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

Sinkhole victim 'will be there forever,' brother says

SEFFNER, Fla.  Florida rescue personnel on Saturday searched for a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his whole bedroom while he was asleep in his suburban Tampa home.

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

The sinkhole 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.

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 fiancée 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.

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

"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 (9-meter) 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.

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Florida man swallowed by sinkhole feared dead

Brother of sinkhole victim talks to reporters at the scene.


A Florida man was missing and feared dead on Friday after a sinkhole suddenly opened up under the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home, police and fire officials said.

Rescuers responded to a 911 call late on Thursday after the family of Jeff Bush, 36, reported hearing a loud crash in the house and rushed to his bedroom.

"All they could see was a part of a mattress sticking out of the hole," said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers. "Essentially the floor of that room had opened up."

A sheriff's deputy rescued Bush's brother, Jeremy, who had jumped in the sinkhole to try find him. Three other adults and a 2-year-old child were in the house at the time the sinkhole opened up.

"I feel in my heart he didn't make it," Jeremy Bush, 35, told Tampa TV station WFTS. "There were six of us in the house, five got out."

The entire household except Jeff Bush went out to eat ice cream on Thursday night and when they got home, Jeff was in his room sleeping. They were getting ready for bed when they heard a huge crash and Jeff screaming.

"It sounded like a car ran into the back of the house," said Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy's fiancee who also lived in the house.

Jeremy jumped into the hole as Wicker ran to the shed for a shovel and flashlight. When he returned, Wicker said he yelled for Jeremy to get out but the brother furiously kept digging until a deputy arrived and pulled him out.

Authorities had not detected any signs life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole and rescue efforts were suspended after the site was deemed to unsafe for emergency personnel to enter.

The evacuation of several nearby homes was ordered due to concerns the sinkhole was growing.

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

Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said the sinkhole appeared to be as wide as 30 feet, 30-feet deep, and an estimated 100 feet wide down below.

"It started in the bedroom and it has been expanding outward and it's taking the house with it as it opens up," said Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting rescuers.

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.

Florida suffered one of its worst sinkhole accidents in 1994 when a 15-story-deep chasm opened up east of Tampa at a phosphate mine. It created a hole 185 feet deep and as much as 160 feet wide. Locals dubbed it Disney World's newest attraction - 'Journey to the Center of the Earth.'

In 1981 in Winter Park near Orlando, a sinkhole was measured as 320 feet wide and 90 feet deep, swallowing a two-story house, part of a Porsche dealership, and an Olympic-size swimming pool. The site is now an artificial lake in the city.


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Benedict's reign ends with promise of 'obedience' to next pope

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict ended his difficult reign on Thursday pledging unconditional obedience to whoever succeeds him to guide the Roman Catholic Church at one of the most crisis-ridden periods in its 2,000-year history.

The papacy became vacant at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT/2PM ET), marking the first time in six centuries a pope has resigned instead of ruling for life.

In a symbolic gesture, the Swiss Guards who stood sentry at the papal summer residence south of Rome, where the pope flew by helicopter less than three hours earlier, quit their posts and the massive wooden doors of the hilltop residence were closed.

At the same time, the papal apartments in the Vatican were locked and will not be opened until a new pope is elected.

As he left the Vatican several hours earlier by helicopter, he sent his last Twitter message: "Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives."

Bells rang out from St Peter's Basilica and churches all over Rome as the helicopter circled Vatican City and flew over the Colosseum and other landmarks to give the pontiff one last view of the city where he is also bishop.

"As you know, today is different to previous ones," he told an emotional, cheering crowd holding balloons and banners after he arrived in the small town of Castel Gandolfo, where the summer residence it located.

He told the crowd, many of whom were crying, that he would soon become "simply be a pilgrim who is starting the last phase of his pilgrimage on this earth".

He then turned and went inside the villa, never to be seen again as pope.

"I wanted to see him for the last time. I hope his successor follows in his footsteps. I feel very moved to be here," said Giuseppe Ercolino, a 19-year-old student from a nearby town.

In an emotional farewell to cardinals on Thursday morning in the Vatican's frescoed Sala Clementina, Benedict appeared to send a strong message to the top echelons of the Church as well as the faithful to unite behind his successor, whoever he is.

