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

Closing of Wells Street Bridge creates uncertainty for CTA riders

The shutdown of the Wells Street Bridge has the impact of a blocked artery, straining the circulation of much of the CTA rail system.

The lower tier of the 91-year-old bridge was closed to vehicles and pedestrians in November for repairs, and now it's CTA riders' turn.

Even though only Brown Line and Purple Line/Evanston Express trains normally travel across the Wells bridge connecting the Loop elevated structure to tracks north of the Chicago River, service on six of the eight CTA rail lines is being affected by bridge and track work continuing through the week, transit officials said.

Weekday rush hours are expected to pose the biggest challenge to the transit agency and its customers. Brown Line trains will operate much less frequently during most of the day — running every 10 to 12 minutes, officials said. And Evanston Express service is canceled until March 11. Purple Line local service will continue to operate between Howard Street in Chicago and Linden Avenue in Wilmette.

On weekends, Green, Pink and Orange Line trains will terminate their runs at certain stations in the downtown area, officials said. A weekend free shuttle bus will operate to link the Chicago/Franklin, Merchandise Mart, Clark/Lake, Washington/Wells and Clinton/Lake stations, officials said.

Riders are being told to plan for longer, slower commutes starting Monday on trains that will be more crowded than usual. The frequency of trains on the Brown Line is being reduced because of the need to operate more trains than usual on the Red Line tracks, including in the State Street subway, officials said.

"Experience has taught me to become a little nervous any time the CTA changes service," Rick Gordon, 41, a Brown Line rider who commutes between the Western station and the Washington/Wells stop in the Loop, said Friday morning after getting off the train downtown.

Gordon, an investment counselor, said he still plans to ride the Brown Line on Monday. But because he won't be able to ride across the Wells bridge to his normal stop, he will instead take advantage of the free CTA shuttle bus that will operate between the Chicago Avenue station and the Loop "L," stopping at the Merchandise Mart, the Clark/Lake and Washington/Wells stations.

During rush hours, two of every three southbound Brown Line trains will travel through the Red Line subway tunnel, making all stops to the Roosevelt station, officials said. They will then head north through the subway and up to Fullerton Avenue, then will continue making all Brown Line stops to the Kimball Avenue terminal, officials said.

One of every three Brown Line trains will remain on the regular Brown Line route south of Fullerton but will make the last stop at the Merchandise Mart station, near the north end of the Wells bridge.

Extra service will be provided on the Red Line, in part to accommodate heavier passenger loading caused by the suspension of all Purple Line service south of Howard through the week, officials said. Commuters who normally ride the Purple Line/Evanston Express service might consider budgeting up to an extra hour travel time if they will ride the all-stop Red Line to downtown.

Also, the transit agency will introduce free shuttle trains that circle the Loop and alternative bus service to provide options for the thousands of riders affected over the roughly nine-day bridge closing, which began Friday night.

CTA officials predicted that the commutes of many rail customers will be only several minutes to 15 minutes longer than normal travel times during the service interruptions. But in light of the unpredictability of CTA service even under normal cases, allowing extra time would help commuters ensure they arrive at their destinations on time.

"We urge customers to think about their options because this will not be a typical commute for most Brown and Purple Line commuters," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said, adding that delays are likely on other lines too because of expected ridership shifts.

With some commuters taking Monday off for the Casimir Pulaski Day holiday, the first full test of the CTA's alternative service plan will likely be on Tuesday.

The service disruptions will last until completion of the Wells bridge replacement project, upgrades to the busy downtown rail junction at Lake and Wells streets, and track replacement around the curves at Hubbard and Kinzie streets. Regular CTA service resumes in time for the morning rush period on March 11, following the first phase of bridge reconstruction, officials said.

A second closing of the Wells bridge will occur April 26 through May 5, when the $41.2 million overhaul project is scheduled to be completed, the Chicago Department of Transportation said.

The Wells bridge's trusses, steel framing, railings, bridge houses, major structural parts and mechanical and electrical parts are being replaced, but the original 1920s-era appearance of the double-deck bridge will be maintained, CDOT officials said.

Full details on the CTA service changes are available at Twitter @jhilkevitch

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Blackhawks' streak at 21 with overtime win over Blue Jackets

The beat goes on for the Blackhawks — barely.

Against a banged up and usually bumbling Blue Jackets squad, the Hawks kept their record-setting points streak alive at 21 games with a 4-3 victory in overtime Friday night at the United Center.

The Hawks coughed up a third-period lead but came out on top when Brent Seabrook scored off a terrific feed from Jonathan Toews 3 minutes, 23 seconds into overtime to give them their second victory in as many nights.

"In overtime … you have some chances to jump into the play and take some chances," Seabrook said. "I didn't really expect Toews to make that pass. He didn't look at me once and I didn't yell. He's pretty good in those situations so I just let him do his thing.

"I don't think I shot the puck, it was such a hard pass it hit my stick and just bounced in."

Viktor Stalberg, Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell also had goals and Ray Emery earned the victory in goal as the Hawks improved to 18-0-3 on the season. Dating back to last season, the Hawks are at 27 games in a row with at least one point.

Vinny Prospal, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Johansen scored for the Blue Jackets but it wasn't enough as Steve Mason suffered the loss in goal.

The Blue Jackets, who entered the game with the fewest points in the league, were without defensemen James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson and John Moore and forwards Derick Brassard and Brandon Dubinsky but fought gamely.

A night after the Hawks opened their victory over the Blues with a Toews goal just 10 seconds into the game, the Blue Jackets struck quickly when Prospal jumped on a big rebound Emery yielded off a Derek Dorsett shot and fired it into the open net with 31 seconds elapsed.

