Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Rescuers end effort to find body of man presumed dead in sinkhole









SEFFNER, Florida -- Florida rescue workers have ended their efforts to recover the body of a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his bedroom while he slept in a suburban Tampa home, and the house will be demolished, a public safety official said on Saturday.


Jeff Bush, 36, who is presumed dead, was asleep when the other five members of the household who were getting ready for bed on Thursday night heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.


Authorities have not detected any signs of life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole.








"Our data has come back, and there is absolutely no way we can do any kind of recovery without endangering lives of workers," said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Dam.


The sinkhole also has compromised the house next door, officials said Saturday.


Officials planned to let family members, accompanied by firefighters, into the threatened  home for about 20 minutes to gather some  belongings, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Ronnie Rivera told reporters Saturday.


She said demolition of the home would begin early on Sunday.


Bush's body hadn’t been removed by Saturday afternoon and the ground near the home was still "very, very unsafe," Rivera said at a televised press conference Saturday.


"At this time we did some testing and we determined that the house right next to the house that’s actually damaged is also compromised by the sinkhole," Rivera said.


Jeff's brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, jumped into the hole and furiously kept digging to find his brother.


"I really don't think they are going to be able to find him," Jeremy said on Saturday. He "will be there forever."


A small memorial of balloons and flowers for his brother had formed near the house on Saturday morning.


"I thank the Lord for not taking my daughter and the rest of my family," he said.


Jeremy himself had to be rescued from the sinkhole by the first responder to the emergency call, Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. When Duvall entered Jeff Bush's bedroom, all he saw was a widening chasm but no sign of Jeff.


"The hole took the entire bedroom," said Duvall. "You could see the bed frame, the dresser, everything was sinking," he said.


Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy's fiancee who also lived in the house, ran to get a flashlight and shovel.


"It sounded like a car ran into the back of the house," Wicker said.


"There is a very large, very fluid mass underneath this house rendering the entire house and the entire lot dangerous and unsafe," Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting fire and rescue officials, told the news conference late on Friday.


"We are still trying to determine the extent and nature of what's down there so we can best determine how to approach it and how to extricate," Bracken said.


After suspending the search overnight, it resumed at daylight on Saturday, with engineering consultants trying to determine the extent of the collapse so that a perimeter boundary can be established for setting up heavy equipment for future excavation.


Several nearby homes were evacuated in case the 30-foot wide sinkhole got larger but officials said Friday it only appeared to be getting deeper. Soil samples showed that the sinkhole has compromised the ground underneath a home next door, engineers said Saturday.


The residents of that house were allowed 20 minutes in their home on Saturday to gather belongings. Firefighters and residents formed an assembly line to move items out of the house into SUVs and trucks.


Rescue officials said that in addition to soil samples, they were focusing on engineering analysis, ground penetration radar and other techniques to determine the extent of the ongoing collapse. Listening devices were being used to detect any evidence of life although Bush was presumed dead.


The Bush brothers worked together as landscapers, according to Leland Wicker, 48, one of the other residents of the house.


The risk of sinkholes is common in Florida due to the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. As rainwater filters down into the ground, it dissolves the rock, causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.

Reuters





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New budget crisis begins after Washington fiscal talks fail









The U.S. government stumbled headlong on Friday toward wide-ranging spending cuts that threaten to hinder the economic recovery, after President Barack Obama and congressional leaders failed to find an alternative budget plan.


Put in place during a bout of deficit-reduction fever in 2011, the automatic cuts can only be halted by agreement between Congress and the White House


"This is not going to be an apocalypse,” Obama told reporters at the White House  Friday. "It's just dumb. And it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt individual people, and it's going to hurt the economy overall."








A deal proved elusive in talks at the White House on Friday as expected, meaning that government agencies will now begin to hack a total of $85 billion from their budgets between Saturday and October 1. Financial markets in New York shrugged off the stalemate in Washington.


Democrats predict the cuts, known as "sequestration," could soon cause air traffic delays, furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal employees and disruption to education.


While the International Monetary Fund warned that the belt tightening could slow U.S. economic growth by at least 0.5 of a percentage point this year, that is not a huge drag on an economy that is picking up steam.


Obama was resigned to government budgets shrinking.


"Even with these cuts in place, folks all across this country will work hard to make sure that we keep the recovery going, but Washington sure isn't making it easy," he said after meeting Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.


At the heart of Washington's persistent fiscal crises is disagreement over how to slash the budget deficit and the $16 trillion national debt, bloated over the years by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and government stimulus for the ailing economy.


Obama wants to close the fiscal gap with spending cuts and tax hikes, but Republicans don't want to concede again on taxes after doing so in negotiations over the "fiscal cliff" at the New Year.


"The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It's about taking on the spending problem," House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on leaving the meeting.


The billions of dollars in cuts that go into effect on Saturday will probably be phased in over the coming weeks and months. Agencies from the Pentagon to the Department of Education have begun making plans to notify employees who will have to take unpaid days off.


Administration officials say the cutbacks in staffing will affect everything from air-traffic control to border security, preventive health screenings and prosecution of criminal cases. The automatic cuts were harsh by design, meant to force Republicans and Democrats into a bigger budget deal that reduces deficit spending.


No matter how Obama and Congress resolve the 2013 battle, this round of automatic spending cuts is only one of a decade's worth of annual cuts totaling $1.2 trillion mandated by the sequestration law.


Given the current absence of a deal, Obama is required to issue an order to federal agencies by midnight to reduce their budgets. The White House budget office must send a report to Congress detailing the spending cuts.


The Justice Department has already sent notices of furloughs that will begin April 21 at the earliest to some 115,000 workers, including at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Unlike previous fiscal dramas, the sequestration fight is not rattling Wall Street.


U.S. stocks rose moderately on Friday, with the Dow Industrials closing up 35 points, as data showed manufacturing expanded at its fastest pace in 20 months in February. Despite being up more than 7 percent this year, and near a record high, the discord in Washington has not prompted traders to cash in gains.


"Most of us believe that sequestration is not something that will make us fall off the cliff, since the cuts will be worked in relatively slowly," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia.


Poll shows GOP beraing blame





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Groupon founder Andrew Mason fired; shares jump









Groupon on Thursday ousted its CEO, company co-founder Andrew Mason, replacing him with two current directors amid increasing heat about the deal site's disappointing financial performance.

In a letter to employees, Mason said he was fired, with a playful and self-deprecating addition: "If you're wondering why ... you haven't been paying attention."






"From controversial metrics in our (initial public offering) to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves," Mason continued. "As CEO, I am accountable."

As far back as November, Groupon and Mason were forced to respond publicly to a report that he would lose his job. Reports surfaced at the time that Groupon's board was considering replacing Mason with a more experienced CEO to lead the Chicago-based daily deal company's turnaround.  

The board said it's searching for a permanent replacement. For now, Executive Chairman Eric Lefkofsky -- an original investor -- and Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis will share the task.

The company said its earnings expectations for the first quarter and full year outlined on Wednesday remain unchanged.

Investors appear to applaud Mason's departure, driving shares up in after-hours trading after a brutal regular session in which the stock lost a quarter of its value. Shares had plummeted in continuing fallout from a weaker than expected earnings report and forecast on Wednesday. The stock jumped 8 percent after hours on the news and was at $4.70, up nearly 4 percent, at 5:26 p.m.

