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McDonald's U.S. sales climb, customer traffic still a focusThis Monday, April 24, 2017, photo shows a McDonald's restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh. McDonald's Corp. reports earnings on Tuesday, April 25. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:32:00 GMT

OAK BROOK – McDonald's says new Big Mac sizes helped boost a key sales figure in the U.S., but that it's still working on trying to attract more customers to its stores.

The world's biggest burger chain said Tuesday that global sales rose 4 percent at established locations in the first three months of the year. That included a 1.7 percent increase in its flagship U.S. market, where the fast-food chain has suffered four straight years of declining customer visits at stores open at least 13 months. The company said it "continues to focus its efforts on driving guest count growth," but did not explicitly say how customer visits fared during the latest quarter.

Sales can increase as a result of higher prices or by people buying more expensive items.

McDonald's Corp. noted that its results show it is "strengthening its foundation" in the U.S. as it works on improving its menu and the convenience of ordering at its restaurants. The sales bump for the first quarter builds on a 5.4 percent increase in the year-ago period. Efforts to improve the image of its food have included a recent announcement that it will start using fresh instead of frozen beef for its Quarter Pounders sometime next year.

Other changes include the promotion of a bigger version of its Big Mac called the "Grand Mac," as well as a smaller version called "Mac Jr." In late 2015, it also introduced an all-day breakfast menu.

McDonald's has also trimmed its domestic store base for the past two years. McDonald's closed additional stores in the first quarter, bringing its store base to 14,094 locations as of March 31.

For the quarter, McDonald's reported a profit of $1.21 billion, or $1.47 per share. Analysts expected $1.32 per share, according to Zacks Investment Research. Total revenue was $5.68 billion, also beating the $5.48 billion analysts expected.

McDonald's shares have risen 10 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has climbed 6 percent. The stock has climbed 7 percent in the last 12 months.

This Monday, April 24, 2017, photo shows a McDonald's restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh. McDonald's Corp. reports earnings on Tuesday, April 25. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


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Astronaut breaks U.S. space record, gets call from TrumpPresident Donald Trump, flanked by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, left, and his daughter Ivanka Trump, gives a thumbs up following a video conference with the International Space Station, Monday, April 24, 2017, from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:51:00 GMT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronaut Peggy Whitson broke the U.S. record Monday for most time in space and talked up Mars during a congratulatory call from President Donald Trump. The International Space Station's commander surpassed the record of 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes for most accumulated time in space by an American. "This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight," Trump said. His daughter and close adviser, Ivanka Trump, also offered congratulations to Whitson from the Oval Office. Whitson said it's "a huge honor" to break such a record. "It's an exciting time" as NASA prepares for human expeditions to Mars in the 2030s, included in new legislation signed by Trump last month. She called the space station "a key bridge" between living on Earth and traveling into deep space, and she singled out the station's recycling system that transforms astronauts' urine into drinking water. "It's really not as bad as it sounds," she assured the president. "Well, that's good, I'm glad to hear that," he replied. "Better you than me." Whitson already was the world's most experienced spacewoman and female spacewalker and, at 57, the oldest woman in space. By the time she returns to Earth in September, she'll have logged 666 days in orbit over three flights. The world record – 879 days – is held by Russian Gennady Padalka. Whitson broke the NASA cumulative record set last year by astronaut Jeffrey Williams; Scott Kelly holds the U.S. record for consecutive days in space – 340. Whitson is also the first woman to command the space station twice and the only woman to have led NASA's astronaut corps. Behind her was a banner that read: "Congrats Peggy!! New U.S. High-Time Space Ninja." The sign arrived Saturday on the commercial cargo ship, the S.S. John Glenn – barely in time for Monday's celebration. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, who arrived at the space station last week and took part in Monday's call, said the space station is "by far the best example of international cooperation." Whitson told the president that spaceflight takes a lot of time and money, so getting to Mars will require collaboration from other countries to succeed. NASA is building the hardware right now to test a new rocket that will carry astronauts farther from Earth than ever before, she said. "Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term, so we'll have to speed that up a little bit, OK?" Trump replied. "We'll do our best," Whitson replied. The debut of the mega rocket is still more than a year away – at least. The date will depend on whether astronauts are on board for the test flight, which could hoist the new Orion capsule to the vicinity of the moon. Both Whitson and Fischer raised a hand when Trump asked which one of them was ready to go to Mars. Joining Trump in the Oval Office was astronaut Kate Rubins, who last summer became the first person in space to perform entire DNA decoding, or sequencing. She said she used a device the size of a cellphone for the job, and noted that such sequencing can detect microbes aboard spacecraft and monitor astronaut health. "That's fantastic," Trump said. "I've been dealing with politicians so much, I'm so much more impressed with these people, you have no idea." President Donald Trump, flanked by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, left, and his daughter Ivanka Trump, gives a thumbs up following a video conference with the International Space Station, Monday, April 24, 2017, from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)[...]


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Trump administration sanctions 271 in Syrian chemical attackTreasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin points to a member of the media as he answers questions during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:50:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration issued sanctions Monday on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency responsible for producing non-conventional weapons, part of an ongoing U.S. crackdown on Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons.

The sanctions target employees of Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, which the U.S. says partly enables the use of chemical weapons. The U.S. has blamed Assad for an attack earlier this month that killed more than 80 civilians in rebel-held northern Idlib.

"The United States is sending a strong message with this action: That we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters at the White House Monday. He said it was one of the largest such sanctions actions in U.S. history.

President Donald Trump has called Assad "evil" and said his use of chemical weapons "crossed a lot of lines."

Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack, in which sarin gas was allegedly used.

As a result of Monday's action, any property or interest in property of the individuals' sanctioned must be blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

As Trump dined this month with China's President Xi Jinping during their highly anticipated summit at Trump's Florida resort, word emerged that Trump took action against Assad by launching missiles against a Syrian airfield. The retaliation was seen as somewhat unexpected for a president that vowed to stay out of lingering wars and conflicts overseas.

This month, Russia vetoed a Western-backed U.N. resolution that would have condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and demanded a speedy investigation into the attack. China abstained for the first time, a move the White House billed a win for their efforts to isolate Russia.

"On Syria, the Council failed again this month to respond to Syria's use of chemical weapons," Trump said Monday at a White House meeting of U.N. ambassadors from countries on the Security Council. "A great disappointment. I was very disappointed by that."

The U.S. has gradually been expanding its sanctions program against Syria since 2004, when it issued sanctions targeting Syria for a range of offenses, including its support of terrorism, as well as its occupation of Lebanon, efforts to undermine stability in Iraq and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

More recently, sanctions were expanded in connection with its civil war, now in its sixth year, to target offenses linked to the ongoing violence and human rights abuses.

The U.S. has also issued sanctions for foreign individuals or companies that support Assad's government. A number of Iranian entities have been penalized for supporting the Syrian government or fighters working to undermine peace in Syria.