Patrick Kane nearly tied it when he got free in the slot but fired a puck past Mason that clanged off the left post and slid harmlessly away. Not long after, Emery made a strong save on Cam Atkinson with his left skate to keep it a one-goal deficit.

Stalberg continued his mastery over the Blue Jackets with his 11th goal in his 15th game against them when the winger tapped in a puck in the crease during a scramble at the 16:09 mark. Mason then kept it even when he stoned Marcus Kruger from in front and the opening period ended tied 1-1.

In the second, Daniel Carcillo continued his gritty play with a big hit on the Jackets' Fedor Tyutin. The legal blow drew a response from Nikita Nikitin, who dropped the gloves with Carcillo and was on the receiving end of a flurry of punches from the Hawks winger.

The Blue Jackets kept coming and took the lead when Anisimov's shot from the point deflected off Carcillo and bounded past Emery.

Late in the second, the Hawks' offense kicked into gear. Sharp evened the score 2-2 when his backhander from the left circle somehow made it through Mason's pads and trickled across the goal line.

A splendid individual effort from Bickell put the Hawks ahead with less than a minute later. The winger stripped Anisimov of the puck, skated in two-on-one with Stalberg and rifled a wrist shot from the left dot past Mason to the stick side.

In the third, Emery held the lead when he stoned Prospal on a point-blank shot but later Johansen beat him with a nice move in the slot.

"We're finding ways to really get it done," Stalberg said. "It's pretty amazing to be a part of a run like this. It seems like it hasn't gotten to our heads at all. We're staying with it … and that's all we can do."

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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Tax on pack of cigarettes sold in Chicago up $1 to $6.67

On the eve of a $1-per-pack Cook County cigarette tax increase, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stood in the glow of X-rays showing damaged lungs, surrounded by some of Stroger Hospital's top pulmonary specialists as she discussed how smoking shortens people's lives.

The setting and talking points made clear the message Preckwinkle wanted to convey Thursday: This is a public health problem, one she plans to fight by giving smokers an incentive to quit and teens a reason not to start.

But the county's tax increase is more than just a campaign to protect people from emphysema and lung cancer. Preckwinkle is counting on $25.6 million this year from the move to help balance the budget. The history of cigarette tax increases suggests the county will be lucky to get that much in 2013 and should expect diminishing returns in the years ahead.

Smokes are a financial well that public officials have gone to repeatedly to shore up shaky finances at the local and state level. When the county tax increase takes effect Friday, a pack of cigarettes purchased in Chicago will come with $6.67 tacked on by the city, county and state. That's just behind New York City's nation-leading $6.86 in taxes per pack. It will also push the cost of a pack of cigarettes in Chicago to as much as $11.

Recent cigarette tax increases have had only a short-term benefit to the government bottom line. Some people quit, while others buy cigarettes online or outside the county or state.

When the county last raised the cigarette tax — by $1 per pack in 2006 — collections initially shot up by $46.5 million, hitting $203.7 million, county records show. But by 2009, the county collected $20.4 million less than it had in 2005.

Mayor Richard M. Daley bumped up the city of Chicago's share of the cigarette tax by 32 cents in 2005 and another 20 cents in 2006, to 68 cents per pack. He saw collections rise from $15.6 million in 2004 to $32.9 million in 2006, according to a city report. But city cigarette tax revenue fell to $28.4 million in 2007, and continued dropping to $18.7 million by 2011, records show.

At the state level, Quinn pushed through a $1-a-pack hike in June.

Before that, state lawmakers and Gov. George Ryan agreed on a 40-cent increase in 2002. Cigarette tax proceeds went up by more than $178 million in 2003, to $643.1 million, and rose to $729.2 million in 2004. The revenue then fell steadily to $549 million by 2010 before edging back up to $580 million last year, according to state records.

The county is preparing for the windfall from the $1 increase to be strong this year, then decline. County officials project that after bringing in $25.6 million for the remainder of this budget year, the increase will net about $29 million for 2014, $21 million in 2015, $15 million in 2016 and just $9 million in 2017.

Preckwinkle says that's OK with her.

"My hope would be that over the long run this is no longer a way in which governments look to raise money, because fewer and fewer people are smoking," she said. "So I would hope that we have the effect of reducing our revenue because more people quit."

The county could end up saving money as cigarette tax revenue falls because uninsured people with ailments related to smoking are such a heavy financial burden to the public hospital system, Preckwinkle said.

In the meantime, Preckwinkle pledged to hire more staff this year to crack down on stores selling untaxed packs and large-scale tobacco smuggling from surrounding states. "We anticipate that there may be some noncompliance, as there always is when you institute an increase like this," she said.

Preckwinkle also acknowledged that the higher tax rate will push some smokers into surrounding counties or Indiana to pick up their packs, but she predicted such cross-border runs will not last.

"While people may initially, when the prices rise, go to other states — Indiana, Wisconsin or wherever — over time that trek gets very tiresome and time-consuming, and they return to their former habits of buying their cigarettes nearby," Preckwinkle said.

But David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said he thinks the cigarette taxes in Cook County are now so high compared with surrounding areas that smokers will continue to make the longer drive, and Illinois stores near jurisdictions with lower taxes will struggle even more.

"You might see people return to their old patterns if we were talking about a slight disparity, say 25 cents a pack," Vite said. "But now we're talking about a difference of nearly $3 a pack compared to Indiana, almost $30 a carton. You're going to see guys working in factories saying, 'It's my week to make a run,' heading to Indiana and coming back with $1,500 worth of cigarettes for all their co-workers."

Twitter @_johnbyrne

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Ex-convict looks to be winner in 2nd District GOP squeaker

Republican voters are suggesting the 2nd Congressional District replace one felon with another after picking ex-convict Paul McKinley as the candidate to run for the seat recently ceded by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

While official results in the GOP special election will not be certified until next month, McKinley had a 23-vote lead over Eric Wallace, a multimedia company owner from Flossmoor, with all precincts reporting Wednesday.