"I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you are fully accepting of the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope," he said. "May the Lord show you what he wants. Among you there is the future pope, to whom I today declare my unconditional reverence and obedience."

The pledge, made ahead of the closed-doors conclave where cardinals will elect his successor, was significant because for the first time in history, there will be a reigning pope and a former pope living side by side in the Vatican.

Some Church scholars worry that if the next pope undoes some of Benedict's policies while his predecessor is still alive, Benedict could act as a lightning rod for conservatives and polarize the 1.2 billion-member Church.

Before boarding the helicopter, Pope Benedict said goodbye to monsignors, nuns, Vatican staff and Swiss guards in the San Damaso courtyard of the Holy See's apostolic palace. Many of his staff had tears in their eyes as the helicopter left.

Benedict will spend the first few months of his retirement in the papal summer residence, a complex of villas boasting lush gardens, a farm and stunning views over Lake Albano in the volcanic crater below the town.

Benedict will stay until April when renovations are completed on a convent in the Vatican that will be his new home.


With the election of the next pope taking place in the wake of sexual abuse scandals, leaks of his private papers by his butler, falling membership and demands for a greater role for women, many in the Church believe it would benefit from a fresh face from a non-European country.

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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.


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 as a political stunt aimed at scaring them into agreeing to end the sequestration on Obama's terms.

Carney denied the White House had ordered the 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.


But 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."

Unlike during other fiscal fights in Congress, the stock market is taking the sequestration impasse calmly.

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Midwest winter storm: Snow, sleet making travel hazardous

Chicago's midday full weather forecast. (WGN - Chicago)

A winter weather advisory is in effect until tonight as sleet, freezing rain and snow hit the Chicago area, making travel hazardous and grounding hundreds of flights.

The National Weather Service expects the heaviest snow to fall this afternoon. Winds gusting at 35 to 40 mph will reduce visibility and glaze roads, the weather service warned in the advisory.

"Snowfall rates in excess of an inch per hour could occur at times," it said, predicting 3 to 6 inches by Wednesday morning. "This will likely be a heavy wet snow sometimes referred to as heart attack snow."

Mike Bardou, a weather service meteorologist, said "the early part of the rush hour will be most affected."

The advisory expires at 9 p.m. in Cook, Will and DuPage counties, and at midnight in DeKalb, Kane, Lake, McHenry and several other counties in north central Illinois.

As of 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 2nd congressional 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.

In fact, the students from Plainfield's Central Elementary School seemed to be more excited by the firefighters and police officers who responded than startled by the crash, said Stratton.

"They were all happy to see us, waving out the windows," he said.

The crash occurred near the intersection of Mill Street and Plainfield Naperville Road, Stratton said. The bus suffered minor damage to its front-end but appeared to be drivable, Stratton said. The plow truck, a pickup, was operated by a private company or contractor, he said.

A school official came to the scene after the collision to help check on the students, Stratton said.

Stratton also said road conditions have gradually improved in the Plainfield area as the afternoon has gone on. Most primary roads are in good shape, he said, but many secondary roads are still snow-covered.

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Woman freed after conviction in son's death tossed

Nicole Harris, who has been locked up since the 2005 death of her son, walked out of an Illinois prison today after an appeals court threw out her murder conviction.

Harris emerged from Dwight Correctional Center in front of a gathering of news crews after being reunited with her other son.

"I'm just overwhelmed and I'm thankful that's it's going to be over and I just want to be home with my son," Harris told the assembled media.

"I'm just ready to get on with my life and hold my son."

The Chicago woman was 23 when a jury found her guilty of killing her 4-year-old son Jaquari in their Northwest Side apartment following her confession to authorities. But Harris has long maintained that her confession was false and the result of threats and manipulation by police.

She said today that she was able to make it through the past seven years knowing that "I'm innocent and the truth will come out."

"It was like at some point I just knew this isn't it, that this was not my final destination."

In a 90-page ruling last October that vacated her conviction, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said there were "many reasons" to question her confession.

The appeal judges also ruled that Diante, then 5, should have been allowed to testify.

Now 14, Diante was the first person to meet Harris when she was released into an outer room of the prison at about 11:30 a.m. today.  Diante walked in bearing a balloon that read, "It's your Day" and a teddy bear. Harris threw her arms around him, wept softly and kissed him.

