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Kremlin: Vladimir Putin thanked President Donald Trump for CIA tip on bombingsFILE - In a Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he departs from the South Lawn of the White House via Marine One in Washington, to spend the weekend at Camp David in Maryland. President Donald Trump’s team on Sunday was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia probe that has shadowed the White House for much of the president’s initial year in office. Special counsel Robert Mueller has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, yielding attacks from transition lawyers and renewing chatter that Trump may act to end the investigation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:09:00 GMT

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned U.S. President Donald Trump Sunday to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin and the White House said. During the call, the two leaders’ second in three days, Putin expressed gratitude for the CIA information. The Kremlin said it led Russia’s top domestic security agency to a group of suspects that planned to bomb St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral and other crowded sites this weekend. “The information received from the CIA proved sufficient to find and detain the criminal suspects,” the Kremlin said. The White House said in its readout of the conversation that “based on the information the United States provided, Russian authorities were able to capture the terrorists just prior to an attack that could have killed large numbers of people.” The White House added that Putin extended his thanks and congratulations to CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the entire agency. Trump then called Pompeo “to congratulate him, his very talented people, and the entire intelligence community on a job well done!” “President Trump appreciated the call and told President Putin that he and the entire United States intelligence community were pleased to have helped save so many lives,” the White House said in its statement. “President Trump stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation to defeat terrorists wherever they may be. Both leaders agreed that this serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together.” The Kremlin said Putin assured Trump that “if the Russian intelligence agencies receive information about potential terror threats against the United States and its citizens, they will immediately hand it over to their U.S. counterparts via their communications channels.” The CIA’s tip to Russia comes even as Russia-U.S. ties have plunged to their lowest level since the Cold War era – first over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine, more recently over allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump. While Russian officials have said the two countries were continuing to exchange some terror-related intelligence, Sunday’s statement from the Kremlin was Russia’s first public assertion that information from the United States helped prevent an attack. The conversation was the second between the Russian and U.S. presidents since Thursday, when Trump thanked Putin for his remarks “acknowledging America’s strong economic performance,” according to the White House. During the first call, they also discussed during ways to work together to address North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapons program, the White House said. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced Friday that seven suspected followers of the Islamic State group had been arrested for allegedly planning to carry out terror attacks in St. Petersburg this weekend. The agency said the suspects were plotting a suicide bombing in a church and a series of other explosions in the city’s busiest areas this coming weekend on IS orders. It said a search of a St. Petersburg apartment found explosives, automatic weapons and extremist literature. Russian news reports said that Kazan Cathedral, a landmark 19th century Russian Orthodox church on St. Petersburg’s central Nevsky Prospect, was the prime target. If the suspects succeeded in bombing the cathedral, it would have been the first major attack on a Russian Orthodox Church by Islamic terrorists, who have blown up apartment buildings, passenger planes and transport facilities in Russia. [...]


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Sen. John McCain returning home to Arizona, likely will miss tax voteFILE - In this Dec. 1, 2017 file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., leaves a closed-door session where Republican senators met on the GOP effort to overhaul the tax code, on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump says McCain is returning home to Arizona after being hospitalized over the side effects from his brain cancer treatment. The 81-year-old McCain has been hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:09:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. John McCain has returned home to Arizona after being hospitalized for a viral infection while battling brain cancer and will miss a crucial Senate vote on the GOP tax package, his office said Sunday. The 81-year-old senator will undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in the state after spending several days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. In a brief statement, the office provided an assessment from Dr. Mark Gilbert, chief of neuro-oncology at the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute. "Senator McCain has responded well to treatment he received at Walter Reed Medical Center for a viral infection and continues to improve," Gilbert said. "An evaluation of his underlying cancer shows he is responding positively to ongoing treatment." McCain expressed appreciation for his care and the outpouring of support and, according to his office, "looks forward to returning to Washington in January." Now in his sixth Senate term, McCain underwent surgery in mid-July to remove a 2-inch blood clot in his brain after being diagnosed with glioblastoma. His daughter, Meghan McCain, tweeted Sunday: "My father is doing well and we are all looking forward to spending Christmas together in Arizona." Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump told reporters he had spoken to McCain's wife, Cindy. "They've headed back, but I understand he'll come if we ever needed his vote, which hopefully we won't," Trump said after returning to the White House from Camp David. "But the word is that John will come back if we need his vote. And it's too bad. He's going through a very tough time, there's no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote." Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate, and McCain and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., missed votes last week. The 80-year-old Cochran had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week. He is expected to vote on the tax bill. Republicans secured the support of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker last Friday for the tax measure, and they are poised to pass the bill by a narrow margin in the face of unified Democratic opposition. As a backstop, Vice President Mike Pence would be available to break a tie. A vote is expected in the House on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday. If approved, the measure would head to Trump for his signature on what will be his first major legislative accomplishment since taking office 11 months ago. After his summer surgery, McCain rebounded quickly, returning to Washington and entering the Senate on July 25 to a standing ovation from his colleagues. In a dramatic turn, he cast a deciding vote against the Republican health care bill – a move that drew the wrath of Trump and conservatives. McCain's vote scuttled the seven-year effort by the GOP to dismantle much of President Barack Obama's health care law. But McCain's condition has appeared to worsen in recent weeks. He suffered a minor tear in his right Achilles tendon, forcing him to wear a walking brace. McCain eventually began using a wheelchair, with members of his staff pushing him where he needed to go. As a Navy pilot, McCain lived through a July 1967 fire that killed 134 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. The following October, his plane was shot down during a bombing mission over Hanoi. He spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. McCain also has survived several bouts with melanoma, a dangerous[...]


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Suicide bombers attack church in Pakistan, killing 9AP photo Pakistani police officers take positions following a suicide attack on a church Sunday in Quetta, Pakistan.

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:05:00 GMT

QUETTA, Pakistan – Two suicide bombers struck a church in Pakistan on Sunday, killing nine people and wounding more than 50 others, authorities said, in the first attack on a church claimed by the country’s Islamic State group affiliate.

Hundreds of worshippers were attending services ahead of Christmas when the bombers appeared in the city of Quetta and clashed with security forces. One assailant was killed at the church entrance. The other made it inside, said Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for the southwestern Baluchistan province.

Baluchistan Police Chief Moazzam Ansari praised the response of security forces guarding the church, saying the attacker who made it inside was wounded and unable to reach the main building.

“Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher,” he told reporters.

Quetta Police Chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said a search was underway for two suspected accomplices who escaped.

Local television showed ambulances and security patrols racing to the scene as women and children were being led out of the church’s main gate.

The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the attack on their Aamaq news agency, saying two “plungers” from their group had stormed the church, without providing further details.

It was the first time the Islamic State group has claimed an attack on a church in Pakistan, though Muslim extremists have claimed church attacks in the past. The deadliest example was in September 2013, when twin suicide bomb blasts killed 85 people in a Peshawar church. In March 2015, two suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 15 people.

Fifty-seven people were wounded in the latest attack, including seven who were listed in critical condition, according to Wasim Baig, a spokesman for Quetta’s main hospital.

A young girl in a white dress sobbed as she recounted the attack to Geo television, saying many people around her were wounded.

Aqil Anjum, who was shot in his right arm, told The Associated Press he heard a blast in the middle of the service, followed by heavy gunfire.

“It was chaos. Bullets were hitting people inside the closed hall,” he said.

Dozens of Christians gathered outside a nearby hospital to protest the lack of security. Pakistan’s president and other senior officials condemned the attack.

AP photo Pakistani police officers take positions following a suicide attack on a church Sunday in Quetta, Pakistan.


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Lack of transparency clouds Texas spending after HarveyIn this Sept. 5, 2017 photo, a worker walks past a pile of debris outside a business damaged by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas. How is Texas spending billions in federal aid in response to Harvey, among the costliest U.S. storms on record? State records do not distinguish storm-related expenses, making fund tracking and accountability all but impossible. Disaster recovery experts say the lack of transparency could hinder coordination, encourage fraud and squander an opportunity to not only rebuild, but mitigate the risks of the next monster storm. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:05:00 GMT

FORT WORTH, Texas – Texas has been awarded billions in federal aid to help recover from Hurricane Harvey and the devastating flooding that followed, but it’s unclear how the state is spending its share of the money. State records don’t indicate which contracts are storm-related, making fund tracking – and spending accountability – nearly impossible. Disaster recovery experts say the lack of transparency in Texas could hinder coordination, encourage fraud and squander an opportunity not only to rebuild after one of the country’s costliest natural disasters, but also to mitigate the risks of the next monster storm. Here’s a look at where some of the money has gone and what’s not being tracked: Federal assistance Texas has received more than $11 billion in federal disaster aid since Hurricane Harvey hit the state’s Gulf Coast in late August. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has appealed for $61 billion more in federal assistance, largely for public infrastructure projects. The bulk of the federal money spent so far has gone through federal agencies, which – unlike Texas agencies – maintain public, frequently updated databases of their spending. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also provides daily updates. Those records show that as of Dec. 12, FEMA paid $1.47 billion for hotel bills and emergency home repairs; the Small Business Administration issued $2.84 billion in low-interest loans to homeowners and businesses; and the National Flood Insurance Program paid $6.87 billion in flood insurance. The federal government also maintained a centralized database to search for contracts awarded during the storm. How Texas spends federal aid It’s much harder to track federal money being distributed through the state. So far, more than $500 million in federal dollars have gone directly to Texas to reimburse state agencies and local jurisdictions for debris removal, power restoration and emergency infrastructure repairs. But how the money has been spent is unclear. Abbott, who divided funding coordination among several state agencies, appointed a commission to help hard-hit cities, towns and counties get reimbursed by FEMA for public projects. However, the commission isn’t tracking the funds. Instead, local authorities are responsible for transparency and for holding onto receipts in case of a federal audit, said commission spokesman Laylan Copelin. “We’re on the service end of things, we’re not really in the money trail,” Copelin said. Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said the state currently had no centralized, comprehensive funds tracker that would allow the public to monitor recovery and rebuilding spending. He said one is in the works, though he didn’t know what it would entail or when it would come online. State public assistance Another murky side of Texas’ storm spending involves state contracts awarded to private companies for services or products, such as food or portable shower rentals for first responders. About $1.7 billion in state funds were spent by state agencies on storm recovery and rebuilding through October, according to a report by the Legislative Budget Board. But how each agency spent the funds is unclear. For example, the board’s report shows that the Department of Health and Human Services spent more than $1 billion, but there’s no breakdown of where or when the money was spent. There’s also no specific code or marker in a public database of state contracts to indicate which contracts are related to Harvey, said Jacob Pugh, who oversees the database on behalf of th[...]


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Why GOP tax plan could mean cuts in state and local servicesAP photo House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, talks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans signed the conference committee report to advance the GOP tax bill Friday in Washington.