McKinley, a convicted felon who served nearly 20 years in state prison for burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery, declared victory. Wallace, however, was not willing to concede, and he called the prospect of McKinley representing the GOP "an embarrassment."

McKinley is a frequent protester in Chicago with nearly a dozen arrests to prove it. His campaign mantra has been to rage against the machine. During candidate forums, McKinley has given passionate speeches blaming all of the district's woes on the long rule of the Democratic Party machine on the South Side and in the south suburbs.

"I was the only one in this party making the effort to rattle the saber against the machine," said McKinley, who would square off against Democrat Robin Kelly in the April 9 special election in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic. "I think that's what resonated."

As McKinley celebrated his apparent victory, the state's Republican leadership was coming to grips with the fact that its party had just nominated someone with a long rap sheet to run in a district where the last three Democratic congressmen have left office amid scandal. That includes Jackson, who pleaded guilty last week to federal charges.

Pat Brady, the state's Republican chairman, had no comment Wednesday about McKinley's prospects. Privately, Republican leaders expressed dismay and concern. Given the historic Democratic leanings of the district, no national or state financial help from Republicans is likely, they said.

Wallace, who appears to have fallen just short for the GOP nomination, still holds out hope.

"We're waiting for all of the outstanding ballots to be tallied, including provisional as well as absentee," said Wallace, who lists a doctorate in biblical studies. "With it being this close, it wouldn't make a lot of sense not to wait for those to be counted. There could be 30, 40, 50 absentee ballots out there."

But in Cook County, there were just four such ballots. In Chicago there were three outstanding absentee or mail-in ballots and 67 provisional ballots. It's unclear how many of those provisional ballots were for the Republican primary, but very few GOP ballots were pulled in the city.

"He has that right, but he sounds a lot like Mitt Romney," McKinley said of Wallace's wait, alluding to Romney's delay in conceding victory in November to President Barack Obama.

Wallace expressed disappointment in the turnout, especially the low number of votes cast in Will and Kankakee counties, where he said many Republicans chose to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary to support Debbie Halvorson, who had opposed the president's proposed assault weapons ban.

"All they did was contribute to Robin Kelly winning, and now the Republican who is in the lead — and I've gotten to know Paul and like him — but Paul is a convicted felon," Wallace said. "If he ends up winning, it's just going to be an embarrassment for the Republican Party."

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, McKinley was sentenced to concurrent three- and four-year sentences in 1978 for burglary and armed robbery in Cook County. In 1981 he was sentenced to four years for burglary, according to a prisons agency spokeswoman.

In 1985, McKinley was sentenced to five years for two counts of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and 30 years for armed robbery. He was paroled in 1997, according to the state.

Two weeks ago, the Tribune asked the Cook County circuit court clerk's office to provide the old court records tied to those convictions. As of Wednesday, the records were not available. McKinley once again declined to discuss the convictions.

From 2003 through 2007, McKinley was arrested 11 times in the county for various offenses, most of them tied to protests. In many cases, the charges ultimately were dropped.

During a June 2005 bench trial, McKinley was found not guilty on two felony counts of threatening a public official. The case stemmed from a protest in which then-3rd Ward Ald. Dorothy Tillman accused McKinley of telling her to "take your country ass back to Mississippi. I'm going to get your country ass." McKinley insisted he was exercising his right to free speech and was acquitted, according to records.

In 2007, McKinley was sentenced to 20 hours of community service after being found guilty of disorderly conduct during a City Council meeting protest, records show. McKinley used a bullhorn to scream "profanity-laced statements" to aldermen as they were speaking, according a police report. Police arrested McKinley after he refused to stop banging on the glass window in the seating gallery overlooking the council chambers, records show.

McKinley also pleaded guilty to a June 2007 charge of criminal trespass to land. According to court records, he was asked to leave the Homan Square Foundation after his questions about the nonprofit's hiring procedures had been answered. The group advocates for the redevelopment of the West Side site that used to be Sears headquarters.

The candidate has not shied away from his arrest record during the campaign.

"I'm the ex-offender trying to save the next offender, and I believe Robin Kelly, she will become the next offender, too," McKinley said. "All of these next offenders in this district have been Democrats."

Kelly declined to be interviewed Wednesday.

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Winter storm: Lingering snow could mean messy commute

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

The storm that struck in midmorning had socked the Chicago area with the season's biggest snowfall by Tuesday evening and was expected to drop another inch or two as it lingers through Wednesday, forecasters said.

That means the morning rush hour could be a bit messy, though it shouldn't be nearly as bad as Tuesday evening's commute was for motorists like Bob Reed, of Geneva. Speaking from a cellphone as he crawled west on Interstate 90, Reed blamed sloppy drivers more than sloppy roads.

"When it snows like this, it's like there are no traffic laws at all," Reed said. "Normally we have very aggressive drivers, but now we've got people going the wrong way down one-way streets, people jumping out of line to pass you."

The northern suburbs were hit hardest, with Gurnee in Lake County reporting 10 inches of accumulation and Beach Park, also in Lake County, reporting 9.5 inches.

By 10 p.m., 4.2 inches had fallen at O'Hare International Airport, according to the National Weather Service. That brought the official total for the season to 17.8 inches, and February's total to 14.3 inches.

Many city and suburban schools closed early and canceled sports games and practices. By 9 p.m., more than 500 departing flights had been canceled at O'Hare and Midway airports, with about the same number of arrivals also canceled, according to FlightStats, which gathers data from airports and airlines.

