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New Orleans takes down white supremacist monumentWorkers dismantle the Liberty Place monument Monday, April 24, 2017, which commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government, in New Orleans. It was removed overnight in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:19:00 GMT

NEW ORLEANS – A monument to a deadly white-supremacist uprising in 1874 was removed under cover of darkness by workers in masks and bulletproof vests Monday as New Orleans joined the movement to take down symbols of the Confederacy and the Jim Crow South. The Liberty Place monument, a 35-foot granite obelisk that pays tribute to whites who tried to topple a biracial Reconstruction government installed in New Orleans after the Civil War, was taken away on a truck in pieces before daybreak after a few hours of work. In the coming days, the city will also remove three statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, now that legal challenges have been overcome. "We will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city," Mayor Mitch Landrieu vowed. The removal of the obelisk was carried out early in the morning because of death threats and fears of disruption from supporters of the monuments. The workers wore military-style helmets and had scarves over their faces. Police were on hand, with officers watching from atop a hotel parking garage. "The statue was put up to honor the killing of police officers by white supremacists," Landrieu said. "Of the four that we will move, this statue is perhaps the most blatant affront to the values that make America and New Orleans strong today." Citing safety concerns, the mayor would not disclose exactly when the other monuments would be taken down, except to say that it will be done at night to avoid trouble. He said the monuments will be put in storage until an appropriate place to display them is determined. Nationally, the debate over Confederate symbols has flared since nine black parishioners were shot to death by an avowed racist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds in the weeks after, and several Southern cities have since considered removing monuments. The University of Mississippi took down its state flag because it includes the Confederate emblem. New Orleans is a mostly black city of nearly 390,000. The majority-black City Council voted 6-1 in 2015 to take the monuments down, but legal battles held up action. Landrieu, a white Democrat, proposed the monuments' removal and rode to victory twice with overwhelming support from the city's black residents. Opponents of the memorials say they are offensive artifacts honoring the region's racist past. Others say the monuments are part of history and should be preserved. Robert Bonner, a 63-year-old Civil War re-enactor, was there to protest the monument's removal. "I think it's a terrible thing," he said. "When you start removing the history of the city, you start losing money. You start losing where you came from and where you've been." The Liberty Place monument was erected in 1891 to commemorate the failed uprising by the Crescent City White League. Sixteen White Leaguers, 13 members of the white and black Metropolitan police force and six bystanders were among those killed in the bloody battle down Canal Street. President Ulysses Grant sent federal troops to take the city back three days later. However, the White League grew in power in New Orleans after the battle, with its members and allies taking over the city and state government after Reconstruction. An inscription added in 1932 said the Yankees withdrew federal troops and "recognized white supremacy in the South" after the uprising. In 1993, those words were covered by a granite sla[...]


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Ex-Fox News guest: Sean Hannity made 'uncomfortable' advancesFILE - In this March 18, 2016, file photo, Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity speaks during a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in Phoenix. Hannity told the New York Daily News for a story published April 23, 2017, that accusations of sexual harassment from former Fox News contributor Debbie Schlussel are “100% false and a complete fabrication.”(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:16:00 GMT

NEW YORK – A former Fox News guest says Sean Hannity made her feel "uncomfortable" by repeatedly asking her to his hotel while on assignment more than a decade ago, and said she stopped appearing on the host's show soon after refusing to meet him. But Debbie Schlussel said she doesn't believe that Hannity's behavior constituted sexual harassment, clarifying remarks she made last week on an Oklahoma radio show.

Hannity responded to Friday's radio interview with KFAQ by saying Schlussel's account is "100% false and a complete fabrication."

KFAQ host Pat Campbell asked Schlussel if anyone at Fox News ever made her "uncomfortable" or made "sexual advances." She responded by saying she declined Hannity's repeated requests to come to his hotel with him while he was in Detroit for a broadcast of his show more than a decade ago. She said it was made clear to her after the program that she "wouldn't be back on his show." She says she made two more appearances on Fox after that, one on Hannity's show.

She told The Associated Press on Monday that her description of the incident was true, but that the behavior didn't rise to sexual harassment.

FILE - In this March 18, 2016, file photo, Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity speaks during a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in Phoenix. Hannity told the New York Daily News for a story published April 23, 2017, that accusations of sexual harassment from former Fox News contributor Debbie Schlussel are “100% false and a complete fabrication.”(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)


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Fearing a worker shortage, farmers push back on immigrationIn this March 1, 2017, photo, Marta Guembes, Guatemala's honorary consul in Portland, Ore., talks about how she has been trying to help Guatemalan immigrants who were detained in the predominantly Latino town, during an interview in Woodburn, Ore. Speaking outside the offices of PCUN, a union representing farmworkers, nursery and reforestation workers in Oregon, Guembes says such detentions cause enormous pain for families in Woodburn and in Guatemala that receive money from relatives working in the U.S. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 13:38:00 GMT

SALEM, Ore. – The head of Bethel Heights Vineyard looked out over the 100 acres of vines her crew of 20 Mexicans had just finished pruning, worried about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its crackdown on immigrants. From tending the plants to harvesting the grapes, it takes skill and a strong work ethic to produce the winery's pinot noir and chardonnay, and native-born Americans just aren't willing to work that hard, Patricia Dudley said as a cold rain drenched the vineyard in the hills of Oregon. "Who's going to come out here and do this work when they deport them all?" she asked. President Donald Trump's hard line against immigrants in the U.S. illegally has sent a chill through the nation's agricultural industry, which fears a crackdown will deprive it of the labor it needs to plant, grow and pick the crops that feed the country. Fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and cattle farmers and owners of plant nurseries and vineyards have begun lobbying politicians at home and in Washington to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes the harm to their livelihoods. Some of the farm leaders are Republicans who voted for Trump and are torn, wanting border security but also mercy toward laborers who are not dangerous criminals. Farming uses a higher percentage of illegal labor than any other U.S. industry, according to a Pew Research Center study. Immigrants working illegally in this country accounted for about 46 percent of America's roughly 800,000 crop farmworkers in recent years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture. Stepped-up deportations could carry "significant economic implications," a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture study said. If America's unauthorized labor force shrank 40 percent, for example, vegetable production could drop by more than 4 percent, the study said. The American Farm Bureau Federation says strict immigration enforcement would raise food prices 5 to 6 percent because of a drop in supply and because of the higher labor costs farmers could face. In addition to proposing a wall at the Mexican border, Trump wants to hire 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and has served notice that he intends to be more aggressive than the Obama administration in deporting immigrants. ICE agents have arrested hundreds of immigrants since Trump took office, though how much of a change from the Obama administration that represents is a matter of debate. Field hands have been among those targeted, with apple pickers detained in upstate New York and Guatemalans pulled over in Oregon on their way to a forest to pick a plant used in floral arrangements. It doesn't appear the arrests themselves have put a sizable dent in the agricultural workforce yet, but the fear is taking its toll. Some workers in Oregon are leaving for job sites as early as 1 a.m. and staying away from check-cashing shops on payday to avoid dragnets. Farm employers are worried about losing their workforces. "They say, 'Don't go out, don't get drunk, don't do nothing illegal' because they need us too. They worry too," said Moses Maldonado, who is in the U.S. illegally and has worked for nearly four decades tending wine grapes and picking fruit in Oregon. In Los Banos, California, asparagus farmer Joe Del Bosque said workers are so afraid of being arrested in the field that he struggled to find enough hands in March to pick his crop. When immigration attorney Sarah Loftin held a recent seminar in the Oregon wine-region t[...]


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More Venezuelans struggle in U.S. as their country implodesIn this April 11, 2017 photo, Mariela Reyes, a volunteer with Venezuelan Roots, sorts through donated goods for newly arrived Venezuelan immigrants at the "Value Store It" in Doral, Fla. Many of the Venezuelans now seeking food and other assistance in South Florida were once professionals or members of the middle class in their homeland, people who decided they could no longer tolerate increasing misery, crime, food shortages and lack of medical care. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)In this April 11, 2017 photo, Patricia Andrade, a co-founder of Venezuelan Roots, poses for a photograph with donated goods for newly arrived Venezuelan immigrants at the "Value Store It" in Doral, Fla. Andrade said she sees a “desperation” in the newer arrivals that wasn’t there with those who came earlier. “Before, the people prepared for their move,” Andrade said. “Today, they are just looking to escape the horror.” (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:32:00 GMT

MIAMI – People crowd outside a church near Miami’s international airport, chatting about family and friends left behind in Caracas, Valencia and Maracaibo as they wait more than an hour to receive rice, beans, yogurt and other food for their families. At a storage space not far away, about 60 other Venezuelans line up for free sheets, towels, cookware and other goods donated to help them get on their feet in their new country. Volunteers at South Florida social service organizations said they have seen an increasing number of Venezuelan seeking help. It’s a reflection of the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, where the opposition has held massive protests against President Nicolas Maduro for his handling of the economy and a Supreme Court decision that briefly stripped the opposition-led congress of most of its power. “I never thought I would need to receive food, but the time has come, and I don’t have a choice,” said 26-year-old Venezuelan lawyer Alejandra Mujica, who was among about 80 people waiting outside Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church one recent afternoon. Venezuela was once among Latin America’s most prosperous countries, with the world’s largest proven oil reserves. During good times, Venezuelans who came to the U.S. largely did so as tourists or to go shopping. But the Venezuelan economy now is in freefall because of a plunge oil prices and poor economic planning under the socialist government created by the late President Hugo Chavez, who took office in 1999, and continued under his successor, Maduro. The situation has grown worse because of capital flight and a crime rate that is among the highest in the world. Venezuela’s economy shrank 18 percent in 2016 and is expected to contract another 8 percent this year. It has the highest inflation of any country, and its people scrounge for basic necessities. About 18,000 Venezuelans applied for political asylum in the U.S in 2016, the largest group by nationality and more than double the 7,300 applications Venezuelans filed in 2015. Many of them are expected to be denied. The Venezuelans who came to U.S. during the Chavez years tended to be wealthier, often members of the elite whose businesses had been seized in expropriations or whose economic clout was perceived as a threat. In the U.S., they often obtained legal residency with investment visas, opening enterprises in South Florida, where most have settled. Many of the Venezuelans now seeking food and other assistance in South Florida were once middle class professionals who decided they could no longer tolerate increasing misery, crime, food shortages and lack of medical care in their homeland. “Venezuela has become unlivable,” said Javier Corrales, a Venezuelan professor of Latin American studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Mujica, the young lawyer seeking help at the church, said she barely survived back in the city of Valencia, waiting in two-day lines to buy whatever was available in the supermarket. After she was robbed of her phone at gunpoint, she and her husband decided to flee in September with savings of $3,500 and not much else. “There was no way to go on,” she said. At the storage space, 29-year-old Carmen Elena Rodriguez also found herself in unfamiliar territory. She earned a master’s degree in education in Caracas and now sells drinks at a farmers market to support herself. “It’s not easy what we are going through, but this assistance makes the road a little easier,” she said as she picked up donated dishes, a lamp and other items. Often the economic and political motivations Venezuelans give for leaving their homeland [...]


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Plight of Palestinian refugees now spans 5 generationsPalestinian refugee Abdullah Abu Massoud, 77, poses Feb. 8 for a photo in his living room. Members of his expanded clan which includes seven children, 46 grandchildren and dozens of great-grandchildren, are seen in the background. The plight of Palestinians uprooted by Israeli-Arab wars now spans five generations, one of the longest-running refugee crises. As the second wave of displacement hits the half-century mark, a solution for millions of refugees and their descendants is more distant than ever.This photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, shows a resident of the Palestinian refugee camp of Jerash in northern Jordan move cartons outside a small grocery. The plight of Palestinians uprooted by Israeli-Arab wars now spans five generations, one of the longest-running refugee crises. As the second wave of displacement hits the half-century mark, a solution for millions of refugees and their descendants is more distant than ever. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:32:00 GMT

This is the second of several stories marking 50 years since Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967. JERASH CAMP, Jordan – As a boy, Palestinian Abdullah Abu Massoud fled the war over the birth of Israel in 1948 and sought refuge in the nearby Gaza Strip. As an adult, Abu Massoud was displaced again when Israeli forces captured Gaza, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in 1967. He escaped to Jordan, where he has been living in a refugee camp for 50 years. Now 77, Abu Massoud is the white-haired patriarch of a refugee family spanning five generations, including a great-great-granddaughter. The future looks bleak. “Fifty years have passed without a step forward,” Abu Massoud said. “We don’t belong here.” The plight of Palestinians uprooted by Israeli-Arab wars is one of the world’s longest-running refugee crises, and a solution would likely require setting up a state of Palestine that would take in large numbers of them. Such a solution appears distant, even as President Donald Trump says he wants to try to broker an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are being displaced again by regional conflicts, including civil war in Syria. The head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which helps displaced Palestinians, said they are no longer the world’s focus. “We are dealing here with a community that has essentially reached a crisis of existential nature,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl said. Abdullah Abu Massoud was born in a Bedouin encampment in what is now Israel. His family fled Israeli forces during the war over Israel’s creation, walking to Egyptian-run Gaza. More than 700,000 Palestinians were uprooted at the time. In his 20s, Abu Massoud married Bassama, an Egyptian, and settled in Gaza. Bassama, 72, said that after Israel’s capture of the territory in 1967, Gaza residents began talking of leaving, fearful of what Israeli rule might bring. Israel was offering transportation to Jordan, Bassama said. In April 1968, the Abu Massouds and other displaced Palestinians from Gaza boarded a truck to Jordan’s border. From there, they took buses to an area near the town of Jerash where UNRWA was setting up a tent camp. Bassama remembers her feet sticking out of the tiny tent while she slept. Under U.S. proposals in previous Israeli-Palestinian talks, a Palestinian state created from lands Israel captured in 1967 would welcome families like the Abu Massouds. In addition, an agreed upon number of refugees would be allowed to return to Israel and others could opt to stay in their host countries. But disagreements remained, and talks failed. Palestinians wanted Israel to accept moral responsibility for the plight of refugees. Israel feared this would lead to a large-scale return to Israel and dilute its Jewish majority. There have been no serious negotiations since gaps widened with the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister. Continued Israeli settlement expansion made a partition deal more difficult. Today, 5.3 million Palestinians and their descendants are registered with UNRWA in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, making them eligible for health and education services. Some in Netanyahu’s government allege UNRWA and others perpetuate the refugee problem artificially. U.N. officials say refugee status is typically handed down through the generations in protracted conflicts. A 29-year-old grandson of Bassama and Abdullah, Alaa Abu Awad, has never set foot in historic Palestine[...]