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:04:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – It’s a tax provision that could prove costly for schools, police forces, drug treatment centers and other state and local public services. The sweeping tax overhaul embraced by President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers would impose a $10,000 limit on the combined sum of property and state and local income taxes that a household could deduct. The $10,000 cap will help pay for corporate and personal tax cuts totaling $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Conservatives have argued that unlimited state and local deductions amount to a federal subsidy for the wealthy in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California. But many middle class families in those states face disproportionately high housing costs and depend on deducting their state and local taxes. These households could soon pressure states and localities to ease their burden by cutting taxes – which would likely force cuts to social programs and public services. Some Republicans in high-tax states resisted their party’s cap on local and state deductions. Two of them – Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Lee Zeldin of New York – oppose the overall tax measure because of the likelihood that it would hurt their constituents. And despite Republican arguments to the contrary, high-tax states already tend to send more money to Washington than they receive back in federal spending. “On balance, this bill remains a geographic redistribution of wealth – taking extra money from a place like New York to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere,” Zeldin said. “This bill chooses winners and losers in a way that could have and should have been avoided.” More than 73 percent of homeowners in Westchester County just north of New York City face property taxes alone that exceed $10,000. This means they couldn’t deduct any state or local income taxes. The same is true of half of Manhattan homeowners, a quarter of those in San Francisco, 17 percent of suburban Chicago homeowners and 10 percent of those in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., according to figures tracked by Attom Data Solutions. The limit on the deduction could lead taxpayers there to demand lower taxes or to reject any additional funding requests for state pensions, schools, public safety and health services. What’s more, a separate provision in the Republican tax bill would no longer subsidize employers that help their employees pay their commuter costs. This change will likely increase the cost of public transit for riders. The overall tax bill would impose new costs on many taxpayers that would outweigh any savings on federal taxes, argues Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties. “We don’t see it as a net gain for taxpayers,” Chase said. “They want to strangle our revenue sources.” The National Education Association, a teachers union, estimated that the cap on state and local deductions could put at risk $15.2 billion in annual public school spending, or $304 per pupil. Marc Egan, the association’s director of government relations, said the change could discourage local governments from investing in education and might eventually depress economic growth. “We’re always making the case that investing in education is a common-sense way to grow the economy,” Egan said. “Why Congress continues to resist that on a number of fronts is a mystery.” Even as Republicans in Congress decided to cap the state and local tax deduction for households at $10,000, their tax bill will continue to allow corporations to deduct their state and local taxes as a business cost. Since the federal [...]


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Trump: I'm not considering firing special counsel MuellerAP photo The Washington Monument and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial are visible as Marine One with President Donald Trump aboard lands Sunday on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, after returning from Camp David in Maryland.

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:04:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration again was forced to grapple with the growing Russia probe that has shadowed the White House for much of his first year in office. Trump returned to the White House from Camp David and was asked if he was considering triggering the process to dismiss Mueller, who is investigating whether the president’s Republican campaign coordinated with Russian officials during last year’s election. The president answered: “No, I’m not.” But he did add to the growing conservative criticism of Mueller’s move to gain access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, yielding attacks from transition lawyers and renewing chatter that Trump may act to end the investigation. “It’s not looking good. It’s quite sad to see that. My people were very upset about it,” Trump said. “I can’t imagine there’s anything on them, frankly. Because, as we said, there’s no collusion. There’s no collusion whatsoever.” On Saturday, the general counsel for the transition group sent a letter to two congressional committees arguing Mueller’s investigators had improperly obtained thousands of transition records. The investigators did not directly request the records from Trump’s still-existing transition group, Trump for America, and instead obtained them from the General Services Administration, a separate federal agency that stored the material, according to the group’s general counsel. A spokesman for Mueller said the records were appropriately obtained. “When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” Mueller’s spokesman Peter Carr said. But many Trump allies used the email issue as another cudgel with which to bash the probe’s credibility. Members of the conservative media and some congressional Republicans have begun to systematically question Mueller’s motives and credibility, while the president himself called it a “disgrace” that some texts and emails from two FBI agents contained anti-Trump rhetoric. One of those agents was on Mueller’s team and has been removed. Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide, called the investigation an “attack on the presidency” and told CNN there are “more and more indications that the Mueller investigation is off the rails.” The talk of firing Mueller has set off alarm bells among many Democrats, who warn it could trigger a constitutional crisis. Some Republicans also advised against the move, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who deemed the idea “a mistake.” The rumor mill overshadowed the Republican tax plan, which is set to be voted on this week. Although Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was doing a victory lap on the tax bill on the Sunday talk show circuit, he first had to field questions on CNN’s “State of the Union” about whether believed Trump would trigger the process to fire Mueller. “I don’t have any reason to think that the president is going to do that, but that’s obviously up to him,” said Mnuchin. Mnuchin added, “We have got to get past this investigation. It’s a giant distraction.” But he declined to elaborate on how he would want it to end. Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, was also peppered with questions about Mueller’s fate during his own[...]


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Lake in the Hills approves plans for Hindu temple

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:03:00 GMT

LAKE IN THE HILLS – The Lake in the Hills Village Board approved plans for a Hindu temple on a 2.4 acre site that formerly housed a church.

Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha Midwest Inc. received approval for a conditional religious use permit at 1300 Cunat Court, interim Community Development Director Fred Mullard said.

The organization will be renting the space from the owners of the building, who are looking at filling in the land’s two pools, Trustee Ray Bogdanowski said.

The temple plans to be open daily and will be used for worship/prayer services, assemblies, ceremonies, religious classes, scripture reading, community activities, dining and charitable events, according to a news release from Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism.

The property is zoned for a multifamily dwelling district and previously was Crossway Church and social service agency Northern Illinois Center for Autism.

The organization previously rented space from the village and held religious services at Village Hall for the past seven years while looking for a permanent space.

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is the Midwest organization of the BAPS denomination of the Hindu religion, and it has a temple in Bartlett.

There are no proposed plans to make physical changes to the property, Mullard said.

The organization serves as a “spiritual and volunteer-driven organization dedicated to improving society through individual growth by fostering the Hindu ideals of faith, unity and selfless service,” according to village documents.

Zed said it is important to pass on Hindu spirituality concepts and traditions to coming generations amid “distractions in the consumer society,” and people should focus on the “inner search and realization of self.”

BAPS has 3,850 gathering centers, more than 1 million followers, 55,000 volunteers and more than 1,000 sadhus worldwide, according to the release.


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Huntley trustees approve 2018 budget with focus on capital improvement projects, public safety

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:02:00 GMT

HUNTLEY – Huntley trustees approved a fiscal 2018 balanced budget that increases spending on public safety and capital improvement projects.

The budget allots about $26.2 million – 5 percent less than the 2017 budget, according to village documents.

Expenses focus on enhancing quality of life, promoting fiscal sustainability, promoting innovation through technology, new business development and improving organizational development efforts, Village Manager Dave Johnson said.

Trustees met Dec. 7 to discuss the budget and hold a public hearing.

The budget includes hiring four new positions for the village, including a part-time human resources assistant, part-time communications manager, full-time police officer and asset management coordinator for the Public Works and Engineering Department.

Major proposed capital projects include:

• Wastewater treatment facility regulatory, operations and maintenance upgrades of $3 million for both the east and west wastewater treatment facilities.

• $778,000 for the annual street improvement program that will resurface the Huntley Meadows subdivision and complete pavement patching, crack sealing and marking at various locations in the village.

• $325,000 for the water equipment replacement fund for necessary water main replacements.

• $276,800 for a two-year process to replace the financial management software.

• $110,000 in the equipment replacement fund to replace the police department in-squad video cameras. Police pension obligations also will increase by $184,303.

Looking at the economic climate of the village, Johnson said the 2017 equalized assessed value is estimated to be $886,278,665 – the highest in the village’s history, representing a 7.9 percent increase from 2016.

Sales tax revenue also has increased 67 percent over the past five years, bringing in $2,581,000 in 2017.

For 2018, Panera Bread is looking to build a new restaurant with adjacent retail space at Huntley Grove plaza.

Panda Express, Verizon Wireless and O’Reilly Auto Parts also will be joining the Huntley Crossings area on Route 47.

Jewel-Osco has announced plans to renovate the existing store on the south side of the village and build a 62,000-square-foot store at Reed Road and Route 47, investing $18 million into the community.

Jewel submitted plans for the new store to Johnson on Dec. 8.

The village is expected to see a $1.3 million surplus at the end of 2017, as revenues were 7 percent higher than originally budgeted and expenditures are 5.4 percent less than originally budgeted, Johnson said.


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Harvard nonprofit receives $100K to work with veteransArmy veteran Mitchell Hedund visits BraveHearts in Poplar Grove. The nonprofit, which also has a location in Harvard, has received a $100,000 grant to hire a mental health and peer-to-peer specialist to work with veterans and their families.

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:02:00 GMT

HARVARD – A Harvard nonprofit has received a grant to help veterans.

Baxter International Foundation has granted $100,000 to BraveHearts, an equine assisted therapy organization with locations in Harvard and Poplar Grove, so the nonprofit can hire a mental health and peer-to-peer specialist to work with veterans and their families.

BraveHearts is the largest equine-based program in the U.S. for veterans. Clients can work with horses through riding, ground activities, carriage driving and gentling wild mustangs.

Services are provided to veterans and a caregiver or family member for free, according to BraveHearts’ website.

“We are continuously told by veterans that our program saved their life,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney, BraveHearts’ president. “Without these mustangs and horses, they would have been a statistic.”

BraveHearts will begin accepting applications for the position in the next few months, and it will begin hiring sometime next year.

Benefits of working with animals include increased self-worth and self-esteem; increased trust and community integration; and decreased negative mental health symptoms, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to BraveHearts.

“Baxter and Baxter International Foundation are committed to increasing access to care in communities where Baxter employees live and work,” said Baxter International Foundation President Stacey Eisen, who also is senior vice president of global communications. “By helping veterans access mental health services, we not only honor this commitment but also the dedication of those who have served our country.”

Army veteran Mitchell Hedund visits BraveHearts in Poplar Grove. The nonprofit, which also has a location in Harvard, has received a $100,000 grant to hire a mental health and peer-to-peer specialist to work with veterans and their families.


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CrossFit Prevail in McHenry collecting holiday donations for families in need

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:02:00 GMT

McHENRY – CrossFit Prevail in McHenry is sponsoring local families who struggle during the holidays.

Kristina Harvey, co-owner of the gym, said the donation drive is an annual program to help families get by during the holiday season. The gym has sponsored seven families this year and is seeking donations.

Harvey began the annual outreach program six years ago and has helped between three and six families a year, she said.

“I wanted to be able to do something where I could see the joy and gratitude on someone’s face,” she said, “as opposed to going through a big organization, where you just send money or a gift.”

CrossFit Prevail has helped families facing illness and poverty over the years by providing them with gently used clothes and shoes, food, Christmas trees, household items and new presents for children to open on Christmas.

More than 50 people have helped launch the program. This year, the group also baked Christmas desserts and took them to local agencies such as the McHenry fire, police and parks and recreation departments, as well as area nursing homes, Harvey said.

“It was a group effort,” she said. “My husband and I put work and energy with our family and the kids, but there’s no way this would be possible without our Prevail family.”

To donate to families in need, email Harvey at kristina@crossfitprevail.com.




Crystal Lake volunteers deliver supplies, evacuate Hurricane Maria victimsVolunteers sort boxes of supplies to be distributed among Puerto Rican communities hit by Hurricane Maria. The Crystal Lake nonprofit Hope Heroes helped bring about 115 evacuees to Miami, where they were the taken to stay with family or receive medical treatment at a hospital.

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:01:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – On Dec. 10, volunteers with a Crystal Lake nonprofit boarded a flight to Puerto Rico from Miami International Airport, and they returned the same day with about 115 Hurricane Maria evacuees.

The Crystal Lake nonprofit, Hope Heroes NFP, was formed this year, originally called Hardest Hit Family Relief Fund.

After hearing about a Chicago church’s overflow of donated relief supplies, Hope Heroes spokesman Ryan Gergen rallied three of the group’s volunteers to bring essential items to parts of Puerto Rico that have received very little help since Hurricane Maria.

“They really wanted to get them through at least Christmas, was the goal,” Gergen said.

Warrior Angels Rescue spearheaded the effort, which included partnerships with a humanitarian mission to Puerto Rico by Carnegie Mellon University student Rosana Guernica, Gergen and Jill Jacobs of Hope Heroes, and Save Our People Project.

