Sunday, Nov 18, 2018

News aggregator

Police, Nicor repairing Bull Valley gas leak

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 13:11
Police have asked people to avoid the area of Bull Valley and Draper roads in Bull Valley while a gas leak is repaired.

Nicor has been notified and is in the process of correcting the leak, according to a McHenry County Sheriff’s Office Nixle alert.

The leak is not a danger to the public, according to the alert, which was issued about 10:40 a.m. Wednesday.

This is a developing story. Check nwherald.com for updates.

Mueller raised possibility of presidential subpoena in meeting with Trump's legal team

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 09:13
WASHINGTON - In a tense meeting in early March with the special counsel, President Donald Trump's lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

But Special Counsel Robert Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter. Mueller's warning - the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump's legal team - spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president's lead lawyer. "This isn't some game," Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. "You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States." The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump's attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel's request for an interview, a dispute that ultimately led to Dowd's resignation. In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller's team agreed to provide the president's lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. The New York Times first reported the existence of the list. The questions focus on events during the Trump campaign, transition and presidency that have long known to be under scrutiny, including the president's reasons for firing then-FBI Director James Comey and the pressure he put on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. Now Trump's newly reconfigured legal team is pondering how to address the special counsel's queries, all while assessing the potential evidence of obstruction that Mueller might present and contending with a client who has grown increasingly opposed to sitting down with the special counsel. Without a resolution on the interview, the standoff could turn into a historic confrontation before the Supreme Court over a presidential subpoena. Sekulow and Dowd declined to comment. Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the special counsel, declined to comment. The president has repeatedly decried the investigation as a "witch hunt." "Oh, I see...you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!" Trump tweeted Tuesday. Trump's remade legal team is now led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who told The Washington Post on Tuesday that he views Mueller as the utmost professional, but is still reviewing documents and considering conditions he might set before deciding whether to recommend that Trump agree to an interview. "Hopefully we're getting near the end. We all on both sides have some important decisions to make," Giuliani said. "I still have a totally open mind on what the right strategy is, which we'll develop in the next few weeks." In the meantime, Trump's lawyers are also considering whether to provide Mueller with written explanations of the episodes he is examining. After investigators laid out 16 specific subjects they wanted to review with the president and added a few topics within each one, Sekulow broke the queries down into 49 separate questions, according to people familiar with the process. Paul Rosenzweig, who worked as a senior counsel on independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation during the Clinton administration, predicted that the president would face a long interview if the special counsel hewed to the list Sekulow compiled. "This isn't a list of 49 questions. It's 49 topics," Rosenzweig said. "Each of these topics results in dozens of questions. To be honest, that list is a two-day interview. You don't get through it in an hour or two." For his part, Trump fumed when he saw the breadth of the questions that emerged out of the talks with Mueller's team, according to two White House officials. The president and several advisers now plan to point to the list as evidence that Mueller has strayed beyond his mandate and is overreaching, they said. "He wants to hammer that," according to a person who spoke to him Monday. "Mueller is in Kenny Starr territory now," said another Trump adviser, referring to how the controversial independent counsel investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton's real estate deals in Arkansas ended up probing the president's lies about a sexual relationship with a White House intern. Trump advisers are particularly frustrated by the Mueller team's focus on whether Trump was obstructing justice by trying to push last summer for Sessions to resign. If the attorney general had stepped down, Trump could have chosen a replacement who was not recused from running the Russian investigation. Dowd has repeatedly argued that the president has ultimate authority under the Constitution to fire or demote any of his appointees and that his firing decisions cannot be used as evidence of obstruction. The revelation of the scope of the questions before the president's team could further complicate recently renewed talks between the special counsel and Trump's attorneys about a possible interview. Last week, Giuliani met with Mueller to reopen negotiations for a presidential interview. Giuliani conveyed the ongoing resistance of Trump and his advisers to a sit-down but did not rule out the possibility. Still, Trump remains strongly opposed to granting Mueller an interview - resistance fueled largely by the raids last month on the office and residences of his personal attorney Michael Cohen. Trump's anger over the Cohen raids spilled into nearly every conversation in the days that followed and continues to be a sore point for the president. One confidant said Trump seems to "talk about it 20 times a day." Other associates said they often stand silent, in person or on the phone, as he vents about the Cohen matter, knowing that there is little they can say. Alan Dershowitz, a well-known lawyer and Trump advocate, said Tuesday that it would be dangerous and unwise for Trump to agree to an interview. "The strategy is to throw him softballs so that he will go on and on with his answers," he said. "Instead of sharp questions designed to elicit yes or no, they make him feel very comfortable and let him ramble." In that setting, Dershowitz said, the prosecutors could catch Trump in a misstatement. Should Mueller seek to compel Trump's testimony using a subpoena, a legal battle could ensue that could delay the investigation and force the issue into the courts, potentially to the Supreme Court. Trump's team could argue that Mueller was seeking information about the president's private conversations that are protected by executive privilege or that a grand jury interview would place an unnecessary burden on the president's ability to run the country. Judges have generally held that the president is not above the law and can be subjected to normal legal processes - but the issue of a presidential subpoena for testimony has not been tested in court. Starr subpoenaed President Bill Clinton for grand jury testimony in 1998 but withdrew it after Clinton agreed to testify voluntarily. He was interviewed at the White House, appearing before the grand jury via video. Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said judges generally like to accommodate a president because he has to be free to "manage the affairs of the world and deal with nuclear war without having to worry about whether he has to show up for an interview the next day." But, he added, courts are loath to say the president can't be investigated. "The opposite argument is that no man is above the law, and if it's a lawful investigation, then he must respond," Rosenzweig said. Some legal experts believe that two Justice Department opinions prohibit federal prosecutors, including Mueller, from charging a president with a crime. Instead, they said, the Constitution relies on Congress' power to impeach as the route to hold a president accountable for potentially criminal behavior. Trump's lawyers could then argue that he cannot be forced to testify under subpoena, unless his testimony is necessary to indict someone else.