Mason, a 32-year-old Northwestern University graduate, has come under fire for a series of missteps including controversy during its IPO and not finding a quick enough solution for its financial struggles.

Arvind Bhatia, a senior research analyst at Sterne Agee who recently upgraded Groupon to a "buy" with a $9 price target, said he expected Mason to have a few more quarters to prove himself, but the plummeting stock price likely forced the board to make a move.

"I think the reaction to the stock pushed them over the edge," Bhatia said. "It was basically saying that the market is not giving Andrew a vote of confidence, and I think the board took that message seriously."

Groupon, which was founded in 2008, was once a red-hot company that sparked a number of deal site competitors by marketing discounts on local services such as spas and restaurants to millions of online subscribers.

It turned down a nearly $6 billion buyout offer by Google in 2010 that at the time was thought to undervalue the company. A year later, it ended its first day as a public company worth $16 billion.

But it has lost about three-quarters of its value since it went public. On Thursday, its market capitalization was less than $3 billion, according to Capital IQ.

The scrutiny of Groupon was tremendous, given the "high-flying" nature of the company and the culture created and fostered by Mason, observers said.

That culture turned from a lovable quirk to a major liability as the company ran into controversy over its poorly received Super Bowl ads two years ago and a series of missteps before its IPO. Then, within months of its public debut, it disclosed an accounting flaw that forced it to restate financial results.

The larger question surrounding Groupon -- the long-term viability of its basic business model -- remains. The company has been expanding offerings beyond its core daily deals, where growth has slumped.

On Wednesday, the company posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $81.1 million, or 12 cents a share, missing Wall Street's expectations for a profit. Revenue for the quarter was up 30 percent, in line with analysts' views.

Groupon also warned Wednesday that its turnaround would take time, suggesting it will likely cut employees and overall expenses.

Tribune reporter Robert Channick contributed.

GRPN Chart

GRPN data by YCharts





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White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks

Speaker of the House John Boehner tells Scott Pelley in a "CBS Evening News" interview that a budget deal is now out of his hands.









WASHINGTON—






  Positions hardened on Wednesday between President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders over the budget crisis even as they arranged to hold last-ditch talks to prevent harsh automatic spending cuts beginning this week.




Looking resigned to the $85 billion in "sequestration" cuts starting on Friday, government agencies began reducing costs and spelling out to employees how furloughs will work.

Expectations were low that a White House meeting on Friday between Obama and congressional leaders, including Republican foes, would produce any deal to avoid the cuts.

Public services across the country - from air traffic control to food safety inspections and education - might be disrupted if the cuts go ahead.

Put into law in 2011 as part of an earlier fiscal crisis, sequestration is unloved by both parties because of the economic pain it will cause, but the politicians cannot agree how to stop it.

A deal in Congress on less drastic spending cuts, perhaps with tax increases too, is needed by Friday to halt the sequestration reductions, which are split between social programs cherished by Democrats and defense spending championed by Republicans.

Obama stuck by his demand that Republicans accept tax increases in the form of eliminating tax loopholes enjoyed mostly by the wealthy as part of a balanced approach to avoiding sequestration.

"There is no alternative in the president's mind to balance," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Obama wants to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies and the lower "carried interest" tax rate enjoyed by hedge funds.

But Republicans who reluctantly agreed to raise income tax rates on the rich to avert the "fiscal cliff" crisis in December are in no mood for that.

"One thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

In one of the first concrete effects of the cuts, the administration took the unusual step of freeing several hundred detained illegal immigrants because of the cost of holding them.

Republicans described that move by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a political stunt aimed at scaring them into agreeing to end the sequestration on Obama's terms.

The issue looked like it might become more controversial on Wednesday when The Associated Press reported that the Homeland Security Department official in charge of immigration enforcement and removal had announced his resignation on Tuesday just after news of the immigrants' releases came out.

But ICE said the report was "misleading." The official, Gary Mead, told ICE weeks ago of his retirement in April after 40 years of federal service, a spokeswoman said. Earlier, Carney denied the White House had ordered the immigrants' release.

Friday's White House meeting will include McConnell and the other key congressional leaders: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and House Speaker John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican.

'BELATED FARCE'?

The chances of success were not high.

One congressional Republican aide criticized the White House for calling the meeting for the day the cuts were coming into effect. "Either someone needs to buy the White House a calendar, or this is just a - belated - farce. They ought to at least pretend to try."

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Winter storm: Lake, McHenry could see 10 inches of snow

Tom updates Tuesday's storm. (WGN - Chicago)









A winter storm warning for up 6 to 10 inches of snow has been issued for Lake and McHenry Counties, and a winter weather advisory for other Chicago-area counties has been extended into Wednesday as a strong storm made travel hazardous and grounded hundreds of flights.


The National Weather Service has extended its winter weather advisory in Cook, DuPage, Kane and DeKalb counties until 6 a.m. Wednesday, and has upgraded Lake and McHenry counties to a winter weather warning, also until 6 a.m. Wednesday.


The heaviest snow was expected to fall this afternoon, but some heavy snow is expected to fall into the  evening, with accumulations of up to 10 inches in north suburbs by daybreak, according to the winter storm warning for Lake and McHenry counties. 








Snow accumulation totals at O’Hare as of 6 p.m. was 3.8 inches, the highest single snow storm total so far this winter season, said Casey Sullivan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


The northern suburbs have had the most snowfall today, with some areas reporting 6 to 7 inches of snow by this evening. Anything more than 6 inches of snowfall is upgraded to a winter weather warning, Sullivan said.


An advisory issued late this afternoon for Cook, DuPage, Kane and other northern Illinois counties called for up to 7 inches by late evening. Winds gusting at 35 to 40 mph will reduce visibility and glaze roads, the weather service warned.


"Snowfall rates in excess of an inch per hour could occur at times, along with wind whipped snow resulting in temporary white out conditions with near zero visibility at times in open areas," according to an advisory. "This will likely be a heavy wet snow sometimes referred to as heart attack snow."


The slow-moving storm weakens as it moves east, but will continue peppering Chicagoland with about another inch of snow overnight, Sullivan said. Temperatures will remain relatively steady, so the snow will be similarly wet and heavy.


By a little before 5:30 p.m., the weather service was reporting these snowfall accumulations: 6.4 inches in Northbrook; 5.2 inches in Streamwrood; and 4.5 inches in Winnetka.


Earlier, about 4:30 p.m., the weather service had reported these snowfall accumulations: 5.5 inches in northwest suburban Bull Valley, 5 inches in north suburban Lake Bluff, 4.9 inches in northwest suburban Elk Grove Village, 4 inches in northwest suburban South Elgin and Schaumburg, 3.3 inches in west suburban Winfield, 1.8 inches in north suburban Morton Grove, and 1.5 inches at Midway International Airport and southwest suburban Romeoville.


About 600 flights have been canceled at O'Hare International Airport and about 170 at Midway, according to FlightStats, which gathers data from airports and airlines. There were about 734 flights delayed at O'Hare and 118 at Midway.


On the roads, spinouts have been reported on interstates 90, 94 and 55, according to the Illinois State Police.


The Illinois State Police Chicago District has instituted its emergency snow plan. In an accident where there are no injuries and the cars are driveable, the drivers should exchange information at a safe place and file accident reports with the state police within 10 days.


Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department has deployed its entire fleet of 284 plows. Drivers will plow the main roads, such as Lake Shore Drive, through the evening rush hour. As the snow begins to taper off, the plows will clear residential roads, said department spokeswoman Anne Sheahan.