While Moscow and Washington are continuously at odds over Syria, the U.S. has not imposed any Syria-related sanctions on Russia.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin points to a member of the media as he answers questions during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


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Arkansas executes 2 inmates on the same gurney, hours apartFILE - This combination of undated file photos provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows death-row inmates Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams. The two Arkansas inmates scheduled to be put to death Monday, April 24, 2017, in what could be the nation's first double execution in more than 16 years have asked an appeals court to halt their lethal injections because of poor health. (Arkansas Department of Correction via AP, File)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:47:00 GMT

VARNER, Ark. – Two inmates received lethal injections on the same gurney Monday night about three hours apart as Arkansas completed the nation's first double execution since 2000, just days after the state ended a nearly 12-year hiatus on administering capital punishment. While the first inmate, Jack Jones, 52, was executed on schedule, shortly after 7 p.m., attorneys for the second, Marcel Williams, 46, convinced a federal judge minutes later to briefly delay his execution over concerns about how the earlier one was carried out. They claimed Jones "was moving his lips and gulping for air," an account the state's attorney general denied, but the judge lifted her stay about an hour later and Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. In the emergency filing, Williams' attorneys wrote that officials spent 45 minutes trying to place an IV line in Jones' neck before placing it elsewhere. It argued that Williams, who weighs 400 pounds, could face a "torturous" death because of his weight. Intravenous lines are placed before witnesses are allowed access to the death chamber. An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution said Jones moved his lips briefly after the midazolam was administered, and officials put a tongue depressor in his mouth intermittently for the first few minutes. His chest stopped moving two minutes after they checked for consciousness, and he was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. Initially, Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled four double executions over an 11-day period in April. The eight executions would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state said the executions needed to be carried out before its supply of one lethal injection drug expires on April 30. Besides the two executions Monday, Arkansas put to death one other inmate last week and has a final one scheduled for Thursday. Four others have been blocked. Before last week, Arkansas hadn't had an execution since 2005 or a double execution since 1999. Jones was sent to death row for the 1995 rape and killing of Mary Phillips. He strangled her with the cord to a coffee pot. He was also convicted of attempting to kill Phillips' 11-year-old daughter and was convicted in another rape and killing in Florida. Jones said earlier this month that he was ready for execution. He used a wheelchair and he'd had a leg amputated in prison because of diabetes. Williams' "morbid obesity makes it likely that either the IV line cannot be placed or that it will be placed in error, thus causing substantial damage (like a collapsed lung)," his attorneys wrote in an earlier court filing asking justices to block the execution. Both men were served last meals on Monday afternoon, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said. Jones had fried chicken, potato logs with tartar sauce, beef jerky bites, three candy bars, a chocolate milkshake and fruit punch. Williams had fried chicken, banana pudding, nachos, two sodas and potato logs with ketchup, Graves said. In recent pleadings before state and federal courts, the inmates said the three drugs Arkansas uses to execute prisoners – midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride – could be ineffective because of their poor health. Williams weighed 400 pounds, was diabetic and had concerns that the execution team might not be able to find a suitable vein to support an intravenous line. The poor health of both men, their lawyers claimed, could make it difficult for them to respond during a consciousness check following a megadose of m[...]


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Obama dishes on leadership at 1st event since leaving officeAP photo Former President Barack Obama and Max Freedman (center) listen to Harish Patel speak during a conversation on civic engagement and community organizing Monday at the University of Chicago in Chicago. It was the former president's first public event of his post-presidential life in the place where he started his political career.

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:41:00 GMT

CHICAGO – Former President Barack Obama used his first public appearance since leaving office to dole out advice to young people on leadership, managing social media and even marriage. What he didn’t do was mention his successor.

At a forum Monday for students at the University of Chicago, adjacent to where his presidential library will stand, Obama talked about his formative experiences as a community organizer and as a young politician running for office in Illinois. But for much of the panel event, he listened.

“Although there are all kinds of issues that I care about and all kinds of issues that I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world,” Obama said during event, which was invite-only and streamed live online.

He told the hundreds of area students in the audience that his focus after holding the nation’s highest office will be civic engagement with young people, and he that he hopes his presidential library, which will stand near the edge of campus, will be part of that mission.

Since delivering his farewell address in his hometown of Chicago in January, Obama has kept a low profile. He met privately Sunday with a group of at-risk young men, talking about gang violence and opportunities for jobs.

His first public engagement Monday came as President Donald Trump neared his 100-day mark in office. But Obama shied away from addressing specific policies or his own two terms as president. When it came to current events, such as immigration, he stuck to generalities.

He also gave advice.

When a college student panelist asked how to conduct a project involving interviewing day laborers, Obama told him to ditch the clipboard. When others asked about being young in the age of social media, Obama advised them to limit photos posted online, including being “more circumspect about your selfies.”

He also dropped in a marital tidbit, saying it’s best to “listen to understand” instead of listening “to respond.”

“I learned that in marriage,” he said to laughs from the audience. “That’ll save you a lot of heartache and grief.”

He encouraged students to talk to people who have opposing viewpoints, asking a college Republican panelist to discuss his campus experiences.

Obama said his work as a young organizer, which included meeting with Chicago public housing residents, laid the foundation for his time in office. He said he’s been reflecting as he works on a book chronicling his political career.

“This community gave me a lot more than I was able to give in return,” he said. “This community taught me that everybody has a story to tell that is important.”

AP photo Former President Barack Obama and Max Freedman (center) listen to Harish Patel speak during a conversation on civic engagement and community organizing Monday at the University of Chicago in Chicago. It was the former president's first public event of his post-presidential life in the place where he started his political career.


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Trump has long way to go on most of his 100-days promisesAP photo President Donald Trump, sitting next to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, speaks during a working lunch Monday with ambassadors of countries on the United Nations Security Council and their spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:41:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Sure enough, the big trans-Pacific trade deal is toast, climate change action is on the ropes and various regulations from the Obama era have been scrapped. It’s also a safe bet President Donald Trump hasn’t raced a bicycle since Jan. 20, keeping that vow. Add a Supreme Court justice – no small feat – and call these promises kept. But where’s that wall? Or the promised trade punishment against China – will the Chinese get off scot-free from “the greatest theft in the history of the world”? What about that “easy” replacement for Obamacare? How about the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and huge tax cut that were supposed to be in motion by now? Trump’s road to the White House, paved in big, sometimes impossible pledges, has detoured onto a byway of promises deferred or left behind, an AP analysis found. Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day “contract” with voters – “This is my pledge to you” – he’s accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don’t require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He’s abandoned several and failed to deliver quickly on others, stymied at times by a divided Republican Party and resistant federal judges. Of 10 promises that require Congress to act, none has been achieved and most have not been introduced. “I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days,” the president bragged in a recent interview with AP, even as he criticized the marker as an “artificial barrier.” In truth, his 100-day plan remains mostly a to-do list that will spill over well beyond Saturday, his 100th day. Some of Trump’s promises were obviously hyperbole to begin with. Don’t hold your breath waiting for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl to be dropped out of an airplane without a parachute, as Trump vowed he’d do at many of his campaign rallies. China’s leader got a fancy dinner, complete with “beautiful” chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago this month, not the promised “McDonald’s hamburger” and humble pie. But many promises were meant to be taken seriously. Trump clearly owes his supporters a Mexico border wall, even if it doesn’t end up being a foot taller than the Great Wall of China. One page of his 100-day manifesto is devoted to legislation he would fight to pass in 100 days. None of it has been achieved. The other page lists 18 executive actions and intentions he promised to pursue – many on Day One. He has followed through on fewer than a dozen, largely through the use of executive orders, and the White House is boasting that he will set a post-World War II record when he signs more this week. That’s a change in tune. “We need people in Washington that don’t go around signing executive orders because they can’t get people into a room and get some kind of a deal that’s negotiated,” he declared in New Hampshire in March 2015. “We need people that know how to lead, and we don’t have that. We have amateurs.” Efforts to provide affordable child care and paid maternity leave, to make college more affordable and to invest in urban areas have been all but forgotten. That’s despite the advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress, which the White House failed to pull together behind Trump’s first attempt to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” An AP reporter who followed Trump throughout the presidential campaign collected scores of promises he made along the way, from the consequential to the fanciful.[...]