Brazil firefighters lament failing to save man as building fell

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:40
SAO PAULO – They only needed 30 seconds more, a firefighter sergeant said. He had thrown a rope with an improvised harness to a man hanging from a burning building in Sao Paulo’s old downtown, and the man managed to secure his leg and shoulders. But just as the sergeant’s team was ready to tug the man away, the building collapsed like a pile of dominoes, pulling the man into a cloud of red-hot debris.

Brazilian TV broadcast Tuesday’s dramatic rescue attempt and the collapse of an abandoned government building that had been occupied by squatters. By the end of the day, only the man whose rescue failed was believed dead. Firefighters and dogs were continuing to search the smoldering rubble – some of which still was too hot to walk over – for his body and any other victims. No firefighters were hurt.

“Of course, it’s impossible to not be emotional,” firefighter Sgt. Diego Pereira da Silva Santos later told reporters. “It was a victim, it was a person who needed help, who shouted for help.”

The sergeant described how he and his team climbed onto the roof of a neighboring building – using axes to gain access. He said he urged the man to be calm, to look only at the firefighters, to try to ignore the blazing heat coming from the fire.

“He was secured, he was ready,” Santos said. “The problem was the building collapsed and the amount of rubble and hot embers that fell on him.”

The building, a former federal police headquarters, caught fire around 1:30 a.m. and firefighters worked to evacuate people. Less than two hours later, the 25-floor building collapsed. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The blaze scorched the facade of a neighboring building and damaged a church. In all, five buildings nearby were evacuated.

The fire is sure to put a spotlight on occupations of other abandoned buildings in Brazil’s biggest city. The occupations often are led by highly organized fair-housing groups that run the dwellings like regular apartment buildings, with doormen and residents paying monthly fees. Others are less formal and more precarious.

In a July 2017 story on the occupations, The Associated Press reported that around 350 families were living in the former police headquarters. Local media said Tuesday that between 50 and 150 currently were living there, underscoring the sometimes fluid nature of such makeshift dwellings.

Mayor Bruno Covas ordered civil defense authorities to evaluate the estimated 70 other occupied buildings in the city.

“It’s a building that didn’t have the most minimal conditions to live in,” Sao Paulo state Gov. Marcio Franca, who visited the site, told news site UOL. “The occupation should never have been allowed.”

Several families who fled the burning building set up camp outside a nearby church, where neighbors and local businesses were dropping off supplies such as bread, milk and bottled water. Some brought used clothing and shoes.

Lohany Michely said she was asleep with her boyfriend and dog in their apartment on the third floor of the building when she began hearing people outside yell about a fire. Seeing smoke, the couple left with their dog, then watched the building collapse about 45 minutes later.

“Entire families lost everything,” she said. “People think that people who live in an occupation are animals. We are not animals. We are human beings.”

Clearing debris and accounting for people who had been inside could take days. Debris smoldered throughout the day, and firefighters said the intense heat made the search difficult. In a video posted on their Facebook page, firefighters showed a search dog assessing an area and then turning back when the heat became too much.

The fire was in an area known as “Centro,” which is Sao Paulo’s historic downtown. It began emptying out in the 1970s and 1980s after several fires, and another business district developed. These days, the neighborhood is on the cusp of a comeback and is equal parts dilapidated and edgy. Several city administrations have led campaigns aimed at beautifying and redeveloping the area, which now hosts most of the city’s homeless and has numerous blocks occupied by crack addicts.

Junior Rocha, who is a coordinator for an organization that runs three downtown occupations, said the group takes precautions to avoid tragedies, but the buildings are old and difficult to maintain.

The authorities “are going to use this as a way to pressure our movements to leave these buildings,” he said. “The state is acting as if us, the occupiers, us, from the movements, are responsible for this. We’re not responsible, the system is at fault.”

Dayana da Silva is worried about her future. She said she lost everything in the fire, including papers documenting her 8-year-old son’s respiratory illness and she is worried for his care.

“We already lived in a shelter,” da Silva said, sitting in a plaza packed with newly homeless families. “I’m not going back there.”

Australian cardinal faces 2 trials on sexual abuse charges

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:40
MELBOURNE, Australia – Australian Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, will face two trials within months on sex crime allegations spanning decades, a court heard on Wednesday.