Extra plows are being deployed to the 2ndCongressional District to help residents get to their polling places for today's primary election, Sheahan said.


Road conditions were treacherous throughout the southwest suburbs, especially along Interstates 55 and 80 in Will County, police and fire officials said.


Several vehicles have slipped into ditches along I-55 near Plainfield, especially near U.S. Route 30, said Jon Stratton, a deputy chief with the Plainfield Fire Protection District.  "On I-55, there are vehicles everywhere in the ditch," Stratton said. "Visibility is going down and roads are getting all snow covered, so it's going to be an interesting day."


The most serious accident in the area so far today occurred when an SUV slid under a semi's trailer on the Route 30 overpass over I-55, Stratton said.


Firefighters extricated the woman who was driving the SUV, and she was taken by ambulance to Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Stratton said. The woman was conscious and stable when removed from the SUV, he said.


A school bus carrying about 35 elementary students collided with a plow truck in Plainfield around 4 p.m., but no injuries were reported, officials said.





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Emanuel to critics: McCarthy has my '100 percent support'









Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy his “100 percent support” Monday despite complaints from some aldermen fed up with the department’s inability to bring down violence in their neighborhoods.

The mayor backed up his hand-picked superintendent during his first news conference since African-American aldermen said last week that their constituents are making louder demands that something be done to quash the epidemic of homicides that has drawn nationwide attention to Chicago.


“Both Garry McCarthy, (First Deputy Police Supt.) Al Wysinger and the entire leadership in the police department have my 100 percent support, but they also have my sense of impatience to get the results throughout the city to bring the type of safety we want in every neighborhood,” Emanuel said.





“I appreciate any of the aldermen’s expressions, their frustrations. That is no different than the urgency I want for public safety,” Emanuel said as Ald. Howard Brookins, head of the City Council’s black caucus, looked on.


Last week, Brookins, 21st, questioned McCarthy’s tactics. On Monday, Brookins said he liked the mayor’s urgency. “I think it shows the frustration. I think he captured the mood of the black caucus that we’re all frustrated,” the alderman said. “I’m glad that it’s such a high-level priority for the mayor, as well as all the members of the black caucus.”


But Brookins continued to sound the alarm about the number of killings, which have remained stubbornly high in Chicago even as Emanuel and McCarthy have tried a variety of police tactics and legislative maneuvers in recent months to bring them down.


“I’m not the expert with respect to crime reduction, and I’m a result-oriented guy, as much of my caucus is,” Brookins said. “We just are displaying the frustration that the public is pushing on us about crime within our communities, and primarily it is within African-American communities that we’re seeing this violence.”


The mayor gave his vote of confidence while telling reporters the city has enough money to greatly expand the police department’s “violence prevention initiative,” which pays officers overtime to come in on their days off to work patrol in high crime areas. The Tribune has reported McCarthy plans to double the size of the program to allow up to 400 officers to sign up, and to expand it to every day from five days per week.


“We’re making the right calls and we’re making the right decisions to invest, and it’s an extended period of time but the right call to do and we have the resources to do it. Don’t worry, the budget will be fully balanced as it has been when we proposed it, and we made the cuts where we need to and the investments where we must,” the mayor said.


Emanuel’s 2013 spending plan included a $3 million increase in the department’s overtime to $32 million, according to city budget documents. That's still less than the $33.7 million the department spent on overtime in 2011, documents show.


The mayor’s comments came at a news conference to announce an additional 4,200 children will attend full-day kindergarten next year at a cost of $15 million. That money was found through cost-cutting at the school district’s central office, he said.


Emanuel has in the past used the city’s shaky financial situation to help explain the need to close city-run mental health clinics, lay off city workers and raise water fees and other costs for residents. And Chicago Public Schools officials are on the verge of closing schools to save money over the long haul as they face a deficit of us much as $1 billion next year.


But as with his assurances on police overtime, the mayor said money is available for the kindergarten program. It’s a matter of priorities, he said. “What are your priorities? You’ve got to make them, and then you’ve got to be able to fund them,” he said.


jebyrne@tribune.com


Twitter @_johnbyrne





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Oscars 2013 live: Rolling out the red carpet









LOS ANGELES -- The Oscars rolled out the red carpet on Sunday for the movie industry's biggest night, with Iran hostage drama "Argo" and presidential drama "Lincoln" in a tight race for Best Picture.


With several contests too close to call, a slate of big box office hits to celebrate and an unpredictable first-time host in Seth MacFarlane, movie fans could be in for surprises when the curtain rises on the 85th annual Academy Awards.


MORE OSCARS: Red carpet pics | Live stream | Oscars trivia quiz








Before the festivities begin, nominees including Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Sally Field, Jessica Chastain, British singer Adele and "Argo" producer George Clooney, along with performers Barbra Streisand and Jennifer Hudson will parade along the 500-ft long (152 meter) red carpet before dozens of photographers and camera crews.


Inside Hollywood's Dolby Theatre, Academy Awards history could be re-written.

Daniel Day-Lewis as U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is considered an unstoppable force to become the first man to win three Best Actor Oscars.


Buzz is building over a possible late upset by France's Emmanuelle Riva, 86, in the Best Actress contest that would make the star of harrowing Austrian entry "Amour" the oldest person ever to win an acting Oscar.


"Lincoln" goes into Sunday's three-hour plus ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, including a directing nod for double Oscar winner Steven Spielberg.

But its front-runner Best Picture status has been dented by the six-week victory streak enjoyed at other Hollywood awards by Ben Affleck's "Argo."

"It's been an interesting year," said Matt Atchity, editor in chief of movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

"I think 'Argo' probably has the best shot. It's certainly got the momentum. It has won so many top awards, and I think it's probably the movie to beat," Atchity told Reuters.

If "Argo" does prevail for the top prize, it will be the first movie to win Best Picture without its director even getting a nomination since "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990.

ANNE HATHAWAY OSCAR BOUND

Musical "Les Miserables," comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," shipwreck tale "Life of Pi," Osama bin laden thriller "Zero Dark Thirty," slavery Western "Django Unchained," indie film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," and "Amour" round out the contenders for the best film of 2012.

In other categories, only Anne Hathaway is considered a sure bet to take home a golden statuette after starving herself and chopping off her long brown locks for her supporting turn as tragic heroine Fantine in "Les Miserables."

Awards pundits says Spielberg could lose out in the director's race to Taiwan's Ang Lee for his technical and imaginative feat in filming fantastical adventure "Life of Pi" with a cast of exotic animals.

And the supporting actor Oscar could go to any of the five nominees - Robert De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Alan Arkin ("Argo"), Christoph Waltz ("Django Unchained"), Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln") and Philip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master").

The Oscar winners are chosen in secret ballots by some 5,800 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and handed out before an audience of 3,300 guests and tens of millions more watching around the world on television.

After several years of nominating little-seen movies, this year's nine Best Picture contenders have pulled in more than $2 billion in tickets worldwide.

"We are so fortunate to inherit this great group of films that are also popular at the box office ... We just lucked out and had this fantastic year in film," Academy Awards telecast co-producer Neil Meron told Reuters.

Producers are promising a fast-paced show packed with music and big performances. But the man getting the early attention will be MacFarlane, the provocative comedian behind animated TV series "Family Guy" and an unknown quantity as Oscar host.