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Farmers fear deportation of workers could hurt livelihoodAP file photo Residents of the predominantly Latino town of Woodburn, Ore., meet March 1 to talk about increased detentions by federal immigration agents. The meeting was held in the offices of PCUN, a union which represents farm workers and others and which is housed in a former church. Farmers, nursery and winery owners and others who depend on immigrant labor are predicting a catastrophe as federal immigration agents focus on stepping up arrests of people who are in the U.S. illegally. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:35:00 GMT

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


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Old-guard rallies around newcomer Macron for French runoffIn this photo combination, French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron waves before he addresses his supporters at his election day headquarters in Paris Sunday and far-right candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen waves at supporters after she delivers a speech during a meeting in Bordeaux, southwestern France, April 2.

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:32:00 GMT

PARIS – France’s established parties are rallying around the man who helped shut them out of the presidential runoff, maverick centrist Emmanuel Macron – an alliance of convenience aimed at keeping far-right Marine Le Pen out of the Elysee Palace. Support for Macron also poured in Monday from the seat of the European Union, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jewish and Muslim groups troubled by Le Pen’s nationalist vision. European stock markets surged, and France’s main index hit its highest level since early 2008, as investors gambled that the rise of populism around the world – and its associated unpredictability in policymaking – may have peaked. For all the paeans to Macron’s unifying vision in divided times, it is now up to French voters to decide whether to entrust him with this nuclear-armed nation in the May 7 presidential runoff. Polls consider him the front-runner, but that’s no guarantee that the French will come together to stop Le Pen the way they stopped her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, from reaching the presidency in 2002. France’s divided political mainstream, rejected by an angry electorate, united Monday to urge voters to back Macron and reject Le Pen’s far-right agenda. Politicians on the moderate left and right, including French President Francois Hollande and the losing Socialist and Republican party candidates in Sunday’s first-round vote, maneuvered to block Le Pen’s path to power. In a solemn address from the Elysee palace, Hollande said he would vote for Macron, his former economy minister, because Le Pen represents “both the danger of the isolation of France and of rupture with the European Union.” Hollande said the far-right would “deeply divide France” at a time when the terror threat requires solidarity. “Faced with such a risk, it is not possible to remain silent or to take refuge in indifference,” he said. Voters narrowed the French presidential field from 11 to two in Sunday’s first-round vote, and losers from across the spectrum called on their supporters to choose Macron in round two. Only the defeated far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, pointedly refused to back Macron. The contest is widely seen as a litmus test for the populist wave that last year prompted Britain to vote to leave the European Union and U.S. voters to elect Donald Trump president. Le Pen, meanwhile, is hoping to peel away voters historically opposed to her National Front Party, long tainted by racism and anti-Semitism. On Monday, she took a step in that direction, announcing she was temporarily stepping down as party leader, a move that appeared to be aimed at drawing a wider range of potential voters and was in keeping with her efforts in recent years to garner broader support from the left and right. “Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” she said on French public television news, adding that she wanted to be “above partisan considerations.” National Front party officials also joined the chorus, noting that a vote for Le Pen would be a natural move for those fed up with the status quo. “The voters who voted for Mr. Melenchon are angry voters. They can be in agreement with us,” Steeve Brios, the mayor of Le Pen’s northern bastion of Henin-Beaumont, told The Associated Press, adding that those far-left voters sought choices “outside the system.” Choosing from inside the system is no longer an option. Vote[...]


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Police: Errant hammer throw during warmups killed student

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:31:00 GMT

CHICAGO – A suburban Chicago college student who was accidentally killed during a hammer throw event was struck by an errantly thrown hammer while standing near the field during warm-ups, authorities said Monday.

The hammer – a steel wire attached to a heavy metal ball that can weigh as much as 16 pounds – struck 19-year-old Wheaton College freshman Ethan Roser in the head during Saturday’s meet, said Bill Murphy, Wheaton’s deputy police chief. Roser, of Cincinnati, was volunteering at the meet and was going to measure the throws.

An autopsy conducted Monday by the DuPage County Coroner’s office determined, as expected, that the preliminary cause of death was head trauma.

Murphy said investigators would continue to look into whether there was any criminal negligence, but that they don’t suspect there was any. Wheaton College declined to say whether it would conduct its own investigation.

Students at the Christian college about 25 miles west of Chicago gathered after the meet to pray for Roser, who transferred there in January from a school in Cincinnati.

“It was time for us to come together and really turn to God in this tough time,” student Phoebe Morris said.

Roser spent much of his childhood in Zimbabwe, where his parents were missionaries, and he was deeply religious.

His mother, Pat Roser, said Ethan’s faith played a big role in how he dealt with a leg injury in high school and in his decision to attend Wheaton.

“That just totally changed him, and he wanted to go and tell other young people about God,” she said “That’s what he was doing at Wheaton.”

Roser’s father, the Rev. Mark Roser, described his son as “just a really special kid” who considered his family members to be his best friends.

“We’re having a really hard time saying goodbye and letting go,” he said. “We know God’s in control, and he works everything out even though it’s beyond our comprehension.”




Trump backs away from demand for border wall moneyFILE - In this April 19, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office in Washington. With a budget deadline looming, President Donald Trump plans a whirlwind of activities seeking to highlight accomplishments while putting fresh pressure on congressional Democrats to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, even if that pressure risks a possible government shutdown (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:31:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump stepped back Monday from demanding a down payment for his border wall in must-past spending legislation, potentially removing a major obstacle to a bipartisan deal just days ahead of a government shutdown deadline. Trump told a gathering of around 20 conservative media reporters Monday evening that he would be willing to return to the wall funding issue in September, according to two people who were in the room. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the get-together, which originally was not intended to be on the record. The border wall money is fiercely opposed by Democrats, whose votes are needed to pass the government-wide spending legislation that comes due Friday at midnight. The wall also is unpopular with many Republicans, and GOP negotiators on Capitol Hill were uneasy about the clash over the wall potentially sparking a government shutdown. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who has a key role providing Democratic votes to pass the legislation, welcomed Trump’s reported shift on the wall. “It’s good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations,” Schumer said late Monday. “Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said, “The president’s comments this evening are welcome news given the bipartisan opposition to the wall, and the obstacle it has been to the continuing bipartisan negotiations in the appropriations committees.” The wall was the most pressing issue confronting lawmakers as they returned from a two-week spring recess to face a critical deadline. Congress must pass a $1 trillion catch-all spending bill to pay for all agencies of government or trigger a partial shutdown Saturday, which happens to coincide with the 100th day of Trump’s presidency. “I’m optimistic. I don’t think anybody wants a shutdown,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said as he exited a meeting of GOP leadership. “The White House and basically the minority leaders of the House and Senate have to have some level of agreement on the things that you’re adding.” The negotiations over the spending bill took center stage Monday despite a separate White House push for fast action to revive health care legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. After signaling last week that they hoped for a vote as soon as this week on a rewritten health bill, White House officials softened their stance Monday. Echoing the views of House GOP leaders, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there would be a vote on health care legislation when House leaders count the 216 votes needed to pass it. “I think we want to make sure that we’ve got the votes and we’re headed in the right direction before putting some artificial deadline,” Spicer said. Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan were embarrassed last month when they had to pull their “Obamacare” replacement bill off the floor without a vote as it became clear it would fail. Since then, leaders of conservative and moderate factions in the House have been negotiating on a compromise allowing states to opt out of certain “Obamacare” requirements, and they appear to be making progress, although legislative text had not been finalized as of Monday. The original GOP bill eliminated many of the “Obamacare” mandates, offered skimpier subsidies for consumers to buy care and rolled back a Medicaid expansion. Conservative[...]