When asked later what it was like to see her son at that time, she said, "There are no words."

At exactly noon, a prison official told Harris she was "free to go." She clutched hands with a close friend and walked out of the prison. She had been told to get her things together around 8:30 a.m. this morning, she told the media, and said that, at that time, "I was beyond anxious."

Jaquari had been found dead with an elastic bedsheet cord wrapped around his neck. Diante had told authorities that he was alone with Jaquari when he saw him wrap the cord around his neck while playing.

Prosecutors, who argued that Diante also said he was asleep when Jaquari died, accused Harris of strangling Jaquari with the cord because she was angry he would not stop crying.

Harris' release, which the state argued against, is not the end of legal battle. The state has appealed the October ruling, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. In addition, Cook County prosecutors could still move to retry her. A representative from the state's attorney's office said no decision on a retrial has been made.

For now, Harris said, "I just want to enjoy life."

"I'm just glad to be free. I'm just glad to be free."

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Jimmie Johnson wins his second Daytona 500

Former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis talks about his son before the start of the Daytona 500. Lewis was the honorary starter for Sunday's race.

DAYTONA BEACH – Jimmie Johnson won the 55th running of the Daytona 500 Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second followed by Mark Martin third.

"I really couldn't have done much without the help of Mark Martin," said Earnhardt. "We just didn't have enough to get a run on Jimmie."

Danica Patrick finished in eighth place, which was the highest finish by a female driver. 


Denny Hamlin took over the lead in the race and led for awhile.

The fifth caution of the day came out on Lap 172 after Jeff Burton’s No. 31 Chevrolet  hit the wall  and destroyed the front right side of his car, sending him to the garage.  During the yellow, Scott Speed took the top spot for a couple of laps before being forced to pit.

That opened the door for Brad Keselowski to take the top spot going into the restart on Lap 181. Michael Waltrip moved into second with Jimmie Johnson third. Marcos Ambrose made a big move up to fourth.

Patrick moved into third after Waltrip and Johnson dropped back into the pack.

Keselowski and Johnson battled in the front of the pack.

The sixth caution of the day came out on Lap 191 for debris on the racetrack in Turn 2.

The race restarted with six laps to go and Johnson held on to win the race. 


Matt Kenseth continued to lead the race.

On Lap 129, about a half dozen cars made their way into a green flag pit stop including Patrick. The stop reshuffled some of the running order as Hamlin and Clint Bowyer moved into second and third, respectfully behind Kenseth.

The fourth caution of the day came out after Brad Keslowski’s No. 2 Ford lost control of his car in Turn 3 and dropped down to the apron sending several other drivers into a nine-car pile-up which included Trevor Bayne, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and David Gilliland. The wreck also sent Austin Dillon and John Wise to the garage.

That left 26 cars on the lead lap at the restart of the race with 54 laps to go.

However, Kenseth’s day took a turn on Lap 149 when his No. 20 Toyota showed signs of smoke on the front, left side. It forced him to head to pit road and opened the door for Hamlin to grab the lead.

Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch was forced to head to pit road on the following lap. 


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Man charged in deaths of mother, daughter found at fire scene

Charges have been filed in the deaths of a mother and daughter who were slain before their East Chatham neighborhood home was set on fire this week, according to a law enforcement source.

Thadeus Ridley, 25, was charged with murder and arson and a judge today denied bond for Ridley, of the 2300 block of East 70th Street.

Police are holding a press conference at 2:30 p.m.

On Wednesday afternoon Curtria Duncan, 24, and her mother Cherie Adams, 43, were found stabbed in the bathroom of their apartment in the East Chatham neighborhood as firefighters put out a suspicious blaze.

Duncan was lying inside a bathtub and Adams was lying on the floor nearby in their apartment in the 8100 block of South Maryland Avenue, officials said.

On hearing the news about the charges from a Tribune reporter, Duncan's sister, Rochelle Pinex, 28, of Harvey, exclaimed: "Oh my God."

"I'm still going through what I'm going through," said Pinex of her grief. "But this gives me a little relief knowing that they have somebody in custody."

"I just want justice to be served for my mother and my sister."

Pinex was reached by telephone as she was making funeral arrangements for her sister and stepmother.