"We are not going to know what works until we put it out there and see what plays in front of an audience," co-producer Craig Zadan said.

"It's a live show and that is always unpredictable. Once the train has left the station, whatever happens, happens."





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At least 15 hurt in crash at Daytona Speedway

YouTube video posted by user tyler4dx that shows fans being injured by debris coming into the grandstand area at Daytona International Speedway.









DAYTONA BEACH – More than two dozen people in the stands were injured at Daytona International Speedway when a multicar accident sent wreckage into the safety fence in front of the grandstand Saturday afternoon, authorities said.


The accident came on the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300.


Fourteen people were taken to hospitals. Another 14 were treated at the track, officials said.








Volusia County emergency responders transported eight race fans, six of which were trauma level patients with serious injuries, said Volusia County government spokesman Dave Byron.


Six were sent to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, one was taken to Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach and one to Halifax Health Medical Center of Port Orange. It's not clear where the other six were taken, nor were their conditions released.


As drivers jockeyed for position on the final lap, a number of cars made contact. Kyle Larson's' car was sheared in half as cars spun out of control.


"We saw a tire and debris go into the crowd," said race fan Bryon Gifford of Orlando, who had seats along the front stretch. "There was chaos everywhere."


As drivers jockeyed for position on the final lap, a number of cars made contact. Kyle Larson's' car was sheared in half as cars spun out of control..


His engine caught fire and ended up in front of fans along the front stretch after the car tore through the catch fence that's designed to protect fans in case of accidents. The debris splattered, hitting a spectator 45 rows up in the stands at Daytona International Speedway. Other car parts, included a tire, also flew into the stands.


"I know I took a couple of big hits there and saw my engine was gone," Larson said.


Tony Stewart raced through the carnage to win the race.


"The important thing is what's going on the front stretch right now," he said."We've always known since racing was started this is a dangerous sport. But it's hard. We assume that risk. It's hard when the fans get caught up in it.


"As much as we want to celebrate right now, as much as this is a big deal to us, I'm more worried about the drivers and fans in the stands right now. I could see it all in the mirror and it didn't look good from where I was, either."


Although no driver was seriously hurt, the condition of the fans was still being assessed.


"You've been able to see and explain," said Mike Helton, NASCAR President on the ESPN broadcast following the race. "There was some intrusion into the fence, and there were plenty of emergency workers ready to go and jumped right into it quickly."


"They are moving folks into the care center and Halifax Medical Center."


Driver Michael Annett was transported to Halifax Medical Center after his car slammed into the SAFER barrier head on during an earlier incident during the race.


NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said the damage to the stands will be reviewed in time for the running of the 55th Daytona 500 Sunday afternoon.


Sentinel staff writers Susan Jacobson and Arelis R. HernĂ¡ndez contributed to this report. Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com



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Drew Peterson transferred from Will County jail to Stateville









Drew Peterson’s new life as an Illinois Department of Corrections inmate has begun.


Peterson was transferred this morning to the Stateville Correctional Center near Crest Hill,  where he will be evaluated for placement based upon factors such as his conviction, length of sentence, program needs and medical and mental health requirements.


The Will County jail – which has held Peterson in solitary confinement since his May 2009 arrest for his own safety – had the paperwork prepared for his transfer by the time he returned from his sentencing hearing Thursday, officials said.








The sheriff’s department, which oversees the jail, kept the former Bolingbrook police sergeant segregated from the general population there amid concerns that his high-profile case and law-enforcement background would make him a target of inmates looking to build tough-guy reputations.


Jail supervisors began preparing Peterson at 8:30 a.m. and he left without incident by 9:22 a.m., officials said.


Drew Peterson wanted to make sure he was heard when he was given one last chance to speak Thursday, shortly before being sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Declining to speak from the defense table, where there was no microphone, the former Bolingbrook police sergeant shuffled to the witness stand in his jail-issued blue scrubs and orange shoes and began quietly.


"I hope I don't aggravate the situation," he turned and told the judge. Then Peterson screamed into the microphone, "I did not kill Kathleen!" startling almost everyone in the courtroom.


"Yes, you did!" Savio's sister Sue Doman yelled back from the gallery, prompting Will County Circuit Judge Edward Burmila to order her out of the courtroom.


It was an odd end to a case replete with oddities and circuslike sideshows. For the next 40 minutes, Peterson cried, raged and whispered, challenged the state's attorney to look him in the eye and indulged in self-pity as he unleashed his multitudinous thoughts like a character in a Dostoevsky novel.


The 59-year-old said he expects to die in prison. Barring any successful appeal, he won't be eligible for release until he's 93.


Peterson claimed that lies and mistakes by witnesses, prosecutors and police led to his conviction, and made disparaging remarks about Savio's family, attorneys and others involved in the case. His defense attorneys called the monologue an impassioned plea for leniency, but prosecutors said it was proof that Peterson is a psychopath.


"When he got up on the stand and (in) that shrill, kinda-feminine screech that he didn't kill Kathy — that's the guy that killed Kathy," Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow said. "You got a glimpse into his soul."


But in describing himself on the stand Thursday, Peterson said he was maligned and misunderstood.


"Until this happened, I thought I was viewed as a great guy," Peterson said, giving a litany of public and private good deeds before announcing he planned to tattoo the phrase "No good deed goes unpunished" across his shoulders.


"The state took an accident and staged a homicide," Peterson said, before turning to the judge. "Can I get some water?"


Once refreshed, Peterson said he had upheld the oath he swore when he became a police officer.


"I always took my job seriously, I never violated the public trust," he said, his voice husky with emotion before quoting one of the Ten Commandments. "And I never beared false witness against anyone."


"I think the only thing left to make this case run true to form," he told Burmila, stopping to take a tissue and wipe his nose, "would be a cruel and unusual punishment. And I don't think anybody would care, because nobody cares. I can't believe I spent 32 years defending a constitution that allowed this to happen to me."


It's not uncommon for a defendant to lash out against those who put them behind bars. It is rare, however, for defendant to offer a long, extemperaneous speech that both walks the court through the evidence and ilicits angry outbursts from the victims' families.


Peterson accused the state's attorney's office, state police, Savio's family and even Lifetime TV of being part of various conspiracies to wrongfully convict him. Last year, Lifetime TV aired a movie about Peterson with Rob Lowe playing the suburban police officer. Peterson said the "ridiculous movie" denied him a right to a fair trial and included statements he'd made to state police.





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Drew Peterson: 'Until this happened, I thought I was a great guy'









Moments after screaming in court, "I did not kill Kathleen," Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the 2004 murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio.

Peterson had faced as much as 60 years, but Judge Edward Burmila said he gave Peterson some consideration for his years as a police officer and his service in the military. Peterson is 59.


The sentence was handed down after Peterson, who did not testify at his trial, made an emotional appeal to the judge, at times appearing to choke up as he argued that he was convicted by "rumors, gossip, outrageous lies and, most importantly, unreliable hearsay."


"I don't deserve this," he told Burmila. "I don't deserve this."








Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, was convicted last fall of drowning Savio in her bathtub. Prosecutors have said they believe Peterson also killed his missing fourth wife Stacy and could seek charges in that case.


Peterson began his appeal to the judge today by telling him, "Good day, my name is Drew Peterson. I hope I don't aggravate the situation here, but I have a lot of things to be said." Then he screamed, "I did not kill Kathleen!"

"Yes, you did," a woman said.