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Local law enforcement cracking down on distracted drivingH. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com Crystal Lake Police Cmdr. Dan Hulata speaks with a motorist Monday after they failed to come to complete stop at Franklin and Walkup Avenues near Crystal Lake Central High School. The driver received a written warning.

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:30:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County area police departments are working to put an end to distracted driving. Since the 2014 ban on the use of all handheld devices while driving, Crystal Lake police made about 850 stops in both 2014 and 2015 and 1,826 stops in 2016 for illegal cellphone use. The stops consists of a combination tickets and warnings. “So a thousand more stops alone last year for distracted driving,” Crystal Lake Deputy Chief Derek Hyrkas said. “And that doesn’t mean necessarily that people are doing it more, it just means that maybe our officers are paying more attention to it. We’re really trying to concentrate more on distracted driving.” In an attempt to stop distracted driving from occurring, several local police departments are participating in Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week from April 24-28. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police recently asked Gov. Bruce Rauner to declare the end of April as Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week in an effort to bring attention to the dangers and consequences associated with driving distracted. The awareness week is taking place toward the end of Distracted Driving Awareness Month in the U.S. Throughout the week, police departments are setting up special enforcement zones in attempt to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people nationwide were killed and an estimated 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015. That is a 9 percent increase in fatalities as compared with the year before. Huntley Village Police Department officers have issued 28 distracted driving citations so far in 2017 regarding cellphone use. However, Huntley Deputy Chief Michael Klunk said it can be difficult to determine whether a crash, even a fatal one, was due to distracted driving. “It is a serious impact on the safety of our drivers, on the safety on our community, if somebody is talking on the phone and not paying attention to the direction of where their vehicles are going,” Klunk said. In 2012, Huntley police saw the lowest number of crashes in the village. Since then, they have started to see a slow and steady increase, Klunk said. “The vast majority of our crashes are rear-end crashes and a lot of those crashes are due to a distraction, whether it’s from an electronic device or other means,” Klunk said. Several police departments, such as McHenry, Crystal Lake, Huntley and Lake in the Hills, are using social media to show the dangers of distracted driving to the younger generation. Texting while driving has become an increasing problem among millennials as 16- to 24-year-olds have been using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers since 2007, according to NHTSA. “A lot of young drivers use social media, so we have a Facebook video posted about our participation as a reminder to them,” said Amanda Schmitt, Lake in the Hills public information officer. Lake in the Hills Police made 365 total citations/written warnings in 2016 for electronic communication device violations, according to police records. “Distracted driving has absolutely become a problem. And now people or kids will be out playing in their yards for summer break, bicycles and motorcycles will be out more, so we’d like dr[...]


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Citizens Utility Board will hold free bill clinic Friday

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:26:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Citizens Utility Board is hosting a free clinic Friday where experts will analyze utility bills to help Crystal Lake residents potentially save hundreds of dollars a year.

The free clinic will be from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Crystal Lake Public Library, 126 Paddock St.

Attendees will get information on how to spot unnecessary charges on bills, how energy-efficiency programs and rebates can cut their bills, and how to make the right choices in the electric and gas markets. Consumers are asked to bring their gas, electric and phone bills for a free, one-on-one consultation with a board expert.

To register, call the library at 815-459-1687 or visit www.crystallakelibrary.org.

The Citizens Utility Board is a nonprofit utility watchdog that represents the interests of residential and small-business utility customers, according to a news release.

For information, call the utility board’s consumer hotline, 800-669-5556, or visit www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.




Delavan man dies in Walworth County motorcycle crash

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:26:00 GMT

SUGAR CREEK – A motorcyclist died Monday morning after crashing into a tree in Sugar Creek Township, according to the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office.

Walworth County Sheriff’s deputies and Elkhorn Fire and Rescue personnel responded to the scene of the crash about 11:37 a.m. Monday at the intersection of Highway H and Sugar Creek Road, officials said.

Joshua Faber, 32, of Delavan, Wisconsin, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Walworth County Medical Examiner’s Office, the sheriff said.

Speed is thought to be a factor in the crash. An initial investigation shows Faber was riding east on Sugar Creek Road and didn’t stop at a stop sign at Highway H. He continued across the highway and went into a ditch and then hit the tree, officials said.

The investigation is ongoing.




Metra to begin trial to allow pets on weekday trains outside of rush hours

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:25:00 GMT

Metra has announced that any pet that can fit in a small carrier is welcome to ride weekday Metra trains at certain hours starting May 1.

Metra is testing an expansion of its pet program, which previously allowed for small pets only on Metra holiday and weekend trains.

The expansion will allow pets on weekday trains arriving in Chicago before 6:31 a.m. as well as after 9:30 a.m. and on weekday trains departing from Chicago before 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m.

Metra began looking into allowing pets on trains after it was presented with a petition in 2013, according to a news release.

“So far, our pet policy has been successful,” Metra CEO Don Orseno said in the release. “It just makes sense to test if we can expand it and make travel by train an even more attractive and convenient choice for these customers.”

Metra will evaluate the expanded policy after a six-month trial period to decide whether it should be fully implemented.

Pet owners must abide by several rules when their pets are on board.

Rules include carriers being able to fit in a passenger’s lap or under the seat at all times, not taking up seats or seating areas and not blocking pathways on trains.

Metra reserves the right to remove any passenger with pets that are noisy or disturb other passengers.




Woodstock police seek help to identify car sought in fatal hit-and-run

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:25:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – Police officials have released photos of the car sought in connection with the hit-and-run that killed a man on Route 14 last month and are asking for help to identify the culprit.

Dan P. Anderson, 43, of Woodstock, was killed March 30 after a being struck by a car as he was walking on Route 14. The driver didn’t stop and continued toward Route 47. Anderson was taken to Centegra Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police are looking for a small, red vehicle in connection with the hit-and-run. The make and model of the car is unknown at this time.

Police are investigating the incident, including looking at cars taken to junk yards and auto repair shops, Woodstock Deputy Police Chief Jeff Parsons said.

“Right now we are looking at video survelliance up and down Route 14,” he said. “Some evidence that was located on the clothing on the body made us look at other options, which narrowed it down to the red car. Right now, we are looking to speak to [the driver] or anyone else that has information.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Woodstock Police Department at 815-338-2131. Tipsters can remain anonymous.


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McHenry City Council rejects tattoo parlor proposal

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:25:00 GMT

McHENRY – The McHenry City Council denied a use variance Monday to allow a tattoo parlor and art studio on Main Street.