Pell appeared for an administrative first hearing in the Victoria state County Court where he will be tried after a magistrate on Tuesday decided he should face a jury but dismissed around half the charges the cleric had faced during a preliminary hearing in a lower court.

His lawyer Robert Richter said on Wednesday he had agreed with prosecutors to split the remaining charges into two trials.

The charges relating to Pell’s time as a priest in his hometown of Ballarat in the 1970s and those relating to his time as archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s were “of a completely different nature” and “separated by 20 years,” Richter told Judge Sue Pullen.

Details of the charges and their number have not been made public.

Pell also wanted the first trial to start soon for several reasons, Richter said.

“Number one, my client is 76 years old and number two, everyone has to get on with their lives,” Richter said.

Richter also noted that one of the witnesses was 80 years old.

Pell has taken leave from his Vatican job as Pope Francis’ finance minister and plans to return to it once he is acquitted.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson anticipated the prosecution would need three months to compile its case, but later described that estimate as “conservative,” meaning prosecutors could be ready sooner.

Pullen said: “I do think three months is a little excessive.”

Prosecution and defense lawyers agreed the two separate trials would take a total of between eight and 10 weeks.

Asked by Pullen if Pell could afford his defense, Richter replied the cardinal had “no problem with funding.”

Pell was allowed to leave the court on bail ahead of his next administrative hearing on May 16. Pullen rejected an application to excuse Pell from attending that day.

Dozens of police linked arms to escort Pell, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a cleric’s collar, through a media throng from the court to a waiting car.

Lawyers for Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic have been fighting the allegations since before he was charged in Rome by summons last June.

When Magistrate Belinda Wallington asked Pell on Tuesday how he pleaded, the cardinal said in a firm voice, “Not guilty.” It was the first time after numerous court appearances that he had been required to enter a plea.

After Pell was order to stand trial, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke issued a statement saying: “The Holy See has taken note of the decision issued by judicial authorities in Australia regarding His Eminence Cardinal George Pell. Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.”

Under his bail conditions, Pell cannot leave Australia, contact prosecution witnesses and must give police a 24-hour notice of any change of address.

Since Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in July, he has lived in Sydney and flown to Melbourne for his court hearings.

His circumstances are far removed from the years he spent as the high-profile and polarizing archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney before his promotion to Rome in 2014.

The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory. For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career.

For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given that he famously promised a “zero tolerance” policy for sex abuse in the church.

Most of Central American migrant caravan waiting at border; some allowed into U.S.

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:40
TIJUANA, Mexico – U.S. border inspectors allowed some of the Central American asylum-seekers to enter the country for processing, ending a brief impasse over lack of space. But the migrants who crossed Mexico in a caravan may face a long legal path.

Caravan organizers said eight members of the group criticized by President Donald Trump that traveled from southern Mexico to the border city of Tijuana were allowed in to be interviewed by asylum officers, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not provide a number.

About 140 others still were waiting in Mexico to turn themselves in at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest, said Alex Mensing, project organizer for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which is leading the caravan.

“The spirits are high; there was good news for everybody,” Mensing said on the Mexican side of the crossing, moments after learning that some were allowed in.

U.S. attorneys who volunteered advice in Tijuana last week warned the Central Americans that parents may be separated from their children and be detained for many months while their asylum cases are pending.

Asylum-seekers typically are held up to three days at the border and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If they pass initial screenings by asylum officers, they may be detained or released with ankle monitors while their cases wind through immigration court, which can take years.

Nearly 80 percent of asylum-seekers passed the initial screening from October through December, but few are likely to win asylum.

The denial rate for El Salvadorans seeking asylum was 79 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to asylum outcome information from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Action Clearinghouse.

Trump administration officials have railed against what they call “legal loopholes” and “catch-and-release” policies that allow people seeking asylum to be freed while their cases are adjudicated. The president tweeted Monday that the caravan “shows how weak & ineffective U.S. immigration laws are.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pledged to send more immigration judges to the border if needed and threatened criminal prosecution. On Monday, the Justice Department said it filed illegal entry charges against 11 people identified as caravan members.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it processed hundreds of asylum-seekers in the previous week, many of them Mexican, which contributed to a bottleneck that led inspectors to turn away caravan members since they arrived late Sunday afternoon.

Asylum-seekers did not appear to be thrown off the by the delay.

Elin Orrellana, a 23-year-old pregnant woman from El Salvador, said she is fleeing the violent MS-13 street gang, a favorite target of both Sessions and Trump because of their brutal killings in communities in the United States. She said her older sister had been killed by the gang in El Salvador, so she is attempting to join other family members in the Kansas City area.

“Fighting on is worth it,” she said.

Customs and Border Protection has room for about 300 people at the San Diego border crossing.

“As in the past when we’ve had to limit the number of people we can bring in for processing at a given time, we expect that this will be a temporary situation,” the agency said.

During a surge of Haitian arrivals at the San Diego crossing in 2016, Customs and Border Protection required people to wait more than five weeks in Mexico. Since then, smaller upticks of Mexican asylum-seekers have caused delays of several hours.