Cars and buses slid into ditches and crashed into each other on slick roads. The Illinois Tollway and Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation dispatched their full fleets of snowplows and salt trucks.

Snow fell at about 2 inches an hour in some northern suburbs. Any snow Wednesday or the rest of the week won't be nearly that intense, said meteorologist Casey Sullivan of the National Weather Service. Leaving early for the morning commute, however, won't be a bad idea, he said.

In a winter of sparse snowfall, some welcomed the storm with enthusiasm — particularly those who stand to profit from it. James Koch, the owner of Jimbo's Plowing Service in Tinley Park, said the snow was a gift in a winter that's been a bust for plow truck drivers.

Koch bought a new truck and plow after the record snowfall during the 2011 Groundhog Day blizzard. Since then he has failed to realize the returns he expected on his investment, he said.

"It ain't like what it used to be," Koch said. "Chicago always had a good snowfall, and now we're not getting snow until January. If you don't get a big snow in December in this business, you're basically playing catch-up all year."

The snow also gave fresh life to plans for winter recreation. Gloria Morison, of Highland Park, was at a brunch Tuesday morning when she saw the first flakes fall. She said she immediately started making plans to try out a new pair of cross country skis, thinking she could go down her street before the plows came to get to the Green Bay Trail.

Chicago Transit Authority buses had a hard time navigating some roads Tuesday. A few buses got stuck near North Stockton Drive and West Dickens Avenue, police said.

"Obviously, we're advising operators to drive with caution," CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said.

With snow forecast to fall periodically Wednesday and Thursday, drivers should continue to heed that advice, said Sullivan of the weather service. Even after the storm passes there could be more in store, with unrelated lake-effect snow possible Friday, he said.

"We'll see."

Tribune reporters Ryan Haggerty and Naomi Nix contributed.

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Blackhawks win in overtime, extend streak to 19

Nikolai Khabibulin stumbled coming out of the tunnel from the Oilers' dressing room to start the second period before steadying himself on the bench and taking the ice.

Then the Oilers goaltender was tripped up by the Blackhawks, and the longest streak in NHL history to start a season without a regulation loss lives on at 19.

Marian Hossa scored the winner in overtime to lift the Hawks to a 3-2 victory over the Oilers on Monday night at the United Center. Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg had goals in regulation and Ray Emery earned the win in goal as the Hawks improved to 16-0-3 this season. Dating to last season, they have gone 25 consecutive games with at least one point.

Jeff Petry and Nail Yakupov scored for the Oilers, who kicked off a 17-day, nine-game trip with the loss.

The Oilers came out with the speed and determination they displayed last season against the Hawks when they won three of four games with a 24-15 goal advantage. Emery was tested early but came up big when he dropped to his pads to smother an attempt from the slot by Ales Hemsky.

A delay-of-game penalty on Magnus Paajarvi for flipping the puck into the stands produced offense from both sides. Edmonton got on the board while short-handed as Lennart Petrell raced into the Hawks' zone on a breakaway after defenseman Duncan Keith fell down. Emery made a strong save on Petrell's attempt, but the rebound was ripe for the picking and Petry fired it into the open net.

With time running out in the penalty, the Hawks displayed the resiliency that has been a key to their points streak as Kane worked his way into the slot and slid a backhander past Khabibulin for his 10th goal of the season and a 1-1 tie.

Later in the first, Emery kept it even when he stoned Corey Potter from in close with the Oilers on the power play.

In the second, Daniel Carcillo, who was the most physical player on the ice for both sides with booming hits throughout the game, had a chance offensively from the slot but couldn't solve Khabibulin.

Brandon Saad's second penalty of the game for the Hawks led to the Oilers' second goal. Edmonton moved the puck nicely and Sam Gagner hit an open Yakupov with a pass and the rookie unloaded a one-timer past Emery.

Stalberg pulled the Hawks even early in the third when he stuffed a shot under the pad of Khabibulin from the crease. A video review confirmed the puck crossed the line and the score was 2-2.

The close game was nothing new to the Hawks, who entered the game with a 9-0-3 mark in one-goal games.

"The whole league is close," coach Joel Quenneville said. "When you aren't playing … you're watching and it's a one-goal night and you're hoping it's not a three-point game. Everybody keeps themselves in games."

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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Oscars: Ang Lee best director; Lawrence wins best actress

10:56 p.m.: Jack Nicholson introduces the best picture nominees with a little help from fist lady Michelle Obama, who is on video from the White House. She announcese "Argo" as the winner. It is the third win for "Argo." Director and star Ben Affleck nearly breaks down in tears when giving his acceptance speech.

10:48 p.m.: Daniel Day-Lewis wins best actor for his work in "Lincoln." The award was presented by Meryl Streep.

10:43 p.m.: "Silver Linings Playbook" star Jennifer Lawrence wins the Oscar for best actress, then promptly falls down on her way to accept the award.

10:34 p.m.: Ang Lee wins best director for "Life of Pi," the fourth win of the night for the movie. It is now leading the way in awards, with "Les Miserables" trailing with three.

MORE OSCARS: Red carpet pics | Winners | Backstage

10:26 p.m.: Quentin Tarantino wins best original screenplay for "Django Unchained." He ends his acceptance speech with "Peace out."

10:23 p.m.: Chris Terrio wins best adapted screenplay for "Argo." It's the second award for the movie.

10:15 p.m.: Norah Jones sings "Everybody Needs a Best Friend," the song from the movie "Ted," which is up for best original song. But Adele's "Skyfall" wins the award.

10:09 p.m.: The cast of "Chicago" presents the award for best original score to Michael Danna for "Life of Pi."

9:59: George Clooney introduces the "In Memoriam" segment of the show. Ernest Borgnine is the first actor honored. Barbra Streisand gives a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, singing "The Way We Were."