Together, the organizations delivered more than 30,000 pounds of relief supplies to different parts of Puerto Rico, and they returned with nearly 115 people whose medical needs or disabilities prevented them from flying to the mainland, Gergen said.

“Some of them got split up to hospitals,” Gergen said. “Nobody got on [the flight] if they didn’t have somewhere to go to.”

The groups spent their time in Mayagüez, Aguadilla, Yauco, San Juan and Morovis. In some areas, survivors had received little to no help.

“The evacuation wait list grows daily because most hospitals on the island still cannot meet the needs of the communities they serve,” said Valerie Edmondson Bolaños of Warrior Angels Rescue. “We are launching a sister hospital program to bring medical care and supplies back to the island, but there are people who will not survive if they do not get to a hospital in the meantime.”

Most of the people who volunteers interacted with suffered from what might otherwise be considered easily managed medical conditions, Guernica said.

Problems arise, however, when those affected by Hurricane Maria no longer have access to things such as electricity for oxygen tanks or refrigerators to store their insulin, she said.

“As much as [the hurricane] has shown some of the worst parts of our society … it’s shown the best parts of our community efforts,” Guernica said.

All in all, volunteers delivered 285 basic necessity packages, 105 packs of adult diapers, 96 packages of Pampers, one wheelchair, five gallon-jug water filters, 75 packs of feminine hygiene products and 65 packages of sanitary wipes, Gergen said.

“It’s this community of people just getting stuff done, and that’s what we’re doing,” Gergen said. “We were like, ‘Nobody is doing this – let’s go ahead and do this.’ ”

For ways to donate, visit thehopeheroes.org.

Volunteers sort boxes of supplies to be distributed among Puerto Rican communities hit by Hurricane Maria. The Crystal Lake nonprofit Hope Heroes helped bring about 115 evacuees to Miami, where they were the taken to stay with family or receive medical treatment at a hospital.


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Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington completes 4-year, $247 million modernizationAdvocate Good Shepherd Hospital has completed a four-year, $247 million modernization project that included an extensive renovation and expansion. The modernization added 230,000 square feet of space and renovated 150,000 square feet. The update includes four new inpatient units, an expanded 18-bed intensive care unit and three surgical units.Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital has completed a four-year, $247 million modernization project that included an extensive renovation and expansion. Each of the hospital’s 176 inpatient rooms now are private. On top of being roomier and more comfortable, the rooms received a healthy dose of high tech. Each room has a private bathroom, shower and a couch that can be pulled out into a bed for visiting family.

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:01:00 GMT

BARRINGTON – Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital has completed a four-year, $247 million modernization project that included an extensive renovation and expansion. “After four years, the construction is complete,” said Landon Rose, the hospital’s vice president of operations. The modernization added 230,000 square feet of space and renovated 150,000 square feet. The update includes four new inpatient units, an expanded 18-bed intensive care unit and three surgical units. Each of the hospital’s 176 inpatient rooms now are private. On top of being roomier and more comfortable, the rooms received a healthy dose of high tech. Each room has a private bathroom, shower and a couch that can be pulled out into a bed for visiting family. “Improving the patient care experience is our goal,” hospital President Karen Lambert said in a statement. The modernization included 14 new and renovated operating rooms and four rooms for cardiac catheterization, electrophysiology and interventional radiology. A mindset toward increased capacity and state-of-the-art equipment informed design, Rose said. “For our patients and families, this means convenience and comfort supported by the newest and most innovative technology available,” Rose said. Aside from new surgical equipment, new imaging tools will allow surgeons to get instant access to patients’ scans and X-rays, and large wall-mounted screens will display images taken during procedures. Other new and modernized areas include: • Consultation space for patients with chronic illness, such as congestive heart failure and diabetes. • A centralized testing area offering easy access to diagnostic exams. • A new breast care center with expanded capacity. • A new physical rehabilitation and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation departments. • An expanded endoscopy area. Every outpatient testing and diagnostic service – X-ray, MRI, ultrasound and the like – now is upstairs from the hospital lobby, ending the days in which they were scattered throughout the hospital. Downstairs at the main entrance is the breast care center, which, like much of the hospital, has been upgraded with the latest technology. Upstairs from the entrance is a new waiting area for families whose loved ones are undergoing surgery. Mortenson Construction completed the project. “This design enhances patient access and creates a more streamlined flow,” Lambert said. Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital has completed a four-year, $247 million modernization project that included an extensive renovation and expansion. The modernization added 230,000 square feet of space and renovated 150,000 square feet. The update includes four new inpatient units, an expanded 18-bed intensive care unit and three surgical units.Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital has completed a four-year, $247 million modernization project that included an extensive renovation and expansion. Each of the hospital’s 176 inpatient rooms now are private. On top of being roomier and more comfortable, the rooms received a healthy dose of high tech. Each room has a private bathroom, shower and a couch that can be pulled out into a bed for visiting family.[...]


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Police: Man drives truck into lake in Lake in the Hills

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:01:00 GMT

LAKE IN THE HILLS – A man drove his pickup truck into a lake Sunday afternoon, police said.

About 12:25 p.m. Sunday, Lake in the Hills police responded to a report that a vehicle drove off the roadway into a lake south of Rakow Road between Virginia and Pingree roads.

Officers found the driver of a pickup truck, a 62-year-old man, on the shore of the lake, according to a release from the Lake in the Hills Police Department.

Crystal Lake Fire/Rescue officials arrived a short time later. Emergency crews took the man to Sherman Hospital to treat his injuries.

Authorities could not be reached to comment on the man’s condition.

Witnesses told police that the man was driving a white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck west on Rakow Road when he crossed over the median and entered the eastbound lanes of traffic, police said.

The truck continued down the grassy hill and plunged into the lake, police said.

Two witnesses helped the driver get out of the truck before it was submerged in water, police said.




MSNBC paid woman who said Chris Matthews harassed her

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 21:17:00 GMT

An MSNBC spokesman has confirmed a report saying a news channel staffer had been paid and left the job after complaining she was sexually harassed by 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews nearly two decades ago.

The spokesman said Sunday the woman approached CNBC executives in 1999 to report Matthews made inappropriate comments about her in front of others. CNBC is a sister company of MSNBC.

The company declined to identify the comments, other than to say they were inappropriate and never meant as propositions. The spokesman said Matthews was formally reprimanded at the time.

MSNBC said the payment was "separation-related compensation," which means the payment was tied to the woman leaving her job.

Attempts to reach Matthews on Sunday were unsuccessful.

The Daily Caller first reported the allegations.




Kremlin says Putin thanked Trump for CIA tip on bombingsRussian President Vladimir Putin listens to a question Thursday during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia. Russia. Russian lawmakers on Friday set the presidential election for March 18, a move that formally sets in motion campaigning for a race that Putin is all but certain to win. Voter apathy is the main challenge for Putin's strategists, who want to make his result as strong as ever to prove that public support for the Russian leader hasn't withered 18 years after his first election.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 20:00:00 GMT

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned U.S. President Donald Trump Sunday to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin said. During the call, the two leaders' second in three days, Putin expressed gratitude for the CIA information. The Kremlin said it allowed Russia's top domestic security agency to track down a group of suspects that planned to bomb Kazan Cathedral and other crowded sites this weekend. "The information received from the CIA proved sufficient to find and detain the criminal suspects," the Kremlin said. It added that Putin asked Trump to convey gratitude to the CIA and assured him that "if the Russian intelligence agencies receive information about potential terror threats against the United States and its citizens, they will immediately hand it over to their U.S. counterparts via their communications channels." The CIA's tip to Russia comes even as Russia-U.S. ties have plunged to their lowest level since the Cold War era – first over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine, more recently over allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump. While Russian officials have said the two countries were continuing to exchange a terror-related intelligence, Sunday's statement from the Kremlin was Russia's first public assertion that information from the United States helped prevent an attack. The conversation was the second between the Russian and U.S. presidents since Thursday, when Trump thanked Putin for his remarks "acknowledging America's strong economic performance," according to the White House. During the first call, they also discussed during ways to work together to address North Korea's nuclear and ballistic weapons program, the White House said. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced Friday that seven suspected followers of the Islamic State group had been arrested for allegedly planning to carry out terror attacks in St. Petersburg this weekend. The agency said the suspects were plotting a suicide bombing in a church and a series of other explosions in the city's busiest areas this coming weekend on IS orders. It said a search of a St. Petersburg apartment found explosives, automatic weapons and extremist literature. Russian news reports said that Kazan Cathedral, a landmark 19th century Russian Orthodox church on St. Petersburg's central Nevsky Prospect, was the prime target. If the suspects succeeded in bombing the cathedral, it would have been the first major attack on a Russian Orthodox Church by Islamic terrorists, who have blown up apartment buildings, passenger planes and transport facilities in Russia. In April, a suicide bombing in the St. Petersburg's subway left 16 dead and wounded more than 50. Russian TV stations have aired footage daily since Friday of the suspects in the foiled attacks being apprehended and questioned. One segment showed FSB operatives outside a St. Petersburg apartment building detaining a suspect, who appeared later saying he was told to prepare homemade bombs rigged with shrapnel. "My job was to make explosives, put it in bottles and attach pieces of shrapnel," the suspect, identified by Russian media as 18-year old Yevgeny Yefimov, said in the footage released by t[...]


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Lake in the Hills hosts 1st Flurry FestSeveral crafting tables were set up for children to create holiday-themed goods, such as ornaments and candy canes at the inaugural Flurry Fest at Lake in the Hills Village Hall Saturday.A Deck the Deer competition was held where businesses were able to sponsor a deer and decorate a 4 or 6 foot tall plywood reindeer to match the theme of holiday pajamas.Dawn Kincaid, whose 22-year-old son was killed in a car crash in Harvard in August 2016, helped children write on sky lanterns to honor loved ones missing during the holidays.5-year-old Willow said she asked Santa for Shopkins this Christmas.Miss Lake in the Hills 2017 Lizzie Gray greets children entering the fest with reindeer antlers to wear.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 19:22:00 GMT

LAKE IN THE HILLS – The Lake in the Hills Village Hall was transformed into its own "Whoville" for an inaugural Flurry Fest.

The festival was held Saturday and saw more than 200 attendees, Recreation Supervisor Kristi Brewer said.

The village's Parks and Recreation Department previously hosted Santa's Festival of Trees for 15 years and wanted to take a whole new look at winter events, Brewer said.

Entering the "North Pole," 5-year-old Willow, of Algonquin, told Santa she hopes to receive Shopkins for Christmas. She said her favorite part about Christmas is getting to open gifts.

"I was excited to see Santa, this is the third time I've seen him and I can't wait [for Christmas]," Willow said.

A Deck the Deer competition was held where businesses were able to sponsor a deer and decorate a 4 or 6 foot tall plywood reindeer to match the theme of holiday pajamas.

Residents then were able to vote at the fest and on social media for their favorite reindeer decoration. Winners will be announced in early January.

A pack the bus food drive was also held and items were given to Grafton Food Pantry and the Algonquin Lake in the Hills Interfaith Food Pantry.

Dawn Kincaid, whose  22-year-old son was killed in a car crash in Harvard in August 2016, volunteered to help with creating sky lanterns. People could write either messages to Santa to send to the North Pole or write memories of loved ones.

"I think it's a way to be able to participate in an event and include our loved ones that aren't here to be present with us, so it gives us a way to continue to share their memory," Kincaid.

The lanterns were released into the sky that night.

April Davidson, of Algonquin, said she saw the event posted online and is all about anything free and fun to get her children out and active.