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Centrist Macron, far-right Le Pen face off in fight to lead FranceFar-right leader and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, Marine Le Pen, addresses supporters after exit poll results of the first round of the presidential election were announced at her election day headquarters in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, Sunday, April 23, 2017. Polling agency projections show far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron leading in the first-round French presidential election. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron thumbs up as he addresses his supporters at his election day headquarters in Paris , Sunday April 23, 2017. Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France's presidential election, remaking the country's political system and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:32:00 GMT

PARIS – Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France's presidential election, remaking the country's political landscape and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union. French politicians on the left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen's path to power in the May 7 runoff, saying her virulently nationalist anti-EU and anti-immigration politics would spell disaster for France. "Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France," defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said. "As such, there is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right." The selection of Le Pen and Macron presents voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU's future and France's place in it. It sets up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking "French-first" platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc. With Le Pen wanting France to leave the EU and Macron wanting even closer cooperation among the bloc's 28 nations, Sunday's outcome means the May 7 runoff will have undertones of a referendum on France's EU membership. The absence in the runoff of candidates from either the mainstream left Socialists or the right-wing Republicans party – the two main political groups that have governed post-war France – also marked a seismic shift in French politics. Macron, a 39-year-old investment banker, made the runoff on the back of a grassroots campaign without the support of a major political party. With 90 percent of votes counted, the Interior Ministry said Macron had nearly 24 percent, giving him a slight cushion over Le Pen's 22 percent. Fillon, with just less than 20 percent, was slightly ahead of the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon, who had 19 percent. The euro jumped 2 percent to more than $1.09 after the initial results were announced because Macron has vowed to reinforce France's commitments to the EU and euro – and opinion polls give him a big lead heading into the second round. While Le Pen faces the runoff as the underdog, it's already stunning that she brought her once-taboo party so close to the Elysee Palace. She hopes to win over far-left and other voters angry at the global elite and distrustful of the untested Macron. With a wink at his cheering, flag-waving supporters who yelled "We will win!" in his election day headquarters in Paris, Macron promised to be a president "who protects, who transforms and builds" if elected. "You are the faces of French hope," he said. His wife, Brigitte, joined him on stage before his speech – the only couple among the leading candidates to do so Sunday night. Le Pen, in a chest-thumping speech to cheering supporters, declared that she embodies "the great alternative" for French voters. She portrayed her duel with Macron as a battle between "patriots" and "wild deregulation" – warning of job losses overseas, mass immigration straining resources at home and "the free circulation of terrorists." "The time has come to free the French people," she said at her election day headquarters in the northern French town of Henin-Beaumont, adding that nothing short of "the survival of France" will be at stake in the presidential runoff. Her supporters burst into a rendition of the French national anthem, chanted "We will win!" and waved French flags and blue flags with "Marine [...]


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Wheaton College student dies after track and field accident

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:26:00 GMT

WHEATON – A Wheaton College freshman died Saturday after accidentally being struck by a hammer during a track and field meet, according to a college news release.

Ethan Roser, 19, a transfer student from Cincinnati, was volunteering at the Wheaton College competition when he was hit about 4:15 p.m. during the hammer throw event, the release stated.

Wheaton College Public Safety and city of Wheaton paramedics responded immediately, and Roser was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he was pronounced dead, according to the release.

“We are deeply grieved, but, because of our faith in Christ, not without hope,” Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said in the release. “We ask people to pray for Ethan’s family, his friends, and our campus community.”




McHenry County Historical Society to host discussion on Eugene V. Debs in Union

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:25:00 GMT

UNION – A fight for civil liberties in McHenry County during World War I will be the subject of a program Tuesday.

The McHenry County Historical Society, Woodstock Celebrates Inc. and the Illinois Labor History Society will co-host a program about Eugene V. Debs and his fight for free speech.

Debs was a socialist leader and president of the American Railway Union. He was imprisoned at the McHenry County Jail in Woodstock for six months after disobeying a court order that tried to stop him from leading a railway worker strike.

“Debs was a part of Woodstock’s history, and his fight for free speech still echoes throughout America and the world,” Woodstock Celebrates program chairwoman Kathleen Spaltro said. “It’s important not to lose this connection to history, especially when Debs’ right to protest is very much in tune with current concerns.”

The program will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the McHenry County Historical Society and Museum, 6422 Main St., Union.




Lockport Township man who died during Pearl Harbor attack laid to restThe US Navy Funeral Hunter's carry Michael Galajdik's casket during the memorial service at Abraham Lincoln Nation Cemetery. Michael died during the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. (Photo by Paul Bergstrom for Shaw Media)Captain Teresa Gulley presents a flag to Michael Galajdik's nephew George Sternisha during the memorial service. Michael died during the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. (Photo by Paul Bergstrom for Shaw Media)Commander Chaplin Ron Neitzke reads a prayer during the memorial service for Michael Galajdik who died during the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. (Photo by Paul Bergstrom for Shaw Media)The US Navy Funeral Hunter's place an American Flag on Michael Galajdik's casket after the memorial mass at Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus. Michael died during the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. (Photo by Paul Bergstrom for Shaw Media)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:25:00 GMT

When George Sternisha returned to his home in Crest Hill on Friday, he was still running on adrenaline, overwhelmed with emotion. Sternisha had just returned from Hawaii, where he went to retrieve his uncle’s remains. His uncle, Michael Galajdik, was from Lockport Township and a fireman 1st Class in the U.S. Navy stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Galajdik, then 25, was one of more than 2,400 people who died in the surprise attack by Japan. Just more than 75 years later, Sternisha finally was able to bring his uncle home.“It’s just insane,” Sternisha said. “I ain’t slept in three days.” Sternisha began the process back in 2009, when he and his family were presented with the opportunity to try to positively identify his uncle’s remains. Then, in February, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command confirmed what Sternisha had been waiting for: They identified his uncle. So they made the arrangements for Sternisha to travel to Hawaii and escort the remains from the laboratory back home. In addition, the Navy was able to give Sternisha a copy of his uncle’s file. It showed how they identified his uncle using dental records and DNA Sternisha donated, as well as old documents proving Galajdik’s enlistment, rank and official death certificate. It showed photos of the USS Oklahoma, the battleship Galajdik was on and which the Japanese fighter planes sank during the attack. It also had a letter Sternisha’s mother, Anna, had written to the Navy in January 1942, a little more than a month after the attack. Anna was Galajdik’s older sister and had cared for her younger brother after their mother died when he was 13 and she was 16. “I would like to know a little more of my brother who is suppose to be missing at Pearl Harbor,” Galajdik’s sister wrote in the letter. “Where he was at the time of the bombing, was on his ship or not, surely someone must of saw him. I really don’t know if he is dead or alive. I’m just worrying sick.” Sternisha said it was always his mother’s intention to bring her brother back home, and now he is finally able to. “I’m just overwhelmed that I was able to fulfill her wish,” he said. The experience was an emotional one for Sternisha, and it continued even as he flew back with the remains on a 10-hour flight. When they landed Friday at O’Hare International Airport, about 200 people, from Chicago police officers and firefighters to members of the Navy, were there to greet them, along with the Chicago news media. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh man,’ ” Sternisha said. “All I want to do is just go home.” Sternisha and his family, along with members of the Patriot Guard, a volunteer organization whose members attend funerals of members of the military, firefighters and police, then drove with the casket to Tezak Funeral Home in Joliet. “It was surreal,” said Sternisha’s wife, Maryann. “I almost got panicky. It was just that touching.” The next day, about 50 family members and many more friends, fellow veterans and members of the community came out to the funeral home to pay their respects. They then had a funeral service at Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus. Along the way, the funeral procession was greeted by dozens of locals who lined the streets, many holding American flags waiting to honor Galajdik. Joliet police and firefighters, Crest Hill police, more than a dozen members of the Patriot Guard and family members drove to the church fo[...]


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McHenry County Adult Drug, Mental Health courts first to receive certification in Illinois

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:24:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County’s Adult Drug and Mental Health courts were the first operational courts to receive certification in the state of Illinois.

The Illinois Supreme Court adopted the Problem-Solving Courts standards for all circuit courts in 2015, which are minimum requirements for the planning, establishment, certification, operation and evaluation of all problem-solving courts in the state.

The standards help officials allocate scarce resources in ways that ensure the greatest positive return on the investment. Although the standards are developed to ensure consistent and uniform evidence-based practices in problem-solving courts, it allows them to tailor their needs to problems they might be facing in their respective communities.

“I have witnessed countless individuals pull themselves out of despair of drug addiction and untreated mental illness,” said Nicholas Hayes, an employee with the McHenry County specialty courts probation office. “With the assistance of our programs, these individuals seized on an opportunity to make positive life changes, repaired broken family relationships and re-entered the workforce.”




7th annual McHenry County Human Race benefits 73 nonprofitsKayla Wolf for Shaw Media Toddler Joey Spatz (center), 4, leads the way to the finish line during a toddler race Sunday during the McHenry County Human Race. About 750 runners participated in the event, and 73 local charities benefited from donations.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Charlotte Stiemke (left) laughs Sunday as Bryan Henning pretends to fall as she beats him to the finish line at the McHenry County Human Race.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Four-year-old Jayden Davis cheers on runners Sunday at the McHenry County Human Race. Jayden's mom ran to support local charities.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Batman Lee Stiemke high-fives McHenry County Human Race participants Brian Bennet and Piper Bennett as they run to the finish line Sunday. The race raised more than $360,000 in its first five years.

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:24:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County College was taken over Sunday by individuals dressed as the Incredible Hulk, Superman, Green Lantern, Batgirl, Power Rangers and many other superheroes. All of the heroes gathered for the same reason: To give back to their community and help local organizations that have helped many others. “This is a great event that brings together different organizations, and it’s a great way for people to show their support of them,” said Robin Doeden, executive director of the McHenry County Community Foundation, who was wearing a Wonder Woman outfit for the race. About a thousand people woke up Sunday morning to take part in the seventh annual McHenry County Human Race, held at MCC. The Human Race is a unique fundraiser that lets individuals choose which organization they want to receive the proceeds from their race registration. “It’s just fun to see the community together with such excitement for an awesome cause,” Doeden said. Rebecca Stiemke, executive director of Volunteer Center McHenry County, said this year’s race is benefiting 73 nonprofits compared to 44 agencies when it was first created. “We want to make sure all the charities in McHenry County feel supported,” Stiemke said. “This is a fundraiser for them, but it also gives them a boost by showing how many people support them.” With the sun out and capes flapping from the soft breeze, the racers were ready to go, including members of the Spring Grove Fire Protection District and Spring Grove Fire Explorer Post 1800, who wore their uniforms during the 5K. Crystal Lake resident Jim Stumpner crossed the finish line first, completing the race in less than 20 minutes. Stumpner said he specifically came out to support Family Alliance, which provides a variety of health care services to meet the needs of the growing adult population and their families in the area. “I’ve ran in this race the last four or five years because it’s a wonderful race. It’s organized very well, and the volunteers are fantastic,” Stumpner said. Finishing in second was Lake in the Hills resident Austin Nawrocki, who is in the National Guard and ran for MCC’s student veterans association. After Stumpner and Nawrocki finished the race, many other runners and walkers followed. However, the point of the race wasn’t what place individuals came in, but getting exposure and the necessary funds for area nonprofits. Based on previous years, the 5K is expected to bring in about $70,000. The Human Race raised more than $360,000 through its first five years. “Thank you all the people coming out to support the McHenry County charities,” Stiemke said. “These guys need your support; they need to know that you care about them.” Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Toddler Joey Spatz (center), 4, leads the way to the finish line during a toddler race Sunday during the McHenry County Human Race. About 750 runners participated in the event, and 73 local charities benefited from donations.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Charlotte Stiemke (left) laughs Sunday as Bryan Henning pretends to fall as she beats him to the finish line at the McHenry County Human Race.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Four-year-old Jayden Davis cheers on runners Sunday at the McHenry County Human Race. Jayden's mom ran to support local charities.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Batman Lee Stiemke high-fives McHenry County Human Race participants Brian Bennet and Pi[...]


