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

Northeast blizzard: 4 dead, hundreds of thousands left without power

New York/Boston—

A record-breaking blizzard packing hurricane-force winds hammered the northeastern United States on Saturday, cutting power to 700,000 homes and businesses, shutting down travel and leaving at least four people dead.

The mammoth storm that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic dumped more than 3 feet of snow across the Northeast, the National Weather Service said. Coastal blizzard and flood warnings were in effect as the storm moved slowly eastward out to sea.

Stratford, Connecticut, Mayor John Harkins said he had never seen such a heavy snowfall, with rates reaching 6 inches an hour.

"Even the plows are getting stuck," Harkins told local WTNH television.

The storm centered its fury on Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with the most snowfall, 38 inches, in Milford, Connecticut.

Authorities ordered non-essential vehicles to stay off roads to allow snow plow crews to clear them. The ban left normally busy arteries such as Interstate 93 in Massachusetts nearly deserted.

About 2,200 flights were canceled on Saturday, according to FlightAware, which tracks airline delays. Boston's Logan International Airport and Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, were shut down.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told a Boston radio station he would re-evaluate a vehicle travel ban he introduced on Friday, but would lift it only "when it's safe to do so."

The storm dumped 29.3 inches of snow on Portland, Maine, breaking a 1979 record. Winds gusted to 83 miles an hour at Cuttyhunk, New York, and brought down trees across the region.

The storm contributed to three deaths in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy told a news conference.

An 80-year-old woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver while clearing her driveway, and a 40-year-old man collapsed while shoveling snow. One man, 73, slipped outside his home and was found dead on Saturday, Malloy said.

In Poughkeepsie, New York, a man in his 70s was struck and killed on a snowy roadway, local media reported.

A 30-year-old motorist in Auburn, New Hampshire, also died when his car went off the road, but the man's health might have been a factor in the accident, state authorities said.

Police in New York's Suffolk County, some using snowmobiles, rescued hundreds of motorists stuck overnight on the Long Island Expressway, said police spokesman Rich Glanzer. Some spent the night in their cars.


Utility companies reported about 700,000 customers without electricity across nine states as the wet, heavy snow brought down tree branches and power lines.

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, lost power and shut down automatically late on Friday, but there was no threat to the public, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

A storm surge combined with a high tide led to isolated coastal flooding. U.S. Route 1A was closed in New Hampshire because of debris and rocks that washed ashore, police said.

As the storm tapered off, streets in Cambridge, Massachusetts, were largely quiet except for snowblowers and shoveling. Kevin Tierney, 41, struggled with a snowblower to carve out a parking space in more than 2 feet of snow.

"I had this all planned out, and I don't know who said it, but everybody goes into a boxing match with a plan until they get punched in the mouth," said Tierney, an attorney.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine declared a state of emergency before the storm. The U.S. Postal Service suspended mail delivery in the six New England states.

Although New York was hit by a foot of snow, Fashion Week went on unfazed as crowds arrived to watch the morning's shows by Ruffian and LaCoste.

Andrea Daney, a digital marketing senior manager for LaCoste, said she was trying to be discreet as she changed from snow boots to high-heeled crushed blue velvet ankle boots.

"I'm calling it the shoe storm of the century," she said. "You have to make adjustments to your outfit."

The snow delighted New England's ski industry. Greg Kwasnick, a spokesman for Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire, said business was slightly slower than normal on Saturday but likely would pick up in coming days.

"Snow is what it's all about," he said.

(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston, Kevin Gray in Miami, Ellen Wulfhorst in New York, Ian Simpson in Washington, Jason McLure in Maine, Dan Burns in Connecticut, Dan Lovering in Cambridge; Editing by Vicki Allen and Gunna Dickson)

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City dropping red-light camera firm as investigation heats up

Chicago Tribune reporter David Kidwell discusses the recent changes at Redflex Holdings Ltd., the Australian company responsible for Chicago's red-light program. (Posted on: Feb. 8, 2013)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today he will axe the city’s embattled red-light camera vendor when its contract expires in July, citing new investigative findings that the company gave thousands of dollars in free trips to the former city official who oversaw the decade-long program.

Emanuel announced the action against Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. following the Chicago Tribune’s report today that the chairman of Redflex’s Australian parent company resigned this week and trading in the company's stock was suspended amid an intensifying investigation into allegations of corruption in its Chicago contract.

Redflex Holdings Ltd. announced the extraordinary actions just days after board members were briefed by an outside legal team hired to examine ties between the company's U.S. subsidiary and the city official who oversaw its contract, a relationship first disclosed in October by the Tribune. The company also revealed for the first time that it is sharing information with law enforcement authorities.

The internal probe found that company executives systematically courted former city transportation official John Bills with thousands of dollars in free trips to the Super Bowl and other sporting events, sources familiar with the investigation told the Tribune. The company also hid the extent of the improper relationship from City Hall after the newspaper's reporting last year forced Redflex to partially reveal its ties to Bills, sources said.

Emanuel, who inherited the red-light contract when he took office in 2011, had already disqualified Redflex from bidding on his new speed camera initiative after the October disclosures. The new announcement means Redflex will lose what it has described as its largest North American contract. The mayor’s office gave the company a six-month extension last month while it opened the contract to bids, but at that time did not announce whether Redflex could compete to keep the business.

“Given these more serious allegations, we are declaring Redflex not responsible to bid on the new red light RFP when it is issued,” Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said in an email to the Tribune.

“The City is also engaging an independent firm immediately to audit the Redflex contract for all past and ongoing activities to ensure Chicago taxpayers are not cheated in any way.  If there are any findings of illegal conduct or improprieties that show Chicago taxpayers were defrauded, the City will seek penalties to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Redflex internal probe and a parallel investigation by city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson are also raising more questions about the company's hiring of a longtime Bills friend who received more than $570,000 in company commissions as a customer service representative in Chicago, the sources said.

Bills did not return calls, but has adamantly denied any wrongdoing. "I would never have intentionally accepted a dime from Redflex, I wouldn't do that," he told the Tribune in October.

The latest developments run counter to the company's previous contentions that a whistle-blower concocted widespread accusations of internal wrongdoing and that a single company executive had mistakenly violated procedures by paying a one-time hotel tab for Bills. The reversal was acknowledged in a statement to the newspaper Thursday from the Australian company's CEO, who took over in September.

"Although the investigation is not over, we learned that some Redflex employees did not meet our own code of conduct and the standards that the people of the city of Chicago deserve," said Robert DeVincenzi, CEO of Redflex Holdings, the parent company of Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.

"We are sharing information with law enforcement authorities, will take corrective action and I will do everything in my power to regain the trust of the Chicago community," DeVincenzi said.

Until the allegations were published by the Tribune, Redflex was positioned as a leading contender for Emanuel's new program to sprinkle the city with automatic cameras to tag speeders in school and park "safety zones." Emanuel's administration accused the company of covering up the wrongdoing allegations and disqualified it from bidding on the speed camera contract. Now the company faces the potential loss of its long-standing red-light program in Chicago, which has generated about $100 million for the company and more than $300 million in ticket revenue for the city.