Zuckerberg pledges to 'keep building' in no-apology address at Facebook conference

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:40
SAN JOSE, Calif. – With a smile that suggested the hard part of an “intense year” may be behind him, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed developers Tuesday and pledged the company will build its way out of its worst-ever privacy debacle.

It was a clear and deliberate turning point for a company that’s been hunkered down since mid-March. For first time in several weeks, Zuckerberg went before a public audience and didn’t apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political data-mining firm accessed data from as many as 87 million Facebook accounts for the purpose of influencing elections. Or for a deluge of fake news and Russian election interference.

Instead, Zuckerberg sought to project a “we’re all in this together” mood that was markedly different from his demeanor during 10 hours of congressional testimony just a few weeks ago. His presentation also marked a major change for the company, which seems relieved to be largely done with the damage control that has preoccupied it for the past six weeks.

On Tuesday, speaking in San Jose, California, at the F8 gathering of software developers, Zuckerberg said to cheers that the company is re-opening app reviews, the process that gets new and updated apps on its services, which Facebook had shut down in late March as a result of the privacy scandal.

Zuckerberg then vowed to “keep building,” and reiterated that Facebook is investing a lot in security and in strengthening its systems so they can’t be exploited to meddle with elections, including the U.S. midterms later this year. The company had previously announced almost all of those measures.

“The hardest decision I made wasn’t to invest in safety and security,” Zuckerberg said. “The hard part was figuring out how to move forward on everything else we need to do too.”

He also unveiled a new feature that gives users the ability to clear their browsing history from the platform, much the same way people can do in web browsers.

Then Zuckerberg returned to techno-enthusiasm mode.

Facebook executives trotted out fun features, most notably a new dating service aimed at building “meaningful, long-term relationships,” in a swipe at sites such as Tinder. After Facebook announced its entry into the online dating game, shares of Tinder owner Match Group Inc. plummeted 22 percent.

Poking fun at himself, Zuckerberg unveiled a “Watch Party” feature that gives users the ability to watch video together – such as, he suggested, “your friend testifying before Congress.” Up flashed video of Zuckerberg’s own turn on Capitol Hill.

“Let’s not do that again soon,” he said.

Zuckerberg did “remarkably well in a really rough environment,” said Ben Parr, co-founder of Octane AI, a startup that helps companies market their wares on Facebook’s Messenger app. “I think it helped a lot that he was joking, he was confident and he was comfortable.”

Facebook’s next actions will speak far louder than anything Zuckerberg during his 35-minute presentation Tuesday, predicted Cubeyou CEO Federico Treu, who is battling Facebook over what he believes was the unjustified suspension of his company app in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“Developers are going to be the type who say, ‘You spoke about a lot of things, but we will wait and see,’ ” Treu said.

Zuckerberg won over the crowd again when he announced that the thousands of people in attendance would get Facebook’s latest virtual reality headset – the portable, $199 Oculus Go – for free. “Thank you!” someone yelled to Zuckerberg from the audience.

Zuckerberg also went out of his way to thank Jan Koum, the co-founder and CEO of messaging platform WhatsApp, who announced his departure Tuesday. Facebook paid $19.3 billion for WhatsApp in 2014.

Despite reports that Koum left over concerns about how Facebook handles private data , Zuckerberg described him warmly as “a tireless advocate for privacy and encryption.”

Some analysts said Zuckerberg’s performance bolsters his chances of navigating the company out of its privacy scandal and overcoming concerns that it can’t handle its fake-news and election problems.

By leading off with Facebook’s security and privacy responsibilities, then continuing to extend Facebook’s ambitions to connect people in new ways, Zuckerberg successfully “walked the tightrope,” said Geoff Blaber, vice president of research and market analysis firm CCS Insight.

“F8 felt like the first time Facebook has been on the front foot since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke,” Blaber said.

Emarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said it seemed like Facebook was “able to strike the right chord” with developers; she figured some might respond to Zuckerberg with boos and heckles, although none seemed to. She was surprised that the event wasn’t more subdued with fewer gee-whiz announcements – and definitely didn’t expect a dating service.

Arizona teachers vow to end strike if funding plan passes

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:40
PHOENIX – Arizona teachers said they will end a historic statewide strike Thursday that shut down schools for days if lawmakers pass a plan that offers big raises and increased school funding but that still falls short of their demands.

Organizers made the announcement Tuesday after educators statewide walked off the job last week and closed schools to demand higher pay and more education spending. The Arizona action followed a teacher uprising that started in other parts of the U.S. and was punctuated by a march of tens of thousands of red-clad supporters.

Those mobilizing teachers criticized a Republican-led funding plan but said it was time to go back to work.

“Our fight is not over, we have options,” said Rebecca Garelli, a teacher and strike organizer. “But it is time for us to get back to our students and get back into our classrooms.”

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP legislative leaders have agreed on a state budget proposal that could be passed into law this week but doesn’t increase classroom resources as much as educators sought.

The plan moving through the Republican-led Legislature gives teachers a 10 percent raise next year and starts restoring some of the nearly $400 million in cuts to a fund that pays for supplies, repairs and some support staff salaries. It is expected to pass Wednesday, setting the stage for the walkout to end.

