednesday morning in Union.

A 20-year-old Marengo woman was driving her 2010 Ford SUV about 9:30 a.m. south on Leech Road in Union when she stopped to turn east into a driveway, McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandra Rogers said.

An 81-year-old Union man was driving a 2003 Honda north on Leech Road and swerved to avoid the Ford turning in front of him.

The Honda hit ice and drove into a ditch on the west side of the road. The Honda’s passenger side struck a utility pole and seriously injured the man’s passenger, the Union woman.

The Honda’s passenger side door needed to be cut open to extricate the woman, Union Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Tim Camp said.

She was taken in serious condition to Centegra Hospital – Huntley. The man suffered minor injuries but was not taken to the hospital.

The Marengo woman was cited for failing to yield while turning left.

The Marengo Rescue Squad also assisted at the scene.

A 76-year-old Union woman was seriously injured after the car in which she was a passenger crashed into a utility pole Wednesday morning in Union.


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McHenry County businesswomen share wisdom on success at Women's Power LuncheonMcHenry County Magazine's Women's Power Luncheon brought a group of those role models together Wednesday at the Crystal Lake Country Club, where a panel of executive directors from area chambers shared their stories about covering unique corners of the county and their journeys toward professional and personal development. Here's a look at some of the wisdom the panel of seven woman leaders had to share:​Mary Margaret Maule, Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, on change: "At the end of the day, we all face crisis, we all face challenging times, we all face change. ... Adapt to a never-ending, always-evolving, ever-changing landscape."Katrina McGuire, Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce, on seizing opportunities: "Every time I see an opportunity, I just want to grab it. I've had several opportunities, some failures – if you want to call it that – more learning experiences, but [through] every single one of those I've met amazing people."Sunday Graham, Huntley Chamber of Commerce, on the best advice she can give: "My best advice would be stay true to yourself; recognize what your strengths are. Focus on those, and leverage and maximize those opportunities, but also recognize where your opportunity to grow is. Find that mentor to help you to develop those skills to be a coach and to be coached. When you're young, you sort of have this, 'I'm going to go out and change the world' [mentality], and that's great, but eventually you need to recognize where your development is. I think every woman that's had a great professional career has had that mentor."Kay Bates (pictured), McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, on being fearless and pursuing a goal: "Even though you may not have a natural gift in a particular area, you are called upon to represent your organization, your business. ... You need to pursue that. Just do it, is my two cents. You may just develop a latent talent." Lynn Caccavallo, Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce, on perseverance: "Life was white-picket-fence perfect. All that changed with a phone call in August of 2008. In an instant, my entire life changed. Six months later, our lives were shattered in a million pieces when my 41-year-old husband, Randy, lost his short battle with cancer, leaving me behind to raise our four children, ages 10 through 18. I was faced with a future of complete uncertainty, which seemed hopeless and dark. Who was I? No longer a wife, no longer someone's partner, no longer a stay-at-home mom, how would I survive? How would I be able to raise these children? Would our lives ever be normal or happy again? With both fear and fearlessness, I forged my way forward through the darkness, because truly the only way out is to go through. I am the woman I am today because of my journey. ... Everything in my life today is because of the hard work and the perseverance that I had to put in to navigating the new life for both myself and my children."Sally South, Richmond-Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce, on her biggest "hurrah" as a chamber director: "I started working with this chamber back in April, and the board of directors thought that I could get the membership up from 158 to 200 by the end of the year, and I really thought that was an unrealistic goal not coming from a chamber background, not really knowing what it was going to take. My very first sales call, it was sort of a warm call. I was told this company wanted to join my chamber. So I scheduled an appointment and I went there. The business owner really did not want to join the chamber. He was spitting and swearing and pointing at me. There was spit coming in my face. He was so mad. And I thought, 'Wow, this is a great job.' After about 45 minutes, I smoothed things over, and I left with a check. When I heard the check being ripped out of the checkbook, I literally started to cry. I thought, 'This is what I am supposed to do, this is what I am going to do.' "Danielle Gulli, Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, on the changing face of retail: "Local retailers are not going away. [They] needs to change. We need to change and keep up with the changing economy."

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:03:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Women aspiring to be community leaders can find many role models in McHenry County. McHenry County Magazine's Women's Power Luncheon brought a group of those role models together Wednesday at the Crystal Lake Country Club, where a panel of executive directors from area chambers shared their stories about covering unique corners of the county and their journeys toward professional and personal development. Here's a look at some of the wisdom the panel of seven woman leaders had to share:​Mary Margaret Maule, Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, on change: "At the end of the day, we all face crisis, we all face challenging times, we all face change. ... Adapt to a never-ending, always-evolving, ever-changing landscape."Katrina McGuire, Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce, on seizing opportunities: "Every time I see an opportunity, I just want to grab it. I've had several opportunities, some failures – if you want to call it that – more learning experiences, but [through] every single one of those I've met amazing people."Sunday Graham, Huntley Chamber of Commerce, on the best advice she can give: "My best advice would be stay true to yourself; recognize what your strengths are. Focus on those, and leverage and maximize those opportunities, but also recognize where your opportunity to grow is. Find that mentor to help you to develop those skills to be a coach and to be coached. When you're young, you sort of have this, 'I'm going to go out and change the world' [mentality], and that's great, but eventually you need to recognize where your development is. I think every woman that's had a great professional career has had that mentor."Kay Bates (pictured), McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, on being fearless and pursuing a goal: "Even though you may not have a natural gift in a particular area, you are called upon to represent your organization, your business. ... You need to pursue that. Just do it, is my two cents. You may just develop a latent talent." Lynn Caccavallo, Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce, on perseverance: "Life was white-picket-fence perfect. All that changed with a phone call in August of 2008. In an instant, my entire life changed. Six months later, our lives were shattered in a million pieces when my 41-year-old husband, Randy, lost his short battle with cancer, leaving me behind to raise our four children, ages 10 through 18. I was faced with a future of complete uncertainty, which seemed hopeless and dark. Who was I? No longer a wife, no longer someone's partner, no longer a stay-at-home mom, how would I survive? How would I be able to raise these children? Would our lives ever be normal or happy again? With both fear and fearlessness, I forged my way [...]