The internal allegations were first made by a former Redflex vice president who wrote of the company's close relationship to Bills in a five-page internal memo emailed in 2010 to the Australian board of directors and obtained by the Tribune. In addition to making allegations about commissions to Bills' friend, the executive complained of "nonreported lavish hotel accommodations" for Bills.

The memo was addressed to Redflex Holdings board Chairman Max Findlay and sent overseas via email. Findlay and another board director, Ian Davis, were atop the list of recipients of the 2010 email.

The company announced both men's resignations in filings Wednesday to the Australian Securities Exchange, where Redflex is publicly traded.

Redflex did not indicate why the men were resigning. But on Thursday the company asked for and was granted by the exchange a four-day suspension of trading "until the earlier of 10 a.m. on Monday 11 February 2013 or an announcement being made."

"The trading halt relates to an update regarding financial aspects and the ongoing investigation in the USA," wrote company secretary Marilyn Stephens. The company did not elaborate on the trading action.

Redflex lawyers told the Tribune in October that a previous company-sponsored investigation by an outside law firm in 2010 found no wrongdoing but for a single hotel stay one top executive paid for Bills. Redflex Traffic Systems sent the executive vice president in question to "anti-bribery" training and revamped its expense accounting system, according to General Counsel Andrejs Bunkse.

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Snow to hit evening commute

A winter storm warning has been issued for Lake and McHenry counties, with heavy wet snow falling at the rate of one to two inches as hour in some northern suburbs.

Some areas, such as Gurneee, had 5 inches by 4 p.m. Those areas are expected to get 6 to 8 inches of snow by the time the storm moves out overnight, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Nelson..

“Parts of Cook and DuPage counties will see around 2 to 5 inches,” Nelson said. Areas farther south will see only an inch or two.

As of 4:30 p.m. the Chicago put out 199 of its snow and salt trucks and expected to patrol main streets throughout the evening rush.

The Illinois Tollway also has mobilized its full fleet of 182 snowplows during rush hour and throughout the evening across the 286-mile system, according to a release.

By 4 p.m., Gurnee had 5 inches, Beach Park 4.6 inches, Wadsworth 4.5 inches, Kenosha 4.3 inches, Spring Grove 4 inches, Beach Park 3.1 inches, Antioch 2.8 inches and Bull Valley 2.1 inches.

North and northwest suburbs were seeing numerous accidents, from Barrington to Antioch, according to

In McHenry County, police were warning motorists to avoid U.S. Route 31 between Crystal Lake and McHenry because the road was "impassable" where it crosses over a hill.

State police said expressways were largely clear but the weather service warned of a slow evening commute.

"The threat for a period of heavy snow could result in reduced visibilities under a mile at times and rapid accumulation on area roads during the evening commute," the weather service warned.

Photos: Chicago winter 2012-13

Still, the storm was nothing like the one barreling toward New England with forecasts of up to two feet of snow. A blizzard warning has been issued for New York City, Connecticut and the Boston area.

Forecasters warned the snow would begin lightly on Friday morning but ramp up to blizzard conditions by afternoon, leading Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to order the city's schools closed Friday. He asked businesses to consider allowing staff to stay home.

"We are hardy New Englanders, let me tell you, and used to these types of storms. But I also want to remind everyone to use common sense and stay off the streets of our city. Basically, stay home," Menino told reporters. "Stay put after noontime tomorrow."

The National Weather Service said Boston could get one to two feet of snow on Friday and Saturday, which would be its first major snow fall in about two years. Light snow is expected to begin falling around 7 a.m. EST on Friday, with heavier snow and winds gusting as high as 60 to 75 miles per hour as the day progresses.

"It's the afternoon rush-hour time frame into the evening and overnight when the height of the storm will be," said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. "That's when we expect the storm to begin in earnest."

The heaviest snow was expected around Boston, the region's most populous city, with cities from Hartford, Connecticut to Portland, Maine, expected to see at least a foot.

If more than 18.2 inches of snow fall in Boston, the storm will rank among the 10 biggest snowfalls on record in the city. The heaviest snowfall ever recorded in Boston was a 27.6 inch dump that accompanied the blizzard of February 17-18, 2003.

The storm's timing brought back memories of the blizzard of 1978, Boston's second-heaviest recorded snow fall, which roared in on an afternoon, dropping 27.1 inches of snow, trapping commuters on roadways and leaving dozens dead across the region, largely as a result of downed electrical lines.

Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said one of the state's biggest worry is power outages.

"It being winter, folks losing their power means they're also losing their heat, and if you lose heat during the middle of the storm, you're not going to be able to go out to get to a shelter," he said, adding that the agency would begin 24-hour operations at its emergency compound at noon (1700 GMT) on Friday and would be in close contact with local utilities.

Unlike the 1978 blizzard, which had been forecast to drop far less snow than it actually did, he said he hoped several days of news coverage about this storm would prompt people to stay off the roads.

"People have been warned, they have been told what the issues are," Judge said. "We don't expect people to be surprised."

Reuters contributed to this report.

Twitter: @chicagobreaking

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Cops: Salon bandit was paying for cocaine habit

Jason Logsdon, 41, of Evanston has been charge with 11 counts of armed robbery.

The man accused of holding up hair salons in Chicago and the suburbs used a BB gun, picked places where there would be no male workers, and told police the robberies paid for his crack cocaine habit, authorities say.

Jason Logsdon, 41, also used his girlfriend's car during at least one of the robberies, which finally led to his arrest this week, police said. He was tracked down in Skokie after someone at his last robbery on the North Side of Chicago provided a partial license plate number, authorities said.

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  • Maps

  • 1200 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622, USA

  • Niles, IL, USA

  • Skokie, IL, USA

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  • 1000 West Webster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614, USA

Police said they recovered the BB gun along with a red coat that the Evanston man wore during the robberies.

Logsdon is accused of robbing a hair salon in Broadview, five in Chicago, one in Morton Grove, two in Niles and two in Skokie. The DuPage County state’s attorney’s office is pursuing additional charges against Logsdon for two robberies in Lombard, one in Glen Ellyn and one in Bensenville, officials said.

Logsdon, wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt and jeans, kept his head lowered during a hearing where Judge Marcia Orr ordered him held without bond. "I am considering the number of crimes in the short time in which they were committed," she said.

His public defender described Logsdon as a student at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. He was expecting to graduate in February, according to his lawyer. A spokesman at the school said he could not confirm or deny that information.

Logsdon is unemployed but has worked as a chef before, his lawyer said. He has lived in Evanston four years. He was arrested in 2003 for a DUI in Missouri, but otherwise has a clean record, lawyers said.

Logsdon was arrested after a salon in the Wicker Park neighborhood was hit. A man stole about $250 in cash from the Great Clips salon in the 1200 block of a well-trafficked North Ashland Avenue around 10:45 a.m. Monday, police said.

