<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Wed, 01 Apr 2015 01:03:53 -0500 Wed, 01 Apr 2015 01:03:53 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Schock's Mileage Scandal Not the First for His District]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/schock-lead-102935952.jpg

Tuesday marked a turning point for residents of Illinois’ 18th congressional district.

Those residents officially lost their congressman, Aaron Schock, who resigned two weeks ago in the midst of a spending and mileage scandal.  They had to confront the cold reality that Schock had become the second congressman from their district who faced ethical questions over mileage.

The first? Abraham Lincoln.

Back then, Lincoln represented much of the same area, in the old seventh district of central Illinois. In 1848, he became mired in a mileage scandal which tarred not just the Great Emancipator, but every other member of congress.

“Everybody who was named, which was everybody who was in the House at the time, felt personally accused,” says Scott Klein, who researched the 19th century scandal for the investigative site ProPublica. “He’s not singled out more than any other congressman.”

The instigator was Horace Greeley, powerful editor of the New York Tribune, during a brief period where he also served as a member of the House. Greeley had become outraged at what he felt were excessive mileage payments to his fellow congressmen.

“He realized that this was a huge excess, that the congressmen were being paid incredible amounts of money to travel what would have been much easier distances in 1848,” Klein said. “He was taking on the mileage law as it was written, because it was written before steamships, and before trains had crisscrossed the United States and when it was much more difficult for a member of congress to get to the capitol.”

And Lincoln?

“He was the recipient of some $677 in excess mileage, at least according to Greeley’s calculation” Klein said. “Which is the equivalent of $18,700 today.”

At 40 cents a mile, Greeley saw the payments as a relic from an earlier time. The rate had been calculated during a period when it was assumed a traveling representative could only put in about 20 miles per day. Using an official book of mail routes, Greeley instructed a reporter to calculate the shortest path from each congressman’s district to Washington, and compared those distances with their actual payments. He published his results in December of 1848.

“He was trying to expose a corrupt system,” says Lincoln expert Bjorn Skaptason, at Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln Bookstore. “Congressmen did not get paid a large salary back in those days. They got paid when congress was in session. And congress, of course, was not in session very long.”

“One of the principal sources of income for somebody who was putting a major part of their life on hold to go to Washington, and represent the people, was this mileage.”

Like Klein, Skaptason notes that during the Lincoln era, times had changed. A congressman from Illinois would no longer simply ride a horse along those published postal routes, but had benefit of railroads, or even steamships to make such a long journey.

“All of these would add enormous miles to the trip, but the trip would be faster,” he said.

It should be noted that Greeley did not directly accuse the congressmen themselves, but rather the system of payments. He directly said so in his published investigation, but that distinction was lost on those whose names were printed in the tables.

If Lincoln ever answered the charges, history does not make note. While outraged members of congress sought to censure or even expel Greeley, there is no record of Lincoln even speaking during the floor debate.

ProPublica’s Klein points to the Greeley investigation as an early example of modern data journalism. He took Greeley’s numbers, sorted them through an Excel spreadsheet, and re-analyzed the data.

“I found it absolutely full of arithmetic errors,” he said. “One congressman is left out, and most notably, Greeley himself is not listed among members of congress who took excess mileage.”

The editor-turned-congressman was paid $5, which he returned to the Sergeant-at-Arms.

And the mileage rates? Klein says shortly after Greeley’s expose’, the House voted to reform the numbers. But in his autobiography, Greeley argued they did so, knowing full well that their colleagues in the Senate would never ratify the changes.

All evidence that while news cycles have shortened, some of the scandals of the modern era are actually rather familiar.