Pinex said the family was planning to have the services on Feb. 28, her stepmother's birthday.

Duncan died from "homicidal asphyxia" with multiple sharp force injuries a contributing factor, and Adams died from multiple sharp force and blunt force injuries, the Cook County medical examiner's office determined following autopsies. Both deaths were ruled homicides.

The apartment may have been set on fire to conceal the homicides, sources said. A large kitchen knife was found in the bathroom.

Duncan had gone back to school to become a medical technician. Adams doted on her grandchildren.

"It hurts so bad," said Pinex earlier his week. "Who could have done this and what for?"

Duncan had a 3-year-old son, Michael, but the boy was not home because he was visiting his father, Pinex said.

She said Duncan was studying to become a medical technician at Kennedy-King College, where she'd met a man who works at the school.

Pinex said Adams was her stepmother and had eight grandchildren who called her "Nana."

"She was changing her life around," Pinex said of Adams. "She was going to church three times a week and trying to spend more time with her grandchildren."

She described her sister and stepmother as people who "stayed to themselves" mostly. "They don’t bother anybody," she said, sobbing.

Pinex said the women lived at the Maryland address for just under a year and rarely socialized, except for going to church and classes. "She's a quiet girl," Pinex said of her sister.

Pinex, who has three children, said her 8-year-old daughter was looking forward to seeing Adams. "My kids, they loved their Nana to death," she said. Her daughter was "begging" to go there for a weekend visit.

"She tugs at her (Adams') heart and made her feel good," Pinex said. "My daughter was her heart."

"I'm trying to be strong,' Pinex said. "I can't believe this tragedy."

Naomi Nix contributed.

Twitter: @RosemarySobol1

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Justice Department joins lawsuit against Armstrong

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States accused cyclist Lance Armstrong on Friday of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service by taking its sponsorship money at the same time he was doping and using performance-enhancing drugs in violation of cycling rules.

The government joined a civil suit against Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling in 2012 after accusations he had cheated for years. In January, he said the accusations were true in an interview with television host Oprah Winfrey.

A battle with the U.S. government over civil fraud charges threatens to sap what remains of the once-revered athlete's reputation, and hurt his wallet.

Armstrong and his teammates from Tailwind Sports wore the logo of the U.S. Postal Service during their record-breaking wins.

"This lawsuit is designed to help the Postal Service recoup the tens of millions of dollars it paid out to the Tailwind cycling team based on years of broken promises," Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

The sponsorship money totaled more than $30 million, the government said.

Armstrong plans to contest the suit because the Postal Service was not actually damaged, his lawyer, Robert Luskin, said.

"The Postal Service's own studies show that the service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship - benefits totaling more than $100 million," the lawyer said in a statement.

Prosecutors have said they do not expect to charge him with a crime.

Former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis filed a sealed whistleblower suit against Armstrong in 2010. The decision by the government to join the suit triggered its unsealing.

"I had come to a point in my life where I decided that I had to tell the truth for the sake of my conscience," Landis, who also admitted to cheating, said in a statement on Friday released by his lawyer.


Armstrong faces other suits arising out of his admission of cheating. This month, marketing firm SCA Promotions Inc alleged in a Texas state court that the cyclist defrauded it of $12.1 million in bonuses plus interest.

In January, two California men sued Armstrong and his book publishers, claiming that his memoirs were filled with lies but were billed as non-fiction.

The U.S. government is suing under the False Claims Act, an 1863 law that encourages private individuals to file suit when they have evidence of fraud involving government money.

When the government believes a suit has merit, it may take over the litigation. The individuals, or whistleblowers, get a portion of the proceeds if the case is successful.

The government joins 20 to 25 percent of all False Claims Act suits filed, and the government almost always wins the cases it joins, said John Phillips, who represents whistleblowers at the Phillips & Cohen law firm.

"That's a very good sign for the case: that the government after its own investigation, after looking at all the facts and the law, has decided to join the case," said Phillips, who is not involved in the Armstrong case.

Since the law was revitalized in 1986, it has been used frequently against military contractors, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals.

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Drew Peterson: 'The media turned me into a monster'

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.

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," he said. "Ultimately, it led to my conviction.

"Hearsay is a scary thing. There's no proof. Anything can be said and no0body'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 attorney’s, including the state’s attorney himself.