The McHenry City Council held its annual meeting Monday night, which was Sue Low’s last as mayor.

During the meeting, a motion was made by Alderman Richard Wimmer to allow a tattoo parlor and art studio at 3940 W. Main St. subject to the condition that the use variance would expire and become null and void if the tattoo parlor use stops for a period of six consecutive months.

According to the meeting’s packet, the proposed use variance was submitted by Justin and Cory Murov of Spring Grove and would be located next to Claws and Paws.

Low expressed her support for the parlor before votes were cast.

“Many people of all ages now seek a good, reputable, clean place that does tattoos,” Low said.

Although the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approving the use variance, it was rejected Monday by the City Council in a 4-2 vote.

Voting “no” were Aldermen Scott Curry, Andy Glab, Vic Santi and Jeffrey Schaefer. Voting “yes” were Aldermen Wimmer and Patrick Devine. This was Wimmer’s last meeting as alderman. Alderman Geri Condon was not in attendance.

In a separate matter, the McHenry City Council adopted the fiscal 2017-18 budget later in the meeting.

Council members unanimously approved a budget where the total expenditures of all funds is just more than $44.6 million.

“I’m very proud of staff and the council for the fact that it’s a balanced budget,” Schaefer said.

The city’s annual fiscal year budget covers the period of May 1 through April 30.




Crystal Lake, chamber to honor deployed soldiers with blue star Route 14 banners

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:24:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Starting next month, a drive down part of Route 14 will be a reminder that freedom is protected by people willing to make sacrifices.

The Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the city and several veterans organizations, has started a program to honor deployed soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines with blue-star banners. The city is allowing the chamber the use of 16 light poles near its 427 W. Virginia St. offices.

Applications are being accepted now for the first banners to go up in May, Chamber President Mary Margaret Maule said.

“I think this is a great acknowledgement. Less than 1 percent of the population is willing to step forward and serve,” said Maule, whose husband spent 22 years in the Navy and has two children who followed his footsteps. “I think it’s a great way for the city to recognize the sacrifice of families and the commitment of service members.”

The honor is open to anybody currently deployed with the Armed Forces who has a connection to Crystal Lake. The person does not have to be a resident – for example, the banners can honor a city employee who lives elsewhere, or a deployed Armed Forces member who never lived in Crystal Lake but has family here.

Applications are forwarded to a committee that will select which ones get honored. New banners will go up every May and January – they come down in November and December for the city’s Christmas decorations. Applications will be reviewed on a continual basis.

The idea was first presented to the City Council by 20-year resident Donna McAnally, who belongs to a military moms group.

When two group members said some towns in other states honor service members with blue star banners, McAnally decided that Crystal Lake should do it as well.

McAnally, who has one son in the Army and another in the Navy, said the banners will provide “a visual and moving display” that allows people to make a connection with men and women serving overseas.

“I thought it would be a wonderful way to honor Crystal Lake residents who are in service to our country,” she said.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12014, American Legion Post 171 and TLS Veterans are partnering with the city and the chamber. The chamber also is accepting sponsorships of banners to help defray the cost.

While the idea of honoring family members going off to war with a blue star dates back to World War I – the U.S. only participated in the last year and a half of the war – it became widespread in World War II, and gained popularity again following the Sept. 11, terror attacks.

To learn more about the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Blue Star Banner Program or to nominate someone for the honor, visit http://www.clchamber.com/blue-star-banner-program.html.




Marengo Mayor John Koziol sworn inBrittany Keeperman – bkeeperman@shawmedia.com Outgoing Marengo Mayor Don Lockhart swears in John Koziol on Monday at the City Council meeting. Koziol defeated Lockhart in the April 4 election, coming in with 480 votes to Lockhart’s 391.

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:24:00 GMT

MARENGO – The city’s new mayor was sworn in Monday and already has top administration issues on his mind.

The city sat John Koziol before a crowded City Hall room Monday, and one of his first moves as mayor was to call for an executive session to discuss personnel issues specific to city administrator Gary Boden and city attorney Carlos Arevalo.

Koziol thanked his family, supporters and incumbent Don Lockhart for his terms served as mayor to the city.

“Twelve years as mayor is a lot dedicated to the city,” he said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

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

Koziol said he wanted residents to give him a chance to earn their respect and promised to work “tirelessly” in the coming four years.

“I have stated many times throughout this campaign that it takes everyone to work together,” he said. “I take that statement very seriously. Are we going to have disagreements? Of course we are. Disagreements and conflict are healthy. But we need to have them with the utmost respect and professionalism.”

Marengo resident Terri Paulauski said that she hoped for transparency and open communication under the Koziol administration.

“I am looking forward to Mayor Koziol spending some time getting to know the specifics of things that are not available to the public,” she said. “I know he will take the time to read through the details on the specific status of the city and report back to the community because that is something he has been talking about through his campaign.”

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

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

Brittany Keeperman – bkeeperman@shawmedia.com Outgoing Marengo Mayor Don Lockhart swears in John Koziol on Monday at the City Council meeting. Koziol defeated Lockhart in the April 4 election, coming in with 480 votes to Lockhart’s 391.


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Algonquin village president's bee joke offends some project opponentsH. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com Silt fencing was turned into a protest sign near the intersection of Barrett Drive and Longmeadow Parkway in Algonquin. Algonquin mayor John Schmitt made light of the federal stop-work order.

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 05:22:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN – A judge’s order to halt work on the Longmeadow Parkway road project over the possible presence of an endangered bumblebee has resulted in two headaches for Village President John Schmitt. The first for the staunch supporter of the project, who has taken a lot of the heat from opponents, is the halt itself, and wondering whether the judge will extend the halt order this Friday. The other is a Facebook post that Schmitt said was in self-deprecating fun but that opponents didn’t find funny. In the wake of last week’s ruling, Schmitt changed his profile picture to his head attached to the body of a bee. He has since taken it down. “I’d rather not talk about it. It was lighthearted, a self-deprecating picture of myself. It certainly wasn’t meant to be insulting. If anybody or any species took offense to it, I sincerely apologize, but I certainly didn’t do it to be insulting,” Schmitt said. But to Laura Brehmer, an opponent of the project who was one of two candidates who rode that discontent to seats on the Village Board in the April 4 election, it wasn’t a gaffe so much as evidence that Schmitt and other officials don’t take opponents’ concerns seriously. “I think it was a real error in judgment. It’s not a laughing matter,” Brehmer said. Work on the parkway started near Randall Road in Algonquin on April 17, but ended several hours later after U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Coleman granted an emergency stop requested by opponents who said the planned route includes a habitat of the endangered rusty patched bumblebee. Coleman’s order is in effect until Friday, when a status hearing is scheduled. Algonquin has turned over control of more than $3 million worth of land to the project, Schmitt said. Plans call for a four-lane, 5.6-mile east-west corridor connecting Randall Road with Route 62, although it starts west of Randall Road at the intersection of Huntley and Boyer roads. The $115 million project, complete with a toll bridge over the Fox River, will go through Algonquin, Carpentersville and Barrington Hills, as well as unincorporated areas of Kane County. But while proponents call the project a necessary measure to ease congestion, opponents include environmental groups and homeowners along the project path who allege it will decrease their quality of life. Schmitt pointed to Friday night’s rescue of boaters stalled under the Route 62 bridge over the Fox River and headed for the nearby low-head dam as an example of why the parkway is needed. The bridge was shut down for the duration of the rescue, Schmitt said, stranding motorists all the way back to Barrington Hills because of no nearby alternate route to cross. “This village has done everything to make sure that this is not going to be injurious to the people of Algonquin, and it’s not going to be. This is a piece of infrastructure that will dramatically improve the quality of life for the village, and every community surrounding it,” Schmitt said. However, opponent Janis Jasper, who like Brehmer won a village board seat, questions that assessment. Besides the new environmental development, she said the data supporting the need for the parkway is dated to an era w[...]