The governor has promised to bump teacher pay 20 percent by 2020 and restore payments to that fund to pre-recession levels in five years. Ducey had resisted giving teachers more than a 1 percent raise that he promised in January until teachers neared a strike vote. Then he came up with a new spending plan.

“We’re glad the strike is coming to an end. We’ve been working exceptionally hard to pass this budget and get this money to teachers,” Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said. “While our students head back to the classroom, we hope our teachers will head back knowing we have worked very hard to take a major step toward rewarding them for their invaluable work.”

An Arizona grass-roots group that launched in early March after West Virginia teachers won a 5 percent raise said they would not let off the pressure, despite the decision to go back to work. Before teachers return to school Thursday, they will hold walk-ins, dressing in red T-shirts and standing in solidarity.

After that, the long game is to push for a ballot initiative that creates new funding streams for education and to elect policymakers who support increasing school funding, said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, the largest teacher membership group.

“We have so many people now that are paying attention to what’s going on, they will never turn away from this fight now,” he said. “They understand that there are people down here who do not care as much about students as they care.”

The walkout began last Thursday, shutting down most public schools. Two-thirds of Arizona’s student population still was out of school through Tuesday, and some districts were expected to stay closed Wednesday.

Teachers have packed raucous rallies at the state Capitol for days, while others have helped care for students and tried to maintain community support.

Organizers urged teachers to hold community events, with some talking to parents over coffee and others crowding street corners in red shirts.

Gladys Garcia said many of her students rely on free or reduced price meals at Challenger Middle School in Tucson and she organized with colleagues to collect food to hand out at a public library.

“It’s our way to let the kids know, ‘We’re actively trying to do something for you, please don’t feel like we’re turning our backs on you,’” the first-year teacher said.

Many community members supported teachers’ efforts, but pressure was increasing on some parents and school administrators.

Gabriel Trujillo, superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District, the second-largest in the state, said he didn’t support the walkout because it takes teachers out of classrooms. He said he does back the objectives of the so-called #RedforEd movement, with his schools facing a host of funding needs.

But Trujillo was concerned teachers would lose public support if the strike dragged on. He said when he called off school for the fourth day in a row, he received more “angry communications” from parents than he had last week.

“I felt like the energy on Thursday was palpable,” Trujillo said of the launch of the walkout. “Now that we’re into day four, I think that’s on the line.”

Organizers seemed to acknowledge the strain but reasserted what the walkout was about.

“Our greatest victory is the powerful movement we have created, which we are going to continue on behalf of our students, because this movement has always been about our students,” Garelli said.

U.S. May Day immigration protests target Trump, fall elections

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:39
NEW YORK – Immigrants say President Donald Trump's administration has become almost everything they feared, but while they rally across the United States on May Day, their focus is less on huge turnout Tuesday than on the first Tuesday in November.

Marches and other demonstrations for labor and immigrant rights were planned from Florida to New York to California on International Workers' Day and come amid similar actions worldwide.

"The Trump administration has made very clear that they've declared war on the immigrant community on all levels," said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of the advocacy group Make the Road New York.

Immigrant rights groups have joined in May Day activities for more than a decade, initially to push back against harsh legislative proposals and later to clamor for reform and legal status for immigrants in the country illegally who were brought to the U.S. as children or overstayed their visas.

Now, they want to drive turnout in the midterm elections. Advocates hope voters target lawmakers who have pushed for measures that hurt immigrants and replace them with immigrant-friendly policymakers, said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles.

"Elections have consequences, and the consequences for our community have been dire, and if we do not change the balance of power, we question our ability to remain free in this country," she said.

Protesters still are taking aim at policy changes under Trump, including a country-specific travel ban, the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, high-profile detention and deportation efforts, and proposals to cut back the overall numbers of people allowed to immigrate permanently.

Trump and his supporters say the enforcement and policy changes are needed for national security and economic benefits. Some of the new policies have gotten tangled up in court, and Trump hasn't secured funding for his coveted border wall with Mexico.

After the rallies, immigrant rights groups will join LGBTQ, African-American and women's organizations this summer to push for the election of new leaders, Salas said, adding that they hope to see more support from Americans who aren't immigrants.

"It is really a fundamental question about what kind of a country we're going to be," she said. "For us, the question of immigration is a question about race, and it is also a question about real equality in this country."

PHOTOS: Woodstock Farmers Market opens for season

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:33
Residents came out to support local businesses during the Woodstock Farmers Market's first day of the outdoor season Tuesday.

Woodstock City Council votes to keep Old Firehouse Assistance Center open

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:26
The city’s controversial homeless assistance center will be allowed to stay at its downtown location for at least the next year.

Woodstock City Council members approved a one-year extension on a lease for the Old Firehouse Assistance Center, 120 W. South St., on Tuesday. The site opened in January 2016, and its lease was set to expire May 31.

The renewed lease includes an automatic eight-month extension if a permanent, fixed-site shelter isn’t operational in a year.

The Old Firehouse Assistance Center offers services in a one-stop shop format for McHenry County individuals who are experiencing homelessness. The McHenry County Housing Authority manages the site and offers meals, haircuts, showers, daytime shelter, counseling and medical services to its clients.