"It's a way to get some energy out on a Saturday night and the event was so nicely put together," Davidson said.

Her son most enjoyed Candy Cane Hunt held outside where children got to hunt for candy canes left out by Frosty the Snowman.

Several crafting tables were set up for children to create holiday-themed goods, such as ornaments and candy canes at the inaugural Flurry Fest at Lake in the Hills Village Hall Saturday.A Deck the Deer competition was held where businesses were able to sponsor a deer and decorate a 4 or 6 foot tall plywood reindeer to match the theme of holiday pajamas.Dawn Kincaid, whose 22-year-old son was killed in a car crash in Harvard in August 2016, helped children write on sky lanterns to honor loved ones missing during the holidays.5-year-old Willow said she asked Santa for Shopkins this Christmas.Miss Lake in the Hills 2017 Lizzie Gray greets children entering the fest with reindeer antlers to wear.


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Suicide bombers attack church in Pakistan, killing 9A Pakistani walks in the main hall of a church following a suicide attack in Quetta, Pakistan, Sunday. Two suicide bombers attacked the church when hundreds of worshippers were attending services at the church ahead of Christmas.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 19:02:00 GMT

QUETTA, Pakistan – Two suicide bombers struck a church in Pakistan on Sunday, killing nine people and wounding more than 50 others, authorities said, in the first attack on a church claimed by the country's Islamic State group affiliate.

Hundreds of worshippers were attending services ahead of Christmas when the bombers appeared in the city of Quetta and clashed with security forces. One assailant was killed at the church entrance. The other made it inside, said Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for the southwestern Baluchistan province.

Baluchistan Police Chief Moazzam Ansari praised the response of security forces guarding the church, saying the attacker who made it inside was wounded and unable to reach the main building.

"Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher," he told reporters.

Quetta Police Chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said a search was underway for two suspected accomplices who escaped.

Local television showed ambulances and security patrols racing to the scene as women and children were being led out of the church's main gate.

The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the attack on their Aamaq news agency, saying two "plungers" from their group had stormed the church, without providing further details.

It was the first time the Islamic State group has claimed an attack on a church in Pakistan, though Muslim extremists have claimed church attacks in the past. The deadliest example was in September 2013, when twin suicide bomb blasts killed 85 people in a Peshawar church. In March 2015, two suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 15 people.

Fifty-seven people were wounded in the latest attack, including seven who were listed in critical condition, according to Wasim Baig, a spokesman for Quetta's main hospital.

A young girl in a white dress sobbed as she recounted the attack to Geo television, saying many people around her were wounded.

Aqil Anjum, who was shot in his right arm, told The Associated Press he heard a blast in the middle of the service, followed by heavy gunfire.

"It was chaos. Bullets were hitting people inside the closed hall," he said.

Dozens of Christians gathered outside a nearby hospital to protest the lack of security. Pakistan's president and other senior officials condemned the attack.

___

Associated Press Writer Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.

A Pakistani walks in the main hall of a church following a suicide attack in Quetta, Pakistan, Sunday. Two suicide bombers attacked the church when hundreds of worshippers were attending services at the church ahead of Christmas.


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Jones: Don't expect him to always side with Senate DemocratsDemocrat Doug Jones speaks Wednesday during an interview with the Associated Press, in Birmingham, Ala. Democrat Jones, the newly elected Alabama senator-elect, insisted to both parties in politically divided Washington Sunday that he'll leave "all the options on the table" when it comes to his votes next year on issues from immigration to infrastructure.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 19:00:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones of Alabama is insisting to both parties in politically divided Washington that he'll leave "all the options on the table" when it comes to his votes next year on issues from immigration to infrastructure.

Jones was the first Democrat elected to the Senate from strongly Republican Alabama in 25 years. The former federal prosecutor tells "Fox News Sunday" that he'll "consider anything" and won't necessarily be an automatic Democratic vote.

In an early sign, Jones said Trump shouldn't resign over sexual misconduct claims, as some Democrats are calling for.

Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore, by 20,000 votes, or 1.5 percent, last Tuesday. He was lifted by a wide coalition of African-American voters, independents and moderate Republicans.

Democrat Doug Jones speaks Wednesday during an interview with the Associated Press, in Birmingham, Ala. Democrat Jones, the newly elected Alabama senator-elect, insisted to both parties in politically divided Washington Sunday that he'll leave "all the options on the table" when it comes to his votes next year on issues from immigration to infrastructure.


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Chicago, other cities, to get new federal prosecutors

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 18:18:00 GMT

CHICAGO – The Department of Justice said Chicago's U.S. attorney's office is getting additional staff prosecutors so it can do more to reduce violent crime.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said a total of 40 new prosecutors will be distributed among 27 locations. Most will receive just one, including the southern district of Indiana and the western district of Michigan.

A Friday Justice Department statement said the Chicago-based northern district of Illinois will get three, as will a district of Maryland.

Chicago's U.S. attorney's office has more than 150 prosecutors. It has said for years that staff numbers were down, hampering its ability to open more gang and guns cases.

President Donald Trump has criticized Chicago for high rates of gun violence. City officials say Trump oversimplifies the problem.




Why GOP tax plan could mean cuts in state and local servicesHouse Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, talks to reporters Friday at the Capitol after Republicans signed the conference committee report to advance the GOP tax bill, in Washington.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 18:16:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – It's a tax provision that could prove costly for schools, police forces, drug treatment centers and other state and local public services. The sweeping tax overhaul embraced by President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers would impose a $10,000 limit on the combined sum of property and state and local income taxes that a household could deduct. The $10,000 cap will help pay for corporate and personal tax cuts totaling $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Conservatives have argued that unlimited state and local deductions amount to a federal subsidy for the wealthy in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California. But many middle class families in those states face disproportionately high housing costs and depend on deducting their state and local taxes. These households could soon pressure states and localities to ease their burden by cutting taxes – which would likely force cuts to social programs and public services. Some Republicans in high-tax states resisted their party's cap on local and state deductions. Two of them – Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Lee Zeldin of New York – oppose the overall tax measure because of the likelihood that it would hurt their constituents. And despite Republican arguments to the contrary, high-tax states already tend to send more money to Washington than they receive back in federal spending. "On balance, this bill remains a geographic redistribution of wealth – taking extra money from a place like New York to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere," Zeldin said. "This bill chooses winners and losers in a way that could have and should have been avoided." More than 73 percent of homeowners in Westchester County just north of New York City face property taxes alone that exceed $10,000. This means they couldn't deduct any state or local income taxes. The same is true of half of Manhattan homeowners, a quarter of those in San Francisco, 17 percent of suburban Chicago homeowners and 10 percent of those in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., according to figures tracked by Attom Data Solutions. The limit on the deduction could lead taxpayers there to demand lower taxes or to reject any additional funding requests for state pensions, schools, public safety and health services. What's more, a separate provision in the Republican tax bill would no longer subsidize employers that help their employees pay their commuter costs. This change will likely increase the cost of public transit for riders. The overall tax bill would impose new costs on many taxpayers that would outweigh any savings on federal taxes, argues Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties. "We don't see it as a net gain for taxpayers," Chase said. "They want to strangle our revenue sources." The National Education Association, a teachers union, estimated that the cap on state and local deductions could put at risk $15.2 billion in annual public school spending, or $304 per pupil. Marc Egan, the association's director of government relations, said the change could discourage local governments from investing in education and might eventually depress economic growth. "We're always making the case that investing in education is a common-sense way to grow the economy," Egan [...]


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Police in Illinois will begin roadside drug tests

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 18:15:00 GMT

CAROL STREAM – Police in northwestern Illinois will soon try out a new test meant to quickly detect if drivers have drugs in their system.

Carol Stream police will begin testing drivers in February for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines and opiates like heroin. The test is designed to be quick and portable.

Officers will use mouth swabs to screen for the drugs. The P.I.A.2 device will then test the swab and give officers measurements for the amount of drugs present.

The state no longer assumes that any trace of a drug means intoxication and has instead set certain thresholds for controlled substances.

"We want to give officers all the tools they need to make sure they're making the right decisions and removing intoxicated drivers from the roads," said Sgt. Brian Cluever.

The device was created by Protzek, a German company, and is distributed by Judicial Testing Systems.

In 2015, the amount of drivers involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. who tested positive for drugs surpassed the number of drivers who had alcohol in their systems, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Officers said they're expanding their focus to drugs because they can often see the effects on drivers but can't always identify the drug.

Law enforcement officials will have to prove to the courts that the testing is deemed consistent, reliable and accurate by the scientific community before results can be used as conclusive evidence in court.

The system will begin testing on a voluntary basis. Drivers will be asked if they're willing to give a saliva sample, Cluever said. The roadside test results would then be compared to blood tests police conduct afterward to see if they match.

"The science is proven," Cluever said. "We just want to show it works on our roadsides, it works in our station and it works for the purposes we need it."

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com




U.S. soldier ambushed in Niger wasn't capturedThis file photo provided by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command shows Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger. Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger with three comrades and his body recovered days later, wasn’t captured alive by the enemy or executed at close range, The Associated Press has learned, based on the conclusion of a military investigation. The report has determined that he was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire as he fled the attack by an offshoot of the Islamic State group.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 18:14:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – An American soldier killed in an ambush in Niger with three comrades but recovered days later wasn't captured alive by the enemy or executed at close range, The Associated Press has learned, based on the conclusion of a military investigation. Dispelling a swirl of rumors about how Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, died, the report has determined that he was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire as he fled the attack by an offshoot of the Islamic State group about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the capital of the African country. The attack took place Oct. 4; Johnson's body was recovered two days later. U.S. officials familiar with the findings spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe details of an investigation that has not been finalized or publicly released. A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The officials familiar with the investigation said Johnson was hit as many as 18 times from a distance by a volley of machine gun rounds, and that he was returning fire as he and two Nigerien soldiers tried to escape. All told, four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops were killed in the ambush. Two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops were wounded. The bodies of three U.S. Green Berets were located on the day of the attack, but not Johnson's remains. The gap in time led to questions about whether Johnson was killed in the assault and not found, or if he was taken away by the enemy. According to the officials, a medical examination concluded that Johnson was hit by fire from M-4 rifles — probably stolen by the insurgents — and Soviet-made heavy machine guns. It is believed he died in the attack. The officials said Johnson was found under thick scrub brush where he tried to take cover. There were no indications he was shot at close range, or had been bound or taken prisoner, as several media reports have suggested. A U.S. Africa Command began its investigation with a team headed by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the command's chief of staff. The team visited locations in Niger to collect evidence and information about the attack, and will soon submit a draft of Cloutier's report to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africa Command. Waldhauser could ask for additional information. The final report is expected to be released next month. The officials familiar with the report's conclusions said that during the attack, Johnson and two Nigerien soldiers tried to get to a vehicle to escape, but were unable to do so, became separated from the others and were shot as they were running for safety. The report concluded that Johnson, who was athletic and a runner, was in the lead and got the farthest away, seeking cover in the brush. Officials said there were a number of enemy shells around Johnson, and evidence that he appeared to fight to the end. His boots and other equipment were later stolen, but he was still wearing his uniform. As news of the ambush came out, the U.S. military sent in re[...]