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Longtime McHenry Mayor Sue Low talks city's milestones during final days in officeSarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com McHenry Mayor Sue Low talks with McHenry Police Chief John Jones and incoming Mayor Wayne Jett on Monday before her second to last meeting as mayor. Low has been mayor for 14 years and will be succeeded by Jett, a local businessman.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com McHenry Mayor Sue Low talks with McHenry police officer Robert Klasek on Monday before her second to last meeting as mayor. Low has been the city's mayor for 14 years and will be succeeded by businessman Wayne Jett.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com McHenry Mayor Sue Low walks her dogs at her McHenry home Monday before attending her second to last meeting as mayor. Low has been mayor for 14 years and will be succeeded by businessman Wayne Jett.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com McHenry Mayor Sue Low looks at some notes Monday at her McHenry home before attending her second to last meeting as mayor. Low has been mayor for 14 years and will be succeeded by businessman Wayne Jett.

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:23:00 GMT

McHENRY – A 14-year run as McHenry mayor is coming to an end for Sue Low. On April 17, Low attended her last regular City Council meeting as mayor of McHenry. “I’ll really miss her,” 6th Ward Alderman Geri Condon said. “Sue was very instrumental to me being on the council. I always admired and looked up to her.” A lifelong McHenry resident, Low’s career in public office started in 2001 as a 3rd Ward alderwoman. Two years later, Low ran for mayor in 2003 and has held the office since. “In the very beginning, one of the reasons I ran for alderman was for the plans to building the Riverwalk and wanting to improve the downtown area,” Low said. McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce President Kay Bates said Low always was mindful of local businesses. “Since I’ve known her, she has always maintained a strong shop-locally mentality and has encouraged residents to support their local businesses,” Bates said. Now in her final days in office, Low said some achievements she’s extremely proud of as mayor include her dedication of the Vietnam Memorial in 2014 and her work on the downtown area. “Having grown up here my whole life, the heart of McHenry is the downtown area for me,” Low said. “While I was in office, we really focused on Veterans Memorial Park being a centerpiece of our town and placing a lot of emphasis on our downtown.” In February, the City Council approved a measure to bring back the McHenry indoor theater, which closed in 2014. “She’s done a great job of helping with us in the process,” said Don Tonyan, owner of the indoor theater building. “She’s always been a mayor who looks out for people’s best interests and has been great to work with on this project.” Low also attended many events dedicated to veterans and was made a member of the Warriors Watch Riders, a group that helps veterans. “She’s always had a very positive outlook about everything, and she’s really been active in the community and attended every event she could,” said Kim Loewe, who is the owner of Kiera’s Confections in McHenry and president of the McHenry Area Downtown Business Association. At her final City Council meeting, some of Low’s last moments as mayor involved declaring May 5, 2017, Main Street Station Day to honor McHenry’s Mexican restaurant, and recognizing the completion of the city’s new consolidated dispatch center’s expansion and renovation project. The new center will serve as the dispatcher for 16 area agencies. “[McHenry Police] Chief [John] Jones and his staff have just done an incredible job with being named a dispatch center, and then utilizing the space that we already have to accommodate an expansion,” Low said. Jones gave Low credit for the dispatch center’s completion, saying she was an important part of the negotiations. “She’s always been supportive of the McHenry Police Department,” Jones said. “If we swear in a new officer, she’s always there in attendance.” Her tenure hasn’t been completely free of controversy. Low enacted a policy in 2013 to limit communication between aldermen and staff because of one alderman’s “antagonizing” behavior. The policy banned unscheduled meetings between the City Council and staff. It also made it so questions on City Council agenda items or implementing cit[...]


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Trump heads into tough week with budget, health care battlesAP file photo White House budget director Mick Mulvaney speaks March 16 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Mulvaney said that Democratic negotiators on a massive spending bill need to agree to funding top priorities of President Donald Trump, such as a down payment on a border wall and hiring of additional immigration agents. Mulvaney told The Associated Press on April 20, that "elections have consequences" and that "We want wall funding" as part of the catchall spending bill, which lawmakers hope to unveil this week.President Donald Trump poses for a portrait in the Oval Office in Washington, Friday, April 21, 2017. With his tweets and his bravado, Trump is putting his mark on the presidency in his first 100 days in office. He's flouted conventions of the institution by holding on to his business, hiring family members as advisers and refusing to release his tax returns. He's tested conventional political wisdom by eschewing travel, church, transparency, discipline, consistency and decorum. But the presidency is also having an impact on Trump, prompting him, at times, to play the role of traditional president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 03:40:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is heading into one of the most challenging weeks of his presidency, juggling a renewed health care push and a looming budget deadline. It’s all complicated by a potential showdown with Democrats over paying for a border wall. The symbolic 100-day mark for the administration is Saturday. That’s the same day government could shut down without a budget deal. Trump has announced a rally in Pennsylvania that day. Despite Trump’s dismissal that the 100-day marker is “artificial,” the White House is planning a packed week of activities leading up to Saturday. Trump will sign executive orders on energy and rural policies, dine with Supreme Court justices, meet with the president of Argentina and travel to Atlanta for a National Rifle Association event. Top aides also will fan out around the country to promote the administration. Aides stressed on Sunday talk shows that funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and a vote on an effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law were priorities. But they also suggested a shutdown could be avoided. “I don’t think anyone foresees or expects or would want a shutdown,” said budget director Mick Mulvaney on “Fox News Sunday.” Trump would like to revive a failed effort by House Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” He also hopes to use a $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities. But so far, negotiations have proven difficult, with disputes over the border wall and health law subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance. House members received little information from leaders on a conference call Saturday. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believes the spending bill will include “something satisfactory” to reflect Trump’s desire to build a wall. The legislation would keep the government running through Sept. 30, the end of the budget year. “We expect the priorities of the president to be reflected,” Priebus said, citing ongoing talks with the House and the Senate. He added that “it’ll be enough in the negotiation to move forward either with construction or the planning ... to get going on the border wall and border security.” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California described a border wall as “immoral” and “expensive” when asked if there was any scenario in which Democrats will agree to money for a wall to avoid a shutdown. “Democrats do not support the wall,” she said, speaking also on NBC. “Republicans on the border states do not support the wall.” “The Republicans have the votes in the House and the Senate and the White House to keep government open. The burden to keep it open is on the Republicans,” Pelosi said. She noted that when Trump promised to build a wall during his campaign, he never indicated he would “pass billions of dollars of cost of the wall onto the taxpayer.” Trump weighed in on his proposed border wall Sunday on Twitter, saying “Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.” Trump has repeatedly asserted [...]


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Illinois Democrats aim high with minimum wage proposalsAP file photo Protesters participate in a rally Sept. 14, 2014, on Chicago's South Side as labor organizers escalate their campaign to raise the minimum wage for employees to $15 an hour. Amid a national push by unions and worker advocates for a $15 minimum wage, Illinois Democrats hope to pass an ambitious hike during the spring legislative session, despite a warning from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner that he opposes an increase of any kind.

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 03:40:00 GMT

SPRINGFIELD – Amid a national push by unions and worker advocates for a $15 minimum wage, Illinois Democrats hope to pass an ambitious hike during the spring legislative session, despite a warning from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner that he opposes an increase of any kind. The proposal would lift the state’s minimum wage from its current $8.25 to $15 over the next five years, a more accelerated leap than previous adjustments in Illinois. It also would constitute a larger jump than increases toward $15 approved last year in New York and California, where the rates had been $9 and $10, respectively. But as with previous efforts in Illinois, the measure likely is will be tied up in the state’s electoral politics. Sponsors of the legislation acknowledge Rauner’s opposition but have signaled they want to force him to act on the measure ahead of next year’s gubernatorial election, in which he already faces half a dozen Democratic challengers. “We will get a really good opportunity to see where the governor stands,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat sponsoring the wage bill in the House. “Does he side with the 2.3 million people in this state who need a raise now or does he side with the big corporations?” In the past, Rauner has said he supported minor increases in the minimum wage. But he told the audience at a business forum on April 13 that requiring employers to raise pay is out of the question. “That’s not gonna happen,” Rauner said. “Companies will just leave.” Democrats say they have considerable support for the $15-per-hour measure in the House, and expect a floor vote in May. The Senate also is considering two minimum wage bills, one similar to Guzzardi’s and a less ambitious one that would raise the wage to $11 by 2021. In 2014, Democrats placed an advisory referendum on the Illinois ballot asking voters whether they supported a minimum wage increase in an effort to motivate their base to go to the polls. The referendum secured 67 percent of the vote in the same election that Rauner won his first term in office. During the campaign, Rauner was criticized by his rival, former Gov. Pat Quinn, for statements supporting a reduction of the minimum wage. Illinois has raised its minimum wage above the federal floor, currently $7.25 per hour, twice in recent history – first in 2003 and again in 2006 to $8.25, where it’s remained since 2011. That leaves Illinois with a lower rate than 20 others nationwide, but above every state it borders. Business leaders claim increasing the rate puts Illinois at a competitive disadvantage, driving companies across state lines or forcing them to reduce staff. Labor unions and other allies of the national “Fight for $15” campaign contend raising the minimum wage boosts the economy by putting more money into pockets of low-wage workers, decreasing reliance on government assistance. Advocates have said anything less than $15 falls far short of the cost of living for millions of Illinoisans. They point to research including a 2016 report from the University of Illinois that shows at least 34 percent of Illinois workers earn less than $15 an hour, many of them while helping to support a family. The report projects an increase to $15 would result in just a 0.78 percent employment decline while yielding an extra $2.4 billion in tax revenue. Robert Bruno, a pro[...]


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France's next leader: centrist Macron vs. far-right Le PenPeople line up before casting their vote for the first-round presidential election at a polling station in Paris, Sunday, April 23, 2017. French voters are casting ballots for their next president in an unusually close first-round election Sunday, after a campaign dominated by concerns about jobs and immigration and clouded by security fears following a recent attack on police guarding the Champs-Elysees in Paris. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 22:13:00 GMT

PARIS – Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France's presidential election, remaking the country's political landscape and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union. French politicians on the left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen's path to power in the May 7 runoff, saying her virulently nationalist anti-EU and anti-immigration politics would spell disaster for France. "Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France," defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said. "As such, there is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right." The selection of Le Pen and Macron presented voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU's future and France's place in it. It set up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking platform that called for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc. With Le Pen wanting France to leave the EU and Macron wanting even closer cooperation between the bloc's 28 nations, Sunday's outcome meant the May 7 runoff will have undertones of a referendum on France's EU membership. The absence in the runoff of candidates from either the mainstream left Socialists or the right-wing Republicans party – the two main political groups that have governed post-war France – also marked a seismic shift in French politics. Macron, a 39-year-old investment banker, made the runoff on the back of a grassroots campaign without the support of a major political party. With 75 percent of the vote counted, the Interior Ministry said Macron had just over 23 percent of the vote with Le Pen slightly behind with just under 23 percent. Fillon had just under 20 percent support and the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon had just under 19 percent. The euro jumped 2 percent to over $1.09 after the initial results were announced because Macron has vowed to reinforce France's commitments to the EU and euro. With a wink at his cheering, flag-waving supporters who yelled "We will win!" in his election day headquarters in Paris, Macron promised to be a president "who protects, who transforms and builds" if elected. "You are the faces of French hope," he said. His wife, Brigitte, joined him on stage before his speech – the only couple among the leading candidates to do so on Sunday night. Le Pen, in a chest-thumping speech to cheering supporters, declared that she embodies "the great alternative" for French voters. She portrayed her duel with Macron as a battle between "patriots" and "wild deregulation" – warning of job losses overseas, mass migration straining resources at home and "the free circulation of terrorists." "The time has come to free the French people," she said at her election day headquarters in the northern French town of Henin-Beaumont, adding that nothing short of "the survival of France" will be at stake in the presidential runoff. Her supporters burst into a rendition of the French national anthem, chanted "We will win!" and waved French flags and blue flags with "Marine President" on them. France is now steaming into unchartered territory, because whoever[...]


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McHenry fire leaves home uninhabitable, causes $35,000 in damage

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 22:10:00 GMT

McHENRY – A house fire Saturday night may have started from careless smoking, according to a news release from the McHenry Township Fire Protection District.