It has served hundreds of individuals and moved more than 50 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing since it opened. It now can continue services in Woodstock through May 31, 2019.

The center doesn’t pay the city rent for the space, and the lease provides options for both renewal and a 90-day get-out clause if the building is needed, according to city documents. Under the terms of the lease, the center is responsible for any cost related to court fees or damages to the site.

The shelter is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Residents in the area have criticized the center. Public scrutiny launched a series of city-hosted meetings on the issue of homelessness over the past year.

Meeting attendees Tuesday spoke for almost three hours and said the center is in the wrong location, drives economic development out of the city, devalues property, increases crime and draws more homeless people to Woodstock.

But some said the center has its merits. Resident Lauretta Wolf said that she sympathizes with the position the city is in and appreciates the work officials are doing to effect change.

“One of the things that makes me proud to be a Woodstock resident is the fact that people up here are taking the horns of this question and this mess,” Wolf said. “Being homeless doesn’t make you bad. Being addicted doesn’t make you bad. … I spend a lot of time in the library, and yes, there are some challenges with the people that come into the library, but you know what? The library is a sanctuary, and I think that is awesome.”

The city and local social service providers such as Pioneer Center for Human Services, Community Foundation for McHenry County and the housing authority are working toward expanding services for people experiencing homelessness.

The goal is to expand Pioneer Center’s Kishwaukee Valley Road site to provide emergency shelter for 70 to 80 clients and move away from the current church-based shelters.

Officials are working toward the expansion, but construction isn’t anticipated to start until next year.

Once the site is complete, social service agencies will move to the new facility and services at the Old Firehouse Assistance Center will end, according to city documents.

The nonprofit currently operates a 32-bed emergency shelter in Woodstock. Conversations are ongoing with city, county and state officials on funding a proposed expansion. All City Council members said they see that people are concerned with the problems of the shelter, but they acknowledged the time it takes to address an issue such as homelessness.

“This is not an ideal situation,” council member Mike Turner said. “We can’t snap our fingers and it gets better, even if we cancel this lease. I am not happy with the vote either way. I am all ears as to how to solve this issue.”

Council member Dan Hart voiced the only “no” vote on the extension.

McHenry County seniors experiencing affordable housing shortage

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:26
Jeannie Guy, a 79-year-old retired legal assistant, never considered herself disadvantaged – until she explored the cost of swapping her Cary home for one of the more community-centric senior living centers she has seen popping up throughout McHenry County.

A demand for senior housing in the area has drawn the construction of resort- and village-style living spaces in municipalities such as Huntley, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Cary.

The facilities tend to offer individual and assisted living, and often include amenities to make seniors’ lives as comfortable and bill-free as possible.

In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 8 percent of the county was 65 and older.

Estimates from 2017 show that has grown to close to 13 percent.

With a growing senior population and an uptick in age-restricted housing, things seem to be going well for the 65-and-older crowd. Those who can’t afford to spend $3,000 a month, however, are stuck in limbo, as housing options within their communities are few and far between.

“I’m not destitute, by any stretch of the imagination,” Guy said. “I just am appalled at the prices of housing.”

Guy receives a monthly income of about $2,000. That includes Social Security and pension earnings, as well as help from family, she said.

Her ideal living situation would be spending about $600 a month at a facility offering a one-bedroom independent living apartment that could merge into assisted living as she required it.

But when it comes to senior living centers in McHenry County, cash is king, retired minister John Schmidt said.

Schmidt and his wife, Alice, live together in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom corner apartment at Clarendale of Algonquin. When dining, rent and community fees are factored in, Schmidt’s monthly bill comes to about $4,450.

“The apartment is about $3,800 a month, and then there’s a $100 fee for garage rental, $35 a month for storage units,” he said.

The $3,800 includes food service for one. It costs Schmidt an additional $380 a month for his wife’s dining service.

Clarendale sales and marketing director Colleen Straka said that although the facility doesn’t accept Medicare or Medicaid, it does work with veterans’ aid and long-term care insurance plans.

Although the prices can be intimidating, rent and community fees tend to align with the cost of living alone – with a few added perks.

“For $3,300 a month, you get a beautiful one-bedroom, one-bath … all your utilities are included,” Straka said. “If they really sit down and they compare apples to oranges, they really see the light.”

In March, the average retired worker received about $1,300 monthly in Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

Cindy McDowell, a real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Star Homes in McHenry, works with seniors to relocate them within the community according to their budget.

Most of McDowell’s clients are looking for homes that will cost them less than $200,000.

Some of their must-haves include a first-floor master bedroom, first-floor full bathroom, attached garage and no stairs, she said.

The availability of homes in the area meeting those requirements is dismal, McDowell said.

“As our population is getting older, we’re finding that we need [homes] to be wheelchair accessible or ranches, which we’re short of,” McDowell said.

McDowell spent a year looking for housing for one client who needed an affordable home that was wheelchair accessible.

In McHenry County, there are only three houses within the Multiple Listing Service for $170,000, five for $180,000 and eight for $190,000.