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Trump's likely tax victory overshadowed by probePresident Donald Trump talks with reporters Saturday as he departs from the South Lawn of the White House via Marine One in Washington, to spend the weekend at Camp David in Maryland. President Donald Trump's team on Sunday was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia probe that has shadowed the White House for much of the president's initial year in office. Special counsel Robert Mueller has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, yielding attacks from transition lawyers and renewing chatter that Trump may act to end the investigation.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 18:13:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Poised to bask in the triumph of his first major legislative victory, President Donald Trump's team on Sunday was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia probe that has shadowed the White House for much of the president's initial year in office. Republicans in Congress planned to muscle through tax cut legislation this week but Washington was equally fixated on speculation about the next steps from Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing whether the president's campaign coordinated with Russian officials during last year's election. Mueller has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, yielding attacks from transition lawyers and renewing chatter that Trump may act to end the investigation. Though Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was doing a victory lap on the tax bill on the Sunday talk show circuit, but first had to field questions on CNN's "State of the Union" about whether believed Trump would trigger the process to fire Mueller. "I don't have any reason to think that the president is going to do that, but that's obviously up to him," said Mnuchin. Mnuchin added that "we have got to get past this investigation, it's a giant distraction" but declined to elaborate on how he would want it to end. Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, was also peppered with questions about Mueller's fate during his own appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" and again urged a quick end to the investigation but insisted that Trump has not discussed firing Mueller. "There's no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House," Short said. But even as the administration continued to pledge its cooperation with Mueller, Trump allies have ratcheted up their claims that the investigation is unlawful and compromised. On Saturday, the general counsel for the transition group sent a letter to two congressional committees arguing Mueller's investigators had improperly obtained thousands of transition records. The investigators did not directly request the records from Trump's still-existing transition group, Trump for America, and instead obtained them from the General Services Administration, a separate federal agency that stored the material, according to those familiar with the Trump transition organization. A spokesman for Mueller said the records were obtained appropriately. "When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process," said Peter Carr. But many Trump allies used the email issue as another cudgel with which to bash the probe's credibility. Members of the conservative media and some congressional Republicans have begun to systematically question Mueller's motives while the president himself called it a "disgrace" that some texts and emails from two FBI agents contained anti-Trump rhetoric. One of those agents was on Mueller's team and has been removed. Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide, called the investigation an "attack on the presidency" and told CNN there are "more and more indications that the[...]


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Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland hoping for statewide officeGrundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland said no other Grundy County resident has held constitutional office since William G. Stratton (photo) of Morris held two terms as governor from 1953 to 1961. Helland currently is running for Illinois secretary of state.Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland of Mazon poses for a photo with his wife, Sara, and daughter, Harper. Helland is running for Illinois secretary of state.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:53:00 GMT

When Jason Helland was elected as the Grundy County state’s attorney in 2012, it had been 28 years since a Republican held the office. Now, Helland has thrown his hat in the ring for the constitutional office of Illinois secretary of state, which has been held by Democrat Jesse White for 20 years. Helland will run unopposed on the Republican ticket for the secretary of state race. Helland said that when he ran for state’s attorney, he was in the right place at the right time, and he was confident that this race might be the same scenario. Will Helland break the Democratic reign in the secretary of state office in the 2018 election, just like he did in the state’s attorney’s office in Grundy County in 2012? A Grundy County native, Helland grew up on his family farm and graduated from Seneca High School in 1994. He then attended Joliet Junior College for five semesters and earned an associate degree in applied sciences in law enforcement, and had an internship at the Will County Sheriff’s Office. Helland then transferred to the University of St. Francis, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1999. He attended John Marshall Law School in Chicago in 2000 and graduated in 2003. “I knew, based on my law enforcement background, the state’s attorney’s office was where I wanted to be,” he said. Helland took a position as assistant state’s attorney at the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s Office for eight years until he was elected to his current position in Grundy County. “He did an awful lot of hard work. He pounded the pavement, knocked on doors and wore out shoes,” campaign manager Aren Hansen said. “When Jason took over the state’s attorney’s office, he brought a fair and balanced office with equal justice under the law.” Helland said the biggest challenge of being a state’s attorney was “informing the public that, in the decisions I make, I have thoroughly considered the facts of the case in the situation. I hear from all parties. The public tries to rush to a conclusion, whether what I did was right or wrong, with only 20 percent of the facts and education.” He said he takes pride in his ability to remove himself from any hidden or political agendas during a case, and act in a fair and responsible manner. After failed attempts with funding by the previous state’s attorney administration to implement a mental health court, when Helland came on in 2012, he took on the challenge and received the funding from a state grant. “This was a shift in criminal justice reform. We are trying to get to the root of the problem, find out why they are re-offending and offer prevention. We now have 12 to 15 people in mental health court,” Helland said. Why run now? Helland said that right now, the state of Illinois is in the worst shape financially, and the bond status is just above junk bonds. “It’s never been more volatile times,” he said.   He said there are 30 members of the General Assembly leaving or running for other o[...]


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

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:53:00 GMT

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


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McHenry County divorce ended with a death in jailA the holding cells in the McHenry County Jail is seen in Woodstock. County officials have been tight-lipped on details surrounding the death of Thomas Doheny at the McHenry County Jail last month.Thomas Doheny was a successful business entrepreneur, who followed in his grandfather's footsteps in the sewer cleaning industry.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:48:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A man who reportedly committed suicide at the McHenry County Jail last month was being held in contempt of court after he repeatedly failed to follow a judge’s orders to pay fees in a recent divorce. Thomas Doheny’s ex-wife filed for divorce March 18, 2014. Throughout court proceedings, Doheny was accused of moving hundreds of thousands of dollars into a family member’s bank account to make it appear as if he could not afford to pay court-ordered amounts of child support and other fees, according to motions filed in McHenry County court. It isn’t common that divorce cases, even when the threat of civil contempt is possible, result in someone being booked into the county jail, McHenry County Court Administrator Dan Wallis said. He estimated that it happens between 10 and 12 times a year. Officials, including jail officers and McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski, remain mum about the investigation into Doheny’s death. Authorities have declined to comment on basic details about Doheny’s jail stay, including where he was kept and whether he was psychologically evaluated. Doheny’s former attorney, James Economy, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Doheny, 51, had tried several times to get the court to reduce the amount he owed in fees, citing that his supervisor at Jack Doheny Companies had significantly reduced his salary. At the time his ex-wife filed for divorce, Doheny was the vice president of internet and territorial sales for the company, which rents and sells pump trucks used for sewer cleaning and other services, according to the company’s website. In addition to Doheny’s base salary of $350,000 a year, he earned 2.5 percent commission on sales and rentals, court records show. In a Sept. 29, 2015, motion, Doheny’s then-wife accused him of fraudulently transferring his own commissions and bonuses to his sister’s bank account since April 24, 2014. From March 31, 2014, to March 31, 2015, he transferred $632,361 to her, according to the motion. Doheny told the judge that his income had been substantially reduced and asked for his temporary child support fees to be modified, according to an October 2015 petition. He said he was earning less money because of the “downturn in the oil industry and, particularly, fracking in the North Dakota region,” according to McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge’s Feb. 1 order. Coppedge ruled that Doheny had, in fact, dissipated $500,000, although the judge said the exact figure might actually be higher. That amount was taken into consideration when calculating Doheny’s child support and other fees, the order said. “[Doheny] is clearly very good at what he does,” Coppedge wrote in his order. “Is the court supposed to believe that his employer, presumptively mindful of the sales prowess of [Doheny], would limit his income to a fraction of what he was historically accustomed to earning?” But those who knew Doheny don’t describe him as a criminal. The divorce took a noticeable toll on the man, who was otherwise a generous people person, for[...]


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After Alabama, abortion may be backseat issue in 2018 races

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

ATLANTA – Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the country, with one of the most evangelical electorates, is sending an abortion-rights supporter to the U.S. Senate, despite GOP efforts to paint Democrat Doug Jones as an unacceptable extremist on the issue. Certainly, any analysis of what Jones’ upset over Roy Moore means for other races involves a caveat: The Republican nominee was twice ousted from the state Supreme Court and stood accused of sexual misconduct with minors, baggage that gave Jones an opening in a state that hadn’t elected a Democratic senator since 1992. Yet Jones could not have won without crossover votes from conservative Republicans who oppose abortion, and that’s just what he did. Exit polls show Jones won a third of voters who said abortion should be illegal in most cases, and 27 percent of those who want it outlawed completely. These numbers suggest that abortion may not necessarily be a defining issue in the 2018 midterm elections. Abortion is “still a dividing line in American politics,” said Republican pollster Greg Strimple, who surveys voters for the Congressional Leadership Fund, the political action committee backed by Speaker Paul Ryan that is helping defend the GOP’s House majority. But a candidate’s stand on abortion mobilizes only slices of the two parties’ bases, and for most every voter in between, “it’s a secondary issue,” Strimple said. There’s an argument that this contest was unusually unsavory for conservatives, making them choose between a man accused of preying on girls, and a Democrat. But it’s clear that Jones’ support of legalized abortion wasn’t a deal-breaker for just enough Republicans to give Democrats a 20,000-vote margin, out of more than 1.35 million votes cast. That’s heartening for Democrats looking to dent Republican domination in Congress and statehouses by targeting voters dissatisfied with President Donald Trump and unhappy over Republican moves to roll back Democrats’ 2010 health insurance expansion and push tax cuts tilted to corporations and wealthy individuals. “We are competing on a massive offensive battlefield, in districts that went for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and that are suburban, rural and urban,” said Meredith Kelly of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Regardless of where they are running, [our] candidates have no reason to compromise on their support for a woman’s health care, her right to choose, and her economic security.” Nationwide, polling suggests that a majority of Americans avoid taking an absolutist stance on abortion. According to a Pew assessment in July, the largest plurality is the 33 percent of voters who say abortion should be legal in most cases. The next largest segment, at 25 percent, says it should be legal in all cases. Twenty-four percent say abortion should be illegal in most cases, while just 16 percent say it should be illegal in all cases. Of course, those voters aren’t distributed proportionally across state and congressional boundaries, and partis[...]



Food stamps cut to tens of thousands

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

CHICAGO – Tens of thousands of Illinois households have been cut off of federal food stamps as a state agency transitions to a new computer system that handles such benefits.

The problems come after the Illinois Department of Human Services rolled out the second phase of a new computer system to administer entitlements, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

A certain number of people who receive food stamps lose benefits each month because of missed deadlines or ineligibility, The Chicago Tribune reported, but that number grew significantly after the second phase began in October. With the old system, the state canceled some 14,000 to 15,000 cases per month, said Diane Grigsby-Jackson, director of the division of family and community services for the Department of Human Services. Under the new system, the state canceled 41,000 cases on Nov. 15, about 12,000 of which have since been reinstated, she said.

Department of Human Services officials and representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents more than 2,400 Illinois human services caseworkers, disagree on what’s causing the problems.

People receiving food stamps must complete an application every six months to recertify their eligibility. Vonceil Metts, president of AFSCME Local 2808, said some who completed those applications in the past two months lost their benefits because their files had not been converted into the new system. Converting the files has been a tedious process, Metts said.

“Everybody’s learning the new system, but the problem is we’re learning on the backs of poor people. And we’re taking their benefits away during the worst possible season,” said Metts, who also is a human services casework manager in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Grigsby-Jackson said there are no glitches in the new computer system and that caseworkers were properly trained. She said differences between the new and old systems likely caused some people to not receive their benefits.

For example, under the new system, benefits are automatically cut off after the 15th of the month for cases that don’t meet the deadline to renew eligibility. Cases had to be canceled manually in the old system, she said, giving applicants more of a grace period.

Chicago resident Edna Marshall said she’s still waiting for food stamps for herself and six of her children since filing for assistance in late October, after missing an earlier deadline to renew her benefits. Marshall, 31, said caseworkers have told her the delay is because of the new computer system.

“We’ve got to feed our kids,” she said. “I’ve been feeding my kids with my rent money.”