McHenry firefighters responded to a call about midnight for a report of a house fire in the 3100 block of Crescent Avenue, McHenry. Upon arrival, crews found a one-story, single-family house with fire coming from an attached garage.

All occupants exited the house before the fire department arrived, according to the release.

The fire was under control within 20 minutes, and firefighters ventilated heat and smoke from the residence by cutting a hole in the roof. The fire was contained to the garage area, with smoke and water damage throughout. Damage is estimated to be about $35,000, and the house is uninhabitable.

The fire protection district said it is unknown whether smoke detectors alerted the residents, and initial investigations suggest the fire might have started from careless smoking.

The Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department and the Wonder Lake Fire District were called to the scene to assist. Several other agencies provided coverage for the fire district while crews worked to put out the fire.




Author Spotlight: Kerry Nenn of Lakewood

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 10:30:00 GMT

Hometown: Lakewood Latest Book: “24 Ways To Serve Through Your Day” Publisher: Nenn Pen, Ink Release Date: March 24, 2017 Available: Online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble What’s your new book about? Do you want to serve but can’t find the time? Maybe you’re unsure what you have to offer. When you think about serving, what comes to mind? Saturdays at the soup kitchen? Mission trips to Mozambique? These are great ministries, but they might not be for you. Maybe it’s time to rethink your definition of serving. Try this: Serve those around you every day. We all encounter ways to serve others in our day-to-day lives, but we often overlook them. ‘24 Ways To Serve Through Your Day’ helps you recognize these opportunities and develop a habit of serving. You will discover you don’t have to schedule, scramble or be a superstar to serve. Simply seize the serving opportunities right in front of you. As you do, you’ll develop the heart of a servant and start living a Galatians 5:13 life – “Serve one another humbly in love.” Where did the idea come from? ‘24 Ways To Serve Through Your Day’ is one installment of a four-part series designed to help readers live out the Greatest Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 This book offers practical, daily steps to develop a loving, humble heart of serving – a heart dedicated to God’s purposes. What genre is your book, and why were you drawn to it? Christian living. As a Christian writer, my passion is to pass along what God teaches me, to encourage others in their spiritual walk. I pray this series helps readers grow in their love for the Lord. Who is the intended audience? This book was created to serve readers by helping them serve others. It is for those who struggle with how, when and where to serve. This guide makes the process simple. It’s designed as a tool for those who want to develop a servant attitude and love God with all their heart. Why is this story important to you? Too often, we miss opportunities to serve others. In our society, it’s easy to become overly individualistic and miss out on a richer life of serving one another in love. I believe serving is an essential part of the Christian life, and an integral part of following the Greatest Commandment. How long did it take you to write? What was your process? I wrote this installment of the series over a matter of months. I set a goal of March 2017 for release and asked several friends to hold me accountable to this goal. When I started, I put out a call to readers of the first book, ‘24 Ways To Pray Through Your Day,’ to contribute ideas for this edition. Anyone whose ideas I used would get their name included in the book. I combined these ideas with my own to come up with a total of 24 ways. Once completed, I used a graphic designer to create the cover. What did you enjoy most about writing this book? What was the hardest part? The most enjoyable part was recalling all the ways God has blessed me through others. It’s encouraging to see how[...]


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Jail to job: New York City to give jobs to released inmatesAP photo Neftali Thomas Diaz (right) tries on donated work clothes Thursday with the help of his case manager, David Rodriguez, at The Fortune Society in New York. At the Fortune Society, one of the social service nonprofits expected to partner with the city on the plan and a sponsor of Diaz, the mission is proving the critics wrong by training former state prison and jail inmates on how to land and keep jobs.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:35:00 GMT

NEW YORK – Neftali Thomas Diaz swears he’s done with Rikers Island. After being locked up twice at the notorious New York City jail for stealing a credit card and violating parole, Diaz entered a private jobs program. Once he’s back on his feet with a paycheck, Diaz said, “I know I’m not ever going back there – ever.” New York City is betting that Diaz and other low-level offenders like him are right about the salvation in second-chance employment. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will spend $10 million a year on a “jails to jobs” initiative that will guarantee all Rikers inmates serving sentences of a year or less a chance at short-term employment once they do their time. The jobs will last up to eight weeks, with hourly wages covered by taxpayer money rather than coming out of the pocket of the employers. The program, expected to be in place by the end of the year, is part of a broader effort to drive down the city’s inmate population to the point where the city could build new, smaller jails to replace Rikers. The shutdown of one of the nation’s largest jails could take years, so the mayor is pitching shorter-term remedies to ease the chronic violence and corruption at the sprawling facility. Supporters have said transitional jobs – kitchen, construction and other mostly menial work paying minimum wage – are a good investment because research shows that inmates who get them would be less likely to break the law again and go back to Rikers, where the costs of housing each prisoner can top $200,000 a year. The economics make it “in everyone’s interest to do this because otherwise they pay in the end,” said supporter Martin Horn, a Department of Correction commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But the plan has come under fire by critics that include another former city jails boss, Bernard Kerik, who served his own prison term for tax fraud and lying to the White House during his vetting process for Homeland Security secretary. He said any new spending on rehabilitation should go to existing behind-bars programs offering high school educations and vocational training. The jobs plan is “like giving money away” and “a feel-good approach that does nothing to fix the problem,” Kerik said. Another vocal opponent, former police detective and mayoral candidate Bo Dietl, puts it even more bluntly: “Why should we be rewarding people who commit crimes? I don’t get that.” At the Fortune Society – one of the social service nonprofits expected to partner with the city on the plan and a sponsor of Diaz – the mission is proving the critics wrong by training former state prison and jail inmates on how to land and keep jobs. Part of the focus is on winning the trust of employers who risk hiring criminals trying to go straight, said Stanley Richards, an ex-convict who serves as the organization’s executive vice president. “It can be a tough sell,” Richards said. “We’re dealing with stereotypes of the formerly incarcerated. So what we’re saying to employers is, ‘We’re concerned about your business, because we’re helping to build new lives.’ ” Though the Fortune Society sees some clients drop out and drift away, many manage to break out the cycle of recidivism. Some have held down s[...]


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American Airlines tries to learn from United's mistakes in incidentFILE - In this Friday, June 3, 2016 file photo, an American Airlines passenger jet takes off from Miami International Airport in Miami. The company said it grounded a flight attendant who got into a verbal confrontation with a passenger after taking a baby stroller away from another passenger on a Friday, April 21, 2017 flight from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:35:00 GMT

NEW YORK – Another day, another cellphone video of a conflict on an airplane. American Airlines said it grounded a flight attendant who got into a verbal confrontation with a passenger on a Friday flight from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth. Spokeswoman Leslie Scott says the airline is looking into whether the male flight attendant violently took away a stroller from the female passenger just before she boarded a Friday flight from San Francisco to Dallas. He has been removed from duty in the meantime. In an age of cellphone videos and social media, airlines are learning the hard way that it is essential to de-escalate tense situations that occur during air travel, even as there are more passengers, less room and fewer flight attendants than ever before. The incident comes less than two weeks after video of a man being violently dragged off a United Express flight sparked widespread outrage. United initially blamed its passenger, Dr. David Dao, before finally apologizing days after the incident, fanning the public’s fury. American, by contrast, seems to have learned from United’s mistakes: it immediately said it was sorry, that it had grounded the flight attendant while it investigates the incident, and that it had upgraded the passenger involved and her family to first class. “American doesn’t want to become the next United, but then, United didn’t want to become the next United,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group. “No airline wants to be seen as being anti-consumer or anti-passenger.” Smartphone cameras and social media are shifting power to consumers who can share customer relations gaffes with the world. They’re increasingly making confrontations with customer-facing staff headline news, making it harder for companies to sweep complaints under the rug. The faster companies own up to mistakes, the quicker they can start to do damage control. American’s fast reaction to the incident could be helpful, said brand consultant Allen Adamson, CEO of BrandSimple. “The quick reaction will prevent it from escalating further, but it won’t mitigate the perception among flyers that flying is becoming a less enjoyable experience every day,” he said. Overall, airlines must start to put more of an emphasis on customer service, he said. “It’s another example of airlines struggling to treat their passengers with the traditional ‘customer is always right’ attitude,” he said. “Good customer service is finding a way to de-escalate a situation and he (the flight attendant) was throwing gasoline on it.” Days after Dao was dragged off the United Express flight from Chicago to Kentucky to make room for airline crew, his lawyer spent a good part of a news conference railing against what he said was the industrywide shabby treatment of airline passengers. Dao lost teeth, suffered a broken nose and suffered a concussion in the incident, which also was captured on video. In the case of the American flight on Friday, a video that passenger Surain Adyanthaya posted on Facebook shows the sobbing woman holding a small child and saying, “You can’t use violence with baby.” Later, an unidentified male passeng[...]


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Illinois receives $16M to fight opioid addiction crisis

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

CHICAGO – Illinois is receiving more than $16 million in federal money to help fight a prescription drug addiction crisis.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grants. The money will go toward prevention, treatment and recovery services.

Duckworth said the money "will go a long way toward ending the opioid epidemic." Durbin said it's a crisis that affects every community in Illinois, from urban to suburban and rural.

Nationwide, more than 33,000 deaths from opioid-related overdoses were reported in 2015. In Illinois more than 1,835 died in 2015. That's a 16 percent increase over 2013.

A U.S. surgeon general's report found only one in 10 people with a substance use disorder receives the care they need.




Health care quagmire awaiting Congress as possible shutdown loomsIn this photo taken Feb. 28, 2017, a flag flies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lawmakers return to Washington this week to a familiar quagmire on health care legislation and a budget deadline dramatized by the prospect of a protracted battle between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over his border wall. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers returning to Washington this coming week will find a familiar quagmire on health care legislation and a budget deadline dramatized by the prospect of a protracted battle between President Donald Trump and Democrats over his border wall. Trump’s GOP allies control Congress, but they’ve been unable to send him a single major bill as his presidency faces the symbolic 100-day mark April 29 – the very day when the government, in a worst-case scenario, could shut down. Feeling pressure to deliver results, Trump wants to revive a troubled health care measure from House Republicans to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Trump also hopes to use a $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities. Congress faces a midnight Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown. But negotiations on the spending measure, a huge pile of leftover business from last year that includes the budgets of almost every federal agency, have hit a rough patch. Rank-and-file Republicans received few answers on a Saturday conference call by top House GOP leaders, who offered little detail and said deals remained elusive on both health care and the catchall spending measure, with no votes scheduled yet. It’s looking like a one- or two-week temporary measure will be needed to prevent a shutdown and buy time for more talks. Negotiations have faltered because of disputes over the border wall and health law subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance. Trump’s Capitol Hill allies had been tempering expectations that the president will win much in the budget talks. Democratic support will be needed to pass the spending measure, and Republicans fear taking the blame if the government shuts down on their watch. “We have the leverage and they have the exposure,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told fellow Democrats on a conference call Thursday, according to a senior Democratic aide. Pelosi wants the spending bill to give the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico help with its Medicaid obligations, and Democrats are pressing for money for overseas famine relief, treatment for opioid abuse, and the extension of health benefits for 22,000 retired Appalachian coal miners and their families. An additional Democratic demand is for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under Obama’s health law. The payments are a critical subsidy and the subject of a lawsuit by House Republicans. Trump has threatened to withhold the money to force Democrats to negotiate on health legislation. Trump’s presidential victory makes it “completely reasonable to ask and to insist that some of his priorities are funded,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in an interview. “We are more than happy to talk to the Democrats about some of their priorities but we encourage them to recognize that they are a minority party.” Both the White House and Democrats have adopted hard[...]


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Trump awards Purple Heart at Walter Reed military hospitalPresident Donald Trump, left, awards a Purple Heart to U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, with his wife Tammy Barrientos, right, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)President Donald Trump prepares to award a Purple Heart to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, with first lady Melania Trump, right, and Tammy Barrientos, second from right, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

BETHESDA, Md. – President Donald Trump on Saturday awarded a Purple Heart to an Army sergeant recently wounded in Afghanistan, the first of many Trump likely will award during his service as commander in chief of the U.S. military.

"When I heard about this ... I wanted to do it myself," Trump said during a brief ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington. The medal went to Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was wounded in action March 17 in Afghanistan during what is now America's longest war. The White House did not release Barrientos' hometown.

"Congratulations, on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation. Tremendous," said Trump, mentioning his wife.

It was Trump's first visit as president to the military hospital.

Barrientos, whose right leg below the knee had been amputated, was brought into a hospital atrium in a wheelchair, accompanied by his wife, Tammy.

Trump kissed Barrientos' wife before pinning the medal on the sergeant's left shirt collar, grasping Barrientos by the shoulders and then shaking his hand. The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who are wounded or killed in action.

Besides Barrientos, Trump met privately with about a dozen service members who are receiving care at the medical center.

Before leaving the White House, the president tweeted that he looked forward to "seeing our bravest and greatest Americans."

Trump's decision to allow news media coverage of the medal ceremony was in sharp contrast to former President Barack Obama, who awarded Purple Heart medals during his own regular visits to Walter Reed but always did so behind closed doors.