Attached homes, which are desirable but typically less affordable for seniors, generally cost an additional $200 to $300 a month.

In McHenry County, there are only three senior-friendly attached homes between $148,000 and $180,000, McDowell said.

The McHenry County Housing Authority manages senior apartments that are subsidized or rent at 30 percent of the tenant’s income – although many have waiting lists.

“Bottom line: What it comes down to is the have and have-nots,” Guy said. “There are a lot of have-nots out there. Unfortunately, I never considered myself one, but I am one.”

Trash can outside McHenry CVS starts fire

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:20
A trash can outside CVS in McHenry caught fire Tuesday, causing damage to the store’s exterior.

The McHenry Township Fire Protection District responded about 5 p.m. to CVS, 3900 W. Elm St., Battalion Chief David Harwood said.

The trash can was against the building, and it caught fire for unknown reasons because of something inside of it, Harwood said.

An overhead canopy also caught fire, along with an outside rack holding plants. One of the store’s windows broke, but no other interior damage was done.

No one was injured in the incident.

Crystal Lake City Council OKs special service area for Habitat for Humanity

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:20
The Crystal Lake City Council approved creating a special service area for a new subdivision that will house nine Habitat for Humanity homes.

A rain garden must be installed along the backs of the lots, and a special service area needed to be established to fund the city’s consultant who performs annual maintenance on the garden. A special tax would be levied annually and not exceed an annual rate of 5 percent. The proposed tax levy for the first year when taxes are assessed will not exceed $4,000.

A public hearing was held during Tuesday’s council meeting, and members voted unanimously in favor of the special service area.

Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley was waiting to break ground on construction on South McHenry Avenue until the service area was approved, lawyer Lisa Waggoner said. The special service area only will affect the nine lots.

“The house is ready to be demolished,” Waggoner said. “The windows are gone, and the fire department used it for a training exercise. They have more applicants than they have lots, but they will be looking for volunteers to help on Saturdays.”

Waggoner said Habitat for Humanity has reached out to churches in the area and needs more volunteers.

“Their base of volunteers is in Elgin, so this is kind of far for them to come,” Waggoner said. “They were considering maybe doing a team competition.”

The 2.94-acre parcel at 431 McHenry Ave. contains a farmhouse and two outbuildings.

The plan is to build the new community over a three-year period, Habitat for Humanity associate director Bill Klaves previously said.

The homes will have anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet, depending on the size and structure of the family who secures each. A single mom with one child might get a home on the smaller side, while two parents with kids might get something larger.

Applications to acquire a house are always accepted, Klaves said. Interested parties and people looking to volunteer to build can call the Habitat for Humanity office at 847-836-1432.

President of McHenry Financial in Spring Grove certified by CFP Board

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:20
Jefferson Batt, president of McHenry Financial in Spring Grove, has been authorized by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. to use the certified financial planner trademarks in accordance with CFP Board certification and renewal requirements.

Batt focuses on financial planning.

The CFP trademarks identify individuals who have met the rigorous experience and ethical requirements of the CFP Board, have successfully completed financial planning coursework and have passed the CFP certification examination covering the financial planning process; risk management; investments; tax planning and management; retirement and employee benefits; and estate planning. CFP professionals also agree to meet ongoing continuing education requirements and to uphold the CFP Board’s code of ethics and professional responsibility, rules of conduct and financial planning practice standards.

The CFP Board is a nonprofit certification organization with a mission to benefit the public by granting the trademark certification and upholding it as a recognized standard of excellence for personal financial planning.

Batt is an investment adviser representative who offers securities and investment advisory services through Voya Financial Advisors Inc.

McHenry Financial is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors.

McHenry County Board invites school districts to discussion on cutting property taxes

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:20
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks has invited officials from nine area school districts to open a discussion about what districts can do to lower their property tax levies.

In March, voters approved an advisory referendum asking school districts to cut their property tax levies by 10 percent.

The discussions follow on the heels of the County Board reducing the county government’s levy by 11.2 percent for this tax year.

“While every local government has an obligation to the taxpayers to tighten their belts like we did, I believe school boards have even more of one because they account for the biggest percentage, by far, of property tax bills,” Franks said in a statement.

As the first board chairman directly elected by voters, Franks ran on a campaign of cutting the county levy by 10 percent.

County government accounts for about 10 percent of residential property tax bills.

“[The] voters told us in March that schools need to lower their taxes,” Franks said. “And unfortunately, people are also voting with their feet and leaving McHenry County. We have to reverse this trend before we reach a demographic and economic point of no return.”

Franks invited the superintendents and board presidents from nine of the area’s 16 school districts that have their administrative centers in McHenry County: Woodstock School District 200, Johnsburg School District 12, McHenry High School District 156, Marengo Union Elementary School District 165, Huntley School District 158, Richmond-Burton High School District 157, Cary School District 26, Community High School District 155 and Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47.

Other districts will be invited to future meetings.

School representatives will meet with Franks, county administrative staff and board members Michelle Aavang, Christopher Spoerl, Chris Christensen, Tom Wilbeck and Michael Skala. Aavang is chairwoman of the board’s Law and Government Committee. Christensen and Spoerl served on the District 26 board, Skala served on the District 158 board, and Wilbeck served on the McHenry County College Board of Trustees.