The man brandished a handgun before presenting a dark bag to three salon workers, which one of them filled with money, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Daniel O'Brien said. Wearing a red and gray jacket, blue jeans and a hat and scarf, the man walked north on Ashland and hopped in a gray colored sedan, which left driving southbound, police said.

No one was injured, police said.

A witness from that robbery provided a license plate number that was one digit off, according to Brian Baker, Skokie’s commander in charge of the investigative division.

Chicago police ran variations on the number until they found a vehicle with a similar make and model as reported by the witness. The woman who owned the car had “no knowledge that these (robberies) were occurring,” Baker said.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Father saw 'horrifying' accident injure son during opera rehearsal

A day after he was burned while playing a fire-breathing stilt walker at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, actor Wesley Daniel was doing well and sending out photos of himself at the hospital, according to friends and relatives.

"He’s all bandaged up but he’s got this funny look in his eyes like, ‘Look at the mess I’ve got myself into,' " said David Kersnar, who directed Daniel in Lookingglass and Next Theatre productions last year.

Daniel was performing in a dress rehearsal of the opera "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg" Monday afternoon when the mishap occurred. Daniel picked up a torch and a little jar of fluid and blew two fire balls, according to his father, Clifton Daniel, who was in the audience.

Then suddenly his son’s mask appeared to be on fire and he started patting his neck and chest before walking across the stage toward stagehands who were carrying fire extinguishers, Daniel's father said.

Clifton Daniel said he ran to his son backstage, where he was being treated with compresses. Paramedics had already been called and his son was upbeat, even giving a thumbs-up, the father said.

“It’s horrifying,” said Clifton Daniel, 55. “You don’t believe it. At first, everything’s fine. You’re proud of him. You’re amazed at what he’s learned to do, and suddenly he’s in trouble.”

The 24-year-old actor was taken in serious-to-critical condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital suffering burns to his throat and second-degree burns to his face, fire officials said. He was transferred to Loyola University Medical Center, where doctors inserted a breathing tube, officials said.

Clifton Daniel said there was no damage to his son's lungs or airway and the tube was removed Monday night. "Doctors likened them to a severe sunburn and he will heal,” his father said of the burns. “He shouldn’t have any scarring.”

The hospital told him his son should be released Thursday.

Clifton Daniel said his son graduated from Roosevelt University and has been acting for about three years. He was hired as a back-up for the opera in case someone called in sick or didn’t show up. Wesley Daniel stepped in when an actor was involved in a mishap last week, his father said.

Drew Landmesser, the Lyric’s deputy general director who focuses on backstage activities, said the company is still trying to determine the accident’s cause.

“We don’t exactly know the cause of the accident, just that it was a terrible accident and he seems to be doing well,” Landmesser said.

He stressed that Daniel was experienced with such a fire-spitting stunt, which he characterized as routine in the entertainment world.

“You’ve seen this a thousand times: at carnivals, at Renaissance fairs, at kids parties,” Landmesser said. “It’s a common routine for a performer like this.”

That said, Daniel was the replacement  for a previous performer who was removed after a mishap involving the same stunt. “He had a handlebar mustache, and handlebar mustaches and fire-spitting don’t go well together,” Landmesser said, noting that the mustache “got singed, but there was no injury.”

Landmesser said Daniel’s mask never caught fire, nor did his costume.

“The fuel he was spitting was the only thing that was on fire,” he said, adding that the stunt has been removed from the production mostly so audience members won’t become distracted during one of the opera’s climatic scenes. “I think that frankly the press made something hysterical that was a rather calm event, but why upset people, let anyone misunderstand what happened or how safe it is?”

Tribune photographer Jason Wambsgans, who was at the rehearsal, said it resumed after a 30-minute break but was finally cut short, ending about 6 p.m.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened up an investigation into the incident after hearing about Wesley’s accident through the media, said agency spokesman Scott Allen. A compliance officer went to the Lyric Opera House this morning and talked to witnesses and employees to find out what may have caused the accident and if the opera house violated any OSHA regulations, he added.

Kersnar, who worked with Daniel at Roosevelt University, described the young actor as an experienced physical performer with circus training.

“It was the first time he was on the Lyric stage, but this is what he does,” said Kersnar, a Roosevelt adjunct professor. “He’s very funny, very strong, very skilled and smart. He doesn’t do stupid stuff. I was very surprised to hear this went wrong.”

Kersnar said Daniel performed various stunts for him, such as dressing as an ingenue and lifting the title character of “Pulcinella,” at the Lookingglass performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “This is the actor life. They do a lot of different things. He’s a jack of all trades.”

Clifton Daniel said he is the grandson of former President Harry S. Truman and Wesley Daniel is the president's great-grandson.

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Super Bowl ratings down from a year ago


Sunday's close Super Bowl contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers failed to beat last year's game in total viewers, CBS Corp said on Monday.

An average of 108.41 million viewers tuned in, compared with 111.3 million a year ago when the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots on NBC. CBS said it was the third-most-watched program in television history, behind last year's Super Bowl and 2011's match-up between thePittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, which garnered 111 million viewers.

CBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether a 35-minute partial electrical blackout in the third quarter of the game affected ratings. Advertisers paid $4 million on average for a 30-second spot during the game.

Late Sunday, CBS said in a statement that "all commercial commitments during the broadcast are being honored."

 Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Monday an investigation was under way to determine the cause of the disruption. He said there was no indication that Beyonce's halftime show had anything to do with the outage.

CBS said earlier on Monday that the telecast earned an average overnight household rating of 48.1 in Nielsen's metered markets, up 1 percent compared with last year's Super Bowl. CBS said the rating excludes the blackout, which occurred just after the start of the second half, between 8:45 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Nielsen's "metered markets" represent the top 56 U.S. TV markets.

The highest-rated period during Sunday's Super Bowl occurred from 10:30 p.m. to 10:47 p.m., when the game came down to the wire and the Ravens were able to hold off a furious second-half comeback by the 49ers to win 34-31. CBS said that over those 17 minutes, an average of 113.92 million viewers were tuned in.

The Super Bowl, which determines the NFL champion for the 2012 season, is broadcast live in more than 180 countries and in more than 30 different languages. The commercials during the game regularly net a record amount of ad revenue for the network that broadcasts the game in a given year.

Analysts said stand-out commercials included Chrysler's Jeep ad featuring a patriotic salute to U.S. troops and narration by Oprah Winfrey, an Oreo ad asking viewers to vote cookie or creme, and a scantily clad male Calvin Klein model.

Bluefin labs, a firm that tracks social media activity, said viewers produced 30.6 million social media comments, up from 12.5 million last year. The most talked about ad on social media was the Dodge Ram Trucks "Farmer" commercial, followed by Taco Bell's "Viva Young" spot featuring senior citizens behaving badly, Bluefin said.

The Super Bowl also gives the network that airs it an unprecedented promotional platform for its other programming, with the time slot immediately after the game among the most coveted in television. This year CBS chose to showcase its new crime drama "Elementary," a post-modern take on "Sherlock Holmes," in that time slot.