9:48 p.m.: Daniel Radcliffe and Kristin Stewart presented the award for best production design to "Lincoln."

9:35 p.m.: Adele performs her song from the Bond film "Skyfall."

9:31 p.m.: The Oscar for film editing, presented by Sandra Bullock, is given to William Goldenberg of "Argo." It's the first win for the movie.

9:23 p.m.: Anne Hathaway wins best supporting actress for her role in "Les Miserables." The award is presented by Christopher Plummer.

9:14 p.m.: Mark Wahlberg and Ted from "Ted" present the award for best sound mixing to "Les Miserables." There was a tie for best sound editing, as "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall." It is the first tie for an Oscar since 1995.

9:03 p.m.: John Travolta presents a montage to movie musicals, featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson, who gets a standing ovation for singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," from "Dreamgirls."

The entire cast of "Les Miserables," including Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, sings "Suddenly" from the movie.

8:51 p.m.: Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain present the best foreign language film to "Amour."

8:43 p.m.: "Argo" director and star Ben Afflek gives the award for best documentary feature to "Searching For Sugar Man."

8:35 p.m.: Shawn Christensen wins best live action short film for "Curfew." The award for best documentary short subject goes to "Inocente."

8:25 p.m.: Halle Berry, a Bond girl herself in "Golden Eye," presents a montage celebrating the music of James Bond films. Shirley Bassey sings "Goldfinger" live.

8:19 p.m.: Jennifer Aniston and Channing Tatum give the award for best costume design to Jacqueline Durran for "Anna Karenina." The award for best makeup goes to Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell for "Les Miserables."

8:10 p.m.: Claudio Miranda wins best cinemtography for "Life of Pi." The movie also wins for best visual effects.

7:59 p.m.: Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy present the best animated feature film award, which goes to "Brave." Director Mark Andrews accepts the award wearing a kilt. John Kahrs wins best animated short film for "Paperman."

7:50 p.m.: Christoph Waltz wins the first award of the night, as best supporting actor for his role in "Django Unchained." The award is given by Octavia Spencer.

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2 hurt in melee near Ford City Mall

Two people suffered minor injuries and police arrested at least 16 people during a disturbance involving crowds of young people tonight at Ford City Mall on the Southwest Side, authorities said.

About 4:45 p.m., a large group of disruptive teens ran yelling through the mall, which is located at 7601 S. Cicero Ave., according to a mall official.

Officials closed the mall minutes later, but the chaotic scene continued outside, where police found between 100 and 200 people damaging vehicles in the shopping center's parking lot, according to a police report.

Two people were taken to hospitals, according to Chicago Fire Department Chief Joe Roccasalva, a department spokesman.

A CTA bus driver suffered minor injuries and was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, said Roccasalva, who added he did not know what happened to him.
A “kid’’ was also hurt, and that person was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, also in good condition, Roccasalva said.

About 50 police squad cars assigned to multiple South Side districts, including Chicago Lawn, Englewood and Deering, and a helicopter responded to the scene, police said.

Traffic came to a standstill as teenagers jumped on cars, both parked and moving, according to a police report obtained by the Tribune. Many of those involved ignored orders to disperse, and police arrested 16 people, many of them juveniles, according to the report.

Officers did their best to control the disturbance, "trying to get everyone out of there safely," Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala said.

During the disturbance the CTA had to reroute the No. 79 buses, which travel on 79th Street, as well as other buses in the immediate area.

Earlier in the afternoon, members of the teen band Mindless Behavior had appeared at the mall food court from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to promote their new release, "All Around the World," said John Sarama, the mall's senior general manager.

The band's autograph signing drew approximately 1,000 parents and children, primarily mothers and girls between the ages of 6 and 13, Sarama said.

About 45 minutes after the band left, the chaos began, Sarama said.

"A group of older youths came into the mall with the intent of causing havoc and chaos and were running through the mall, screaming, yelling and so forth," he said.

Security staff contacted the police department, and mall officials closed the mall about 5 p.m., Sarama said.

The mall did not sustain any property damage apart from a single broken planter, and it will reopen Sunday at 11 a.m. as usual, Sarama said.

In the meantime, mall officials are at a loss as they try to understand what happened.

"Ford City is a family-oriented mall," he said. "We have not had an incident like this [in the past], and I’m still in a little bit of a state of shock actually.

"What would make these youths comes here to try and cause this kind of commotion and trouble?" he continued. "I don’t know. But they did have a plan in mind."

Tribune reporter Adam Sege contributed.

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Blackhawks set NHL record with win over Sharks

The shot was low and hard and cemented the Blackhawks’ spot in the history books.

When Brandon Saad rifled the puck past goaltender Antti Niemi early in the third period Friday night at the United Center, the rookie propelled the Hawks to a 2-1 victory over the Sharks.

Viktor Stalberg also scored and Ray Emery earned another impressive triumph goal as the Hawks recorded their 17th consecutive game to start the season without a regulation loss, the longest such streak in NHL history.

“It was a huge goal for us,” Saad said. “I just took him wide and tried to get a shot off and luckily I beat him to the glove side.

“It’s nice to make history. Our group has a great year so far so we don’t expect anything less.”

The Hawks also pulled into a tie for third in league annals for longest overall points streak at 23 games over parts of two seasons — matching the 1975-76 Flyers and ’40-41 Bruins.

“It’s a great feeling,” Stalberg said. “We’ve had a great run here. We don’t want to stop now. Tonight maybe wasn’t our best game but we’re finding a way to win.

“It’s kind of crazy to think you’re not going to lose a game in regulation for the first 17 games. It’s a cool thing to be a part of and we’re excited about it but the focus has been more on us to play each and every game.”