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor: Religious Freedom Law "Has No Place in Hammond"]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:34:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mike-pence-indiana.jpg


On the heels of the controversy surrounding Indiana’s new religious freedom law, Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr., announced Tuesday that he and the city oppose discrimination of any kind “whether in the City of Hammond, the State of Indiana or the United States of America.”
A statement from the City of Hammond says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “violates the basic due process and equal protection principles of the Constitution and results in disparate treatment of specific groups of citizens.”
The measure signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last week and set to take effect in July prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.
“I want to be clear. What the governor signed into law last week has no place in Hammond,” McDermott said. “We welcome everyone and we are open for business to everyone.”
The city further notes its offering of health insurance benefits to spouses and children of employees in same-sex marriages in addition to recognizing marriage licenses from other states for health insurance eligibility prior to the striking down of the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
“I have always believed that the people of Indiana are welcoming and compassionate,” McDermott said. “The law that was signed by the governor last week is not the Indiana that I know.”
The measure has drawn backlash from many in Indiana’s business community and others with ties – established and planned – to the Hoosier state. Notable figures such as Apple’s Tim Cook and the NCAA have also voiced their concerns.
Pence said Tuesday that the measure has been “grossly mischaracterized” and subjected to “shoddy reporting,” causing legislators to work around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent. The Republican reiterated that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to discriminate but to protect religious freedom.

<![CDATA[Car Crashes Through Libertyville Home]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 22:26:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/libertyville.png

A car drove through a house in Libertyville Tuesday evening, injuring two people, according to police.

Fire officials say they received a call at about 6:30 p.m. reporting a vehicle that crashed into a bedroom of a home at 400 Ridgewood Lane.

The driver behind the wheel lost control due to medical reasons, police say. Further details have yet to be released.

The homeowners – a man and his wife – were in a room adjacent to the wall that the car crashed through, so were not injured.

Police say a man was in the driver’s seat with a female passenger and a 7-year-old girl in the backseat.

The homeowners told authorities that by the time they ran out of the home the girl was already out of the car and in the front yard.

The adult passengers were initially pinned in but extracted by Libertyville fire officials and transported to Advocate Condell Medical Center. Officials say they suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The couple who lives in the home told NBC Chicago that if the crash had happened a few hours later they would have been in bed and likely would not have lived to tell about it.

<![CDATA[Man Dies in Police Custody]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 23:09:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Phillip-White.jpg

Officials are investigating the death of a New Jersey man who died while in police custody Tuesday.

"As many of you have already heard, earlier today a tragedy occurred involving Officers and a citizen," said Vineland Police Chief Timothy Codispoti. "Sadly, this call for service resulted in an “in–custody, non-shooting death” which is being investigated by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s office"

The man, identified as Phillip White, was arrested at a home on the 100 block of Grape Street in Vineland, New Jersey around 11 a.m. Tuesday. He died shortly after while in custody.

Witnesses told NBC10 officers were extremely physical with White after he was already restrained and unconscious on the street.

"They punched him, stomped him, kicked him and then they let the dog out of the car," said Ricardo Garcia. "The dog bit him on his face and around his body. There's no call for that. Once a man is handcuffed and unconscious, you should have stuck him in the patrol car and take him to the police station. Instead they decided to beat him right here." 

A dog is heard barking on a police dispatch recording of the incident.

"118 West Grape," the dispatcher says in the recording. "Subject...hyperventilating. Officers out."

An officer is also heard on the recording.

"Slow all units down," the officer says. "Subject under...tried disarming me." 

The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office is currently investigating the incident. A spokesperson for the office told NBC10 White was being arrested but they haven't revealed why.

White's aunt, Valerie White, told NBC10 she is desperate for answers.

"Why, what he was doing, I don't know," she said. "I'm trying to get answers and closure now. He lived a street life but he was a human being. Bottom line." 

While police have not yet released information regarding what led to the arrest or how White died,  Chief Codispoti expressed his condolences for his family.

"Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased and with the Officers involved," he said. " I ask that everyone allow time for our justice system to now investigate this matter to its truthful conclusion. The Vineland Police Department is cooperating with the prosecutor’s office and I urge anyone with information regarding this incident to contact the prosecutor’s office with your information. At this time updates regarding the progress of this investigation are being released through the prosecutor’s office."