Just under 21 million viewers stuck around after the game to watch "Elementary," making it the lowest-rated post Super Bowl show in 10 years. Part of the blame for the weak rating can be cast on the game's 35-minutes blackout, which pushed "Elementary's" start time to after 11 p.m. on the East Coast.

Last year, NBC's "The Voice" scored 37.6 million viewers in the post-Super Bowl slot. ABC's airing of "Alias" in 2003 garnered only 17.3 million viewers.

"Elementary" averages around 10 million viewers during its normal airings.

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1 killed, 4 injured in crash on Tri-State Tollway

A 39-year-old Carpentersville man was pronounced dead this morning after he was involved in a three vehicle crash on the Tri-State Tollway this morning, Illinois State Police said.

The accident happened at 6:47 a.m. on the Tri-StateTollway (I-294) at mile marker 24 3/4 near Lake-Cook Road in Lake County, Illinois State police officials said.

The vehicles included a Chrysler Sebring, a tow truck and a taxi, said State Police Sgt. Tim Moore.

The accident began as the tow truck and the Chrysler Sebring were traveling east on the tollway in Deerfield, Moore said.

As the two vehicles were driving, the Sebring struck the rear of the two truck which then caused the two vehicles to pull over to the shoulder of the roadway, said Moore.

After the tow truck driver got out of his truck and was standing on the shoulder speaking to the driver of the Sebring, a taxi struck the tow truck driver. The vehicle then struck the back of the Chrysler, Moore said. In additition to the taxi driver the vehicle was carrying a passenger, Moore said.

The driver of the Chrysler, who was inside his vehicle, was pronounced dead, Moore said. The tow truck driver, who had been struck by the taxi, did not sustain life-threatening injuries, Moore said.

There were a total of three transports made to Advocate Luthern General Hospital in Park Ridge all with non-lifethreatening injuries. Police initially said there had been four people taken to hospitals for treatment.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Reward increased to $30,000 in Hadiya Pendleton slaying

The best friend of Hadiya Pendleton talks about the moments before her friend was shot in Chicago on January 31, 2013. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune)

As community members marched in memory of Hadiya Pendleton today, officials announced the reward for information in the slaying of the King College Prep sophomore has been increased to $30,000.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and other police officials were expected to join several pastors at her high school, King College Prep, to announce the increased reward. After that, an anti-violence march in Hadiya's honor started at King, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd.

Hadiya had just finished her final exams at King College Prep, and was hanging out with friends from the school's volleyball team when she was gunned down Tuesday in Harsh Park, in the 4400 block of South Oakenwald Avenue. Thursday afternoon, police announced the reward for information leading to an arrest in the shooting had increased to $24,000, up from $11,000 announced Wednesday.

Dozens of adults and children marched this afternoon from King Prep High School to Harsh Park, the scene of the shooting.

They were escorted by at least six police vehicles as the crowd chanted, urging anyone with information about Pendleton's slaying to come forward.

"If you know who did this, turn them in!" shouted Melvin, a man who led the march but did not want to provide his last name out of fear of retaliation. "If you don't support this, next it might be you!"

When the march reached Harsh Park, Melvin urged Chicago police to hire more new officers, not just redistribute desk workers.

Raven Barnes, 18, a King College Prep senior who was friends with Hadiya, said she "always had a smile on her face."
"I never thought it would happen to Hadiya because she's one of the nicest people," Barnes said. "She didn't deserve it."
Hadiya recently broke up an "altercation" between Barnes and another girl, Barnes recalled. She said Hadiya convinced her to avoid the conflict and swear off fighting with other girls for good.
"She just was a person who hated violence," Barnes said. "She didn't want any violence ... ever. It's just so sad that violence took her life."

Darcell Igbo, who was Hadiya's volleyball coach since her freshman year, remembered her as "goofy" and always having a positive attitude. "She was one of the nice kids," he said.

Igbo recalled one game where he hollered Hadiya's name from the sidelines, and she looked toward him just before the ball smacked her in the leg.
"She just kind of shook it off," he said, chuckling. "She laughed at it. We all laughed at it."
Igbo said he hopes Hadiya's death raises awareness for the "senselessness" of the gun violence plaguing Chicago streets.
"I don't know how many more lives it's going to take," he said, tears streaming down his face. "It should only take one."

Hadiya and the others had sought shelter from a rainstorm under a canopy at the park around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday when a gunman jumped a fence, ran toward them and opened fire, police said.

As the teens scattered, Hadiya and two teenage boys were shot. Hadiya was hit in the back and pronounced dead at Comer Children's Hospital less than an hour after the shooting. The wounds suffered by the boys were not life-threatening.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy stressed that neither Hadiya nor anyone in the group she was with were involved with gangs. But it appears the gunman mistook the students for members of a rival gang, he said. The shooter was last seen fleeing in a white Nissan.

“These were good kids by everything that I learned," McCarthy said at a Wednesday news conference. "Wrong place at the wrong time.”

Pastor Courtney Maxwell, the family’s pastor, has offered $6,000, increasing the reward to $30,000, according to the statement. 

Hadiya was shot a little more than a week after performing with the King College Prep band in the Washington, D.C. area during President Barack Obama's inauguration festivities. The shooting occurred in a park about a mile north of Obama's Kenwood home.

The shooting has drawn the attention of both the White House, which is pushing for national gun control, and City Hall as Chicago closes on a violent January. Hadiya was the 42nd homicide victim this year in the city, where killings last year climbed above 500.

Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, pleaded for someone to step forward and bring the 15-year-old's killer to justice.

"She was destined for great things," he said.

Hadiya was a majorette with the band at King, one of the city's elite selective-enrollment schools. She dreamed of going to Northwestern University and talked about becoming a pharmacist or a journalist, maybe a lawyer.

Police have reported no arrests.

Chicago Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek contributed.

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Hadiya Pendleton: Slain girl made anti-gang video

Four years ago Hadiya Pendleton, then in sixth grade at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School, made an anti-gang video with fellow students. She was fatally shot this week.

The sixth-grader can barely keep from smiling, self-conscious in front of the camera as she delivers a very serious message.

"Hi, my name is Hadiya. This commercial is informational for you and your future children," she begins. "So many children out there are in gangs and it's your job as students to say no to gangs and yes to a great future."

The video then shows shots of a boy slumped in a stairwell, another boy sprawled against a locker, a girl lying on the floor against a wall as a classmate next to Hadiya says, "So many children in the world have died from gang violence. More than 500 children have died from being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Four years after Hadiya Pendleton made that public service video at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School, police are saying the same thing about her.

Hadiya had just finished her final exams at King Prep High School, where she was a sophomore, and was hanging out with friends from the school's volleyball team when she was gunned down in a park in the 4400 block of South Oakenwald Avenue. Thursday afternoon, police announced the reward for information leading to an arrest in the shooting had increased to $24,000, up from $11,000 announced Wednesday.

Hadiya and the others had sought shelter from a rainstorm under a canopy at the park around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday when a gunman jumped a fence, ran toward them and opened fire, police said.