"So what did the state’s attorney do? They hire a skinny. . .spokesperson (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 Glasglow.

"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 at Peterson.

"I'm an obnoxious man by nature, truly. And after 30 years as a police officer, as is normal with 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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Drew Peterson: Ex-attorney Brodsky meets with Stacy's sister

During a courtroom break this afternoon, Drew Peterson’s former lead attorney Joel Brodsky chatted in the hallway with the sister of Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy.

Stacy’s sister Cassandra Cales wouldn’t discuss the content of the roughly five-minute conversation, but Brodsky said, "We were just discussing how to make sure that her sister Stacy isn't forgotten after Drew goes away."

Peterson is the sole suspect in Stacy’s 2007 disappearance, but he has not been charged. Prosecutors have said they believe Peterson killed Stacy and plan to review the case and whether to bring charges.

Attorneys continued to argue this afternoon about whether Peterson should get a new trial after his murder conviction last fall in the drowning of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

If the judge does not grant a new trial, sentencing would come next for Peterson. Attorneys indicated that the sentencing hearing, if it happens, likely would be Thursday. Peterson, 59, faces 20-60 years in prison.
In arguing for a new trial, the defense said hearsay evidence and certain witnesses should never have been allowed at trial. Attorneys then turned to their argument that Brodsky's decision to call divorce attorney Harry Smith to testify scuttled Peterson's chance at a fair trial.
Smith testified at the murder trial last year that he had a phone conversation with  Stacy about whether she could use knowledge about Savio’s death in a potential divorce proceeding against Peterson. Some jurors have said Smith’s testimony convinced them Peterson was guilty.

"It was an awful decision,” defense attorney Steve Greenberg said in court. “It ruined the case -- we brought out the worst possible evidence, and the best evidence for the state."

Greenberg said Judge Edward Burmila has the opportunity to undo the problems caused by Brodsky's insistence on calling Smith to the stand.

“We have to give the courts a chance to correct errors that were made during a trial, and that’s what we’re doing here today," Greenberg told Burmila. "Ultimately, if you boil it down, Harry Smith's testimony was probably the most incriminating piece of evidence against Mr. Peterson, and it was brought out by the defense. There could be no reasonable trial strategy."

"Whatever kernel of impeachment Mr. Brodsky thought he was going to get out of it paled in comparison to the mountain of damage that it brought out," Greenberg said. "It was awful strategy,  and that strategy alone means Mr. Peterson should get a new trial from this court.”

Burmila asked if Peterson didn't bear some responsibility for listening to Brodsky over the objections of his other attorneys.

But Greenberg said a client doesn't get a say in trial strategy, and said that while Brodsky was wise to bring in experienced criminal attorneys, he never listened to them.

“It was a dictatorship," Greenberg said.

In the overflow room across the hall where media members and other court observers were listening to the proceedings in the courtroom, Brodsky groaned at every accusation.

"I'm a dictator," he said, shaking his head. "Unbelievable."

Earlier this afternoon, Peterson’s attorneys asked Burmila to throw out the jury’s guilty verdict and acquit their client of murder.

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Chicago Marathon registration suspended after web woes

Bank of America Chicago Marathon officials suspended online registration for the Oct. 13 race after four hours of problems Tuesday.

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.

"Our registration provider is still working to resolve the technical issues that have caused the temporary suspension of registration," race spokesperson Lauren Fimbres Wood said in an email. "We will provide another registration update at 6 p.m.

"Please note that the 2013 Chicago Marathon has not yet sold out. ... Additional updates for participants will continue to be posted to our Facebook page."

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Father recalls poignant final moment with slain daughter

The father of a Clemente 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."
Twitter: @Patrick Svitek
Twitter: @nsnix87

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2 questioned in fatal shooting of Chicago woman

Janay McFarlane, 18, was shot on the way to a store, the same day Obama spoke on gun violence.

Two people are being questioned in connection with the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old Chicago woman who was killed Friday, the same day her sister attended President Barack Obama's speech on gun violence, officials said Sunday.

An 18-year-old man and a 20-year-old man are considered persons of interest in the homicide investigation and are being questioned by North Chicago police and officials from the Lake County State's Attorney's Office in connection with the death of Janay McFarlane, according to a statement released this afternoon by North Chicago police.