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 20:42:00 GMT

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


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Obama dishes on leadership at 1st event since leaving officeFormer President Barack Obama hosts a conversation on civic engagement and community organizing, Monday, April 24, 2017, at the University of Chicago in Chicago. It's the former president's first public event of his post-presidential life in the place where he started his political career. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:22:00 GMT

CHICAGO – Former President Barack Obama used his first public appearance since leaving office to dole out advice to young people on leadership, managing social media and even marriage. What he didn't do was mention his successor.

At a forum Monday for students at the University of Chicago, adjacent to where his presidential library will stand, Obama talked about his formative experiences as a community organizer and as a young politician running for office in Illinois. But for much of the panel event, he listened.

"Although there are all kinds of issues that I care about and all kinds of issues that I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world," Obama said during event, which was invite-only and streamed live online.

He told the hundreds of area students in the audience that his focus after holding the nation's highest office will be civic engagement with young people, and he that he hopes his presidential library, which will stand near the edge of campus, will be part of that mission.

Since delivering his farewell address in his hometown of Chicago in January, Obama has kept a low profile. He met privately Sunday with a group of at risk young men, talking about gang violence and opportunities for jobs.

His first public engagement Monday came as President Donald Trump neared his 100-day mark in office. But Obama shied away from addressing specific policies or his own two terms as president. When it came to current events, like immigration, he stuck to generalities.

He also gave advice.

When a college student panelist asked how to conduct a project involving interviewing day laborers, Obama told him to ditch the clipboard. When others asked about being young in the age of social media, Obama advised them to limit photos posted online, including being "more circumspect about your selfies."

He also dropped in a marital tidbit, saying it's best to "listen to understand" instead of listening "to respond."

"I learned that in marriage," he said to laughs from the audience. "That'll save you a lot of heartache and grief."

He encouraged students to talk to people who have opposing viewpoints, asking a college Republican panelist to discuss his campus experiences.

Obama said his work as a young organizer, which included meeting with Chicago public housing residents, laid the foundation for his time in office. He said he's been reflecting as he works on a book chronicling his political career.

"This community gave me a lot more than I was able to give in return," he said. "This community taught me that everybody has a story to tell that is important."

Former President Barack Obama hosts a conversation on civic engagement and community organizing, Monday, April 24, 2017, at the University of Chicago in Chicago. It's the former president's first public event of his post-presidential life in the place where he started his political career. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:39:00 GMT

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


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:16:00 GMT

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 13:38:00 GMT

SALEM, Ore. – The head of Bethel Heights Vineyard looked out over the 100 acres of vines her crew of 20 Mexicans had just finished pruning, worried about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its crackdown on immigrants. From tending the plants to harvesting the grapes, it takes skill and a strong work ethic to produce the winery's pinot noir and chardonnay, and native-born Americans just aren't willing to work that hard, Patricia Dudley said as a cold rain drenched the vineyard in the hills of Oregon. "Who's going to come out here and do this work when they deport them all?" she asked. President Donald Trump's hard line against immigrants in the U.S. illegally has sent a chill through the nation's agricultural industry, which fears a crackdown will deprive it of the labor it needs to plant, grow and pick the crops that feed the country. Fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and cattle farmers and owners of plant nurseries and vineyards have begun lobbying politicians at home and in Washington to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes the harm to their livelihoods. Some of the farm leaders are Republicans who voted for Trump and are torn, wanting border security but also mercy toward laborers who are not dangerous criminals. Farming uses a higher percentage of illegal labor than any other U.S. industry, according to a Pew Research Center study. Immigrants working illegally in this country accounted for about 46 percent of America's roughly 800,000 crop farmworkers in recent years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture. Stepped-up deportations could carry "significant economic implications," a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture study said. If America's unauthorized labor force shrank 40 percent, for example, vegetable production could drop by more than 4 percent, the study said. The American Farm Bureau Federation says strict immigration enforcement would raise food prices 5 to 6 percent because of a drop in supply and because of the higher labor costs farmers could face. In addition to proposing a wall at the Mexican border, Trump wants to hire 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and has served notice that he intends to be more aggressive than the Obama administration in deporting immigrants. ICE agents have arrested hundreds of immigrants since Trump took office, though how much of a change from the Obama administration that represents is a matter of debate. Field hands have been among those targeted, with apple pickers detained in upstate New York and Guatemalans pulled over in Oregon on their way to a forest to pick a plant used in floral arrangements. It doesn't appear the arrests themselves have put a sizable dent in the agricultural workforce yet, but the fear is taking its toll. Some workers in Oregon are leaving for job sites as early as 1 a.m. and staying away from check-cashing shops on payday to avoid dragnets. Farm employers are worried about losing their workforces. "[...]


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:32:00 GMT

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


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:32:00 GMT

This is the second of several stories marking 50 years since Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967. JERASH CAMP, Jordan – As a boy, Palestinian Abdullah Abu Massoud fled the war over the birth of Israel in 1948 and sought refuge in the nearby Gaza Strip. As an adult, Abu Massoud was displaced again when Israeli forces captured Gaza, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in 1967. He escaped to Jordan, where he has been living in a refugee camp for 50 years. Now 77, Abu Massoud is the white-haired patriarch of a refugee family spanning five generations, including a great-great-granddaughter. The future looks bleak. “Fifty years have passed without a step forward,” Abu Massoud said. “We don’t belong here.” The plight of Palestinians uprooted by Israeli-Arab wars is one of the world’s longest-running refugee crises, and a solution would likely require setting up a state of Palestine that would take in large numbers of them. Such a solution appears distant, even as President Donald Trump says he wants to try to broker an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are being displaced again by regional conflicts, including civil war in Syria. The head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which helps displaced Palestinians, said they are no longer the world’s focus. “We are dealing here with a community that has essentially reached a crisis of existential nature,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl said. Abdullah Abu Massoud was born in a Bedouin encampment in what is now Israel. His family fled Israeli forces during the war over Israel’s creation, walking to Egyptian-run Gaza. More than 700,000 Palestinians were uprooted at the time. In his 20s, Abu Massoud married Bassama, an Egyptian, and settled in Gaza. Bassama, 72, said that after Israel’s capture of the territory in 1967, Gaza residents began talking of leaving, fearful of what Israeli rule might bring. Israel was offering transportation to Jordan, Bassama said. In April 1968, the Abu Massouds and other displaced Palestinians from Gaza boarded a truck to Jordan’s border. From there, they took buses to an area near the town of Jerash where UNRWA was setting up a tent camp. Bassama remembers her feet sticking out of the tiny tent while she slept. Under U.S. proposals in previous Israeli-Palestinian talks, a Palestinian state created from lands Israel captured in 1967 would welcome families like the Abu Massouds. In addition, an agreed upon number of refugees would be allowed to return to Israel and others could opt to stay in their host countries. But disagreements remained, and talks failed. Palestinians wanted Israel to accept moral responsibility for the plight of refugees. Israel feared this would lead to a large-scale return to Israel and dilute its Jewish majority. There have been no serious negotiations since gaps widened with the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister. Continued Israeli settlement expansion made a partition deal mor[...]