As the teens scattered, Hadiya and two teenage boys were shot. Hadiya was hit in the back and pronounced dead at Comer Children's Hospital less than an hour after the shooting. The wounds suffered by the boys were not life-threatening.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy stressed that neither Hadiya nor anyone in the group she was with were involved with gangs. But it appears the gunman mistook the students for members of a rival gang, he said. The shooter was last seen fleeing in a white Nissan.

“These were good kids by everything that I learned," McCarthy said at a Wednesday news conference, where a reward of $11,000 was announced. "Wrong place at the wrong time.”

Hadiya was shot a little more than a week after performing with the King College Prep band in Washington during President Barack Obama's inauguration festivities. The shooting occurred in a park about a mile north of Obama's Kenwood home.

The shooting has drawn the attention of both the White House, which is pushing for national gun control, and City Hall as Chicago closes on a violent January. Hadiya was the 42nd homicide victim this year in the city, where killings last year climbed above 500.

Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, pleaded for someone to step forward and bring the 15-year-old's killer to justice.

"She was destined for great things," he said.

Hadiya was a majorette with the band at King, one of the city's elite selective-enrollment schools. She dreamed of going to Northwestern University and talked about becoming a pharmacist or a journalist, maybe a lawyer.

Police have reported no arrests.

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Schaumburg officers in drug case resign, more tainted cases dropped

Three Schaumburg police officers accused of dealing drugs have resigned from the northwest suburban department as fallout from the case continued in Cook County court Wednesday.

Officers Terrance O’Brien and John Cichy officially resigned their positions Tuesday following their Jan. 16 arrest by federal agents, Schaumburg spokesman Dave Bayless said. The third officer, Matthew Hudak, resigned Jan. 22, Bayless confirmed.

The three were put on paid administrative leave until last week, when the village took them off the payroll, Bayless said. According to a release to the media, Schaumburg sought and accepted the trio’s resignations.

Meanwhile, in Rolling Meadows branch court Wednesday, more drug cases were dropped in relation to the officers’ involvement. Weapons and drug charges against two South Beloit, Ill., men were dismissed. 

Cichy arrested Christopher Nelson, 27, and Ceasar A. Hernandez, 22, in August after they sold 2.5 grams of cocaine for $1,300, prosecutors said.

The two were facing Class X felony charges of delivery of a controlled substance and armed violence after officers found 25 grams of cocaine in their car and a handgun on Hernandez, prosecutors said.

Nelson has been in custody and was to be released from Cook County jail later in the day, authorities said.

Hernandez was on parole for a separate conviction at the time of his August arrest and has been sent back to prison, authorities said.

That brings to seven the number of dismissals this week following a review of the officers’ pending cases by the state’s attorney’s office.  Prosecutors expect a total of 15 cases to be dropped as a result of the review.

The officers remain in custody on $750,000 bail. Prosecutors allege they set up their own drug business by stealing cash and narcotics from dealers they encountered in their undercover operations.

Twitter: @TribLocal

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Teen girl killed, boy wounded in shooting near high school

A 15-year-old girl was fatally shot and 16-year-old boy wounded about three blocks from King College Prep on the South Side this afternoon, authorities said.

The shooting occurred around 2:20 p.m. in the 4500 block of South Oakenwald Avenue, police said. A 16 year-old boy was shot in the leg and a 15-year-old girl was wounded in the back, police said, citing preliminary information.

The Cook County medical examiner's office has been notified that the girl died.

One of the teens was taken in serious to critical condition to Comer Children's Hospital, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Will Knight.

The other victim also was taken to Comer and police at first believed both victims' conditions had stabilized by a little after 3 p.m., said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala.

Neighbors reported hearing shots about 2:20 p.m. Neighbors said students from King hang out at Harsh Park, 4458-70 S. Oakenwald Ave., and that students were there this afternoon before the shooting took place.

Desiree Sanders said she heard six gunshots and called 911 after a neighbor told her that some teens had been shot.

Chicago Police crime data show no serious crimes happened in the 4400 or 4500 blocks of South Oakenwald Avenue Dec. 19 to Jan. 20.

“It’s a great neighborhood. Nothing like this has happened since I’ve been here,” on the block, said Roxanne Hubbard, who has lived in the neighborhood for 19 years.

Tribune reporter Liam Ford contributed

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Boy Scouts may end ban on gay scouts, leaders


  Boy Scouts of America is discussing ending a longstanding ban on gay members and allowing local organizations to decide their own policy, a spokesman said on Monday.

Lifting the ban would mark a dramatic reversal for the 103-year-old organization, which only last summer reaffirmed its policy amid heavy criticism from gay rights groups and some parents of scouts.

"The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation," spokesman Deron Smith said in an email to Reuters.

"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue," the spokesman said.

The organization, which had more than 2.6 million youth members and more than 1 million adult members at the end of 2012, "would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents," Smith said.

The Boy Scouts won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing the organization to ban gays in 2000, but has come under increasing public pressure in recent years from activists. They include Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout with two lesbian mothers, and Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mother from Ohio who was ousted as a Scout den leader and treasurer.

"This is absolutely a step in the right direction," said Wahls, who is founder of Scouts for Equality, a group that includes 3,151 other Eagle scouts.

Wahls said he would turn to persuading local councils to enact nondiscrimination policies if the change is approved.

Tyrrell said she looked forward to a day when she and her family might participate in scouting again.

"An end to this ban will restore dignity to countless families across the country, my own included, who simply wanted to take part in all Scouting has to offer," Tyrrell said in a statement.

GLAAD, an anti-discrimination advocacy group, began to press for a reversal of the Boy Scouts policy after Tyrrell was removed from her son's den and more than 1 million people have signed petitions on seeking an end to the policy.

More than 462,000 people signed a petition on calling for the Boy Scouts to grant an Eagle Scout application for Ryan Andresen, a California resident who is openly gay.

Andresen's scoutmaster refused to sign the application because of his sexual orientation. A review board for the California chapter recommended he receive the rank, but its recommendation was never forwarded to national headquarters.

The organization has faced pressure from board members - Ernst & Young chairman and chief executive Jim Turley and AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson have spoken out against the ban - and some corporations withdrew support over the policy.

Patrick Boyle, whose 1994 book "Scout's Honor" was among the first to examine sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America, said on Monday the "striking reversal in policy" was likely the result of growing pressure from corporations.

"This is a safe way out of this mess for the national organization, which takes the fight back to the local level, and says to a local leader, 'you make the choice that's right for you'," Boyle said. "It's essentially the Boy Scouts' version of states' rights."

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Fire at crowded nightclub kills at least 200 in Brazil

SANTA MARIA, Brazil (Reuters) - A nightclub fire killed at least 233 people in southern Brazil early on Sunday when a band's pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing partygoers stampeded toward blocked and overcrowded exits in the ensuing panic, officials said.

The blaze in the university town of Santa Maria was ignited by sparks from pyrotechnics used by the band for visual effects. They set fire to soundproofing on the ceiling and the club rapidly filled with toxic smoke, local fire officials said.

Most of those who died were suffocated by fumes, fire brigade Sergeant Robson Muller told Reuters. Others were crushed in the stampede.