State officials acknowledge that the launch of the system’s second phase hasn’t gone smoothly, but they say the system eventually will be more efficient and easier to use for the 1.8 million people in Illinois who receive food stamps.




Bangladeshis worry they'll pay price for NYC subway bomb

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

NEW YORK – When an immigrant from Bangladesh set off a bomb in New York City's subway system this week, he was the only person injured. But New York City's vibrant Bangladeshi community is worried that it, too, may ultimately get hurt by the attack. Within hours of the blast, President Donald Trump was assailing the immigration system that had allowed the alleged bomber – and multitudes of law-abiding Bangladeshis – to enter the U.S. Akayed Ullah, 27, got an entry visa in 2011 because he had an uncle who was already a U.S. citizen. Trump said allowing foreigners to follow relatives to the U.S. was "incompatible with national security." He pledged to work toward a system that would give preference instead to people who had wealth or special skills. That promised policy change struck a sour note with some Bangladeshis in the Brooklyn neighborhood where Ullah lived. "If Trump is going to stop immigration visas, that's not good for our Bangladeshi people," said Fazlul Karim, 45, a livery car driver. "Because some people are waiting for their families – citizens who apply for their wives, children who are missing their father. So if they cannot come here, it's going to be very sad. We are afraid." Kamal Bhuiyan, chairman of the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, said it would be unfair to hold the entire community responsible for the actions of one person. "Those who commit crimes, they do not believe in God and they don't belong to anybody," Bhuiyan said. "They don't belong to Bangladeshis nor anybody else around the world. They are themselves." According to the U.S. Census' 2016 American Community Survey, there are about 90,000 Bangladeshis in New York City, out of a nationwide population of about 234,000. It is a relatively new immigration group. Two thirds of New York's Bangladeshis arrived in the U.S. after 2000; 38 percent arrived in just the last seven years. While the Bangladeshi community isn't as large as other ethnic groups in the city, it has made its presence felt. Bangladeshis make up nearly a quarter of all taxi drivers, according to city statistics. Bangladeshis also have an outsized presence in the New York Police Department's traffic enforcement division, making up around 15 percent of the city's traffic agents, according to a union estimate. In a sign of the increasing numbers of Bangladeshi immigrants coming to the U.S., they are no longer eligible for the diversity visa lottery, which is open to countries that have seen low immigration to the United States. Bangladesh was eligible until 2013. Ullah lived in a neighborhood that is home to one of the city's largest pockets of Bangladeshis, but is also home to large numbers of Russians, Mexicans and Ukrainians. He recently lived in a multi-ethnic apartment building on the same floor as some Jewish families. On the main commercial street in the neighborhood this week, women pushing strollers on the main commercial street wore headscarves. Men gathered separately in eateries that serve low-cost meals while watching Bangladeshi televisi[...]



Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’President Donald Trump talks with reporters Saturday as he departs from the South Lawn of the White House via Marine One in Washington to spend the weekend at Camp David in Maryland

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth. The legislation, which the GOP aims to muscle through Congress next week, would lower taxes on the richest Americans. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller, but Trump attempted to sell the bill as a “Christmas present” for middle-class Americans in part because it would trigger job growth. “It’ll be fantastic for the middle-income people and for jobs, most of all,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn before traveling to Camp David for the weekend. “And I will say that because of what we’ve done with regulation and other things our economy is doing fantastically well, but it has another big step to go and it can’t take that step unless we do the tax bill.” No stranger to hyperbole, Trump also predicted the legislation would cause the economy to soar beyond its current 3 percent rate of growth. “I think we could go to 4, 5 or even 6 percent, ultimately,” the president said. “We are back. We are really going to start to rock.” Many economists believe that attaining consistent 4 percent or 5 percent annual growth would be challenging. The nation last topped 5 percent growth in 1984. The Republican plan is the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax code in three decades and is expected to add to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. The tax cuts are projected to add $1.46 trillion over a decade. Under the bill, today’s 35 percent rate on corporations would fall to 21 percent, the crown jewel of the measure for many Republicans. Trump and GOP leaders had set 20 percent as their goal but added a point to free money for other tax cuts that won over wavering lawmakers in final talks. “This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told rank-and-file members in a conference call Friday. “Most critics out there didn’t think it could happen. ... And now we’re on the doorstep of something truly historic.” The bill would repeal an important part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act – the requirement that all Americans have health insurance or face a penalty – as the GOP looks to unravel a law it failed to repeal and replace this past summer. It came together as Republicans cemented the needed support for the overhaul, securing endorsements from wavering senators. Marco Rubio of Florida relented in his high-profile opposition after negotiators expanded the tax credit that parents can claim for their children. He said he would vote for the measure next week. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the only Republican to vote against the Senate version earlier this month, made the surprise announcement that he would back the legislation. Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relation[...]


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Poll: 52 percent say country worse off

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Americans are painting a pessimistic view of the country and President Donald Trump as 2017 comes to a close.

That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows less than a quarter of Americans think Trump has made good on the pledges he made to voters.




For GOP, tax bill’s most visible win may be averting failureFILE - In this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell, see the tax bill as the answer to their political prayers. It will show Americans they can govern, deliver tax cuts and please Trump. And yet, there are some who suggest that maybe it's not the all-end and be-all. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Despite the sheer size and society-spanning impact of the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, the quickest and most potent political victory that Republicans would savor by pushing the bill through Congress next week may be what it averts: another big GOP legislative crash in the age of Trump. Even if Republicans are correct that tax cuts for business and the wealthy bolster the economy, it can take time for obvious results to show. And even with millions of families likely to enjoy lower taxes, many won’t feel much until they file their 2018 tax returns in early 2019. That’s well after the November 2018 elections that may be a coin flip for control of Congress, and recent races suggest those contests may be heavily influenced by President Donald Trump’s unpopularity. Approval of the tax bill seems certain, with House passage assured and two of the few potential Senate GOP opponents lining up Friday behind the measure: Marco Rubio of Florida and Tennessee’s Bob Corker. That means a White House signing ceremony, probably by Christmas. Republicans hope that would overshadow their embarrassing failure to repeal President Barack Obama’s health law. Another flop would have infuriated GOP backers and donors already enraged by the Affordable Care Act debacle, fueling hard-right primary challenges against Republican incumbents or encouraging conservatives to stay home in November. If the tax bill isn’t approved, “the country’s reaction is going to be, ‘Why did we put you in in the first place?’ ” said David Winston, a GOP pollster who advises congressional leaders. “Passing the tax bill is necessary but not sufficient for Republicans to retain control of Congress in 2018,” GOP consultant Whit Ayres said. “It does give the party a concrete accomplishment that they can take to the voters, and that’s critical.” Democrats view the tax legislation as a rich political opportunity. Surveys this month have shown clear majorities oppose the legislation. Quinnipiac University and Marist polls also find that at least 6 in 10 people surveyed say the bill would primarily help the rich. Analyses by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation have shown most benefits going to corporations and the wealthy, with more modest help for middle- and low-income families, an attack angle Democrats are already using. “It’s daylight robbery,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said last week. “And with every iteration, the GOP tax scam becomes even more cowardly, outrageous, dishonest, brazen. Theft from middle-class families, giving money from them to the richest people in our country and to corporations.” Democrats see another opening in the measure’s $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local property, income and sales taxes. That could raise taxes for suburban voters in high-tax states such as California, New York and New Jersey. Democrats who did surprisingly well among suburban voters in their recent victories in the Alabama Se[...]


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Sign-ups show health law’s staying power

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – A deadline burst of sign-ups after a tumultuous year for the Obama health law has revealed continued demand for the program’s subsidized individual health plans. But the Affordable Care Act’s troubles aren’t over.

On the plus side for the overhaul, official numbers showed a sizable share of first-time customers, 36 percent, were among those rushing to finish HealthCare.gov applications in the run-up to Friday’s enrollment deadline.

“People need health care, that is plain and simple,” said Kevin Watkins of Florence, Alabama. A self-employed consultant helping small businesses sell online, Watkins re-enrolled for 2018. He’ll pay under $100 a month after subsidies.

Final national enrollment numbers aren’t expected until next year because some states running their own insurance websites extended sign-ups to Jan. 31. States in charge of their own programs are striving to equal last year’s enrollment.




Residents flee as flames approach wealthy California enclave

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:18:00 GMT

MONTECITO, Calif. – Residents piled into cars and fled on Saturday, turning downtown Santa Barbara into "a ghost town" as surging winds drove one of the biggest fires in California's history toward the city and the nearby wealthy enclave of Montecito. The mandatory evacuations around Montecito and neighboring Summerland came as winds that had eased a day earlier roared back at around 30 mph, with gusts to about 60 mph. Firefighters sprayed water onto hot spots sparked by wind-blown embers. Firefighters also drove to the historic San Ysidro Ranch in yellow fire trucks as heavy smoke rose from the coastal hills, blotting out the blue skies. A portion of Santa Barbara was under mandatory evacuation. At the city's zoo, workers began putting some animals into crates and kennels, to ready them for possible evacuation. In downtown Santa Barbara, Maya Schoop-Rutten, owner of Chocolate Maya, said she saw through the window of her chocolate shop smoke suddenly appear after strong winds blew through. "It was absolutely incredible," she said. "There was a huge mushroom of smoke that happened in just a matter of a few minutes." Restaurants and small stores on normally bustling State Street were shuttered. "It's a ghost town. Everything is shut down," Schoop-Rutten said. "It's very, very eerie." The northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101, coming up the coast from Los Angeles, were closed for a few hours south of Santa Barbara, with cars stopped on the freeway. The 404-square-mile Thomas Fire was moving rapidly westward and crested Montecito Peak, just north of Montecito. Known for its star power, the enclave boasts the mansions of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and many other celebrities. "It is right above the homes," fire spokesman Jude Olivas said. Winfrey expressed her dismay on her Twitter account. "Still praying for our little town. Winds picked up this morning creating a perfect storm of bad for firefighters," Winfrey tweeted. It was not clear if the former talk show host was in Montecito. Pierre Henry, owner of the Bree'osh Bakery in Montecito, said he got a text to evacuate Saturday morning as the fire approached homes. "The worst was the smoke," Henry said. "You couldn't breathe at all and it became worse when the wind started. All the ashes and the dust on the street were in the air. It was very, very frightening." The morning passed with no homes damaged or destroyed as firefighters dealt with "extreme and erratic" fire behavior, Olivas said. Schoop-Rutten said the fire is taking an economic toll, even if it doesn't invade the city. "It's tragic for businesses at this time of the year because this is when we make the money," she said. "Imagine all the restaurants, all the Christmas parties have been cancelled. Peop[...]



Egypt reopens ancient library in Sinai after renovationsA view of the mosaic of transfiguration which covers the surface of 46 meters square inside the basilica of the monastery of Saint Catherine is shown on Saturday in South Sinai, Egypt. The inauguration ceremony, attended by Egyptian and western officials, comes after three years of restoration work on the eastern side of the library that houses the world's second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library, according to Monk Damyanos, the monastery's archbishop.Officials walk around the main hall of the newly opened Saint Cathrine Ancient Library in South Sinai, Egypt on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. The inauguration ceremony, attended by Egyptian and western officials, comes after three years of restoration work on the eastern side of the library that houses the world’s second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library, according to Monk Damyanos, the monastery’s archbishop. (AP Photo/Samy Magdy)

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:17:00 GMT

ST. CATHERINE’S, Egypt – Egypt reopened on Saturday an ancient library that holds thousands of centuries-old religious and historical manuscripts at the famed St. Catherine Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in South Sinai.