"Ma'am, I'd like you to leave the courtroom," Burmila said. "And Mr. Peterson, don't make any outbursts that are designed to aggravate people."

"I'm sorry, your honor. I must have been woozy," Peterson said.


After the sentencing, State's Atty. James Glasgow dismissed the outburst as a "shrill, kind of feminine screech."


Peterson insisted to the judge he is the victim of an unjust and invasive police investigation that ignored or lost evidence that could have shown his innocence. He accused the state police of falsifying reports.

"What they did uncover was rumors, gossip, outrageous lies, and most importantly, unreliable hearsay. Hearsay that pierced three privileges that have stood for centuries," Peterson said.

Peterson bitterly complained that the Rev. Neil Schori betrayed his promise never to repeat anything that was said by Peterson or Stacy. Schori testified at trial that Stacy confided to him that she lied to state police about Peterson's alleged slaying of Savio.

"Out of the privileged information from Neil Schori, the state police was able to create" a case, he said. "I find it hard to believe that the state was able to take information that they obtained illegally and turn it to their benefit."

Kathleen Savio’s divorce attorney Harry Smith, who also testified at trial about a conversation he had with Stacy before she disappeared, "gave up privileged information from both Kathy and Stacy, like it was yesterday's garbage," Peterson said. "Ultimately, it led to my conviction.

"Hearsay is a scary thing. There's no proof. Anything can be said and nobody's accountable for the truth.

"In my experience, in divorce situations everybody lies, and everybody lies under the instruction of their attorneys.

"There was an incident where Kathleen exited the house ... and punched Stacy in the face. They went to trial, my 9- and 10-year-old sons were called to testify, and under oath they lied," Peterson said.

"On their next visit, I questioned them, 'Why’d you guys lie?' They said Harry Smith told them to. They didn’t want their mom to go to jail,” Peterson said, growing emotional as he spoke. “I couldn't be mad at them.”

"Stacy provided me an alibi for Kathleen's death. Then she later said she was lying about that. Seems like Stacy was lying all the time about everything. But the state's attorney picked and chose what they wanted to believe.

"Stacy clearly had a crush on the Rev. Schori, which I think was a factor in this.

"There was a constant and consistently illegal activity by the state’s attorneys, including the state’s attorney himself.

"So what did the state’s attorney do? They hire a skinny ... spokesperson (Stacy Peterson family spokeswoman Pam Bosco) to go out and say anything she wants. It buffered the state’s attorney’s office from anything the court might bring.

"And when it came time for a vote from the grand jury, only a handful of people were selected. Not the entire grand jury was brought in to do the vote. Pretty much guaranteed ... that I was indicted, which I was.

"There was a first investigation on this case, in which probably one of the most experienced investigators was the first one on the scene in this case, and he determined Kathleen's death was an accident.

"Dr. (Bryan) Mitchell looked at Kathy's body when it was in its freshest state. He determined her death was an accident."

So did the coroner's jury, Peterson said. "All this was done when the evidence was freshest."

Peterson then paused and asked for some water. He resumed by talking about his service in the military and lengthy law enforcement career.

"I was probably one of the highest-decorated officers in the Bolingbrook Police Department," he said.


"I always took my job seriously, I never violated the public trust," he said, his voice husky with emotions. "And I never beared false witness against anyone.

"I loved having a job that helped people," he said. "In my private life, I ran up to six companies at one time. I employed nearly 100 people.

"Until this happened, I thought I was a great guy," he said. "And in moments, the media turned me into a monster.

"As soon as I get a chance, I'm going to get a tattoo on my back, from shoulder to shoulder, that says, 'No good deed goes unpunished.' "

He said he loved Savio and called her a good wife and mother who did not deserve to die, but insited it was an accident. He then talked about Savio’s upbringing, calling it difficult and abusive.

"The most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen in my life was the night after our wedding, when I held Kathy and she cried because her father failed to show up and give her away on her wedding.

"At Kathy's wake, friends and family put money in cards and envelopes to help cover the cost of the funeral.

“I paid for the funeral."

"That's a lie right there," a man in court shouted.

"I paid for Kathy’s funeral at the request of her sister, who's sitting right there," Peterson said.

He then attacked State's Atty. James Glasgow.

"Mr. Glasgow, all aspects of my life have been destroyed. Everything from my personal life to my professional life to my social life -- all aspects have been destroyed. And I tell you this to give you greater cause for celebration, when you celebrate the fact that you perpetrated the largest railroad job in the history of this country.

"Since I've been incarcerated, I've had nine family members who have died, six of which were cousins," Peterson said. None of them made it past the age of 60, he said.

“And in telling you this, I'm not looking for any sympathy, but anything you sentence me to, you're sentencing me to the Department of Corrections to die!" Peterson said.

Peterson said he believes his constitutional rights have been violated.

"And I think the only thing left to make this case run true to form would be a cruel and unusual punishment. And I don't think anybody would care because nobody cares. I can't believe I spent 32 years defending a constitution that allowed this to happen to me. I can't believe people fought and died in wars protecting a constitution that allowed this to happen to me.”

America should be outraged, but nobody cares, he said.

"I take full responsibility for my relationship with the media," Peterson continued. "I just wanted them away from my home because they were scaring my kids. They hounded me. I agreed to go on TV and tell my story and ask for legal help.

"Everybody from busy bodies like Nancy Grace ... to that ridiculous movie that played repeatedly before and during my trial.

"It pretty much guaranteed that I would not get a fair trial. It's pretty clear that the state took part in that movie because things I remember saying only to the state police appeared in that movie," Peterson said, apparently referring to a Lifetime TV movie starring Rob Lowe as Peterson.

"I'm an obnoxious man by nature, truly. And after 30 years as a police officer, as is normal with a police officer, my defense mechanism is comedy. The media took that and capitalized on that, and my obnoxious nature showed through. But I want to ensure the court that at no time did I want to portray any insensitivity about Kathy's death. That was not my intention.

“I hope Mr. Glasgow looks me in the eye right now. Never forget my face! Never forget what you’ve done. 

“Originally I had some cute and funny things to say. But now in closing, it's time to be sentenced to a life of hardship and abuse in prison. I don't deserve this, I don't deserve this.

“Thank you.”


Earlier in the afternoon, Savio’s sister Anna Marie Savio-Doman told the judge that "my loss of my baby sister is beyond words. There will be no more birthday parties, backyard gatherings, holiday celebrations or other family activities to share. The laughter, hugs, guidance, advice, sense of security and those opportunities to say ‘I love you’ are forever gone.

“One of the hardest things for me is knowing the pain and fear that Kathleen must have suffered at the time of her murder. The horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she had trusted and loved more than anything was actually killing her. I wonder if she could feel her heart breaking when she thought about leaving her two boys forever. The helplessness she must have felt knowing she was going to die.

“I have to say it hurts a lot. I hope it gets better, but I am not confident it will get better. I still talk to her. I hope she can hear me.”

Susan Doman described her sister as a “rock” and told the court she looked up to Savio, even though Savio was younger. She also expressed her anger toward Peterson.

“He showed no remorse,” she said. “For years I watched Peterson parade on TV, radio, photo shoots, and (that) radio promotion to win a date with him. That was a big joke to him. And he loved all the attention.

“Your honor, the defendant shows no remorse to this day for the horrible crime that he did to my sister Kathleen. This senseless action is inexcusable. I am placing my trust that you will give Kathleen justice once and for all.”