"Smoke filled the place instantly, the heat became unbearable," survivor Murilo Tiescher, a medical student, told GloboNews TV. "People could not find the only exit. They went to the toilet thinking it was the exit and many died there."

Fire officials said at least one exit was locked and that club bouncers, who at first thought those fleeing were trying to skip out on bar tabs, initially blocked patrons from leaving. The security staff relented only when they saw flames engulfing the ceiling.

The tragedy, in a packed venue in one of Brazil's most prosperous states, comes as the country scrambles to improve safety, security and logistical shortfalls ahead of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics, both intended to showcase the economic advances and first-world ambitions of Latin America's largest nation.

In Santa Maria, a city of more than 275,000 people, rescue workers and weary officials wept alongside family and friends of the victims at a local gymnasium being used as a makeshift morgue.

"It's the saddest, saddest day of my life," said Neusa Soares, the mother of one of those killed, 22-year-old Viviane Tolio Soares. "I never thought I would have to live to see my girl go away."

President Dilma Rousseff cut short an official visit to Chile and flew to Santa Maria, where she wept as she spoke to relatives of the victims at the gym.

"All I can say at the moment is that my feelings are of deep sorrow," said Rousseff, who began her political career in Rio Grande do Sul, the state where the fire occurred.

News of the fire broke on Sunday morning, when local news broadcast images of shocked people outside the nightclub called Boate Kiss. Gradually, grisly details emerged.


"We ran into a barrier of the dead at the exit," Colonel Guido Pedroso de Melo, commander of the fire brigade in Rio Grande do Sul, said of the scene that firefighters found on arrival. "We had to clear a path to get to the rest of those that were inside."

Officials said more than 1,000 people may have been in the club, possibly exceeding its legal capacity. Though Internet postings about the venue suggested as many as 2,000 people at times have crammed into the club, Pedroso de Melo said no more than half that should have been inside.

He said the club was authorized to be open but its permit was in the process of being renewed.

However, Pedroso de Melo did point to several egregious safety violations - from the flare that went off during the show to the locked door that kept people from leaving.

The club's management said in a statement that its staff was trained and prepared to deal with any emergency. It said it would help authorities with their investigation.

When the fire began at about 2:30 a.m., many revelers were unable to find their way out in the chaos.

"It all happened so fast," survivor Taynne Vendrusculo told GloboNews TV. "Both the panic and the fire spread rapidly, in seconds."

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Family friend: Man 4th sibling to be killed by gunfire

At the north end of the 1100 block of South Mozart Street in the Lawndale neighborhood, two people were shot. One also died there, police said. (Posted Jan. 26th, 2013)

A man slain on the West Side early this morning had two brothers and a sister who also were fatally gunned down in the city, according to a close family friend.

"He was the last one," said Laverne Smith, 30, who said his mother no longer has any children. "I know she's hurting."

Smith said it's unthinkable this could have happened again to the family.

"It's ridiculous," Smith said. "We need to get the guns off the street and build a good life for our babies. We need to really get together and stop fighting."

Smith heard loud gunfire about 2 a.m. and ran outside in the 1100 block of South Mozart Street to find her close friend Ronnie Chambers shot in the head. He died in her arms.

"All his siblings passed a long time ago," Smith said. "It was a hysterical thing."

Smith said she also knew Ronnie Chambers' sister, LaToya Chambers, and had grown up with them in the Cabrini Green neighborhood on the Near North Side. LaToya was a classmate of hers, about two years ahead, at the Edward Jenner school.

LaToya was killed at age 15 on April 26, 2000. Her brothers Carlos and Jerome also were gunshot victims, Carlos at age 18 shortly after Thanksgiving in 1995 and Jerome at age 23 on July 26, 2000.

Chambers' mother Shirley told the Tribune's Dawn Turner Trice in 2000 that "I have one child left, and I'm afraid that [the killing] won't stop until he's gone too."

According to that 2000 story, Ronnie has these tattoos on his forearms to remind him of his dead siblings: A crucifix with a ribbon draped across it commemorates Carlos; a tombstone with a crucifix and blood says R.I.P. for Jerome; and another tombstone with a cross is for LaToya.

"They say you can't outrun death, but I can try to dodge it," Ronnie said then. "I don't even try to live day by day anymore; it's more like second by second."

"He was my everything," Smith said of Ronnie's death. "I lost a part of me."

"Nothing that anyone can say can make me feel better," said Smith, who said Chambers was recently on the Ricki Lake show and was trying to help an aspiring rapper, YK.

Smith said Ronnie, whose nickname was "Scooby," had been "trying to change his life."

Ronnie Chambers had just returned from a promotion or listening party for YK when the shooting occurred.

Smith stood crying at one end of a vacant lot in the Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side early this morning while Chambers lay covered by a white sheet behind a maroon van at the other end.

Chambers, 33, of Chicago, had been in the driver's seat of the van, which had just arrived in the 1100 block of South Mozart Street when one person, probably two, opened fire, police said. Chambers was identified by family members at the scene and later by police. 

Smith wore a pink blood-stained shirt under a pink jacket, white pants dotted with drops of blood, and pink sandals. She paced the crime scene, at the north end of Mozart Drive where it ends at Fillmore Street, letting out occasional screams and leaning on her friend for support.

"I held him, they had to pry me from him," she said, crying. "He was breathing, gasping."

At least one other man, 21, was inside the van when the shooting started, police said. He had jumped from the front passenger seat to the back, quick thinking that police said probably saved his life. He was wounded in the thigh and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital. Police did not say how many people were inside the van. They also did not say exactly how many shooters there were, but did say seven shots were fired.

The shooting happened across the street from Safer Foundation North Lawndale, an Illinois Department of Corrections transitional facility for adults with criminal records, and half a block west of a fire station.

Family and friends, none of whom wanted to give their names, circled the north end of the scene, marked by yellow tape hung around trees, light poles and cop cars.

A young man at the scene who refused to give his name but said he saw the shooting called the gun used a "big boy."

"Look at that (bullet) hole," the young man said, motioning to the passenger side door on the van. "That's a full nickel."

An east-facing car sat abandoned in the T intersection formed by Mozart and Fillmore. Police weren't sure whether the people who abandoned the car were involved in the shooting or freaked out and fled the scene. Police found casings from two weapons – one a rifle – whose bullets had entered the van from both sides.

"He was gangsta with his (expletive)," the man said of the individual or individuals who did the shooting. "He knew what he was doing."

Despite his apparent proximity to the attack, he explained to a detective that he could not help police do their jobs. He later complained to a supervisor about their response time – he said 27 minutes but police said 3. Police said that they received one 911 call about shots being fired in the area.

A 16-year-old boy who said he was with the victims when the shooting happened wandered around the lot, looking toward the ground most of the time. He looked emotionally spent after being held by police for a short time at the scene.

"I just want to go home," he said, though he had no ride home. "It just happened so fast. I'm tired of explaining myself."