The men were arrested after McFarlane was shot at about 11:30 p.m. Friday on the  1300 block of Jackson Avenue in the northern suburb.

McFarlane, 18, of the 8900 block of South Lowe Avenue, was in North Chicago visiting family and friends and was walking with friends when she was shot, according to her mother Angela Blakely. McFarlane was walking with friends, one of whom may have been the intended target, said Blakely.

When police responded to a call of shots being fired in the area they found McFarlane fatally shot, police said. They canvassed the area and were tipped off to the men who were taken in for questioning, according to police.

McFarlane was killed just hours after her sister, Destini Warren, 14, had attended President Barack Obama's speech against gun violence Friday.

Blakely, the mother of both girls, said that the family had been anticipating the President's visit to the school where Destini is a freshman.

Leading up to the visit, McFarlane frequently mentioned the recent death of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, whose own shooting death a mile from the Obama's home spurred the President's visit.

"It's terrible, it's terrible the only thing I can remember is my daughter telling me, 'Mommy, it's so sad about Hadiya. That makes no sense,' " Blakely said. "She always asked me a lot of questions about death."

The speech resonated even more when her family got the call from McFarlane's father in North Chicago, who told Destini that her sister was dead, she said.

"It was like real painful," said Destini, her voice choking back tears.

North Chicago officials said McFarlane's killing is the first in the northern suburb since October. The October slaying was the only homicide for the town last year.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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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.

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 $100,000 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.

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Stricken cruise ship reported awash in raw sewage nears port

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 (272-metre) 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 (1,360 kg) 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.


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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Dorner surrounded by police in cabin after gun battle

Christopher Dorner was engaged in a shootout with federal authorities in the Big Bear area Tuesday, a law enforcement source told The Times.

"Hundreds of rounds" were exchanged in about half an hour during the gun battle between fugitive former police officer Christopher Dorner and law enforcement officers Tuesday afternoon, sources said.

At least two San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies were wounded, sources said. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Days ago, Dorner broke into a cabin off Route 38, a source said. He allegedly tied up the couple inside and held them hostage until Tuesday morning when he left. It is unclear whether Dorner stole their vehicle or another, but Fish and Wildlife officers knew to be on the lookout for a white pickup truck when they spotted Dorner driving one and attempted to stop him, the source said.

Dorner crashed the truck during the ensuing chase and allegedly exchanged gunfire with the officers as he fled into another cabin, where he was quickly surrounded by San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies. The source said one deputy was hit as Dorner fired out of the cabin and a second was injured when Dorner exited the back of the cabin, deployed a smoke bomb and opened fire again in an apparent attempt to flee. Dorner was driven back inside the cabin, the source said.

There was initial confusion as to where a helicopter should land to evacuate the injured officers,  so deputies used their own smoke bombs to provide enough cover to carry the wounded to a pickup truck that took them to the waiting helicopter.

Officers have crisscrossed California for days pursuing the more than 1,000 tips that poured in about Dorner's possible whereabouts — including efforts in Tijuana, Mexico, San Diego County and Big Bear — and serving warrants at homes in Las Vegas and Point Loma.

Statewide alerts were issued in California and Nevada, and border authorities were alerted. The Transportation Security Administration also issued an alert urging pilots and other aircraft operators to keep an eye out for Dorner.

At the search's height, more than 200 officers scoured the mountain, conducting cabin-by-cabin checks. It was scaled back Sunday — about 30 officers were out in the field Tuesday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said.

Dorner allegedly threatened "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police in a lengthy manifesto that authorities say he posted on Facebook. The posting named dozens of potential targets, including police officers, whom Dorner allegedly threatened to attack, according to authorities.

His alleged slayings began Feb. 3 with the deaths of Monica Quan, a Cal State Fullerton assistant basketball coach, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, a USC public safety officer. Quan was the daughter of a retired LAPD captain whom Dorner allegedly blamed in part for his firing from the force in 2009.

While on the run Thursday, Dorner allegedly shot three police officers in Riverside County, killing one and wounding the others. Riverside Officer Michael Crain, 34, a married father of two who served two tours in Kuwait as a rifleman in the Marines, was killed in the attack.