The judge also read a statement from Savio’s father, but not aloud.

In arguing for a maximum sentence, Glasgow reminded the judge about the damage done to his young children with Stacy. Prosecutors have said they believe Peterson killed Stacy and could seek charges in that case.

"Not only is their mother gone, but also their father is gone, as he sits before you," Glasgow said.

Glasgow said Peterson also should not get a break for living a law- abiding life because of his attacks on his second wife, when he threatened to kill her.

"There's a recurring them here with Mr. Peterson. He’s a police officer, and there's a number of occurrences with the victims here being afraid to call the police department.

"These are obviously very dangerous situation, and in this case, led to the demise of two young women."

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Source: 2 bodies found at house after fire might have been stabbed









Firefighters found two bodies at a South Side residence this afternoon while putting out a fire at the home, according to authorities, and a source said at least one might be a homicide victim.


The bodies were found about 4 p.m. as firefighters were extinguishing a fire in the 8100 block of South Maryland Avenue, according to Larry Langford, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman. 


Preliminary reports indicate that at least one of the victims was found stabbed to death, and the residence may have been set ablaze to conceal their deaths, a source said.





The bodies were found in a bathroom, according to a source.


Chicago police officers sealed off the three-story multi-unit building near the southwest corner of East 81st Street and South Maryland Avenue with yellow and red crime tape. Several onlookers gazed at the building in the fire's aftermath.


Investigators could be seen inside the first-floor apartment unit where the fire erupted, its rear window broken and covered by a tarp. Several men working for two different board-up companies also stood in the alley while police conducted their investigation.


Brittany Pullum was inside her apartment across the alley when she saw black smoke coming from the first-floor unit. She said she then ran outside and saw about 15 to 20 people who evacuated from the fire building.


Pullum said a lady who evacuated told her she called 911.


"It's crazy. It's crazy," Pullum said, still appearing somewhat shocked at the news of the two deaths. "It's scary. Very scary."


One of the fire building's tenants, Alexander Brown, said his wife was home during the fire, but their unit wasn't damaged.


He said their unit, where he's lived for about five years, is next-door to the burned apartment. Brown was outside of the building after the blaze and said he was eager to find shelter because of the frigid temperatures.


Brown didn't know the occupants of the burned unit too well, but he said he's seen two women coming and going from there, periodically.


Police said the two victims were females. Although an autopsy Thursday will determine the official cause of their deaths, police said at least one of the deaths might be a domestic-related homicide.


Police said the fire was confined to the one unit, which appeared badly damaged.


Langford said the investigation has been turned over to the Chicago Police.


chicagobreaking@tribune.com






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Chicago Marathon registration suspended after web woes


























































Web site problems caused Bank of America Chicago Marathon officials to suspend online registration for the Oct. 13 race after four hours of problems Tuesday.

It will not resume for at least two more days.  Marathon director Carey Pinkowski said he expected to issue an update Thursday at 5 p.m.






Some 15,000 of the approximately 35,000 available entries remain.

"We are not reopening registration until we are confident all technical issues have been resolved," marathon spokesperson Lauren Fimbres Wood said in an email.

Registration began at noon.  For the next 90 minutes, however, almost everyone trying to register was greeted with this:

This site is currently unavailable.

Please check back later. 

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Continuing problems forced suspension of registration about 4 p.m.  Many people who got several steps into the process were not certain the registration had gone through.

Via Twitter (@chimarathon), marathon officials said people who were inadvertently charged twice will get a refund.  They should email office@chicagomarathon.com.




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Father recalls poignant final moment with slain daughter









The father of a Roberto Clemente Community Academy High School student killed Friday spent Monday morning putting up a memorial to his daughter at the North Side school. Later that morning, he remembered one of the last things he did with his daughter.


It was Friday afternoon, Jose Colon Jr. recalled, and he and his daughter Frances were watching President Barack Obama speak at Hyde Park Academy on the city's South Side. The topic of that speech: The same kind of gun violence that would end his daughter's life later that night.


"She said, 'About time they do something with the gun thing,' " he said, adding that Obama and other elected officials need to "make these people more afraid" to shoot each other by making tougher penalties.





The 46-year-old man wasn't optimistic the president's proposals would come to fruition soon enough.


"It's not over," he said. "This is just the beginning. Wait until summer comes along."


Frances Colon, of the 2900 block of West Armitage Avenue, was shot about 7:05 p.m. Friday in the 1100 block of North Pulaski Road, according to police. She was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:16 p.m.


Colon is the third student at Roberto Clemente to be killed this school year, said Clemente's principal Marcey Sorensen.


Rey Dorantes, 14, of the 2400 block of West Augusta Boulevard, a freshman at the school, was shot and killed on Jan. 11. His death came about a month after another Clemente student, Jeffrey Stewart, 16, of the 5200 block of West Race Avenue, was shot and killed on Dec. 9.


"I'm sick of it," said Sorensen. "How many more kids have to die before we do something?"


The school has mobilized a crisis team to support students and staff. Despite the deaths, Sorensen said the students have been coping well.


"Our kids live in fear and because of that, they are incredibly resilient," she said.


Colon was a senior who was preparing to attend college, said Sorensen. She was previously selected as the student of the month, a recognition for students who display good behavior, Sorensen said.


Clemente sophomore Noel Roman said this morning he's not surprised his high school has had to deal with the recent string of fatal shootings.


"Considering the neighborhood, no," he said. "It's barely getting better."


Roman said he didn't know Colon personally, but they shared some friends.


"It's like, 'I was walking with her one day and now she's gone,' " he recalled one of his buddies telling him.


Colon, who refers to the president by his first name, repeated that he doesn't want Obama to forget about the victims of gun violence like his daughter who don't always grab national headlines.


On Monday afternoon, from the porch of his Humboldt Park residence, he pulled out a holiday card from the Obama campaign.


"I want you to let them know," he told this reporter, pointing to the first lady's signature. "She knows me."


psvitek@tribune.com
Twitter: @Patrick Svitek


nnix@tribune.com
Twitter: @nsnix87





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Hockey arrives at Soldier Field
































































The tailgates were at full steam hours before noon. Snow covered gray slats dropped on the Soldier Field turf. And they dropped a rink in the middle of a football field.

Hockey arrived by the lake on Sunday, with four college teams taking part in the first Hockey City Classic. Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) battled first, with Wisconsin and Minnesota set to meet in the second game of the doubleheader.

Notre Dame emerged with a 2-1 win over Miami in the first matchup, cutting the front-running RedHawks CCHA lead to three points. Wisconsin then held on late to upend Minnesota 3-2 in the second game.

It's the first hockey event at Soldier Field and, possibly, a sort of dry run to see if the building can house an NHL Winter Classic involving the Blackhawks -- who skated at the venue with wounded military veterans on Saturday -- in the future.

As for the hockey, Notre Dame's Mario Lucia opened the scoring in the second period and then Jeff Costello added another tally early in the third period to provide a two-goal Irish bulge. Miami's Kevin Morris cut the deficit in half midway through the final frame, but the RedHawks couldn't equalize with the goalie pulled in the final minute or so.


In the second game, Wisconsin broke the game open with three second-period goals in a span of three minutes and change, tallies by Kevin Schulze, John Ramage and Sean Little to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Minnesota answered with a Seth Ambroz goal early in the third period and then a Zach Budish goal late, but could not find the equalizer with the goalie pulled late.


bchamilton@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribHamilton







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Bob Brenly: 'It was unbelievably tough to leave'

Former Chicago Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly talks about how he was set to return to the Cubs until a last-minute snag in negotiations.