Trump was driven to Maryland instead of flying in the Marine One helicopter, the way presidents typically travel to Walter Reed, due to annual public tours of the White House south grounds and gardens that were taking place Saturday.

As the motorcade exited the complex, nearby sidewalks were lined with people who had come to Washington on Saturday, which is also Earth Day, to promote science and defend it from attack, including Trump's proposed budget cuts. Some held signs that said "Support Science" and "Science Saves Lives."

President Donald Trump, left, awards a Purple Heart to U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, with his wife Tammy Barrientos, right, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)President Donald Trump prepares to award a Purple Heart to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, with first lady Melania Trump, right, and Tammy Barrientos, second from right, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


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Afghan officials: 100 casualties in Afghanistan attackAfghan soldiers stand guard at the gate of a military compound after an attack by gunmen in Mazar-e- Sharif province north of kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, April 21, 2017. Gunmen wearing army uniforms stormed a military compound in the Balkh province, killing at least eight soldiers and wounding 11 others, an Afghan government official said Friday. (AP Photo/Mirwais Najand)

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

KABUL, Afghanistan – Authorities on Saturday raised the casualty toll to 100 in an attack on a military compound in northern Afghanistan a day earlier by gunmen and suicide bombers wearing army uniforms. Gen. Daulat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense, said the attack Friday on a compound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army left dozens of soldiers and other personnel dead or wounded. Reports conflicted on the death toll, but at least two sources within the army corps and a provincial security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media, confirmed that more than 130 people were killed and at least 80 others were wounded. The defense ministry had said Friday night that eight soldiers were killed and 11 others were wounded in its initial reports. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said the militants entered the base in Balkh province using two military vehicles and attacked army personnel inside the compound's mosque. "Two suicide bombers detonated their vests full of explosive inside the mosque of the army corps while everyone was busy with Friday prayers," he said. Waziri said there were 10 attackers, including the two who carried out the suicide attacks. Eight others were killed in a gun battle with soldiers. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault in an email sent to media. President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday traveled to the base and strongly condemned the attack, according to a tweet from the official Twitter account of the presidential palace. "The attackers are infidels," Ghani was quoted as saying in the tweet. Ghani announced that Sunday would be a day of national mourning, with memorial services across the country's mosques and the Afghan flag flying at half-mast, in a statement issued by the Presidential Palace. Afzel Hadid, head of provincial council in Balkh told The Associated Press that more than 100 people, both army personnel and others present at the time inside the army crops, were killed in the attack. "The exact number is still not verified, but for sure we know more than 100 were killed in the attack," said Hadid. One of the attack survivors, an Afghan army soldier, Mohammad Hussain who was wounded and transported to a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif said "Three people in an Afghan National Army vehicle started shooting at us when we finished Friday prayers, they are the enemies of the country." "I don't know maybe they had someone inside to help them to bring the vehicle inside. There are seven to eight checkpoints from the main gate and without inside help this vehicle cannot enter the compound and get to the mosque." In the Taliban's detailed statement on the attack posted on its official website, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that four of the 10 attackers were disguised as soldiers at the time of the attack. The Taliban statement said the attack was retaliation for the killing of the Taliban governor of Kunduz province, Mullah [...]


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Science advocates across U.S. fan out in global show of supportAP photo People hold signs of pioneering women in science Saturday in front the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the March for Science in Washington, D.C. Students and research advocates rallied from the Brandenburg Gate to the Washington Monument on Earth Day, conveying a global message of scientific freedom without political interference and spending necessary to make future breakthroughs possible.Thousands of demonstrators Saturday attend the March for Science in Berlin. Thousands of people are expected to attend March for Science events around the world to promote the understanding of science and defend it from various attacks, including U.S. government budget cuts. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – The world saw brain power take a different form Saturday. From the Washington Monument to Germany’s Brandenburg Gate and even to Greenland, scientists, students and research advocates rallied on an often soggy Earth Day, conveying a global message about scientific freedom without political interference, the need for adequate spending for future breakthroughs and just the general value of scientific pursuits. They came in numbers that were mammoth if not quite astronomical. “We didn’t choose to be in this battle, but it has come to the point where we have to fight because the stakes are too great,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who regularly clashes with politicians. President Donald Trump, in an Earth Day statement hours after the marches kicked off, said that “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.” Denis Hayes, who co-organized the first Earth Day 47 years ago, said the crowd he saw from the speaker’s platform down the street from the White House was energized and “magical” in a rare way, similar to what he saw in the first Earth Day. “For this kind of weather, this is an amazing crowd. You’re not out there today unless you really care. This is not a walk in the park event,” Hayes said of the event in the park. Mann said that like other scientists, he would rather be in his lab, the field or teaching students. But driving his advocacy are officials who deny his research that shows rising global temperatures. When he went on stage, he got the biggest applause for his simple opening: “I am a climate scientist.” In Los Angeles, Danny Leserman, the 26-year-old director of digital media for the county’s Democratic Party, said: “We used to look up to intelligence and aspire to learn more and do more with that intellectual curiosity. And we’ve gone from there to a society where ... our officials and representatives belittle science and they belittle intelligence. And we really need a culture change.” The rallies in more than 600 cities put scientists, who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation, into a more public position. Scientists said they were anxious about political and public rejection of established science, such as climate change and the safety of vaccine immunizations. “Scientists find it appalling that evidence has been crowded out by ideological assertions,” said Rush Holt, a former physicist and Democratic congressman who runs the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “It is not just about Donald Trump, but there is also no question that marchers are saying, ‘When the shoe fits.’ ” Despite saying the march was not partisan, Holt acknowledged it was only dreamed up at the Women’s March on Washington, a day after Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. But the rallies were also about what science does for the world. “Most people don’t know how much funding for the sciences supports them in their lives every day. Ever[...]


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Chicago law firms cultivate new cannabis-specific practices

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

CHICAGO – Law firms throughout Chicago, from national firms to solo operations, are carving out cannabis practices as marijuana use gains acceptance.

Firms are increasingly offering to help companies navigate the highly regulated world of medical marijuana in Illinois and elsewhere, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The stigma surrounding the federally illegal drug has barred some firms from advertising their cannabis practices.

Dina Rollman and Bryna Dahlin formed a firm in January 2016 to focus on the cannabis industry. The firm counsels companies that grow and sell marijuana as well as businesses that intersect with the industry, from vaporizer manufacturers to advertising agencies.

Rollman said they've seen their workload consistently expand over the first year.

"Every area of law you can think of, when it intersects with cannabis, it gets complicated," Rollman said.

William Bogot, a partner at Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild who heads the firm's marijuana practice from its Chicago office, came to cannabis law through gambling. He worked for the gambling industry as a regulatory attorney.

"The gambling space is a very highly regulated world," Bogot said. "When the new medical cannabis law came to Illinois, it wasn't all so different. ... It was kind of like a natural fit for us."

Bob Morgan, president of the Illinois Cannabis Bar Association and head of the cannabis practice at Chicago-based Much Shelist, said firms are carving out whole practices because cannabis law covers a lot of legal disciplines.

"A cannabis business needs not just a cannabis-focused lawyer but also one that really understands litigation and corporate law and intellectual property law and all these different types of practices," said Morgan, who was the first coordinator of Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program. "A single attorney would not normally have that kind of competency."




Venezuelans march in memory of those killed in antigovernment unrestPeople raise their arms during a silent march to the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference in homage to the at least 20 people killed in unrest generated after the nation's Supreme Court stripped congress of its last powers, a decision it later reversed, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, April 22, 2017. Saturday's protest is the latest mass gathering in a wave of tumult that has rocked the nation over the last three weeks as demonstrators continue to press for new elections. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

CARACAS, Venezuela – Thousands of Venezuelans dressed in white marched in the capital Saturday to pay homage to the at least 20 people killed in antigovernment unrest in recent weeks. Protests have been roiling Venezuela on an almost daily basis since the pro-government Supreme Court stripped congress of its last powers three weeks ago, a decision later reversed amid a storm of international rebuke. But for the first since the protests began, demonstrators managed to cross from the wealthier eastern side of Caracas to the traditionally pro-government west without encountering resistance from state security. Opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara, relishing the feat, likened the protesters' arrival in the city's more humble neighborhoods as "crossing the Berlin wall." Once assembled outside the headquarters of the Roman Catholic bishops' confederation, religious leaders led the crowd in a moment of silence and asked God for strength. Then a string of political leaders passed around a megaphone and from the back of a pick-up truck repeated their demand of recent days for immediate elections and freedom for dozens of jailed government opponents they consider political prisoners. "Let it be heard: The dictatorship is in its final days," said Maria Corina Machado, who was stripped of her seat in congress in 2014. The crowd responded with shouts of "Freedom! Freedom!" Many Venezuelans blame the socialist policies of President Nicolas Maduro's administration for triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages of food and medical supplies. Among the demonstrators gathered in Caracas was Andres Ramirez, a 34-year-old agricultural engineer who marched with a giant cross draped in the Venezuelan flag. "I am here carrying this cross for the peace of all Venezuelans," he said beneath a punishing sun. "We ask God to protect us in these moments of crisis and suffering." Elsewhere in the city, smaller pockets of violent protesters, some of them with their faces covered and throwing rocks, clashed with riot police, who responded with tear gas. The opposition contends rogue armed pro-government groups have been fomenting the violence that has swirled around protests. Government leaders claim the violence is generated by right-wing opposition forces working with criminal gangs in an attempt to remove them from power. "These are terrorist groups on a mission to sow hate and death," Diosdado Cabello, leader of the ruling socialist party, told supporters this week. People raise their arms during a silent march to the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference in homage to the at least 20 people killed in unrest generated after the nation's Supreme Court stripped congress of its last powers, a decision it later reversed, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, April 22, 2017. Saturday's protest is the latest mass gathering in a wave of tumult that has rocked the nation over the last three weeks as demonstrators continue to press for new elections. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)[...]


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Woman who embezzled from Chicago Field Museum gets prison

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

CHICAGO – An ex-employee of Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History who authorities said stole nearly $1 million from the institution has been sentenced to three years in federal prison.

The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times reported that Caryn Benson was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang. He says the theft was a serious offense and abuse of the public trust.

Benson declined Chang's offer to make a statement.

Chang ordered Benson to reimburse the $906,000 authorities said she took over a six-year period. Benson pleaded guilty last year to embezzlement, but her lawyer said Benson stole less than half that amount.

Prosecutors said she used the money to buy expensive clothing, watches, handbags and luxury cars.

Benson worked at the museum from 2003 to 2014, when the thefts were discovered.




U.S. sanctuary cities threatened with loss of federal grant moneyAP photo Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly listens after the pair toured the ports of entry and met Thursday with Department of Justice and DHS personnel in El Paso, Texas.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:33:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration intensified its threats to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities, warning nine jurisdictions Friday that they may lose coveted law enforcement grant money unless they document cooperation. It sent letters to officials in California and major cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, all places the Justice Department’s inspector general has identified as limiting the information local law enforcement can provide to federal immigration authorities about those in their custody. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned that the administration will punish communities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally. But some of the localities remained defiant, despite risking the loss of funds that police agencies use to pay for everything from body cameras to bulletproof vests. “We’re not going to cave to these threats,” Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic said, promising a legal fight if the money is pulled. Playing off Sessions’ recent comments that sanctuary cities undermine the fight against gangs, the Justice Department said the communities under financial threat are “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime.” After a raid led to the arrests of 11 MS-13 gang members in California’s Bay Area “city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next,” the department said in a statement. The federal law in question says state and local governments may not prohibit police or sheriffs from sharing information about a person’s immigration status with federal authorities. The money could be withheld in the future, or terminated, if local officials fail to prove they are following the law, wrote Alan R. Hanson, acting head of the Office of Justice Programs. The grant program is the leading source of federal justice funding to states and local communities. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly threatened additional consequences for local police that don’t deliver people in custody, saying the alternative is immigration agents searching neighborhoods. “Ideally the best place for us to pick up these illegal criminals is in jails and prisons,” Kelly said at a news conference with Sessions in San Diego, next to a border fence topped with razor wire. “If they don’t do that, then we have to go into neighborhoods. We have to go into courthouses. We have to go wherever we can find them and apprehend them.” Kevin de Leon, leader of California’s state Senate, rejected the administration’s demand, saying its policies are based on “principles of white supremacy” and not American values. “Their constant and systematic targeting of diverse cities and states goes beyond constitutional norms and will be challenged at every level,” he said. [...]