<![CDATA[Couple Found With Chainsaw Wounds]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 22:47:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/178*120/Lower+Moreland+Home.JPG

A community is in mourning after a teen boy discovered his parents dead with wounds from a chainsaw inside a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania home Tuesday.

"It strikes home," said Eric Shallcross, a family friend. "It's unbelievable."

The 14-year-old boy told police he found his parents unresponsive inside their home on the 1100 block of Country Lane in Lower Moreland around 12:50 p.m. Investigators said the victims, a 48-year-old man and his 43-year-old wife, had lacerations from a chainsaw that was found lying nearby. 

Prosecutors confirmed one of the deaths was a homicide while the other is under investigation. Officials also say they are not searching for any suspects in the case.

Police are not identifying the couple pending the notification of all family members.

Aside from their 14-year-old son, the couple had two other children who were not in the home when they were found dead. Eric Carswell, the pastor of Bryn Athyn Church, was teaching religion class to one of the children when the school learned about the incident.

"This is not what we would wish for anybody," Carswell said. "I'm very grateful for a sense that the boys have an extended family that is really taking good care of them."

Friends of the victims gathered at Bryn Athyn Cathedral Tuesday night for a prayer vigil.

Friends also told NBC10 there were problems in the couple's marriage.

"I knew they had some complications with their marriage," Shallcross said. "But a lot of marriages do. Most marriages do I'm sure."

An autopsy on the couple is scheduled for Wednesday.

<![CDATA[Cubs: Wrigley Will be Ready for Opening Day]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:35:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/222*120/wrigley+field+construction.jpg

The Chicago Cubs said Tuesday that work on Wrigley Field's bleachers remains on track and that the field will be ready for their home opener on Sunday.

"We're going to be ready for baseball April 5th," said Cubs spokesperson Julian Green. 

Officials said the left field video board will make its baseball debut Sunday along with a Budweiser sign in right field, which is expected to eventually be moved above a right field video board. 

Green said work on the field's bleachers is expected to wrap up later this year, with the left field  bleachers slated to open in May and right field bleachers by mid-June. 

As for season ticket holders in those sections, Green said they have temporarily been relocated into the grand stands while work continues.

"Given April baseball, not a lot of people coming to the ballpark, school is still in session, it's still kind of cold outside and so we have more than enough space to accommodate those season tickets holders," he said.

Another concern for the ballpark on opening day is parking. 

Besides Waveland being shut down to all traffic and Clark Street down to just one lane in each direction, parking lots have also been reduced because of the construction. 

"We’re encouraging public transportation, riding a bike, taking taxis, that’s the best way to get to the ballpark," Green said. "It’s always been the best way to get to the ballpark."

The construction update comes after Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts told reporters the renovation of the 101-year-old ballpark could take an extra year to complete.

The project began this offseason with a complete overhaul of the bleachers to help pave the way for two video boards and new advertising signage in the outfield. An unusually early start to winter put the Cubs behind the eight-ball on the project.

The opening night game wil take place on April 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals and will be nationally televised even with the unfinished bleachers as a backdrop.

Photo Credit: Sky5/NBCChicago]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Named Among Worst Cities for Traffic]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:37:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+traffic+getty.jpg

Driving in Chicago can be a real headache.

A new study released by the navigation company TomTom shows Chicago is the eighth worst city in the country when it comes to traffic congestion.

Let's say the average Chicago driver has a 30-minute commute without traffic. When factoring in traffic, that commute becomes 50 minutes, according to TomTom. That means Chicagoans spend an average of 78 hours each year waiting in traffic.

The best way to avoid waiting in traffic is to take the highway instead of city streets, according to TomTom's data. The average congestion level on "non-highways" is 32 percent. On highways, however, it's only 21 percent.

Not surprisingly, traffic congestion is worst during peak rush hour times in the morning and evening on weekdays. The study showed that these rush hour times are not all equal, however.

The worst times for commuting are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings and Thursday evenings. The best times are Friday mornings and Monday evenings.