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Cardinal George praises pope's 'courage' in resigning

Cardinal Francis George said he was as surprised as everyone else when Pope Benedict XVI announced he was stepping down, saying he saw the pontiff briefly last week in Rome and “there was not the slightest indication in my mind.”

But George added during a news conference that Benedict "looks like a man who’s feeling the weight of his years.”

The cardinal, who will return to Rome to elect a new pope, said Benedict's public role was a particular burden.

"It the public role that the most effort for him and takes the most energy from him," George said, calling Benedict an introvert. "He gets tired in big crowds. . .The teaching, the decision-making [is] relatively easy in comparison to the public role."

Earlier, in a statement, George said Benedict "placed the will of God for the good of the church before every other consideration" when he decided to resign.

"He has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ, he has handed on the apostolic faith, he has loved all of God’s people with all his heart," George said in a statement. "He has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month.
"With the gratitude of sons and daughters in our hearts, we ask the Lord to bless him and give him strength, as we begin to pray now for the one who will succeed him as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ."

Joliet Bishop Daniel Conlon said the pope's decision "is consistent with the humble disposition that I have come to recognize in him, both in my brief personal encounters with him and in his deportment generally as earthly shepherd of the church.

"He recognized that he no longer had the physical gifts necessary to carry out an office that becomes increasingly demanding," Conlon said. "He has been a steady and calm presence in the face of tumult in the world.  He has persevered in Blessed John Paul II’s determination to confront the scandal of child abuse in the church."

Benedict shocked the world by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with his ministry, in an announcement that left his aides "incredulous" and will make him the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages.

The German-born pope, 85, admired as a hero by conservative Roman Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, told cardinals in Latin that his strength had deteriorated recently. He will step down on Feb. 28 and the Vatican expects a new Pope to be chosen by the end of March.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope had not decided to resign because of "difficulties in the papacy" and the move had been a surprise, indicating that even his inner circle was unaware that he was about to quit.

A priest at St. Peter's Church in the Loop said the news is "surprising but not terrifying," saying it will allow the church to continue to renew itself.

“It’s a new beginning and a chance for new energy in the church,” said the Rev. Ed Shea. "This is good news.”

The selection of a new pope will offer the church the chance to continue its emergence into the “the modern light, the modern world,” Shea said. 

It will also provide a chance to choose a pope from Africa or South America, he said, to reflect the growth of the church on those continents.

“I was shocked, like everybody else,” Father Ed Shea said.  “It kind of surprised me that we didn’t know about it ahead of time.”

As worshipers left a morning mass at St. Peter’s this morning, several said the pope’s announcement had caught them completely by surprise.

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2 persons of interest questioned in Hadiya Pendleton's death

Police are questioning two persons of interest in the slaying of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a day after first lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral for the teen whose death has become a symbol of escalating violence in Chicago, according to police sources.

The two men, 19 and 20, were pulled over around 67th Street and South Chicago Avenue early this morning after detectives heavily canvassed the area of Harsh Park and tracked down witnesses to the shooting Jan. 29, the sources said. No charges have been filed.

Hadiya was fatally shot in the park about a mile north of President Barack Obama's Kenwood home, a little more than a week after the honor student performed with the King College Prep band in Washington during inauguration festivities. Two other teens were wounded.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel personally called Hadiya's parents, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathanial Pendleton, to inform them of the developement, according to a source.

A relative of Hadiya said the development is a "good response" and better information than the family had Saturday. 

Arrests and charges "will bring a small level of closure to the family, although (the shooter) still will be allowed to eat, drink, mingle," said Shatira Wilks, a cousin and family spokesperson. "The thing about that is, Hadiya is no longer to do so."

On how Hadiya’s family is doing, Wilks said, "Everyone keeps asking that. I don’t know if you’ll ever get an answer that we’re feeling good or we’re feeling fine."

Hadiya's death occurred during the deadliest January for Chicago in a decade, and it came on the heels of a homicide total last year that was the highest since 2008.

The first lady's attendance at Hadiya's funeral placed Chicago even further into the spotlight of a national debate over gun violence that has polarized Congress and forced the president to take his gun control initiatives on the road to garner more public support.

Neither the first lady nor elected officials gave remarks during the funeral. Only the friends and relatives who knew Hadiya best were allowed to speak.

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