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Cumpata: McHenry County could be attractive destination for Millennials

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:18:00 GMT

We hear a lot about Millennials these days and for good reason.   According to a recent report released from the Pew Research Foundation, Millennials (age 18-34) surpassed Baby Boomers (age 51-69) in 2016 as the largest living generation in the United States with a total population of 75.4 million people.   You may have heard that the Millennial generation was flocking to the cities wanting the convenience of city living. But the pendulum is now beginning to swing back to the suburbs. It seems that as they get married and start “settling down,” Millennials want to trade the urban lifestyle they once so readily embraced for a more balanced quality of life in the suburbs. Most adults of this generation have fond memories of family life in smaller towns and cities and want their own children to have that same experience. They also want to keep the conveniences they have come to enjoy living in urban areas. In short, Millennials are looking for the best of both worlds. So what does this mean for McHenry County? It means opportunity. McHenry County can take advantage of the desire of Millennials to live in Chicago-style “neighborhoods” by boasting about Woodstock, Crystal Lake, McHenry, Algonquin – any of our 30 unique municipalities. Each of these “neighborhoods” have the coffee shops, restaurants, community activities desired by Millennials as they create their family and find their work life balance.  Back in 2014, Forbes identified Chicago as the fourth best city for Millennials. At that time, it estimated 14 percent of Chicago’s population was age 25 to 34. This means the potential to attract a new generation of families to our area is huge. This generation is all about quality of life. They want good schools for their children, safe neighborhoods and good jobs. Many in this generation want a work-from-home option as they struggle to maintain work-life balance or a community workplace and meeting space for small businesses, entrepreneurs, virtual employees and corporate teams. They are looking for solid technology infrastructure and good public transportation and will happily trade a commute in the car for a commute by train or bicycle. McHenry County is fortunate to have solid Metra service and governments who have worked to improve bike access. Locally owned businesses can expect a great deal of support from this generation and should work on attracting talent in this age bracket. Restaurants, farmer’s markets, bars, local artists and coffee shops in our muni’s also will benefit as Millennials seek out unique and fun places to unwind after a long week. One area this group struggles with, however, is home ownership. They look at owning their own home as the ultimate symbol of “The American Dream.” With housing inventory in short supply in our county, and interest rates still low, those who can buy are helping to reinvigorate a rebounding housing market which is good news for our local real estate marketing. However, many Millennials have been dealing with huge amounts of student loan debt which has prevented them from being able to save money to any great degree. While this is certa[...]



Marengo to swear in new mayor Monday

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:14:00 GMT

MARENGO – Village officials will swear in the new mayor Monday.

The Marengo City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Marengo City Hall, 132 E. Prairie St., where John Koziol will be sworn in as mayor.

Koziol defeated incumbent Don Lockhart in the April 4 election, coming in with 480 votes to Lockhart’s 391. Challenger John Arient trailed with 231 votes.

Aldermen Dennis Hammortree, Matt Keenum, Mike Miller, Steve Mortensen and Nicole DeBoer will also be sworn in Monday. All are incumbents.

DeBoer won with a lead of two votes. Challenger Raymond Knake said he plans to seek a recount.




Rotary Club of McHenry seeks sponsors for Blues, Brews & BBQ’s

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:13:00 GMT

McHENRY – Rotary Club of McHenry members are looking for sponsors for this summer’s Blues, Brews & BBQ’s event. 

A number of ways to help exist, with everything from $100 Friends of Rotary sponsorships to an overall event naming-rights investment of $5,000, according to a news release.

“This is the club’s only major fundraising activity of the year,” said Donna Schaefer, who co-chairs the event with Don Tonyan. “Sponsors help defray the cost of running it, including paying the performers, paying the tent providers and other costs. That way, more of the money made at the gate makes its way back into the community.”

Blues, Brews & BBQ’s is scheduled Aug. 18 to 20 this year, so it will not compete with the McHenry County Fair – an aspect that is expected to enhance turnout beyond the 6,500 already routinely attending annually. The fest takes place at Petersen Park, and the cost for tickets will be $10 at the gate, with discounted tickets available for those buying in advance.

The Rotary spends funds raised during Blues, Brews & BBQ’s on a number of causes, including everything from scholarships to area food and diaper bank support, global disaster relief efforts and direct grants to local agencies such as TLS Veterans and Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS).

“Sponsoring Blues, Brews & BBQ’s is a great way to show you’re invested in your community, and to associate your business name with a fest that more and more people are really excited about attending,” Tonyan said. 

Detailed sponsorship information is available at mrbbb.com. Those interested also are welcome to email Cynthia Wolf at cynthia@wolfwordsmithing.com or call her at 815-388-5793.




Tickets available for National Alliance on Mental Illness McHenry County's 'Friend-Raiser'

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:13:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – National Alliance on Mental Illness McHenry County still is looking to sell tickets to its inaugural “Friend-Raiser” in early May.

The event will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 6 at Lakeside Arts Park, 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake.

The fundraiser will feature music, food, a silent auction and Erasing the Distance, a nonprofit arts organization based in Chicago that helps shed light on mental health issues through theater.

“NAMI McHenry County is celebrating 30 years of providing free mental health services to McHenry County residents,” said Kathy Ross, executive director at NAMI McHenry County. “Last year, over 1,300 individuals and their families received support, education and advocacy services. Please purchase your tickets today and come celebrate with us.”

Tickets are $65 before May 6 and $75 at the door.

Tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/nami-mchenry-countys-1st-annual-friend-raiser-tickets-31973398295#tickets.




Addison's Steakhouse to open Tuesday in McHenrySarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Jon and Breanna Descher make up a table Thursday with their children, Sloan, 2, and Addison, 5, at their restaurant in McHenry. The restaurant plans to open Tuesday and will feature steaks, chops, seafood and more at affordable prices.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Breanna Descher (left) and her husband, Jon Descher, owners of Addison's Steakhouse in McHenry, pose for a picture Thursday in their McHenry restaurant. The restaurant plans to open Tuesday and will feature steaks, chops, seafood and more at affordable prices.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Addison's Steakhouse is seen Thursday in McHenry. The restaurant plans to open Tuesday and will feature steaks, chops, seafood and more at affordable prices.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:09:00 GMT

McHENRY – A steakhouse offering a full menu of chops and steaks will open Tuesday in McHenry. First-time restaurateurs Jon and Breanna Descher of McHenry will operate Addison’s Steakhouse, 335 N. Front St., McHenry. The restaurant was named after their oldest daughter, Addison. “It’s just me and my husband – we’re just a family-owned business,” Breanna Descher said. “This is our first venture starting out.” “But even though we haven’t owned a restaurant before, we both have experience in the restaurant and bar industry,” Jon Descher said. Addison’s menu items include burgers, salads, a 12-ounce New York strip steak, a 24-ounce porterhouse, salmon, lobster tails and other meals and sides. It also offers a selection of craft beers and wines. “Everything will be fresh; nothing is coming in frozen,” Jon Descher said. “And our beef and pork will be locally sourced.” The dining area will seat about 75 people, and the restaurant should seat about 100 people including the bar area, Jon Descher said. During the warmer months, the restaurant will have outdoor seating by the fountain, which will allow for an additional 30 seats. The restaurant also will have five video gambling machines and a sports bar for entertainment. “We’re offering customers good food at affordable prices, and our customer service will be outstanding,” Breanna Descher said. “When you walk in here, you’ll notice the attention to detail we put into everything,” Jon Descher said. “Since we are small and family-owned, we want our customers to feel like they’re a part of the family, as well.” The steakhouse is expected to have about 20 employees. Addison’s hours will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant will be closed Mondays. Breanna Descher said they are in the process of building a website for the steakhouse. In the meantime, the menu is on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Addison’s Steakhouse will take reservations and walk-ins when it opens Tuesday. The restaurant’s number is 815-322-2546. Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Jon and Breanna Descher make up a table Thursday with their children, Sloan, 2, and Addison, 5, at their restaurant in McHenry. The restaurant plans to open Tuesday and will feature steaks, chops, seafood and more at affordable prices.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Breanna Descher (left) and her husband, Jon Descher, owners of Addison's Steakhouse in McHenry, pose for a picture Thursday in their McHenry restaurant. The restaurant plans to open Tuesday and will feature steaks, chops, seafood and more at affordable prices.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Addison's Steakhouse is seen Thursday in McHenry. The restauran[...]


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Trustees approve preliminary concept for senior apartments on Wentworth Drive in AlgonquinImage provided This rendering shows a proposed three-story building with 60 senior apartments on Wentworth Drive south of Algonquin Road in Algonquin. Algonquin trustees approved the preliminary plans on Tuesday.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:08:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN – A developer is looking to build a three-story building with 60 senior apartments on Wentworth Drive south of West Algonquin Road in Algonquin. 

Trustees approved the preliminary concept that DKI Incorporated brought before the board for review, Algonquin Community Development Director Russ Farnum said.

“The big question was changing from business zoning to multifamily residential,” Farnum said. “So that clears the way for them to move forward with executing a land contact and going through the planning and zoning process.”

The development would be expected to have about 70 residents, with an age restriction of 55 and older, according to preliminary plans. The apartments only would be only for independent living, documents show.

DKI also has worked on senior apartments near Village Hall in Lake in the Hills, documents show.

According to a memo from Farnum, the location is good for the project because it would not work well for retail use because of its shallow depth and distance from Algonquin Road.

Construction of apartments would provide infrastructure necessary to develop retail outlets to the north, the memo said.

Nearby homes are separated from the property by tall berms and landscaping, and the site is close to convenient services and is in a walkable location, according to a memo.

Trustees reviewed the concept at Tuesday’s Village Board meeting. The proposal eventually will come back before the Village Board after the developer makes a petition for zoning approval and goes through the zoning and planned unit development approval process, Farnum said. 

Image provided This rendering shows a proposed three-story building with 60 senior apartments on Wentworth Drive south of Algonquin Road in Algonquin. Algonquin trustees approved the preliminary plans on Tuesday.


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Crystal Lake approves smaller, balanced budget for 2018

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:08:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – With little comment from city officials and none from the public, the City Council approved a balanced, and smaller, 2018 budget.

Council members voted, 5-0, to approve a budget that spends just less than $89.4 million, or a 7 percent decrease from this year’s budget expenses of $95.5 million. The new fiscal year for the city begins May 1.

Mayor Aaron Shepley commended city officials after closing a public hearing on the budget.

“City staff worked very diligently to present us with a balanced budget that is one of the better budgets I think we’ve had in recent years,” Shepley said Tuesday.

The decrease in expenses comes several months after the City Council approved a levy that is expected to drop the city’s property tax rate by at least 5.2 percent by keeping the levy flat and capturing the city’s increasing assessed value.

Much of the $6.8 million decrease in spending in the 2018 budget comes from a decrease in capital spending because of completed projects, and a decrease in revenue sharing expenditures after several sales tax sharing agreements have come to an end.

The largest source of income for the city – 58 percent in next year’s budget – comes from sales and use taxes. The budget also anticipates small or modest growth in revenue from use tax, video gambling licenses and receipts from Three Oaks Recreation Area.

Unlike most other local municipalities, Crystal Lake city government does not levy a property tax to finance its general fund, which pays for city administration, police protection, public works and several other expenses. However, the city does levy property taxes to pay for the fire department, public library, and pensions for police officers, firefighters and rank-and-file city workers in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

The next budget eliminates another one and a half positions, bringing to almost 24 the number of full-time positions eliminated through attrition since the Great Recession hit a decade ago. None of the eliminated positions were sworn police officers or firefighters. More than 70 percent of general fund expenditures go to personnel services.

About 10 percent of a city homeowner’s property tax bill goes to fund city government. The majority by far – more than 60 percent – goes to Crystal Lake School Districts 47 and 155.