In another fatal overnight shooting, three men were shot about 4 a.m. outside of a diner at the corner of Wallace Street and Pershing Road in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the South Side, police said. Two men died at the scene.

Twitter: @PeterNickeas

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Victim's mom removed from hearing

A basketball coach at a charter high school in the South Shore neighborhood is charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old student. (Source: WGN - Chicago)

The mother of an underage girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by the basketball coach at her South Side high school began wailing at his bond hearing and had to be dragged out of the courthouse by supporters.

“That’s my (expletive) child!” the woman screamed over and over as prosecutors detailed allegations against the coach, Kevin Jones.

After deputies escorted the woman out of the courtroom, she fell to the floor wailing and later had to be physically pulled from the courthouse. Court personnel later identified her as the mother of one of two underage victims, both 17.

Jones, 33, a varsity boys basketball coach at Epic Academy Charter High School in the 8200 block of South Houston Avenue, was charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault and one count of attempted criminal sexual assault.

Prosecutors said Jones was driving the 17-year-old girl and her friend home from an away basketball game on Jan. 17 when he parked the car in an alley in the 8500 block of South Green Bay Avenue.

Jones got into the back seat of the car with the victims and unzipped his pants, Assistant State’s Atty. Joell Zahr said. He tried to force the girl into a sex act, but she resisted and was able to get out of the car.

As she stood outside the car trying to call for a ride home, the girl saw Jones engaged in a sex act with the other girl, Zahr said.

After Jones drove the one girl home, she told her mother about the incident a few days later, the prosecutor said. The girl who had escaped the car also reported the incident to a teacher at school and a friend, according to Zahr.

Jones’ attorney, Jeff Granich, said that in addition to coaching basketball at Epic, Jones was employed as a gym teacher at LEARN charter school in the 1700 block of West 83rd Street.  He is married with two young children, serves as a deacon at his church  and has no prior convictions, Granich said.

“At this point, we are shocked about these allegations, and we look forward to going to trial and clearing his name,” Granich said after court.

Judge Edward Harmening set bond at $500,000 and ordered Jones to have no contact with any children except his own if he is released from custody. 

Jones’ employment at Epic ended on Jan. 17, said Cindy Hansen, an attorney representing the school. She could not say whether he was fired or left on his own.

"The school has taken every action necessary to make sure people are safe," Hansen said. The school has "cooperated with police and the state's attorney's office," she said.

Officials at the LEARN charter school, where Jones was a PE teacher, released the following statement:

"Although the alleged  incident did not occur at our school or with any of our students, Kevin Jones has been terminated from LEARN, effective immediately. Student safety is our highest priority at all of our campuses, and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure their security." 

Tribune reporter Jeremy Gorner contributed.

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Girl: 'My sister's on fire'

3 children were injured, 1 critically after a fire started inside their apartment. (WGN - Chicago)

Hearing screams in the hallway, Vanessa King stepped out of her apartment to see her neighbor rushing down the stairs while cradling a little girl crying from burns over half her body.

"He put a blanket around her. He was holding her. He was telling her it was going to be OK," King said.

The neighbor, Clyde Harden, carried the 4-year-old girl into an ambulance that took her to Comer Children's Hospital, where she remained in critical condition today.

The girl was with her 9-year-old brother and 16-year-old sister when her bunk bed caught fire around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in a four-flat in the 1000 block of West 76th Street, officials said.

The 16-year-old was in a back bedroom doing her homework when the boy ran to her room, neighbors said. "He ran back there to tell her [their sister] was on fire," said Sandra Gray, who lives downstairs. "She came downstairs and was knocking on everyone's door. She was screaming, 'My sister's on fire.' "

Gray said she and her husband and a neighbor ran up and saw the bottom bunk bed on fire. "All I saw was that the bed was on fire and the baby was burned," Gray said. "You could see the bed on fire."

She said the 16-year-old tried to pull the little girl from the bed and burned her hands. Gray's husband and the neighbor finally put the fire out as firefighters and paramedics arrived, she said. Gray said the girl was conscious but badly burned.

Harden, who rushed up with Gray, said he grabbed hold of the girl and helped put out the fire. “I believe that she was sheltered by God already,” he told reporters on the scene. “Somebody was there for her.”

Though an official cause has not been determined, authorities are looking into the possibility that someone inside the home had been playing with a lighter or matches, according to Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

King said she was struggling with how to talk to her 5-year-old daughter about her friend’s injury, saying her girl had nightmares through the night.

King said her daughter told her that "my friend needs to get her skin back. The doctor is going to take care and God is going to take care of her."

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Pentagon chief to remove military ban on women in combat


U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military's ban on women serving in combat, a move that could open thousands of front-line warfighting jobs to female service members, a senior U.S. defense official said.

The move was welcomed by U.S. Senator Carl Levin, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said it reflected the “reality of 21st century military operations,” and by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a suit in November seeking to force the Pentagon to end the ban.

“This is an historic step for equality and for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation,” said Senator Patty Murray.

The decision, expected to be formally announced later, would give the individual military services until 2016 to seek an exemption if they believe any jobs should remain closed to women, a defense official said. It was unclear when the change would go into effect.

“This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop a plan to implement this decision, which was made by the secretary of defense upon recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the official said.

The decision overturns a 1994 policy that prevents women from serving in small front-line combat units.

It comes nearly a year after the Pentagon unveiled a policy that opened 14,000 new jobs to women but continued to prohibit them from serving in infantry, armor and special operations units whose main function was to engage in front-line combat.

Asked last year why women who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan conducting security details and house-to-house searches were still being formally barred from combat positions, Pentagon officials said the services wanted to see how they performed in the new positions before opening up further.

About 2 percent of U.S. deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have been women. Some 280,000 women have been deployed to the war zones over the past decade, about 12 percent of the U.S. total.

Defense officials noted that 10 years of combat had made it clear that some of the military's gender-based restrictions were obsolete because the battlefields faced by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan had no clear front lines and no obvious ways to limit exposure to the fighting.

“This policy has become irrelevant given the modern battlespace with its nonlinear boundaries,” the Defense Department said in a report to Congress.

More than 200,000 women serve as active duty members of the military, including more than 37,000 officers.

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Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field? It's 'looking good'

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam
(January 22, 2013)

As hints go, Pearl Jam and the Cubs aren't being very subtle about the possibility of the iconic band playing a concert at Wrigley Field in 2013. At the band's website, there is a note telling fans to "stay tuned," with prompts to follow the band on Twitter (@pearljam).

Later Tuesday afternoon, both the Cubs and Pearl Jam Tweeted pictures of the field at Wrigley, with a full concert setup. The band's Tweet, featuring the "stay tuned" hashtag, also included a "looking good" reference to the Wrigley image.

But wait ... there’s more.

The Cubs are also playing a role in the suspense, sending out a Tweet that included "Ten," and a repeat of the "stay tuned" hashtag, as reported by RedEye. There was also a link to a photo of a Ron Santo Cubs jersey (No. 10), the parallel being that “Ten” is also the title of Pearl Jam’s first album.