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:32:00 GMT

PARIS – Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France's presidential election, remaking the country's political landscape and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union. French politicians on the left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen's path to power in the May 7 runoff, saying her virulently nationalist anti-EU and anti-immigration politics would spell disaster for France. "Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France," defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said. "As such, there is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right." The selection of Le Pen and Macron presents voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU's future and France's place in it. It sets up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking "French-first" platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc. With Le Pen wanting France to leave the EU and Macron wanting even closer cooperation among the bloc's 28 nations, Sunday's outcome means the May 7 runoff will have undertones of a referendum on France's EU membership. The absence in the runoff of candidates from either the mainstream left Socialists or the right-wing Republicans party – the two main political groups that have governed post-war France – also marked a seismic shift in French politics. Macron, a 39-year-old investment banker, made the runoff on the back of a grassroots campaign without the support of a major political party. With 90 percent of votes counted, the Interior Ministry said Macron had nearly 24 percent, giving him a slight cushion over Le Pen's 22 percent. Fillon, with just less than 20 percent, was slightly ahead of the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon, who had 19 percent. The euro jumped 2 percent to more than $1.09 after the initial results were announced because Macron has vowed to reinforce France's commitments to the EU and euro – and opinion polls give him a big lead heading into the second round. While Le Pen faces the runoff as the underdog, it's already stunning that she brought her once-taboo party so close to the Elysee Palace. She hopes to win over far-left and other voters angry at the global elite and distrustful of the untested Macron. With a wink at his cheering, flag-waving supporters who yelled "We will win!" in his election day headquarters in Paris, Macron promised to be a president "who protects, who transforms and builds" if elected. "You are the faces of French hope," he said. His wife, Brigitte, joined him on stage before his speech – the only couple among the leading candidates to do so Sunday night. Le Pen, in a chest-thumping speech to cheering supporters, declared that she embodies "the great alternative" for French voters. She portrayed her duel with Macron as a battle between "patriots" and "w[...]


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Wheaton College student dies after track and field accident

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:26:00 GMT

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

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

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

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




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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:25:00 GMT

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

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

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

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

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




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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:25:00 GMT

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


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:24:00 GMT

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

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

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

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




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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:23:00 GMT

McHENRY – A 14-year run as McHenry mayor is coming to an end for Sue Low. On April 17, Low attended her last regular City Council meeting as mayor of McHenry. “I’ll really miss her,” 6th Ward Alderman Geri Condon said. “Sue was very instrumental to me being on the council. I always admired and looked up to her.” A lifelong McHenry resident, Low’s career in public office started in 2001 as a 3rd Ward alderwoman. Two years later, Low ran for mayor in 2003 and has held the office since. “In the very beginning, one of the reasons I ran for alderman was for the plans to building the Riverwalk and wanting to improve the downtown area,” Low said. McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce President Kay Bates said Low always was mindful of local businesses. “Since I’ve known her, she has always maintained a strong shop-locally mentality and has encouraged residents to support their local businesses,” Bates said. Now in her final days in office, Low said some achievements she’s extremely proud of as mayor include her dedication of the Vietnam Memorial in 2014 and her work on the downtown area. “Having grown up here my whole life, the heart of McHenry is the downtown area for me,” Low said. “While I was in office, we really focused on Veterans Memorial Park being a centerpiece of our town and placing a lot of emphasis on our downtown.” In February, the City Council approved a measure to bring back the McHenry indoor theater, which closed in 2014. “She’s done a great job of helping with us in the process,” said Don Tonyan, owner of the indoor theater building. “She’s always been a mayor who looks out for people’s best interests and has been great to work with on this project.” Low also attended many events dedicated to veterans and was made a member of the Warriors Watch Riders, a group that helps veterans. “She’s always had a very positive outlook about everything, and she’s really been active in the community and attended every event she could,” said Kim Loewe, who is the owner of Kiera’s Confections in McHenry and president of the McHenry Area Downtown Business Association. At her final City Council meeting, some of Low’s last moments as mayor involved declaring May 5, 2017, Main Street Station Day to honor McHenry’s Mexican restaurant, and recognizing the completion of the city’s new consolidated dispatch center’s expansion and renovation project. The new center will serve as the dispatcher for 16 area agencies. “[McHenry Police] Chief [John] Jones and his staff have just done an incredible job with being named a dispatch center, and then utilizing the space that we already have to accommodate an expansion,” Low said. Jones gave Low credit for the dispatch center’s completion, saying she was an important part of the negotiations. [...]


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 03:40:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is heading into one of the most challenging weeks of his presidency, juggling a renewed health care push and a looming budget deadline. It’s all complicated by a potential showdown with Democrats over paying for a border wall. The symbolic 100-day mark for the administration is Saturday. That’s the same day government could shut down without a budget deal. Trump has announced a rally in Pennsylvania that day. Despite Trump’s dismissal that the 100-day marker is “artificial,” the White House is planning a packed week of activities leading up to Saturday. Trump will sign executive orders on energy and rural policies, dine with Supreme Court justices, meet with the president of Argentina and travel to Atlanta for a National Rifle Association event. Top aides also will fan out around the country to promote the administration. Aides stressed on Sunday talk shows that funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and a vote on an effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law were priorities. But they also suggested a shutdown could be avoided. “I don’t think anyone foresees or expects or would want a shutdown,” said budget director Mick Mulvaney on “Fox News Sunday.” Trump would like to revive a failed effort by House Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” He also hopes to use a $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities. But so far, negotiations have proven difficult, with disputes over the border wall and health law subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance. House members received little information from leaders on a conference call Saturday. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believes the spending bill will include “something satisfactory” to reflect Trump’s desire to build a wall. The legislation would keep the government running through Sept. 30, the end of the budget year. “We expect the priorities of the president to be reflected,” Priebus said, citing ongoing talks with the House and the Senate. He added that “it’ll be enough in the negotiation to move forward either with construction or the planning ... to get going on the border wall and border security.” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California described a border wall as “immoral” and “expensive” when asked if there was any scenario in which Democrats will agree to money for a wall to avoid a shutdown. “Democrats do not support the wall,” she said, speaking also on NBC. “Republicans on the border states do not support the wall.” “The Republicans have the votes in the House and the Senate and the White House to keep [...]