Crystal Lake man made menacing calls to alleged battery victim from jail phone, police say

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:20
A judge Tuesday refused to reinstate phone privileges for a man accused of calling a woman from jail and threatening to kill her unless she hired him an attorney.

Tristan L. Taggart, 32, of the 800 block of Boxwood Drive, Crystal Lake, remained in segregation Tuesday afternoon at the McHenry County Jail, police confirmed.

He appeared in court earlier that day with McHenry County Assistant Public Defender Grant Tucker on new charges alleging that Taggart used the jail’s phone to make threatening calls to a woman he’s accused of harming in the case that landed him behind county bars in January.

Taggart is accused of threatening to kill the woman, and saying he’d have another person killed, according to a criminal complaint filed in McHenry County court. His phone privileges were revoked as a result.

The woman asked McHenry County Judge James Cowlin to reinstate limited phone access for Taggart so he could speak with his children, but Cowlin denied the request, Tucker said.

McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Scholl could not be reached for comment.

At the time Taggart is accused of making the calls, he had been in jail on domestic battery charges. A grand jury indictment alleges that on Jan. 8, Taggart hit the same woman he’s accused of calling.

Taggart is charged in two separate cases with domestic battery, criminal damage to property, intimidation, harassing a witness, communicating with a witness, obstructing justice and aggravated intimidation.

The most serious charge, aggravated intimidation, typically carries a four- to 15-year prison sentence.

According to the indictment, Taggart has at least three additional domestic battery convictions in Cook County dating as far back as 2010.

Taggart remains in jail in lieu of a $300,000 bond. He would need to pay $30,000 to be released. He’s due back in court May 10.

Fifth Third Bank to close branch in Antioch

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:19
Fifth Third Bank will close its Antioch branch July 17.

The facility at 421 E. Route 173 will remain open through 4 p.m. that day.

All the same services will be available to customers from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at the Gurnee Hutchins Banking Center, according to a letter sent to Fifth Third Bank customers.

An alternative location is the Round Lake Beach Banking Center at 454 E. Rollings Road in Round Lake Beach.

– Ed Komenda

Mariano's opens to full house in Crystal Lake

County - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 01:18
The new Mariano’s in Crystal Lake opened at 5:45 a.m. instead of the planned 6 a.m. Tuesday as a way of thanking the 25 customers who stood in line waiting to be the first residents to enter.

“Everyone’s been really nice and really excited, and have loved our unique offerings,” said Amanda Puck, director of strategic brand development for Mariano’s. “They love that it’s interactive and get to try different samples.”

There was a consistent flow of people coming in when Mariano’s opened, and the parking lot remained full throughout the day. Two police squad vehicles sat off Route 14 helping to direct traffic flow.

“It was smooth sailing until 9 a.m., and then everyone went shopping, so the lot was very full,” Police Chief James Black said.

Betty Dietrich of Crystal Lake said it took her awhile to find a parking spot about 2:30 p.m., but it was worth the trip because she loved the healthy prepared meals.

“I must say, they seemed pretty prepared for the huge crowds,” Dietrich said. “I definitely think it will do very well.”

Dietrich said Mariano’s has a good selection for different diets, such as vegan and organic selections, and nitrate-free and minimally processed lunch meats.

“Everyone I met was helpful, and it was a great opening,” said Sally Taylor of Crystal Lake. “They are unique – from their variety, service and one-stop shopping for so many items.”

Fire causes $80,000 in damage to vacant house near Johnsburg

County - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 20:09
A Monday night fire caused $80,000 in damage to a vacant home near Johnsburg.

The McHenry Township Fire Protection District responded at 11:40 p.m. to the 1000 block of Althoff Drive for a structure fire, Battalion Chief Mike Majercik said.

Emergency response units arrived at the scene within five minutes and found a vacant house fully engulfed in flames.

Crews of about 30 firefighters, also from Spring Grove and Fox Lake, battled the fire and had it under control in about 30 minutes, Majercik said.

The house was deemed uninhabitable.

No one was injured, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Wonder Lake man cited for failure to reduce speed after striking utility pole on Route 120

County - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 20:04
WONDER LAKE – A 41-year-old Wonder Lake man was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash after striking a utility pole and causing power lines to come down on Route 120.

Robert Lahman was driving east on Route 120 between Thompson and Charles roads Sunday when for unknown reasons he drove off the road, struck a pole and rolled his car, McHenry County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sandra Rogers said.

​The Woodstock Fire/Rescue District responded about 2 a.m., Lt. Mike Brinkman said. Deputies and fire personnel waited about an hour for ComEd to shut off the power so they could retrieve Lahman from his vehicle, Rogers said.

Lahman had removed himself from the vehicle and was sitting on top of his pickup truck, Brinkman said.

“There’s a chance he was already on an energized vehicle. He could have been electrocuted,” Brinkman said, adding live wires were touching Lahman's truck and the road.

Lahman also was cited with improper lane use. No one was injured in the crash.

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