Emery made 26 saves, allowing only a late first-period goal to Patrick Marleau as he out-dueled Niemi. The Hawks moved to 14-0-3 overall and 6-0-1 at home this season as they continued their assault on the Western Conference standings with their 31st point of a possible 34.

Emery was tested early and dodged a bullet when Ryane Clowe couldn’t get a stick on puck in front with an open goal and seconds later watched as Logan Couture fired wide at a gaping net.

After scrambling in their own zone at the outset, the Hawks found their footing and started putting pressure on Niemi. The former Hawks goalie’s biggest save early was when he stoned Marian Hossa from just inside the left circle off a rebound.

With the clock winding down in the opening period, Marleau put the Sharks ahead with his 11th goal of the season. After a Joe Thornton shot, Marleau batted at the rebound and the puck trickled under Emery’s pad and across the line.

Late in the second, Stalberg awakened a subdued crowd with his fourth goal of the season. The winger had been without a point in five consecutive games but found the scoresheet when he banked a shot from behind the goal line off Niemi and into the net.

The Sharks entered the third period on the power play but it was the Hawks who cashed in when Saad notched this third goal of the season. The rookie winger rifled a shot from the left circle that sailed past Niemi to the glove side. It was the Hawks’ first short-handed score of the season and gave them life as they marched toward history.

After that, Emery and the defense tightened and it was a piece of history for the Hawks.

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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Drew Peterson: 'I'm an obnoxious man by nature, truly'

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, you did," a woman said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I paid for the funeral."

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

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

He then attacked State's Atty. James Glasgow.

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

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

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

Peterson said he believes his constitutional rights have been violated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jackson Jr.: 'Tell everybody back home I'm sorry I let 'em down'


— It was the kind of runaway spending usually reserved for someone with newfound riches — a holistic retreat, a cruise, pricey restaurant tabs, flat-screen televisions and even a pair of stuffed elk heads —and former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. admitted Wednesday that he conspired with his then-Chicago alderman wife to pay for it all with campaign money and cover it up.

In two quiet federal court appearances just hours apart, the power couple who once sought to write a new chapter in Chicago political history instead became the latest entry in an infamous culture of public corruption. Jackson pleaded guilty to conspiring with his wife, Sandi, to siphon campaign funds for personal use, and she pleaded guilty to not reporting most of the take as income on the couple's tax returns.

A sullen Jackson gave his wife a peck on the cheek at his own hearing and at times appeared to wipe tears from his eyes as he told a judge he was guilty of misusing about $750,000 in campaign money. And with that, a political star once seemingly destined for the U.S. Senate or the Chicago mayor's office dissolved once and for all.

"Tell everybody back home I'm sorry I let 'em down, OK?" Jackson told a reporter as he left the courtroom.

As part of Jackson's plea agreement, prosecutors filed a 22-page statement filled with stunning details of how the Jacksons used his congressional campaign fund to fuel a lavish lifestyle. Jackson admitted that together the couple used campaign credit cards to buy personal items, tapped campaign funds to pay those bills, sometimes arranged for their campaign treasurer to make purchases for them, filed falsified campaign-disclosure forms to hide their actions and ultimately understated their personal income for tax purposes.

Both Jacksons face the prospect of time in federal prison.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors and Jesse Jackson's defense agreed that sentencing guidelines in the case call for a term of between 46 and 57 months, but the sides reserved the right to argue for a sentence above or below that range when he is sentenced June 28.

Sandi Jackson is to be sentenced days later on July 1 and may face from one to two years. Among the conduct in her case, prosecutors said, was failing to report that money in her aldermanic campaign fund was used for personal expenses.

Experts said the agreement for Jesse Jackson leaves room for the defense to argue for probation and use his mental health as a mitigating factor.

Jackson removed himself from the public spotlight last June after winning a primary election in March. His medical leave was initially attributed to "exhaustion." It was later revealed that he had been treated in the Sierra Tucson facility in Arizona and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

He resigned in November amid the swirling probe, ending a 17-year congressional career just two weeks after winning re-election.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins asked Jackson during the hearing whether he understood what was happening.

"Sir, I've never been more clear in my life," Jackson answered.

At a news conference after the hearing, Jackson Jr.'s attorney, Reid Weingarten, said Jackson's health problems contributed to his crimes, hinting it may be an issue raised in a sentencing hearing.

"It turns out that Jesse has serious health issues. ... Those health issues are directly related to his present predicament," Weingarten said. "That's not an excuse, that's just a fact."

Documents filed with the plea agreement lay out a steady pilfering of Jackson's campaign fund during a period of nearly seven years dating to August 2005.

Six people identified by letters of the alphabet — Persons A through F —- were involved in various aspects of the crimes, prosecutors said, and have not been granted immunity in the case. They include two former campaign treasurers, an Alabama businessman who issued a check to pay down a Jackson credit card balance and a Chicago consultant.

In January 2006, Jackson personally opened a bank account under the name "Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress," and the following year withdrew $43,350 he used to buy a gold Rolex watch, prosecutors said. In 2007, he was also withdrawing funds to pay down personal credit cards, according to case documents.

After that year, the spending went into high gear.

"These expenditures included high-end electronic items, collector's items, clothing, food and supplies for daily consumption, movie tickets, health club dues, personal travel, and personal dining expenses," prosecutors said. When he was charged last week, Jackson was accused of buying, among other items, a fedora that belonged to pop superstar Michael Jackson, an Eddie Van Halen guitar and a football signed by U.S. presidents.

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Blackhawks make history in shootout win over Canucks

Three times the Blackhawks broke in alone on Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider during the opening period. Three times they came away empty.

For a while, it appeared maybe it wouldn't be the Hawks' night as they faced their archrivals Tuesday night at the United Center.