MESA, Ariz. – Former Chicago Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly said he was planning to return to the team’s broadcast booth last year until a snag in negotiations led to his new job with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D’backs quickly signed Brenly to a five-year deal after the Cubs’ deal fell through.  






“It was unbelievably tough to leave,” Brenly said Saturday during a visit to Cubs camp, where his son, Michael is a non-roster invitee. “Long story short, we thought we had a deal done, and actually went out and celebrated with my family and ran up a pretty good tab at Joe’s (Stone Crabs).

“Woke up the next morning and there were some issues with the contract. One thing led to another and that kind of opened up negotiations with the Diamondbacks and it rolled downhill quickly. The Diamondbacks were willing to give me the years and the money that WGN and Comcast (Sports Net) could just not guarantee. Not a bad Plan B.”

The Cubs could not guarantee Brenly more than two years because they plan to open up bidding rights to games next year. The contract with their longtime home, WGN-TV expires after 2014, and the Cubs figure to cash in after the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable on a deal expected to be worth $7 billion to $8 billion over 25 years.

“There were some last-minute technical issues, a lot of financial maneuvering going on with the Tribune Co. and WGN," he said. “And their contract expires after next season with the Cubs. And with the money that’s there for the TV rights now, there was no guarantee who was going to get the contract.

“I certainly understand their position. They certainly did not want to guarantee me a contract when they might not even be carrying the games. It was just one of those things that happen in the game of baseball. It happens in broadcasting. It happens in just about every livelihood. But, like I said, a real good plan B.”

Brenly, who managed the D’backs to then 2001 championship, said he’s no longer thinking about the possibility of getting back in the manager’s seat down the road. He took himself out of consideration for the job that eventually went to Mike Quade in 2011.  

“I think that boat has sailed,” Brenly said. “There’s always a chance that some of the older people in the game may recall what we did back here in ’01 in Arizona, but I’m content. I like my job. Working with Len (Kasper) for eight years was as good as it gets. Going to Wrigley and traveling with the club… I’m breaking in a new partner this year in Steve Berthiaume, who just has a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm for the game.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to get back in the booth. I think the Diamondbacks are going to have a really good team this year, so I’m looking forward to it.”

The Cubs later signed Astros analyst Jim Deshaies to a four-year deal to replace Brenly in the booth.

psullivan@tribune.com

Twitter @PWSullivan



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Lawyers: Jackson Jr., wife intend to plead guilty to charges









Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi intend to plead guilty to federal charges alleging the former congressman misused $750,000 in campaign funds while she understated their income on  tax returns for six years, their lawyers say.

Jackson Jr., 47, a Democrat from Chicago, was charged in a criminal information today with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.


Sandi Jackson was charged with one count of filing false tax returns. She faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.


Jackson Jr. is accused of diverting $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.








Federal authorities allege that Jackson Jr. used campaign funds to purchase a $43,350 men’s gold-plated Rolex watch, $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas, and $9,588 in children’s furniture. The purchases were made between 2007 and 2009, according to the criminal information, which authorities noted is not evidence of guilt.


Other expenditures listed by prosecutors include $10,105 on Bruce Lee memorabilia, $11,130 on Martin Luther King memorabilia and $22,700 on Michael Jackson items, including $4,600 for a "Michael Jackson fedora."


The government also alleged that Jackson Jr. made false statements to the House of Representatives because he did not report approximately $28,500 in loans and gifts he received.


"He has accepted responsibility for his actions and I can confirm that he intends to plead guilty to the charge in the information," Jackson Jr.'s attorney Brian Heberlig said.


Sandi Jackson is accused of filing incorrect joint tax returns with her husband for calendar years 2006 through 2011, reporting income “substantially less than the amount of income she and her husband received in each of the calendar years,” with a substantial additional tax due.


Her attorneys released a statement saying she has "reached an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud."


Jackson Jr. stepped down from the House of Representatives on Nov. 21, citing both his poor health and an ongoing federal probe of his activities. In a statement then, he said he was doing his best to cooperate with federal investigators and to accept responsibility for his “mistakes.”

In a statement today, Jackson Jr. said:

“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties. Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made. To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right.”


Sandi Jackson's attorneys released a statement saying she "has accepted responsibility for her conduct, is deeply sorry for her actions, and looks forward to putting this matter behind her and her family. She is thankful for the support of her family and friends during this very difficult time."


Jackson's father, the Rev.  Jesse Jackson Sr., said he wanted to attend President Barack Obama's speech Friday at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago but traveled to Washington, D.C., instead, to be with family members while they waited for the federal charges to come down.
 
"This has been a difficult and painful ordeal for our family," the civil rights leader said.
 
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he would "leave it up to the courts system" to determine his son's fate.

"We express our love for him as a family," he said.


Jackson Jr.’s political fortunes sank beginning late in 2008, when he sought unsuccessfully to have Gov. Rod Blagojevich appoint him to the Senate seat that came open with the election of then-Sen. Barack Obama to the White House.

Jackson Jr. or an emissary reportedly offered to raise up to $6 million in campaign cash for Blagojevich, who now is in federal prison for crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat. Jackson Jr. was never charged in the case, which became the subject of an ethics probe in the House.

Last June, Jackson Jr. began a mysterious leave of absence for what originally was called “exhaustion” but later emerged as bipolar disorder. He spent months in treatment and won re-election Nov. 6 despite never returning to service in the House or staging a single campaign appearance.

A campaign to replace him is being conducted now in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of the South Side and south suburbs.

Jackson Jr. was first elected to Congress in 1995. Sandi Jackson was a Chicago alderman until she resigned her post last month. They have two children.

Sandi Jackson’s firm, J. Donatella & Associates, has been paid at least $452,500 from her husband’s campaign committee since 2002, Federal Election Commission reports show.

The former congressman’s campaign committee reported $105,703 in cash on hand on last Nov. 26, FEC reports show. Leading up to the last election, it reported $1 million in contributions and $1.06 million in operating expenditures, reports show.

Once considered a potential candidate for mayor of Chicago, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years because of the Blagojevich scandal and also because of news reports in 2010 that a suburban Chicago businessman told federal investigators he twice paid to fly a woman — a hostess from a Washington, D.C. bar — to Chicago at Jackson’s request.


In the wake of the reports, Jackson Jr. issued a statement calling the woman a “social acquaintance” and describing the matter as a  “private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago.”

Jackson Jr. subsequently told the Tribune editorial board he had apologized to "my absolute best friend, my wife."

Still, he also acknowledged he asked longtime supporter Raghuveer Nayak to pay to fly the woman from Washington to Chicago. House ethics rules prohibit members from soliciting gifts of personal benefit. Jackson said Nayak’s purchase was "a friendly gesture" by "a close and dear friend of mine, one who knows members of my family, has worked with members of my family, has been a friend of our family's for a number of years."

The woman's travel was "not a personal benefit to me, I don’t believe, under the House rules. A benefit to the person for whom he bought the ticket. He didn't buy tickets for me. Did I direct him? I did."