McHenry County residents celebrate Earth Day at Prairieview Education Center in Crystal LakeKayla Wolf for Shaw Media Hazel Greenlee tosses a ring around a reused plastic bottle in a game about bird conservation Saturday at an Earth Day celebration at Prairieview Education Center in Crystal Lake. The McHenry County Conservation District and Environmental Defenders of McHenry County co-hosted the event.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media In an activity to promote education on honeybees, Gabriela Mileto (left) and Rocco Mileto place paper honeybees with sticky legs on piles of glitter, which represent pollen, Saturday April 22, 2017, at Prairieview Education Center. The honeybee activity was sponsored by the McHenry County Schools Environmental Education Program, a group that works with 53 schools in McHenry County to increase environmental education for students in pre-kindergarten through high school.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Marvin's Toy Store owner Lori McConville (right) helps Ainhoa Benito get a kite into the air during an Earth Day celebration Saturday at Prairieview Education Center in Crystal Lake. Marvin's Toy Store in Crystal Lake researches the environmental, social and shipping practices that toy producers use in order to ensure customers can feel good about the toys they buy.Kayla Wolf for Shaw Media Will Calhoun runs around grassy paths Saturday at Prairieview Education Center during an Earth Day celebration. The event offered live musical performances, guided nature hikes, puppet shows, environmental exhibits, food vendors and other games and crafts.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:08:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Mindy Greenlee walked around Prairieview Education Center on Saturday with the goal of having her 3-year-old daughter learn about protecting the environment at an early age. “When I was younger, I was in this program called natural science that was all about Earth Day,” Greenlee said. “We’d do volunteering, raised funds for it and protected our natural wildlife. So now I brought my daughter to learn about Earth Day and the environment, and she’s loving it.” The Prairie Grove resident was just one of hundreds who visited the Crystal Lake center Saturday to celebrate Earth Day. The event was co-sponsored by the McHenry County Conservation District and the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County. Several informational booths were set up throughout the day to educate people on topics such as wildlife, plants, recycling, solar energy, climate change and clean water. “There’s such great organizations here, including the Land Conservancy of McHenry County and McHenry County Schools Environmental Education Program, to name a few, who are so dedicated to protecting the environment and getting others involved,” EDMC president Nancy Schietzelt said. Cindy Skrukrud, chairwoman of the EDMC Water and Natural Resources Protection Committee, was at the celebration to talk about the committee’s main initiatives, including trying to pass a bill that would ban coal tar sealants in Illinois. “These are sealants that are very high in a group of compounds that are known carcinogens and are toxic to aquatic life,” Skrukrud said. “When the sealant washes off into our lakes, creeks and rivers, it’s toxic to aquatic life. So I’m out here asking people to call their state representatives today to co-sponsor the bill (House Bill 2958).” Another unique booth set up during the event was from the McHenry County Bicycle Advocates, which aims to improve nonmotorized transportation and recreation in the county. “One of the things we are promoting is a petition for people to show their support when transportation plans are created, such as new roadways, to make sure they include bike paths or other appropriate infrastructure when the planning is done,” member Greg Glover said. Aside from the educational booths, the event was not short on entertainment. The celebration featured food, music, guided nature hikes and a puppet show and other activities for children. A recycling drive also was set up, where visitors could drop off unwanted items such as electronics, fluorescent tubes, VHS tapes, CDs, cassettes and household batteries. “This is such a great family-friendly event where we want to show people how to have a greener lifestyle and have a good time. We hope each year to get more people involved, and this year’s turnout seems great so far,” said Deb Chapman, MCCD [...]


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McHenry County municipalities work to fill vacant spaces to increase tax base, provide for residentsH. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com Berkshire Hathaway real estate agent Jack Minero visits the former Pauly Toyota site on Route 14 in Crystal Lake.H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com Premier Commercial Realty senior broker Bruce Kaplan walks through a vacant industrial building Wednesday in Crystal Lake before showing the building to a client.H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com Premier Commercial Realty senior broker Bruce Kaplan waits for a client Wednesday before showing a vacant industrial building in Crystal Lake.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com The Gander Mountain at 1400 S. Randall Road in Algonquin is set to be closing soon.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com This photo shows the Family Christian store at 2216 S. Randall Road in Algonquin, which will be closing soon.Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com This photo shows a vacant building that used to house Dominick's at 101 S. Randall Road in Lake in the Hills.H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com This photo shows the former Brunswick Zone in Algonquin, 2075 E. Algonquin Road.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:07:00 GMT

For more than a decade, the former Pauly Toyota building has sat vacant at 5501 Route 14 in Crystal Lake.   Next to it sits the former LeWalt Glass Co. building, which also has been vacant for about a decade, said Jack Minero, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway. The entire 3.2-acre site is on the market for about $2.8 million, he said. Throughout the years, the property along Crystal Lake’s most important commercial corridor has been the temporary home to the McHenry County Republican Central Committee and an auto body shop that rents out space behind the former Pauly Toyota showroom on a monthly basis, according to Minero and the Northwest Herald archives. Although businesses – such as a mattress store, pet hotel and gas station – have shown interest in the lot, the city ideally would have a high-end retailer fill the space, Minero and Crystal Lake economic development manager Heather Maieritsch said.  Throughout McHenry County, long-vacant buildings – including the Dominick’s in Lake in the Hills, Dania Furniture Co. building in Algonquin and Pauly Toyota site in Crystal Lake – remain challenging to fill. Local governments and brokers employ a variety of tactics to help market those spaces with varying degrees of success. In Crystal Lake, Maieritsch said the city will create a vision plan for sites that have been on the market for a long time. This could mean suggesting potential uses of the property to developers, such as in the case of the Pauly Toyota and LeWalt Glass properties, or by hiring a consultant to develop a potential plan for the space, such as the city is doing in the Crystal Point Mall Shopping Center, which used to be home to Wal-Mart and Cub Foods.   “We’re trying to help create some interest in the property and helping coming up with some additional ideas that are outside the box that you might normally think of,” Maieritsch said.  For example, with the Pauly Toyota and LeWalt Glass sites, the city has suggested putting a restaurant there because the property overlooks Three Oaks Recreation Area, Maieritsch said.  “We’re open to a wide variety of uses, but we’re looking for quality businesses to add to the community,” Maieritsch said. “Preferably, [one] that would add to our tax base.”  In addition to sending out information on Crystal Lake’s open properties, the city also has a searchable database of properties at crystallakeretail.com/cocl/index.php, Maieritsch said.  In Lake in the Hills, one of the village’s main priorities is filling the former Dominick’s building at Randall and Algonquin roads, economic development coordinator George Hahne said.  The estimated 70,000-square-foot building has been vacant since 2014. Farm, ranch and home retail chain Big R had planned to move in but back[...]


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4 rescued from boat stalled under bridge in AlgonquinThe Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District responded to a call Friday evening of a boat in distress near the Algonquin Dam. Although everyone got out safely, the rescue was considered to be extremely dangerous and required members of the Swiftwater and Technical rescue teams.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:07:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN – Fire crews rescued four people on a pontoon boat that was stalled under the Route 62 bridge and heading toward the dam Friday night.

The Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District was called at 6:30 p.m. for a report of a boat in distress that was nearing the low head dam on the Fox River at the Route 62 bridge.

First responding emergency personnel arrived at the scene within three minutes of the call and discovered the pontoon boat under the bridge.

According to a news release, the boat wasn’t working because of engine trouble and was drifting toward the low head dam aided by high water levels and a swift current.

Upon arrival, firefighters quickly dropped ropes to the boat and secured it in place until a fire district boat could rescue the occupants and tow them safely to a nearby pier, according to the release.

Although no one was injured in the incident, the rescue was considered to be extremely dangerous and required members of the Swiftwater and Technical rescue teams, according to the fire department’s Facebook page.

The Huntley and Wonder Lake fire protection districts, Carpentersville and Barrington fire departments, and the Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department were called to the scene to assist.

The Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District responded to a call Friday evening of a boat in distress near the Algonquin Dam. Although everyone got out safely, the rescue was considered to be extremely dangerous and required members of the Swiftwater and Technical rescue teams.


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McHenry County grand jury indictments

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 22:45:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry County grand jury this past week indicted these people on these charges:

• Tomasz Swiech, 40, 1430 Spring Hill Drive, Algonquin; arson, criminal damage to government-supported property.

• Brandon R. Smith, 21, 721 Webster St., Woodstock; two counts of disorderly conduct.

• Taylor J. Riemann, 21, 3401 Biscayne Road, McHenry; aggravated battery, consumption of alcohol by a minor.

• Ermel J. Rodas-Murillo, 24, 470 Buckingham Drive, Apt. 17, Crystal Lake; aggravated battery.

• Nicholas A. Holiday, 25, 109 N. Main St., Crystal Lake; identity theft, theft on a subsequent offense.

• Brian P. Cigrang, 36, 2610 Killarney Drive, Cary; criminal damage to property.

• Placido E. Hernandez-Estrada, 31, 12026 McKinley Ave., Apt. A, Hebron; predatory criminal sexual assault, two counts of criminal sexual assault, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

• Ryan J. Pilat, 29, 4915 W. Wonder Lake Road, Wonder Lake; two counts of aggravated driving under the influence.

• Fidel Espinoza, 58, 3902 E. Crystal Lake Ave., Crystal Lake; two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

• Michael G. Robinson, 62, 9949 LaSalle St., Chicago; unauthorized possession of a prescription form.

• Scott S. Parsons, 36, 12N248 Randall Road, Elgin; domestic battery, interfering with the reporting of domestic violence.

• Suzanne M. Memmott, 34, 1475 Butternut Drive, Crystal Lake; two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

• Michael R. Zamorano, 25, 401 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock; unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

• Cristi M. Riedlinger, 39, 4315 W. Shamrock Lane, No. 1A, McHenry; unlawful possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of a hypodermic syringe.




Social media time out as French election reaches final stage

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 21:02:00 GMT

PARIS – The final hours of many electoral campaigns are frantic affairs, dominated by last-minute pitches, late-breaking polls and massive social media campaigns aimed at drumming up turnout. Not so in France. Rules dating back more than half a century impose a 44-hour time out ahead of the polls' closure Sunday, meaning that politicians, journalists – and even ordinary citizens – are supposed to refrain from broadcasting any form of "electoral propaganda." The Twitter feeds of France's 11 presidential candidates went quiet after midnight Friday. French television coverage was subdued. And if you're a journalist who has just received a newsworthy tip about one candidate or the other, you're just too late. "The press can't publish such a story," said Pascal Jan, a professor of constitutional law at Sciences Po Bordeaux. "If there were a scandal, it should have been exposed Friday." The national time out lasts from midnight Friday to 8 p.m. on Sunday in France and is intended to give voters time to reflect on their choice free from the distraction of surveys, radio commentary, and televised rallies. The rules apply online as well, meaning that candidates and their campaigns can't do so much as post updates to Facebook or Instagram. The rules even apply to French voters – meaning that someone posting a pro-Socialist or pro-Republican message online could fall afoul of the law, at least in theory. "It applies to all of us. It's totally forbidden," said Jan, although he acknowledged that, in practice, a single person posting wouldn't be sanctioned for expressing themselves online. "But if it became massive ... it would unbalance the contest and thus might influence the votes of those who were exposed to social media." Amid chatter about foreign propaganda and so-called "fake news" possibly affecting the vote, French authorities seem to be keeping a close eye on potential violations of the law. Journalists have been sent repeated instructions about what is and isn't allowed in the last few days. The various candidates' Twitter feeds, meanwhile, are frozen in time. "Sunday, let's vote Francois Fillon!" says the last tweet from the right-wing candidate's campaign. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen's last tweet rebroadcasted a message by her niece, National Front lawmaker Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who said, "This Sunday, the only real question that matters: Who will have the courage to protect France and the French?" Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon retweeted a message from Paris' mayor, Anne Hidalgo, "Sunday, I'm voting Benoit Hamon. Come vote, participate!" she said. "That's the power of being a citizen." Left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc[...]



Secrecy decisions threaten ‘drain the swamp’ pledgeSupporters of then-candidate Donald Trump hold signs during an Oct. 27 campaign rally in Springfield, Ohio.Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. talks with a reporter in October 2008 in Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:15:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – The leader of a bipartisan good-government group, Zach Wamp, headed to the White House last week to ask whether President Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” slogan would ever be more than a throwaway campaign slogan. One of the president’s closest aides, Steve Bannon, assured him it’s a priority. Bannon said he “agrees with the concept that Washington is rigged,” said Wamp, a former Republican congressman. “He said he just needs to figure out what to do about it.” Yet within 48 hours of the visit, the White House announced the end of an Obama administration practice aimed at greater transparency in government: It would no longer release the names of visitors to the executive mansion. It was another step away from the goal of “drainage,” curbing the outsized influence of Washington powerbrokers. Then, a filing this week showed that the president raised a record $107 million for his inauguration, much of it from companies and people who do business with the government. Trump also has brought scores of special-interest players into government. And he has yet to push any proposals to tighten campaign finance or lobbying disclosure rules. Trump’s boldest anti-swamp move – a January executive order limiting the lobbying of outgoing officials – has already been undermined by a waiver he granted to at least one departing employee. The administration says it will never share information about when or why it makes those decisions, another change from the Obama era. “What they do on ‘drain the swamp’ is very much to-be-determined,” Wamp said. “I think – at least I hope – my stop there last week was a reminder that these things matter.” Bannon did not respond to requests for comment, and the White House says it considers Trump’s early bureaucracy-slimming moves to be part of its drain-the-swamp work. At a rally last month in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump re-upped his vow: “We are going to drain the swamp of government corruption in Washington, D.C., and we are going to keep our promises, all of the promises that we made.” Indeed, “drain the swamp” is scrawled on one of chief strategist Bannon’s white boards documenting those campaign pledges. Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican who wrote a book about the corrupting influence that fundraising has on Congress (titled, conveniently, “Drain the Swamp”), said Trump has “surrounded himself with people who want to find solutions.” He is optimistic that the president will make good on his word but argues that a mile-long White House to-do list means it’ll take time. Democrats are skeptical Trump will ever deliver. “There[...]


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Defense secretary: Syria keeps chemical weaponsIsraeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis takes seats for a meeting Friday at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:15:00 GMT

TEL AVIV, Israel – Syria still possesses chemical weapons, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Israel on Friday, warning against the banned munitions being used again.

At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis also said that in recent days the Syrian Air Force has dispersed its combat aircraft. The implication is that Syria may be concerned about additional U.S. strikes after the cruise missile attack earlier this month in retaliation for alleged Syrian use of sarin gas.

“There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” Mattis said. He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis takes seats for a meeting Friday at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel.