RedEye reports that a Cubs spokesperson, via e-mail, noted that no further information could be provided regarding the hints and images at this time. But a date around mid-September is a possibility, according to Tribune critic Greg Kot.

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Obama lays out 2nd-term agenda

President Barack Obama exited his limousine for the traditional presidential walk in the inaugural parade from Capitol Hill to the White House. (Jan. 21)

WASHINGTON -- A confident President Barack Obama kicked off his second term on Monday with an impassioned call for a more inclusive America that rejects partisan rancor and embraces immigration reform, gay rights and the fight against climate change.

Obama's ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol was filled with traditional pomp and pageantry, but it was a scaled-back inauguration compared to the historic start of his presidency in 2009 when he swept into office on a mantle of hope and change as America's first black president.

Despite expectations tempered by lingering economic weakness and a divided Washington, Obama delivered a preview of the priorities he intends to pursue - essentially, a reaffirmation of core liberal Democratic causes - declaring Americans “are made for this moment” and must “seize it together.”

His hair visibly gray after four years in office, Obama called for an end to the political partisanship that marked much of his first term in the White House in bitter fights over the economy with Republicans.

“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Obama said from atop the Capitol steps overlooking the National Mall.

Looking out on a sea of flags, Obama addressed a crowd estimated to be up to 700,000 people - less than half the record 1.8 million who assembled four years ago.

Speaking in more specific terms than is customary in an inaugural address, he promised “hard choices” to reduce the federal deficit without shredding the social safety net and called for a revamping of the tax code and a remaking of government.

When Obama raised his right hand and was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, it was his second time taking the oath in 24 hours - but this time with tens of millions of people watching on television.

The president beamed as chants of “Obama, Obama!” rang out from the crowd.

Obama had a formal swearing-in on Sunday at the White House because of a constitutional requirement that the president take the oath on Jan. 20. Rather than stage the full inauguration on a Sunday, the main public events were put off until Monday.

During a triumphant parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, the president and first lady Michelle Obama thrilled wildly cheering onlookers by twice getting out of their heavily armored limousine and walking part of the way on foot, as they had done four years ago. Secret Service agents kept close watch.

In a speech of under 20 minutes, Obama, 51, sought to reassure Americans at the mid-point of his presidency and encourage them to help him take care of unfinished business. “Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action,” he said.

Touching on volatile issues, Obama ticked off a series of liberal policies he plans to push in this second term.

Most surprising was a relatively long reference to the need to address climate change, which he mostly failed to do in his first four years.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” the president said.

On gay rights, Obama insisted: “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”

And in a nod to America's fast-growing Hispanic population that helped catapult him to re-election in November, he said there was a need to “find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”


Obama, who won a second term by defeating Republican Mitt Romney after a bitter campaign, will now face many of the same problems that dogged his first four years: persistently high unemployment, crushing government debt and a deep partisan divide. The war in Afghanistan, which Obama is winding down, has dragged on for over a decade.

He won an end-of-year fiscal battle against Republicans, whose poll numbers have continued to sag, and appears to have gotten them to back down, at least temporarily, from resisting an increase in the national debt ceiling.

And Obama faces a less-dire outlook than he did when he took office in 2009 at the height of a deep U.S. recession and world economic crisis. The economy is growing again, though slowly.

But he still faces a daunting array of challenges.

Among them is a fierce gun-control debate inspired by a school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, last month, a tragedy he invoked in his speech.

He said America must not rest until “all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

Obama's appeals for bipartisan cooperation will remind many Americans of his own failure to meet a key promise when he came to power - to act as a transformational leader who would fix a dysfunctional Washington.

His speech was light on foreign policy, with no mention of the West's nuclear standoff with Iran, the civil war in Syria, dealings with an increasingly powerful China or confronting al Qaeda's continued threat as exemplified by the recent deadly hostage crisis in Algeria.

But Obama said: “We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully … We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who had declared in 2010 that his top goal was to deny Obama re-election, congratulated the president and expressed a willingness to work together, saying a second term “represents a fresh start.”

But some Republicans responded skeptically. “It was a very, very progressive speech, to put it in the best possible light,” said Republican strategist Rich Galen. “He's not running for election anymore.”

Obama's ceremonial swearing-in fell on the same day as the national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. - and the president embraced the symbolism. He took the oath with his hand on two Bibles - one from President Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery, and the other from King.

After watching the rest of the parade from a bullet-proof VIP viewing stand in front of the White House, the Obamas planned to head to the two inaugural balls - rather than the 10 that were held in 2009.


From dawn until dusk, Sen. Dick Durbin is scheduled to be among the constant companions of President Barack Obama, whom he joined starting with an early-morning church service near the White House.

After the swearing-in, Durbin, the No. 2 official at the Senate, said he found Obama's inaugural speech "beautiful."

"I thought he president really captured what the election was about, what the people were saying, we needed to come together -- 'We the People' and to really address the issues that are challenging our nation," said Durbin, a fellow Democrat.

After the inauguration speech, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat down as guests of honor at a traditional luncheon at the Capitol. Durbin was there, along with about other 200 high-level officials, including Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officials and congressional leaders.

At 9 o'clock tonight local time, Durbin said, he'll return to the White House to join the Obamas and a select group of friends, family and supporters at an exclusive celebration.

He indicated the timetable was fluid, since a similar party following the balls in 2009 didn't get going until about 11:30 p.m.

Will he make Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's late-night blues party with guitarist Buddy Guy? That runs from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. "Hope to stay awake long enough," the senator said.

Durbin, 69, a 30-year veteran of Congress, is up for re-election in 2014. He was an early supporter of Obama leading up to his 2008 run, when Democrats had to choose between candidates Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Spencer Gould and his wife, Ardenia, of Chicago, arrived at the Capitol early enough to get seats on the front row of their section, directly center of where the president took the oath of office.

For about a minute, Gould said, he considered staying at home in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, but quickly realized that he could be no place else but here. Four years ago, he said, he wanted to be part of the historical moment. This time, he came to show his support.


Hundreds of thousands congregated on the National Mall on Monday, many bundled in gloves and scarves against the cold. Some stopped in front of street vendors to buy buttons with President Obama’s face on them, inaugural coffee mugs or wool hats with Obama spelled in glass beads.

Some had driven all night Sunday to make it to the ceremony by this morning.


The American fashion industry held its breath on Inauguration Day for a series of Big Reveals.

Word came within minutes that the navy check coat and dress Michelle Obama wore to the morning prayer service at St. John's church was by American designer Thom Browne, to which she added a belt for the ceremonial swearing-in. Her shoes and accessories were J.Crew. Her necklace was by Cathy Waterman.Former Obama pastor in town


The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the president's former Chicago pastor whose sermons touched off a firestorm in the 2008 political campaign, urged today that Barack Obama heed the words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and transform the country into the world's "No. 1 purveyor of peace."

Wright, in the capital today but skipping the inauguration, recalled a speech by King during the Vietnam war, when the civil rights leader denounced the U.S. as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world."

Tribune reporters Dahleen Glanton, Katherine Skiba, Reuters and the Los Angeles Times contributed.

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