Despite its poor domestic ranking, Chicago is not among the worst cities for traffic in the world, like Los Angeles.

The study ranked the top 10 worst cities in the world in addition to the top five worst cities in the U.S. Los Angeles took the No. 1 spot on the U.S. list and was the only U.S. city to land a spot on the world list, where it came in at No. 10. Chicago falls at No. 72 out of more than 200 cities in the world.

The worst U.S. cities for traffic are, in order,  Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, New York and Seattle, according to TomTom.

The top 10 cities in the world for worst traffic are Istanbul, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Salvador (Brazil), Recife (Brazil), Saint Petersburg, Bucharest, Warsaw and Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Kids Among 6 Killed in Fiery S.C. Crash]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:00:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/south+carolina+wreck.jpg

Three children from Chicago and a man from Illinois were among those killed in a fiery crash in South Carolina this month, officials said Monday.

Aliyah Sarai Vemira Simpkins, 3, Rachael Naomi Simpkins, 6, and LesLeigh Robin Natalie Simpkins, 4 were among at least six victims killed in the tragic crash on March 19, according to NBC affiliate WYFF.

Officials said the crash happened around 10 p.m. on Interstate 26 near exit 41. The initial accident involved two cars, but later included motorists who stopped to help the victims of the wreck and a tractor trailer that then caught fire.

"You just see twisted metal. You see the front of a car that looks like it was totally separated from the other part of the car. I didn't even see the cab of the 18-wheeler," witness Johnathan Bass told WYFF. "I just saw the box of the 18- wheeler. I don't even have a clue where the cab of the 18-wheeler went."

Jermy Sonic Givens-Reedus, 29, of Illinois, Brandon Levoy Robert Simpkins, 30, of North Augusta, South Carolina, and Kollen Edward Stacker, of Gaffney, South Carolina were also killed in the crash.

Givens-Reedus and Brandon Simpkins were in a car hit by the tractor trailer and Stacker was a good Samaritan who got out of his vehicle to help the victims in the crash.

The coroner’s office reportedly said it took 11 days to identify the six victims. Several others were injured in the crash.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the children's mother pay for their funerals.

Photo Credit: WYFF]]>
<![CDATA[Installation Begins for Wrigley Field Jumbotron]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:14:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011714562_1200x675_420680771720.jpg Aerial footage shows the the jumbotron at Wrigley Field being installed as part of the field's major construction project.]]> <![CDATA[Caught on Camera: Peregrine Falcon Hangs Out on Top of NBC5]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:48:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011714394_1200x675_420708931670.jpg A peregrine falcon visited the NBC5 tower camera Tuesday morning, giving viewers an up close and personal look at the bird.]]> <![CDATA[Boy Sexually Abused in Gold Coast: Police]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 22:31:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-police11.jpg

Police issued a community alert to residents of Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood Tuesday after a man allegedly sexually abused a 14-year-old boy.

Officials say a man approached the teenager around 5:35 p.m. Monday on the 100 block of W. Chesnut. After striking a conversation with the boy, the man lured him into a parking garage stairwell and exposed himself to him, according to police.

The man is approximately 150 pounds and in his early twenties, police say, and is described as being 5 feet, 4 inches tall with a goatee and a horizontal scar across his nose.

Police have asked anyone with further information to contact the Area Central Bureau of Detectives at (312) 747-8380.

Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Crashes Into Store; 1 Dead]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 23:07:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/TRUCK-SYLVIA.jpg

One person was killed and seven others were injured Tuesday after a driver crashed a truck into a store in Fort Worth while fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run crash, police say.

Officials investigating the crash said the driver, identified as 19-year-old Isaac Adams, was first involved in a minor crash at Riverside Drive and U.S. Highway 287.

“Yeah, he did stop,” said Bobby Washington, the driver into whom Adams reportedly first crashed. “At the time it seemed like they were on something, you know? It seemed they wasn’t in their right mind.”