Yeah, forget that.

The Hawks found the gas pedal and roared back from a first-period deficit, saw their two-goal lead disappear in the final three minutes and then prevailed in the shootout for a 4-3 victory.

Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw scored in the shootout for the Hawks. Chris Higgins scored but Ray Emery stuffed Ryan Kesler on the Canucks' third shootout attempt.

With their 16th consecutive game to start the season without a regulation loss, the Hawks equaled the league record set by the Ducks in 2006-07. At 13-0-3, the Hawks have captured 29 of a possible 32 points.

Kevin Bieksa scored with 1 minute, 1 second remaining in the third period to force overtime after Alexander Elder had pulled the Canucks within 3-2 with 2:42 left.

Marian Hossa had two goals and Patrick Sharp also scored to provide the offense for the Hawks.

The only downside for the Hawks was a third-period injury to Hossa, who took a forearm to the back of the head from the Canucks' Yannik Hansen and did not return. Hossa suffered a serious concussion during the playoffs last season and was not cleared to play until mid-November. The Hawks already were without defenseman Brent Seabrook, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Both goalies had to be on their games early as some suspect defense led to a flurry of breakaways — five in a span of 7 minutes, 41 seconds.

First, Emery got his right pad on Daniel Sedin's shot, and Schneider matched that and did one better while the Canucks were on the power play. Hossa raced in on a short-handed breakaway attempt but was denied by Schneider. During the same penalty, Dave Bolland's backhander misfired.

Next up was Sharp, but his shot while racing in on Schneider sailed wide. Emery again denied Sedin on the final breakaway during the sequence.

Not long after the spectacular saves, Emery let one in he'd like to have back. Sedin's innocent-looking backhander from a wide angle eluded the goalie, and the Canucks were on the board.

Early in the second, the Hawks tied it when Sharp sent a laser beam from the left circle that slid through Schneider's pads. It marked the second consecutive game the veteran winger found the net after a 10-game goal-less skid.

Mired in his own goal-less skid entering the game was Hossa, who hadn't scored in six games. That lasted until the second, when Hossa twice lit the lamp. The first came on the power play when the veteran fired a rocket from the high slot that sailed past Schneider, who was screened by Andrew Shaw.

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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Rose returns to 5-on-5 drills for first time since injury

A sense of doubt has evolved into a hint of optimism about Derrick Rose's comeback from knee surgery.

The Bulls guard, who last week mentioned the possibility of sitting out the season, appeared to take another step Monday as he participated in 5-on-5 drills during practice.

"He was able to get out there, and it's good," teammate Kirk Hinrich said. "It was something that (we) as a team needed, as far as every individual coming off the (All-Star) break needed to scrimmage a little bit. And I'm sure it was good for (Rose), helpful to ... give him a good gauge of where he's at."

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose did "what everyone else did'' and said his participation wasn't out of the ordinary based on the previously stated outlook. The plan all along was to have Rose return to 5-on-5 action after the break.

Rose cited his inability to dunk as the reason he knew he hadn't fully recovered, and Joakim Noah said Rose still wasn't dunking Monday. The Bulls went through three scrimmages of seven to eight minutes, during which Rose ran full-court. It was unclear how much contact Rose endured or how much pressure he put on his left knee.

"He's doing what he should be doing,'' Thibodeau said. "He's focused on his rehab, doing more and more. We just have to be patient. When he's ready, he'll go.''

Thibodeau reiterated how his players need to pick up their intensity after dropping five of the last seven games and six of the last 10. A Rose return would instantly inject life into the 30-22 Bulls, although they've performed admirably at times in his absence while currently holding the Eastern Conference's fifth seed.

Until Rose steps on the court for a game, his teammates have to lean on each other.

"When we're right and we're playing the right way, we've proved that we can beat everybody,'' Noah said. "We've also proved that if we don't come with the right (attitude), don't play together, we can lose to anybody.''

The return of Hinrich to the lineup for Tuesday night's game in New Orleans should provide a boost. The Bulls went 2-5 with Hinrich sidelined by a right elbow infection and committed 15.6 turnovers per game in the losses.

With all due respect to Nate Robinson and his scoring ability, Hinrich runs the offense more efficiently and is a better defender.

"He's a huge part of what we do, and it just feels good to have Kirk back,'' Noah said. "What he brings to our team, it's hard to measure. His defensive intensity, the ball movement ... it's all big.''

The Bulls have lost two straight and take on a 19-34 Hornets team that has won its last two and is 5-5 over the last 10. Four of the Bulls' next six opponents have sub-.500 records, but the Heat (36-14) and Thunder (39-14) are in that stretch too.

"We have to clean some things up offensively and defensively,'' Thibodeau said. "But the biggest challenge is going to be the level of intensity, to get that back.''

Twitter @vxmcclure23

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CPS officials taking note of feedback on school closings

Chicago Public Schools officials gathering input on school closings started taking notes when the director of a local Boys and Girls Club of Chicago spoke up on behalf of West Pullman Elementary School at a hearing on the Far South Side late last week.

Then a local pastor spoke about the changing culture and the positive effect of a new principal at Whistler Elementary, which like West Pullman is on the preliminary list CPS released last week of 129 schools that could be closed. Another pastor talked about the problems with gangs near Lawrence Elementary, and CPS officials wrote some more notes.

School communities across the city are pulling out all the stops to make their case as the district prepares to make a final decision, due by the end of March, on what schools will be shuttered. Parents, teachers and community leaders are bringing healthy amounts of data and emotion to the meetings in their effort to convince district officials which schools should stay open.

The meetings will continue over the next several weeks. The district says it needs to close an as yet unknown number of under-enrolled schools to help address a projected deficit of $1 billion in the coming year.

District chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has set specific criteria for the closings, and schools that don't want to be on the final list will have to show how they plan to build enrollment or improve academics. Security concerns will also play a role in deciding what schools to close.

Among the schools on the preliminary list were six that are part of the politically connected Academy for Urban School Leadership, which takes over schools known as turnarounds that are deemed in need of academic recovery.

CPS has invested nearly $20 million in capital improvements at the six AUSL Schools. AUSL, which runs 25 schools throughout the district, replaces teachers and administrators at its schools with AUSL-trained staff.

AUSL parents have appeared at meetings to speak about changes at schools being considered for closing.

"We know this has to run the course through the community meetings," said Shana Hayes, managing director of AUSL's external affairs department. "When CPS comes out with the new list, we hope our six schools will come off the list. We see significant positive changes in enrollment."

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the school closing process is "far from complete."

"We expect to get significantly more feedback from the community that will continue to guide this process and remove other schools from consideration," Carroll said. 

The schools on the preliminary list are mostly on the West, South and Southwest sides. In all, more than 43,000 students attend the 129 schools still under consideration.

For many parents and educators, the meetings have provided an opportunity to vent their frustration and anger with the district. They've complained about being denied resources, increasing class sizes and the growth of privately run but publicly funded charters schools.

"You've taken our students away from us — that's why (the school is) under-enrolled," said Tonya Saunders-Wolffe, a counselor at the pre-kindergarten to third grade Owens Elementary in Roseland, referring to the growth of charter schools.

Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, said the meetings have allowed parents to come out and voice what's happening in their schools and what they need to get better. Woestehoff said she thinks the number of schools on the preliminary list will be far lower when the final list is released.

"Given the powerful push-back from schools and communities that has already happened, (the district) ought to be concerned about an exponential increase in the level of anger that is sure to explode if they announce the closure of anything like 100," she said.

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Rev. Jesse Jackson: 'This has been a difficult, painful ordeal'

Members of Jesse Jackson Jr.'s family said this morning they are struggling in the aftermath of Jackson being charged with misusing $750,000 in campaign funds.

"We felt the impact of this court," said Jonathan Jackson today outside the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's Saturday Morning Forum at the group's Chicago headquarters. "The gravity has affected our family."

He said his brother is still following a medical regime from his illness. He said his brother, mother and father are in Washington D.C. and Jonathan Jackson said he planned to join them.

Jackson's sister Santita said, "We love our brother very much."

They said Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr.'s children were aware of the developments involving their parents.

"They are part of the Jackson family. We will take care of them," said Santita Jackson.

The family said they were thankful for the public's prayers, and Jonathan Jackson said he hoped people would remember the good things his brother had done during his political career.

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 Friday with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her attorneys released a statement saying she has "reached an agreement with the U.S. attorney' 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, 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.

Twitter: @nsnix87

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Toews gives Hawks fighting spirit in 4-1 victory over Sharks

Jonathan Toews wasn't going to be denied in getting a piece of Joe Thornton.

The Blackhawks captain boarded his Sharks counterpart late in the first period and Toews then proceeded to shove Thornton seven times before the two finally dropped the gloves.

The third fight in Toews' career didn't do much to bolster his pugilistic reputation, but it did fire up his teammates and the Hawks rode the wave of emotion Friday night to a 4-1 victory over the Sharks' at the United Center.

"I felt that it was something I needed to do to stand up for myself," Toews said. "I'm glad I did it. I think it helped our team.

"The last handful of games, including last season, there is always some stuff going on, whether it's after the whistles or during the play. It just comes down to players maybe trying to get under your skin and testing you a little bit.

"If it gives your team energy, that's great. That's the effect … you're really trying to impose on your team."

Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson each had a goal and an assist, Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw scored and Ray Emery bested Antti Niemi in goal to extend the Hawks' points streak to start the season to 14 games. Duncan Keith and Jamal Mayers each added two assists as Hawks improved to 11-0-3 and are now within two of the NHL record of 16 games to start a season with at least one point that the Ducks set in 2006-07.

The loss was the Sharks' seventh consecutive after they began the season with a seven-game winning streak. Tim Kennedy scored for the Sharks but it wasn't enough in the Western Conference battle.

Toews and Thornton have a history, with a skirmish Feb. 10, 2012 in San Jose that Toews apparently never forgot. The sight of their captain flailing away at the much larger Thornton wasn't ideal for the Hawks, but they responded well, first killing off the Sharks' power play as a result of the four extra minutes in penalties given to Toews and then capping the sequence with Bolland scoring the opening goal.

Skating into the Sharks zone with Patrick Kane, Bolland took advantage of the room Kane created to draw defenders and fire a shot on Niemi that the former Hawks goalie stopped. But the rebound kicked right to Bolland and the center banged it in.

"A fight like that always fires up the team for sure," Hjalmarsson said. "We saw a real competitor. He's the heart of our team."

The Hawks got a fortunate bounce to take a 2-0 lead in the second. Kruger's dump-in from beyond the center line bounced toward Niemi and ricocheted behind the Sharks netminder to the crease where Kruger swooped in and tucked it into the net.

After Kennedy scored to cut the deficit, Shaw again extended the Hawks' lead to two goals when he banged away at a loose puck near the left post and finally chipped it past Niemi. Hjalmarsson capped the scoring when the defenseman's long shot eluded a screened Niemi.

"We're playing really solid defensively," Hjalmarsson said. "We're really comfortable in our end. Our goalies have being playing unbelievable so far. And … we're doing our job as D-men back there and our forwards are back checking hard and getting pucks deep and scoring goals."

With their 14th consecutive game to open the season with at least one point, the Hawks tied the 1943-44 Canadiens for third-longest streak in league history. The 1984-85 Oilers are next with 15.

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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