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Terminated Algonquin Township Highway Department employee calls for lowering Gasser's salary“My concerns are many regarding our local township government and, in particular, its road district,” said Chirikos, a former McHenry County Board member. “Once a vibrant and well-functioning organization, which almost had unanimous support of its residents, it has devolved into a chaotic, factious and deeply conflated state.” Chirikos, who received a termination notice along with road district employees Derek Lee and Andrew Rosencrans, said the township's recent struggles are the product of the election that replaced former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller. He said the township's board should lower Gasser's salary of about $94,000. “With his election, Mr. Gasser assumed a fully developed salary of a 30-plus-year veteran road commissioner without so much as a day's worth of experience in this highly technical position,” Chirikos said. “The position of road commissioner should be an appointed position, hiring dependent upon and paid according to experience, knowledge and formal training of that candidate.”Chirikos asked the board to consider lowering Gasser's salary to coincide with his level of experience. Gasser, who sat near the front of the room Wednesday night, did not comment on Chirikos' remarks, and the meeting continued. Township trustees went on to approve an audit of 2016-17 claims as follows: $185,078 in the equipment and building fund, $11,370 in the general assistance fund, $98,093 in the town fund and $198,556 in the road and bridge fund.Trustee Melissa Victor shared her concern with the road district's spending on engineering fees for various road projects. “My main concern is that we're spending all this money, and we don't have them in the line item,” Victor said. “We're supposed to always stay under 100 percent, but my concern is that we're at like 433 percent.” The original 2016-17 road district budget allotted $30,000 for engineering. As of Dec. 1, the road district has spent $130,130.39, or 434 percent of the budget. “Can we be spending and writing checks out when we don't have the money there to pay it?” Victor said. “That's where my concern is.”The engineering costs are tied to work on Dennis Avenue and the Edwards Road bridge, Gasser said. “We need to have that amended budget,” Gasser said, “and that will bring that back into line.” In January, Algonquin Township officials plan to amend the road and bridge budget to put more money in the highway commissioner's engineering line item to pay for engineering costs tied to projects. Gasser said the road district is “doing actually very well.” “I've talked to a couple other highway commissioners,” Gasser said. “They're sitting at 65, 70 percent of their annual budgets spent, and right now, even with all the spending we've had, we're at 56.1 percent.” Gasser said the road district is working with the budget it inherited. “That's why it's so important that we have this amended budget next month,” Gasser said.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:03:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Nick Chirikos, a former road district employee fired on Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser's first day in office, showed up to Algonquin Township's monthly meeting Wednesday and called for trustees to lower the salary of his former boss. “My concerns are many regarding our local township government and, in particular, its road district,” said Chirikos, a former McHenry County Board member. “Once a vibrant and well-functioning organization, which almost had unanimous support of its residents, it has devolved into a chaotic, factious and deeply conflated state.” Chirikos, who received a termination notice along with road district employees Derek Lee and Andrew Rosencrans, said the township's recent struggles are the product of the election that replaced former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller. He said the township's board should lower Gasser's salary of about $94,000. “With his election, Mr. Gasser assumed a fully developed salary of a 30-plus-year veteran road commissioner without so much as a day's worth of experience in this highly technical position,” Chirikos said. “The position of road commissioner should be an appointed position, hiring dependent upon and paid according to experience, knowledge and formal training of that candidate.”Chirikos asked the board to consider lowering Gasser's salary to coincide with his level of experience. Gasser, who sat near the front of the room Wednesday night, did not comment on Chirikos' remarks, and the meeting continued. Township trustees went on to approve an audit of 2016-17 claims as follows: $185,078 in the equipment and building fund, $11,370 in the general assistance fund, $98,093 in the town fund and $198,556 in the road and bridge fund.Trustee Melissa Victor shared her concern with the road district's spending on engineering fees for various road projects. “My main concern is that we're spending all this money, and we don't have them in the line item,” Victor said. “We're supposed to always stay under 100 percent, but my concern is that we're at like 433 percent.” The original 2016-17 road district budget allotted $30,000 for engineering. As of Dec. 1, the road district has spent $130,130.39, or 434 percent of the budget. “Can we be spending and writing checks out when we don't have the money there to pay it?” Victor said. “That's where my concern is.”The engineering costs are tied to work on Dennis Avenue and the Edwards Road bridge, Gasser said. “We need to have that amended budget,” Gasser said, “and that will bring that back into line.” In January, Algonquin Township officials plan to amend the road and bridge budget to put more money in the highway commissi[...]


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