The inauguration ceremony, attended by Egyptian and western officials, comes after three years of restoration work on the eastern side of the library that houses the world’s second-largest collection of early codices and manuscripts, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library, said Monk Damyanos, the monastery’s archbishop.

“The library is now open to the public and scholars,” said Tony Kazamias, an adviser to the archbishop, adding that restoration work is still underway without specifying a completion date.

The ancient library holds around 3,300 manuscripts of mainly Christian texts in Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, and Slavonic among other languages. It also contains thousands of books and scrolls dating to the 4th century.

A view of the mosaic of transfiguration which covers the surface of 46 meters square inside the basilica of the monastery of Saint Catherine is shown on Saturday in South Sinai, Egypt. The inauguration ceremony, attended by Egyptian and western officials, comes after three years of restoration work on the eastern side of the library that houses the world's second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library, according to Monk Damyanos, the monastery's archbishop.Officials walk around the main hall of the newly opened Saint Cathrine Ancient Library in South Sinai, Egypt on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. The inauguration ceremony, attended by Egyptian and western officials, comes after three years of restoration work on the eastern side of the library that houses the world’s second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library, according to Monk Damyanos, the monastery’s archbishop. (AP Photo/Samy Magdy)


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Vatican issues new rules for relics in saint-making processFILE - In this file photo taken on April 10, 2014, Sister Amelia from the Daughters of Charity stands in front of the altar where the bloodstained undershirt worn by Pope John Paul II during the assassination attempt on May, 13, 1981, is kept, in Rome. The Vatican's saint-making office has updated its rules for authenticating and conserving relics for would-be saints, issuing detailed new guidelines that govern how body parts and cremated remains are to be obtained, transferred and venerated. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:17:00 GMT

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican’s saint-making office has updated its rules governing the use of relics for would-be saints, issuing detailed new guidelines Saturday that govern how body parts and cremated remains are to be obtained, transferred and protected for eventual veneration. The instructions explicitly rule out selling the hair strands, hands, teeth and other body parts of saints that often fetch high prices in online auctions. They also prohibit the use of relics in sacrilegious rituals and warn that the church may have to obtain consent from surviving family members before unearthing the remains of candidates for sainthood. Bodily relics are an important part of Catholic tradition, since the body is considered to be the “instrument” of the person’s saintliness. Beatification and canonization Masses often feature the relic being ceremoniously brought to the altar in an elaborate display case and allowing the faithful to publicly venerate the new blessed or saint for the first time. Officials said the new guidelines were necessary given some obstacles that had arisen since the rules were last revised in 2007, particularly when surviving relatives and church officials disagreed. One current case before a U.S. appeals court concerns a battle over the remains of Fulton Sheen, an American archbishop known for his revolutionary radio and television preaching in the 1950s and 1960s. Sheen’s niece went to court to force the archdiocese of New York to transfer Sheen’s body from the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Peoria, where Sheen was born, ordained a priest and where his sainthood cause has been launched by Peoria’s bishop. The New York archdiocese refused and appealed a 2016 lower court ruling in favor of the niece. A decision from the appeals court is expected soon. Monsignor Robert Sarno of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints said it’s impossible to know what difficulties could complicate a saint-making case or whether the new guidelines might have helped avoid the legal battle over Sheen. But Sarno said the Vatican believed the updates were needed anyway to provide bishops around the world with a detailed, go-to guide in multiple languages to replace the Latin instructions that provided only general rules to follow. New to the protocols is an article that makes clear that bishops must have the “consent of the heirs” in places where the bodies of the dead legally belong to surviving family members or heirs. The revised instructions lay out in detail how a body is to be unearthed, saying it must be covered with a “decorous” cloth while a relic is being taken or authenticated, and then reburied in clothes of similar style. They also make clear that the bishops involved must agree in writing to any transfer of remains and call for absolute secrecy when a body is unearthe[...]


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South Africa ruling party’s fight for its future kicks offDelegates wait for the delayed start of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) elective conference in Johannesburg, Saturday, Dec. 16 2017. The fight to replace South Africa's scandal-prone President Jacob Zuma began Saturday as thousands of delegates of the ruling African National Congress gathered to elect a new leader. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:17:00 GMT

JOHANNESBURG – The fight to replace South Africa’s scandal-prone President Jacob Zuma began Saturday as thousands of delegates of the ruling African National Congress gathered to elect a new leader, with Zuma acknowledging “failures” that have threatened the party’s future. The reputation of Nelson Mandela’s liberation movement has been battered during the tenure of Zuma, whose second term as party president is up. The new ANC leader likely will become South Africa’s next president in 2019 elections. The two clear front-runners are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chairman of the African Union Commission and Zuma’s ex-wife. The selection is expected to be announced on Sunday. Voters are frustrated with the ANC as Zuma’s administration has been mired in scandal and corruption allegations. Africa’s oldest liberation movement, which celebrated its 105th anniversary this year, led the fight against the system of white minority rule known as apartheid and has governed South Africa since the first democratic elections in 1994. Observers say the party needs to restore its reputation or it could be forced into a governing coalition for the first time. Party divisions run so deep that analysts say either outcome, Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma, could mean the end of the ANC’s dominance as members of the losing faction could form a new party. “We must attend to enormous challenges facing our movement,” Zuma told the gathering, which opened with emotional appeals for unity. He pushed back against allegations of graft, asserting that “theft and corruption” in the private sector is just as bad as in government and that “being black and successful is being made synonymous to being corrupt.” But Zuma said “greed is posing a serious threat” to the party and pointed out warnings that the ANC could implode. “We need to find ways of protecting the ANC from corporate greed,” he said. He rejected the party’s “petty squabbles” that have distracted its work and said challenges to inclusion are “killing our movement.” He also lashed out at the media, the judiciary and civil society, accusing them of fighting the ANC or interfering in party matters. The president defended the party’s worth despite the challenges, saying it continues to stand for millions of people on the fringes of society. “A heavy responsibility lies upon the shoulders of delegates here ... to renew our movement and to restore its timeless values,” he said. “We must give people reason to have faith.” Zuma didn’t endorse a successor, saying any of the seven candidates would make a “first-class president.” He said he met with them and all agreed to abide by the party’s selection. Zuma could carry on as head of state until 20[...]


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Major media players start commission for sexual misconductAnita Hill speaks Dec. 8 at a discussion about sexual harassment and how to create lasting change from the scandal roiling Hollywood at United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills, Calif. Hollywood executives and other major players in entertainment have established a commission to be chaired by Hill that intends to combat sexual misconduct and gender inequities across the industry. A statement Friday, announced the founding of the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:16:00 GMT

LOS ANGELES – The biggest figures and institutions in entertainment have established a commission to be chaired by Anita Hill that intends to combat sexual misconduct and inequality in the industry in the wake of the huge wave of revelations spurred by allegations against Harvey Weinstein. A statement Friday announced the founding of the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, a group that grew out of a meeting called by “Star Wars” producer Kathleen Kennedy and several other prominent women in the industry. “The Commission will not seek just one solution, but a comprehensive strategy to address the complex and interrelated causes of the problems of parity and power,” Kennedy said in a statement. The chief executives of nearly every major Hollywood studio, TV network and record label attended the meeting and agreed to found and to fund the group, the statement said. The long list includes Disney CEO Bob Iger, Paramount CEO Karen Stuart, Universal Music Group CEO Sir Lucian Grainge and CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves. The movie and music academies and many of the major agencies and unions that represent entertainers also signed on. “The fact that so many industry leaders – across film, television, music, digital, unions, agencies ... and guilds – came together, in one room, to explore solutions speaks to a new era,” Kennedy said. The group chose as its chairwoman the law professor Hill, who brought the concept of sexual harassment to national consciousness in 1991 when she testified during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas. “It is time to end the culture of silence,” Hill said in a statement. “I’ve been at this work for 26 years. This moment presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to make real change.” The commission said in its statement that it would reconvene immediately after the first of the year to hone its mission, scope and priorities. The revelations about Weinstein in The New York Times and the New Yorker in October have brought on two months unlike any the media world has ever seen, with nearly daily allegations of sexual harassment assault and abuse involving some of the most prominent players in entertainment, including Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Dustin Hoffman and Russell Simmons. Hill has been making appearances in Southern California in recent days before Friday’s announcement, speaking to a gathering of entertainers and executives in Beverly Hills last week. She said there that she knew that despite Thomas’ confirmation to the Supreme Court, the issue would one day return. “I never believed 1991 was the end,” she said, “and I was going to make sure in my life that I never saw that as the defining[...]


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Sydney man charged with brokering North Korea missile sales

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:16:00 GMT

SYDNEY – A South Korean-born Sydney man was charged Sunday with acting as an economic agent for North Korea in Australia by allegedly trying to broker sales worth tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang that included components used in ballistic missiles. The Australian Federal Police said 59-year-old naturalized Australian Chan Han Choi used encrypted communication to broker sales and discuss the supply of weapons of mass destruction. His actions contravened both United Nations and Australian sanctions against North Korea, police said. Police said the man was acting to generate income for Pyongyang by arranging the sale of computer software used for guiding ballistic missiles as well as expertise from North Korea to other “international entities.” Police didn’t elaborate. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had been briefed by AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin on the “very, very serious matter” and warned anyone thinking of assisting North Korea that “the AFP will find you.” “North Korea is a dangerous, reckless, criminal regime threatening the peace of the region,” Turnbull said. “It supports itself by breaching U.N. sanctions, not simply by selling commodities like coal and other goods, but also by selling weapons, by selling drugs, by engaging in cybercrime.” He added: “It is vitally important that all nations work relentlessly to enforce those sanctions because the more economic pressure that can be brought on North Korea, the sooner that regime will be brought to its senses.” Despite international sanctions, cash-strapped North Korea last month test-fired its most powerful missile that may be able to target the U.S. mainland. Choi is facing six charges related to brokering the sale of missile componentry and expertise from North Korea to other international entities, and attempting to transfer coal from North Korea to entities in Indonesia and Vietnam. Choi didn’t appear or apply for bail in a Sydney court Sunday, and bail was formally refused. Federal police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said the governments of Indonesia and Vietnam – or authorities in those countries – were not involved in the coal transfer attempt. Choi is the first person charged under Australia’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Act and could face a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Gaughan said the charges related to his alleged activity over the past year, but that allegations dated back to 2008. Choi was arrested Saturday and charged over two transactions that were unsuccessful. “But we estimate that if these trades were successful, we’re talking tens of millions of dollars,” Gaughan told reporters. He said investigations were continu[...]



Lake in the Hills hosts its first Flurry FestThe village’s Parks and Recreation Department previously hosted Santa’s Festival of Trees for 15 years and wanted to take a whole new look at winter events, Brewer said. Entering the “North Pole,” 5-year-old Willow, of Algonquin, told Santa she hopes to receive Shopkins for Christmas. She said her favorite part about Christmas is getting to open gifts. “I was excited to see Santa, this is the third time I’ve seen him and I can’t wait [for Christmas],” Willow said.A Deck the Deer competition was held where businesses were able to sponsor a deer and decorate a 4- or 6-foot-tall plywood reindeer to match the theme of holiday pajamas. Residents then were able to vote at the fest and on social media for their favorite reindeer decoration. Winners will be announced in early January. A pack the bus food drive was also held and items were given to Grafton Food Pantry and the Algonquin Lake in the Hills Interfaith Food Pantry.Dawn Kincaid, whose  22-year-old son was killed in a car crash in Harvard in August 2016, volunteered to help with creating sky lanterns. People could write either messages to Santa to send to the North Pole or write memories of loved ones. “I think it’s a way to be able to participate in an event and include our loved ones that aren’t here to be present with us, so it gives us a way to continue to share their memory,” Kincaid. The lanterns were released into the sky that night.April Davidson, of Algonquin, said she saw the event posted online and is all about anything free and fun to get her children out and active.“It’s a way to get some energy out on a Saturday night and the event was so nicely put together,” Davidson said. Her son most enjoyed Candy Cane Hunt held outside where children got to hunt for candy canes left out by Frosty the Snowman.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 04:57:00 GMT

LAKE IN THE HILLS – The Lake in the Hills Village Hall was transformed into its own “Whoville” for an inaugural Flurry Fest.