Tribune reporters Kim Geiger, Rick Pearson and Patrick Svitek contributed.

kskiba@tribune.com





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Cruise executive: 'Sorry for what guests had to endure'








MOBILE, Alabama—





Reeking of rotting food and sewage from overflowing toilets, a crippled cruise ship carrying more than 4,200 people was limping into Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday as passengers awaited the end of a vacation voyage some described as hellish.

The Carnival Triumph was being towed into port by tugboats as the drama played out live on U.S. cable news stations, creating another public relations nightmare for cruise giant Carnival Corp. Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the coast of Italy, with 32 people killed.


Passengers described an overpowering stench on board the ship four days after an engine room fire knocked out power and plumbing across most of the 893-foot vessel and left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

After the mishap, toilets overflowed, soaking many cabins and interior passages in raw sewage.

"Let's just say that I had a pair of shoes that I will not be bringing home with me," Julie Morgan told CNN.

"It is revolting," Morgan added, referring to the smell aboard the ship. "It's a mixture of sewage and rotting food."

But Terry Thornton, a senior Carnival Cruise Lines vice president, told reporters in Mobile that additional provisions were laid in on Wednesday and the ship was now "in excellent shape."

Passenger Donna Gutzman said those aboard the ship were treated to steak and lobster for lunch on Thursday afternoon.

"Our basic needs are being met. For the most part, they are making us happy," Gutzman told CNN.

The ship was expected to arrive in port around midnight CST (1.00 a.m. ET on Friday), Carnival said. A senior Carnival official said it could take up to five hours to remove all the passengers from the ship, which has only one functioning elevator.

Carnival Corp spokesman Vance Gulliksen said a tow line on one of four tugboats helping the Triumph get into port snapped on Thursday. But the tug was later reattached to the vessel.

Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of Carnival Corp, the ship left Galveston, Texas, a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.

A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 pounds of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, some passengers reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph when they contacted relatives and media before their cell phone batteries died. They said people were getting sick and passengers had been told to use plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.

'VERY CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES'

Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a statement late on Wednesday that the company had decided to add further payment of $500 a person to help compensate passengers for "very challenging circumstances" aboard the ship.

"We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure," Cahill said.

Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph on Monday, rejected Cahill's apology in comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.

"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that," Poret said.

Carnival Corp Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism in January 2012 for failing to travel to Italy and take personal charge of the Costa Concordia crisis after the luxury cruise shop operated by Carnival's Costa Cruises brand grounded on rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. The tragedy unleashed numerous lawsuits against his company.

The cruise ship mogul has taken a low-key approach to the Triumph situation as well, even as it grabbed a growing share of the U.S. media spotlight. His only known public appearance since Sunday was courtside on Tuesday at a game played by his Miami Heat championship professional basketball team.

"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I don't think they have been able to communicate it effectively," said Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles crisis management at Rubenstein Associates, a New York-based public relations firm.

"Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival," she added. "You can do all the right things. But unless you communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of day."

Carnival Corp shares closed down $0.11 at $37.35 in trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares closed down 4 percent at $37.46 on Wednesday after the company said voyage disruptions and repair costs related to Carnival Triumph could shave up to 10 cents a share off its second-half earnings.

The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas Maritime Authority will be the primary agency investigating the cause of its engine room fire.

For all the passengers' grievances, they will likely find it difficult to sue the cruise operator for any damages, legal sources said. Over the years, the cruise industry has put in place a legal structure that ring-fences operators from big-money lawsuits.

Rules for seeking redress are spelled out in complex, multi-page ticket contracts that have been the subject of decades of court battles. Victims are often required to proceed with any litigation in remote jurisdictions.

(Writing and additional reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Peter Cooney)






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Chicago Public Schools narrows its closing list to 129









Chicago Public Schools has narrowed the number of schools it will consider for closing to 129.

The preliminary list will be culled further before a final list is released by March 31.

Schools will be removed from the list as the district continues to gather information from parents, teachers and community groups during a new round of hearings that begin Wednesday night.

The district in December said 330 schools are underutilized, the chief consideration for closing, so the list released Wednesday offers a far better picture of what schools are still on the block.

Most of the targeted schools are on the South, West and Southwest Sides, many in impoverished neighborhoods that saw significant population loss over the last decade.

CPS last month removed high schools and high performing schools from consideratio. On Wednesday, the district told schools with student populations over 600 or utilization rates of at least 70 percent that they also were safe.

“We are going to take these 129 and continue to sift through these schools,” said CPS schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Over the next month, CPS will look at schools on the preliminary list in an effort to determine what led to the declines in enrollment, and whether the schools have academic plans in place to drive improvement.

Safety issues connected with moving students to different neighborhoods will also be considered. CPS is working with the Chicago Police Department and using its own data to determine if closing specific schools could jeopardize the safety of students.

CPS says it needs to close a significant number of under-utilized schools to “right-size” the district and address a $1 billion deficit expected next year.

District officials say closings this year will be based primarily on under-enrollment but have begun looking at academic performance as they whittle down their list.

The district has been holding school closing meetings across the city since December. The initial round of meetings were overseen by the Commission on School Utilization, whose recommendations included removing high schools and the best performing schools.

Most of the additional criteria announced Wednesday came out of suggestions made by the commission and gathered during community meetings the district began holding in late January. Byrd-Bennett had asked for more time to study the commission’s recommendations and define parameters like which improving schools should be taken off the list.

Schools in the middle tier of performance, or Level 2, that have seen increased enrollment over the last three years will be removed from consideration. There are 33 Level 2 schools still on the preliminary list.

District officials have also decided to no longer target Level 3 or the worst-performing schools that have shown gains on state assessment tests while serving 300 or more students. Schools that were designated by CPS to take in students from school closings over the past three years or were forced to share their building with another school this year have also been taken off the chopping block.
 
In addition, CPS added a few parameters: Schools separated from another neighborhood school by more than a mile, and schools that are surrounded by neighborhood schools that are at capacity or overcrowded, are no longer targeted for a shut down.

Tribune reporter John Chase contributed to this story.

nahmed@tribune.com



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Ex-cop shootout: Smoke, flame amid 'tactical operation'




















A person believed to be the fugitive ex-Los Angeles cop sought in three killings exchanged gunfire with authorities in the San Bernardino Mountains. (Feb. 12)




















































Smoke and flames were visible from the area where fugitive law enforcement officer Christopher Jordan Dorner was holed up in a Big Bear-area cabin after gun battles with law enforcement officers.


Law enforcement sources said "a tactical operation" was underway at the cabin but did not provide further details.


A tall plume of smoke was rising from the area where the standoff occurred. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel swooped down on the site near Big Bear following the gun battles between Dorner and officers that broke out in the snow-covered mountains where the fugitive had been eluding a massive manhunt since his truck was found burning in the area late last week.








Law enforcement personnel in military-style gear and armed with high-powered weapons were involved in a tense standoff after Dorner took refuge in the cabin Tuesday afternoon. 


One San San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy died of his wounds after he and another deputy were wounded in an exchange of gunfire outside the cabin in which hundreds of rounds were fired, sources told The Times. The deputy was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he died of his wounds.


The afternoon gun battle was part of a quickly changing situation that began after Dorner allegedly broke into a home, tied up a couple and held them hostage before fleeing with their white pickup truck, authorities said. 


Then Dorner was allegedly spotted by a state Fish and Wildlife officer in the pickup truck, sources said. A vehicle-to-vehicle shootout ensued. The officer's vehicle was peppered with multiple rounds, according to authorities.







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