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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 03:40:00 GMT

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


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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 22:13:00 GMT

PARIS – Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France's presidential election, remaking the country's political landscape and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union. French politicians on the left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen's path to power in the May 7 runoff, saying her virulently nationalist anti-EU and anti-immigration politics would spell disaster for France. "Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France," defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said. "As such, there is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right." The selection of Le Pen and Macron presented voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU's future and France's place in it. It set up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking platform that called for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc. With Le Pen wanting France to leave the EU and Macron wanting even closer cooperation between the bloc's 28 nations, Sunday's outcome meant the May 7 runoff will have undertones of a referendum on France's EU membership. The absence in the runoff of candidates from either the mainstream left Socialists or the right-wing Republicans party – the two main political groups that have governed post-war France – also marked a seismic shift in French politics. Macron, a 39-year-old investment banker, made the runoff on the back of a grassroots campaign without the support of a major political party. With 75 percent of the vote counted, the Interior Ministry said Macron had just over 23 percent of the vote with Le Pen slightly behind with just under 23 percent. Fillon had just under 20 percent support and the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon had just under 19 percent. The euro jumped 2 percent to over $1.09 after the initial results were announced because Macron has vowed to reinforce France's commitments to the EU and euro. With a wink at his cheering, flag-waving supporters who yelled "We will win!" in his election day headquarters in Paris, Macron promised to be a president "who protects, who transforms and builds" if elected. "You are the faces of French hope," he said. His wife, Brigitte, joined him on stage before his speech – the only couple among the leading candidates to do so on Sunday night. Le Pen, in a chest-thumping speech to cheering supporters, declared that she embodies "the great alternative" for French voters. She portrayed her duel with Macron as a battle between "patriots" and "wild deregulation" – warning of job losses overseas, mass migration straining resources at home and "the free circulation of terrorists."[...]


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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 22:10:00 GMT

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

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

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

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

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

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




Author Spotlight: Kerry Nenn of Lakewood

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 10:30:00 GMT

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


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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:35:00 GMT

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


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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:35:00 GMT

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


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Illinois receives $16M to fight opioid addiction crisis

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

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

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

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

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

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




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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

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


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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

BETHESDA, Md. – President Donald Trump on Saturday awarded a Purple Heart to an Army sergeant recently wounded in Afghanistan, the first of many Trump likely will award during his service as commander in chief of the U.S. military. "When I heard about this ... I wanted to do it myself," Trump said during a brief ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington. The medal went to Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was wounded in action March 17 in Afghanistan during what is now America's longest war. The White House did not release Barrientos' hometown. "Congratulations, on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation. Tremendous," said Trump, mentioning his wife. It was Trump's first visit as president to the military hospital. Barrientos, whose right leg below the knee had been amputated, was brought into a hospital atrium in a wheelchair, accompanied by his wife, Tammy. Trump kissed Barrientos' wife before pinning the medal on the sergeant's left shirt collar, grasping Barrientos by the shoulders and then shaking his hand. The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who are wounded or killed in action. Besides Barrientos, Trump met privately with about a dozen service members who are receiving care at the medical center. Before leaving the White House, the president tweeted that he looked forward to "seeing our bravest and greatest Americans." Trump's decision to allow news media coverage of the medal ceremony was in sharp contrast to former President Barack Obama, who awarded Purple Heart medals during his own regular visits to Walter Reed but always did so behind closed doors. Trump was driven to Maryland instead of flying in the Marine One helicopter, the way presidents typically travel to Walter Reed, due to annual public tours of the White House south grounds and gardens that were taking place Saturday. As the motorcade exited the complex, nearby sidewalks were lined with people who had come to Washington on Saturday, which is also Earth Day, to promote science and defend it from attack, including Trump's proposed budget cuts. Some held signs that said "Support Science" and "Science Saves Lives." President Donald Trump, left, awards a Purple Heart to U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, with his wife Tammy Barrientos, right, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)President Donald Trump prepares to award a Purple Heart to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, with first lady Melania Trump, right, and Tammy Barrientos, second from right, at Walter Reed National Military Medi[...]


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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

KABUL, Afghanistan – Authorities on Saturday raised the casualty toll to 100 in an attack on a military compound in northern Afghanistan a day earlier by gunmen and suicide bombers wearing army uniforms. Gen. Daulat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense, said the attack Friday on a compound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army left dozens of soldiers and other personnel dead or wounded. Reports conflicted on the death toll, but at least two sources within the army corps and a provincial security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media, confirmed that more than 130 people were killed and at least 80 others were wounded. The defense ministry had said Friday night that eight soldiers were killed and 11 others were wounded in its initial reports. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said the militants entered the base in Balkh province using two military vehicles and attacked army personnel inside the compound's mosque. "Two suicide bombers detonated their vests full of explosive inside the mosque of the army corps while everyone was busy with Friday prayers," he said. Waziri said there were 10 attackers, including the two who carried out the suicide attacks. Eight others were killed in a gun battle with soldiers. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault in an email sent to media. President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday traveled to the base and strongly condemned the attack, according to a tweet from the official Twitter account of the presidential palace. "The attackers are infidels," Ghani was quoted as saying in the tweet. Ghani announced that Sunday would be a day of national mourning, with memorial services across the country's mosques and the Afghan flag flying at half-mast, in a statement issued by the Presidential Palace. Afzel Hadid, head of provincial council in Balkh told The Associated Press that more than 100 people, both army personnel and others present at the time inside the army crops, were killed in the attack. "The exact number is still not verified, but for sure we know more than 100 were killed in the attack," said Hadid. One of the attack survivors, an Afghan army soldier, Mohammad Hussain who was wounded and transported to a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif said "Three people in an Afghan National Army vehicle started shooting at us when we finished Friday prayers, they are the enemies of the country." "I don't know maybe they had someone inside to help them t[...]


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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – The world saw brain power take a different form Saturday. From the Washington Monument to Germany’s Brandenburg Gate and even to Greenland, scientists, students and research advocates rallied on an often soggy Earth Day, conveying a global message about scientific freedom without political interference, the need for adequate spending for future breakthroughs and just the general value of scientific pursuits. They came in numbers that were mammoth if not quite astronomical. “We didn’t choose to be in this battle, but it has come to the point where we have to fight because the stakes are too great,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who regularly clashes with politicians. President Donald Trump, in an Earth Day statement hours after the marches kicked off, said that “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.” Denis Hayes, who co-organized the first Earth Day 47 years ago, said the crowd he saw from the speaker’s platform down the street from the White House was energized and “magical” in a rare way, similar to what he saw in the first Earth Day. “For this kind of weather, this is an amazing crowd. You’re not out there today unless you really care. This is not a walk in the park event,” Hayes said of the event in the park. Mann said that like other scientists, he would rather be in his lab, the field or teaching students. But driving his advocacy are officials who deny his research that shows rising global temperatures. When he went on stage, he got the biggest applause for his simple opening: “I am a climate scientist.” In Los Angeles, Danny Leserman, the 26-year-old director of digital media for the county’s Democratic Party, said: “We used to look up to intelligence and aspire to learn more and do more with that intellectual curiosity. And we’ve gone from there to a society where ... our officials and representatives belittle science and they belittle intelligence. And we really need a culture change.” The rallies in more than 600 cities put scientists, who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation, into a more public position. Scientists said they were anxious about political and public rejection of established science, such as climate change and the safety of vaccine immunizations. “Scientists find it appalling that evidence has been crowded out by ideological assertions,” said Rush Holt, a former physicist and Democratic congressman who runs the American Association for the Advancement of Scien[...]


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Chicago law firms cultivate new cannabis-specific practices

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

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


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Woman who embezzled from Chicago Field Museum gets prison

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:34:00 GMT

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

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

Benson declined Chang's offer to make a statement.

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

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

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




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

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:33:00 GMT

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


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Cumpata: McHenry County could be attractive destination for Millennials

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:18:00 GMT

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



Marengo to swear in new mayor Monday

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 04:14:00 GMT

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

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

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

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

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