The festival was held Saturday and saw more than 200 attendees, Recreation Supervisor Kristi Brewer said.

The village’s Parks and Recreation Department previously hosted Santa’s Festival of Trees for 15 years and wanted to take a whole new look at winter events, Brewer said. Entering the “North Pole,” 5-year-old Willow, of Algonquin, told Santa she hopes to receive Shopkins for Christmas. She said her favorite part about Christmas is getting to open gifts. “I was excited to see Santa, this is the third time I’ve seen him and I can’t wait [for Christmas],” Willow said.A Deck the Deer competition was held where businesses were able to sponsor a deer and decorate a 4- or 6-foot-tall plywood reindeer to match the theme of holiday pajamas. Residents then were able to vote at the fest and on social media for their favorite reindeer decoration. Winners will be announced in early January. A pack the bus food drive was also held and items were given to Grafton Food Pantry and the Algonquin Lake in the Hills Interfaith Food Pantry.Dawn Kincaid, whose  22-year-old son was killed in a car crash in Harvard in August 2016, volunteered to help with creating sky lanterns. People could write either messages to Santa to send to the North Pole or write memories of loved ones. “I think it’s a way to be able to participate in an event and include our loved ones that aren’t here to be present with us, so it gives us a way to continue to share their memory,” Kincaid. The lanterns were released into the sky that night.April Davidson, of Algonquin, said she saw the event posted online and is all about anything free and fun to get her children out and active.“It’s a way to get some energy out on a Saturday night and the event was so nicely put together,” Davidson said. Her son most enjoyed Candy Cane Hunt held outside where children got to hunt for candy canes left out by Frosty the Snowman.


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Special counsel obtains thousands of Trump transition emailsFILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. On Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, several people familiar with Trump's transition organization say special counsel Robert Mueller's team has gained access to thousands of private emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration.

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 04:46:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump's campaign has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, according to several people familiar with Trump's transition organization. But the investigators did not directly request the records from Trump's still-existing transition group, Trump for America, and instead obtained them from a separate federal agency that stored the material, according to those familiar with the Trump transition organization. A transition attorney sent letters Saturday to two congressional committees saying the General Services Administration had improperly provided the transition records to Mueller's investigators. Kory Langhofer, general counsel for the transition group, wrote to the Republican chairmen of the House Oversight committee and the Senate Homeland Security committee about what the transition contends was an "unauthorized" disclosure of its emails. The GSA has provided office space and other aid to presidential transitions in recent years and typically houses electronic transition records in its computer system. But Trump for America considers the records private and privileged and not government property. The people familiar with the transition organization spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the records' sensitivity. They said the materials included communications from more than a dozen senior Trump transition officials. Among the officials who used transition email accounts was former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to a count of making false statements to FBI agents in January and is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation. Flynn was fired by Trump in February for misleading senior administration officials about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. It's unclear how revelatory the email accounts maintained by the GSA will be for Mueller. Several high-level Trump advisers sometimes used other email accounts to communicate about transition issues between Election Day and the inauguration. Mueller's spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to comment. Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Trump's personal legal team, referred questions to the transition group. Neither GSA representatives nor Flynn attorney Robert Kelner were immediately available to respond to AP's emailed requests for comment. Officials with Trump for America learned last Wednesday that GSA officials had turned over the massive cache of emails to Mueller's team. The transition group's top officials were alarmed because many of the emails that Mueller's investigators now have are sensitive records ranging from national security discussions abo[...]


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Some Huntley homes on boil order following ruptured water main

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 21:23:00 GMT

HUNTLEY — A boil order has been placed on areas in Huntley until further notice.

A Nixle alert sent at 12:14 p.m. said the boil order is in effect for areas impacted on Edward Ave, Ronald Street and Church Street between Bernice Avenue and Ronald Street.

During water main break situations, residents directly impacted and in adjacent areas may experience sediment or discolored water during and following the repair of the break, according to the alert.

A water main break on Edward Avenue caused a shutdown from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday for repairs. Impacted businesses and residents should boil drinking and cooking water for at least 5 minutes before using for the next 36 hours, according to a Nixle.

The village is also recommending residents run the cold water tap in the lowest location in their house until the water runs clear if they are experiencing discoloration.

Residents with questions should contact the Water Department at 847-515-5200.


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

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:05:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s declaration before the U.N. Security Council marked a stunning reversal after he proposed discussions with Pyongyang without preconditions earlier this week. That overture was almost immediately rebutted by White House officials. Still, Tillerson had planned to reiterate his call at a special U.N. ministerial meeting on North Korea at the council Friday morning. His prepared remarks suggested only that North Korea would have to undertake a sustained halt in its threatening behavior before talks could begin. But Tillerson changed the script. “North Korea must earn its way back to the table,” Tillerson told the foreign ministers. “The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open.” The debate over offering North Korea unconditional talks reflects the differences within the Trump administration as it runs out of time to prevent North Korea from perfecting a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the U.S. mainland. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent such capability, with military action if necessary. So far, U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea and diplomatic isolation haven’t compelled Kim Jong Un’s government to stop its nuclear and missile tests, or to seek negotiations. Asked Friday if he supported unconditional talks, Trump did not answer directly. “Well, we’re going to see what happens with North Korea.  We have a lot of support. There are a lot of nations that agree with us – almost everybody,” Trump told reporters. He credited China – which accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade – with helping on pressuring North Korea, while Russia was not. “We’d like to have Russia’s help – very important,” said Trump. He raised it in a Thursday phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the issue of starting talks with North Korea, Tillerson’s tone was significantly different from three days earlier. On Tuesday, Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington that “we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions.” He had also called it “unrealistic” to expect North Korea to enter talks ready to relinquish a weapons of mass destruction program it invested so much in developing, although that remained the ultimate goal. The White House quickly distanced itself from Til[...]


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

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:01:00 GMT

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


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

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:01:00 GMT

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

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

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

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


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

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:01:00 GMT

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

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

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


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White House signals Western Wall has to be part of Israel

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:00:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Senior Trump administration officials outlined their view Friday that Jerusalem’s Western Wall ultimately will be declared a part of Israel, in another declaration sure to enflame passions among Palestinians and others in the Middle East. Although they said the ultimate borders of the holy city must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the officials – speaking ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the region – essentially ruled out any scenario that didn’t maintain Israeli control over the holiest ground in Judaism. The issue is sensitive because the wall is beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders and abuts some of the Islamic world’s most revered sites. “We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement,” a senior administration official said. Another official later added by email, “We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall.” The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the vice president’s upcoming trip. Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reacted indignantly to the comments. “We will not accept any changes on the borders of east Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967,” Abu Rdeneh told The Associated Press. “This statement proves once again that this American administration is outside the peace process. The continuation of this American policy, whether the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moving the American embassy, or such statements by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation. For us, this is unacceptable. We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.” Pence plans to visit the Western Wall next week. The administration officials said he would be accompanied by a rabbi to preserve the spiritual nature of his planned visit to the hallowed wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. The officials said Pence’s Wednesday visit would be conducted in a similar manner to when President Donald Trump visited in May. Jerusalem’s status has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump’s announcement last week declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital shook up decades of U.S. foreign policy and countered an international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in neg[...]



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

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:58:00 GMT

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

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

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

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

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

A third person was treated and released at the scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:57:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – The husband of a Woodstock woman who has been missing since 2010 asked a judge to declare his wife dead months before police announced what could be a major development in her disappearance. However, police documents related to Benedetta “Beth” Bentley’s disappearance are so sensitive that investigators agreed to share them in the pending probate case only if they were shielded from the public. “Specifically, the records contain reports and related documents of an open and ongoing investigation into the disappearance of [Beth Bentley],” Assistant Attorney General Brian Jant wrote in a motion Nov. 28. “If [Illinois State Police] produce these records without a protective order in place, there is a risk that the material may travel into the public arena, thereby interfering with the open and ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by ISP. This could ultimately result in the investigation being compromised and any parties responsible for Ms. Bentley’s disappearance avoiding prosecution.” On Dec. 4, Illinois State Police discovered severely burned human remains and other evidence in rural Jefferson County and are trying to identify the victim, police said Thursday. In light of the discovery, investigators are asking the public for information about Beth Bentley’s disappearance. On Aug. 28, her husband, Scott Bentley, filed a request in McHenry County court to have his wife presumed dead and to give him control of her estate. At the time of her disappearance, Beth Bentley did not have any assets or a will. “... Despite all of the resources and investigations used to locate the whereabouts of Benedetta, the fact that she has not seen her family for over seven years and that she has not been seen or heard of since May 23, 2010, she is and should be presumed dead,” Scott Bentley’s petition said.  Beth Bentley, then 41, disappeared May 23, 2010, after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon with her friend, Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham. Wyatt-Paplham initially told police she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia. From there, Wyatt-Paplham told police that Beth Bentley was expected to take a train back to her Woodstock home, but she never returned, police said. Police and prosecutors have questioned Wyatt-Paplham’s account of Beth Bentley’s disappearance. Wyatt-Paplham was charged in March 2012 with obstructing justice related to Beth Bentley’s disappearance. A judge tossed out the charges later that year. “They told me not to say anything right now,[...]


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

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:57:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Lawyers representing elected officials have billed Algonquin Township more than $312,000 in the past six months, and legal costs are expected to climb, with taxpayers footing the bills. That’s more than the $299,000 the township has in its general assistance fund to help low-income residents meet basic living requirements. “It’s just a crying shame,” said township Trustee Dan Shea, who sees no end in sight for ballooning legal fees. “In 30 years, I’ve never had anything that was of this level. My estimate is this is going to go over half a million dollars.” Fiscal 2018 for the township began April 1 and will end March 31. Township officials allotted $299,050 for the general assistance fund, a pot of money that includes line items to help low-income residents pay for utilities, prescription drugs, rent and other basic needs. Through nine months, the township has used $88,079 – or 29.5 percent of the fund. The mounting legal fees come from at least four law firms, according to records obtained by the Northwest Herald. Since June, Robert T. Hanlon & Associates has represented Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser and the highway department in a fight against International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Illinois Labor Relations Board. In total, Hanlon’s firm has charged the highway department $202,427, according to billing records. It has billed the department for 571 hours of work. Records show that labor attorney Michael Ernest Avakian has helped Hanlon in his work for Algonquin Township. The Washington, D.C.-based attorney spent hours researching, editing and finalizing responses regarding the union, according to billing records. He spent hours researching the distinction between the highway department and the township’s road district. Gasser’s legal team has claimed that the union failed to serve the proper entity. James Kelly, the township’s hired attorney, is a lawyer with the Matuszewich & Kelly law firm. Kelly represents Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow, a first-term elected official entrenched in a conflict with Clerk Karen Lukasik. Since June, Kelly’s firm has billed Algonquin Township $22,917 for 132 hours of work. July was Kelly’s busiest month: He spent 60 hours working on Lutzow’s case, charging a total of $10,428. Dave McArdle and his firm – Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle – represent Lukasik. For their services since June, the firm billed the townsh[...]


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