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Blagojevich’s request for lighter sentence deniedFormer Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media in March 2012 outside his home in Chicago as his wife, Patti, wipes away tears a day before he reported to prison after his conviction on corruption charges.

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:14:00 GMT

CHICAGO – An appeals court in Chicago took just three days to reject a request from imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for another sentencing hearing, agreeing his 14-year prison term for corruption was a stiff punishment but was well within the sentencing judge’s discretion. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous Friday ruling also dismissed arguments that Judge James Zagel should have shortened the prison term in August because of Blagojevich’s good behavior mentoring fellow inmates and even putting together a band, The Jailhouse Rockers. The defeat dashes one of the 60-year-old’s last hopes of winning his freedom anytime soon. It’s rare for rulings to be posted so quickly – an indication the judges considered this an easy decision. The Supreme Court in 2016 refused to take up a broader Blagojevich appeal and is unlikely to agree to hear one focused on sentencing. “We’re incredibly disappointed and sad,” Blagojevich attorney Leonard Goodman said Friday. He said he’ll have to talk to Blagojevich before deciding any next steps. One option would be to lobby President Donald Trump for clemency. Blagojevich was on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” TV show in 2010 as he awaited trial. While Trump eventually “fired” Blagojevich as a contestant, he praised Blagojevich for how he fought his criminal case, telling him, “You have a hell of a lot of guts.” At Blagojevich’s initial 2011 sentencing, Zagel berated the former Democratic governor, saying he had “disfigured” Illinois, including by trying to trade an appointment to former President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat for campaign cash. He then imposed the longest sentence for public corruption in Illinois history – 14 years. The three-judge panel’s written opinion concedes a different trial judge could have calculated sentencing guidelines differently and settled on a lesser punishment. But, the six-page ruling adds, “the fact that a judge could have ruled otherwise does not imply that [Judge Zagel] was compelled to rule otherwise.” The 7th Circuit in 2015 tossed five of 18 convictions and ordered Zagel to resentence Blagojevich. But in August, Zagel imposed the same 14-year term. That led to the current appeal, about which oral arguments were heard Tuesday. The panel rejected arguments that Zagel should have placed greater weight on 100 letters from fellow inmates who described how Blagojevich taught history and served as a life coach to prisoners. More relevant to a sentence, panelists said, was what the two-term governor did before his 2008 arrest. “Blagojevich’s treatment of fellow inmates may show that outside of office he is an admi[...]


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Village Squire’s liquor license suspended through April 30Village Squire in Crystal Lake will not be serving alcohol until the end of the month after failing a second underage compliance check in a five-year period. Its suspension began April 17 and stays in effect until April 30.

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:11:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Village Squire will not be serving alcohol until the end of the month after failing a second underage compliance check in a five-year period.

The restaurant at 4818 Route 14 was one of eight last August cited by Crystal Lake police for serving an underage buyer. Its suspension began April 17 and stays in effect until April 30 – businesses can be allowed at the discretion of Mayor Aaron Shepley, who serves as city liquor commissioner, to select the time period during which their liquor license gets suspended.

Sixty-one of the 69 establishments checked by police last August recognized the buyer as underage and passed the compliance check.

City ordinance sets forth a progressive discipline process for liquor violations within a five-year period. A first offense comes with a $750 fine, while a second offense comes with a $1,500 fine and a suspension. A third offense in a five-year period comes with a $2,500 fine and can be grounds for revoking the license.

The city and the police department created a system by which participating businesses can test their own employees to ensure compliance with liquor laws. Besides encouraging best practices, a participating business that fails an official compliance check can get some leniency on the penalty.

Shepley said that Village Squire did not participate in the program, and said he encouraged the restaurant to do so after its first offense. The restaurant last failed a compliance check in 2013.

Every business that is granted a liquor license by the City Council gets told the penalties, and is encouraged to participate in the voluntary testing program, prior to the council vote. Shepley did the same before a Tuesday vote by council members to grant a new business such a license.

“I don’t like levying out these fines and penalties and suspensions. I would prefer to just not have these incidents occur, and when you [participate], it puts me in a much better spot,” Shepley told the applicant.

Village Squire in Crystal Lake will not be serving alcohol until the end of the month after failing a second underage compliance check in a five-year period. Its suspension began April 17 and stays in effect until April 30.


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Canterbury Elementary holding ‘Comcast Cares Day’ event Saturday

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:11:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Canterbury Elementary School in Crystal Lake is partnering with Comcast to hold an event Saturday to improve Canterbury Fields and build a garden at the school.

The event, “Comcast Cares Day,” will be from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 875 Canterbury Drive.

Denise Barr, coordinator of community relations for District 47, said about 170 people have volunteered to help out.

Volunteers will spend Saturday morning working on the baseball facility and creating a school garden that will provide a clean, attractive and safe area for children. Each volunteer will also receive a free T-shirt, breakfast and lunch provided by Comcast Cares.

Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley recently proclaimed April 22 “Comcast Cares Day” to bring employees, families, friends and community partners together for a common mission and purpose.




Crystal Lake man gets 3 years for child sex abuseVincente Vasquez, 28, of Crystal Lake, must register for life as a sex offender after being sentenced to prison for sexually abusing a child he met though his job as a horse groomer.

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:10:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake man was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison Thursday for sexually abusing a child he met through his job as a horse groomer.

Vincente Vasquez, 28, of the 100 block of South Heather Drive, Crystal Lake, pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse, a Class 2 felony, as part of a deal with Kane County prosecutors.

Prosecutors presented evidence that showed that between September 2012 and September 2014 Vasquez sexually abused the victim. Vasquez knew the victim, who was younger than 17 at the time, according to a news release from the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The abuse took place at the horse stable where Vasquez worked in West Dundee, the release said.

The case was prosecuted by Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Lori Schmidt, who is assigned to the Kane County Child Advocacy Center, and the plea was accepted by Circuit Judge Donald Tegeler Jr., according to the news release.

Under state law, Vasquez is eligible for day-for-day sentencing. He gets credit for 688 days he spent in the Kane County jail, the release said.

Vincente Vasquez, 28, of Crystal Lake, must register for life as a sex offender after being sentenced to prison for sexually abusing a child he met though his job as a horse groomer.


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Prosecution of ex-Crystal Lake Central choir director continues after judge bars some statementsFormer Crystal Lake Central High School choir director Justin Hubly claims he should not be prosecuted on allegations that he inappropriately touched two former students and provided alcohol to several others at his home because he signed a document granting him immunity.

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:10:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – Prosecutors will go ahead with a case against a former Crystal Lake Central choir director accused of inappropriately touching former students and giving them alcohol despite a ruling Friday that barred the use at trial of statements made during a school district investigation. Justin Hubly, 35, was arrested Nov. 30, more than a month after allegations surfaced that he had former students at his house on several occasions, gave them alcohol when they were under 21 and had inappropriate contact with two of them. He faces charges of battery and unlawful delivery of alcohol to a minor, Class A misdemeanors. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail. Hubly’s attorney Hank Sugden filed a motion to suppress any evidence gathered during an interview on Oct. 19 between Hubly and Randy Davis, assistant superintendent of human resources for Community High School District 155, because Hubly signed a document that gave him immunity from criminal prosecution. Sugden said Hubly provided information that helped police investigate the case and later charge his client. Sugden said police wouldn’t have had it without the interview with District 155 officials. Sugden also said his client provided Davis the names of several students who were at his house at some point. Davis said he could not recall whether that was true when he took the stand Friday. Assistant State’s Attorney Taylor Nesbit agreed that the statements Hubly made to Davis would be inadmissible, but said investigators had other evidence from a former student who reported the incidents and other students who were later interviewed by the district and Crystal Lake police. On Oct. 15, a former student told a teacher about allegations of inappropriate behavior between Hubly and former students. Eleven days later, District 155 officials reported the matter to Crystal Lake police, according to court records. Prosecutors claim that between June 1 and July 31, Hubly inappropriately touched a former student and gave her alcohol when she was underage. Police also said on that Oct. 7, he inappropriately touched another former student and gave that student alcohol. Prosecutors also have charged Hubly with giving alcohol to three other former students on Dec. 30, 2015. The students were younger than 21 at the time, according to court records. Hubly was interviewed by Davis on Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. He confirmed he had had former students at his home, they had consumed alcohol and he had kissed a former student, Davis said. Davis said he provided Hubly with the at-wil[...]


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Ex-Chicago cop, Spring Grove man fit to stand trial; pleads not guilty to murder chargesLorin Volberding

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:10:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A former Chicago cop and Spring Grove resident accused of the first-degree murder of his wife was deemed psychologically competent to stand trial Friday.

Lorin Volberding, 71, appeared in court with his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Angelo Mourelatos, for an arraignment and to determine whether he was fit to stand trial. Mourelatos said his client was given an evaluation by Dr. Robert Meyer, a clinical psychologist, and Meyer found that Volberding was able to continue with all court proceedings.

Volberding was charged Feb. 3 after police said he fatally shot his wife, Elizabeth Volberding, also a former cop, on her birthday. She was found in their Spring Grove residence, in the 10800 block of Riviera Drive, after Lorin Volberding called a neighbor and told him what happened.

The neighbor then called 911, and members of the Spring Grove Police Department arrived to also find Lorin Volberding in the home, prosecutors have said.

Prosecutors said Lorin Volberding told police clearly and coherently that he shot his wife and then said, “Give me a few moments, and I’ll tell you everything.”

He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Volberding was arraigned Friday and pleaded not guilty to all charges. He faces 20 years to natural life on the murder charge and an additional 25 years to natural life if it is found that a firearm was used in the commission of the crime.

Volberding is in McHenry County Jail custody in lieu of posting 10 percent of his $3 million bond. He will next appear in court May 26.

Lorin Volberding


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Ex-McHenry County prosecutor admits stealing more than $26K from former McHenry bossRobin L. Perry

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:10:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A former McHenry County assistant state’s attorney will have to pay back the thousands of dollars she stole from an ex-boss after she pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge Friday.

Robin L. Perry, 52, was convicted of one count of theft of an amount more than $10,000 but less than $100,000, a Class 2 felony.

Perry, of Spring Grove, was sentenced to three years of conditional discharge on the felony charge.

She was also ordered to pay $26,229.50 in restitution to the McHenry lawyer’s office – $15,000 of which she paid in court Friday. She will be required to make restitution payments on the remaining $11,229.50.

Perry was charged in February 2016 with two counts of theft of an amount more than $10,000 but less than $100,000 and four counts of theft of an amount between $500 and $10,000, Class 3 felonies. Authorities said Perry exerted unauthorized control over the property of Guy R. Youman at different times between 2012 and 2015.

Youman, the principal and managing attorney at the Law Offices of Rupp & Youman, said he discovered the theft while performing his annual accounting in early 2015. He said Perry was employed as an attorney at his firm for less than a year.

Perry worked as an assistant state’s attorney in the late 1990s. She also served as a Zoning Board of Appeals board member from 2003 to 2011. She is no longer a practicing attorney in the state, according to the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.

Robin L. Perry


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Fox River Grove Village Board gives extension to developer for downtown redevelopment project

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 05:09:00 GMT

FOX RIVER GROVE – The Fox River Grove Village Board is giving developer Grove Residences LLC another chance to reboot a $250 million project to develop the village’s downtown.  The developer asked the village for more time to secure funding to start phase one of the four-phase project less than a month after the village approved the redevelopment agreement for the project.   While the Village Board granted the extension at its meeting Thursday, trustees also have asked the village president and staff to look into backup options. “We’re just doing essentially preliminary research to gain other interests in case, for whatever reason, this developer cannot make the phase one deal happen,” Village Administrator Derek Soderholm said. Grove Residences will now have until Aug. 31 to close on the majority of the properties necessary for the first phase – a three-month extension from the deadline in the original redevelopment agreement the Village Board approved on March 16. Three apartment buildings with up to 300 units would be built in the space, according to the redevelopment agreement. Jordan Glazov, a partner with Northbrook-based Realtelligence LLC, which owns Grove Residences LLC, has previously said phase one is estimated to cost between $61 million and $71 million. Trustees Thomas Anderson, Steve Knar, Andrew Migdal and Patrick Wall voted in favor of the amendment to the redevelopment agreement. Jennifer Curtiss opposed. Trustee Suzanne Blohm was absent. “It’s just been a constant struggle,” Curtiss said. “One day you think the project’s going to happen, the next day you find out it’s not going to happen.” For the past few years the development has been on and off, and Curtiss said it ultimately hurts the property owners who live in the phase one area who don’t know if and when they’ll be moving.  Phase one includes several lots southwest of Route 14, on both sides of Algonquin Road, according to village documents. The space includes three commercial buildings and four apartment buildings.  If plans go through, phase three will include no more than 200 apartments along Route 14 and phase four will be developed with retail uses and/or a hotel and marina on Route 14 at the river, according to the agreement.  “I’m not confident that the developer is going to be able to get his financing in 90 days, so for me, maybe this is a sign that we should be running,” Curtiss said, addin[...]