After informing Adams he intended to call police, Washington said Adams and his passenger ran back to their truck and sped away.

As Washington called 911 and followed in an attempt to track the man down, Adams raced away on Riverside Drive at speeds of up to 100 mph, officials said.

Adams then lost control of his truck and crashed into the Star Food Mart near the intersection of Riverside Drive and East Lancaster Avenue, trapping several people.

Fort Worth firefighters arrived and began working to free the trapped victims while also stabilizing the building. At one point, firefighters used a fire truck to pull the pickup from the building, freeing a woman who was trapped.

Employees at neighboring businesses rushed to the scene to help the victims and worked to remove some of the debris. Nearby construction workers were able to quickly shut off the electricity to the building since electrical wires were exposed.

One of the eight injured was a woman trapped by the truck who had to be extricated by firefighters.

She has been identified as 24-year-old Sylvia Zazueta. She was transported to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth in critical condition, but did not survive her injuries.

Zazueta was married with three children.

Don Jones, a cook who was working in the back of the store preparing hot food, was able to walk away with barely a scratch.

“Just a big boom and glass shattering,” Jones said. “Then all I saw was dust and a truck sitting in the store.”

“I thought, ‘My God, what happened?’” Jones said.

Seven other patients were transported to area hospitals with minor injuries; three were transported to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth and four to JPS. One of the injured was a passenger in the truck, the other was the driver who was transported to JPS for treatment.

Fort Worth police confirmed to NBC 5 they believe Adams was under the influence of a narcotic. He now faces several charges, including intoxication manslaughter.

Family of Victim Pulls Together

The mother of Sylvia Zazueta said Tuesday she’s devastated by the loss and what it means to her grandchildren.

Laticia Galdiano said she was with her daughter and two of her grandchildren inside the family’s car at the Star Food Mart, while Zazueta went inside to buy a drink for her son and pay for gas.

Galdiano said her daughter stayed home with the children — ages 8, 4 and 8 months — while her husband worked two jobs.

Zazueta’s daughter, 8-year-old Analisa, asked to speak to NBC 5 about her mother.

“She didn't leave us. Where ever she would go, she would take us,” said Analisa.

Zazueta’s grandfather, Elizardo Quinones, said she brought joy to the world.

With time, he says, he may forgive the driver responsible for the crash.

“We are all human beings. We make mistakes, and with time, I might forgive him. But now, I can't,” said Quinones.

NBC 5's Holley Ford, Chris Van Horne, Jocelyn Lockwood, Ben Russell and Bianca Castro contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Fort Worth Fire Dept. and Facebook
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<![CDATA[Cop's Degrading Tirade Against Uber Driver Probed]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:49:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/uber+rant.jpg

The NYPD says the Civilian Complaint Review Board has taken over the investigation into a video that appears to show a police officer verbally abusing an Uber driver in an at-times xenophobic roadside tirade in the West Village Monday.

Police confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that the plain-clothed man seen screaming in the now viral video is a member of the NYPD, but they did not identify him. A spokesman said the department is "aware of the incident and video and it is under review."

The NYPD later said that the CCRB, an independent city agency with subpoena power, has taken over the investigation. 

The video was posted to YouTube by Sanjay Seth, one of the passengers in the Uber car. According to Seth's YouTube post, his Uber driver honked his car horn at the officer later seen screaming in the video because the officer was trying to park on a Sixth Precinct street in the middle of the afternoon without using any blinkers or hazard lights, and the Uber driver's path to a green light was blocked.

The officer, seen wearing a green tie and blue shirt at points in the passenger video, got out of his unmarked car, which had flashing blue and red lights on the dashboard, and flagged down the Uber driver.

The three-minute video begins as the officer approaches the Uber driver's window and starts yelling at the driver, raising his voice over the Uber driver's muted apologies and efforts to interject.

"Stop it with your mouth, stop it with your, 'For what, sir,'" the officer is heard saying in the video as he curses. "Stop it with that ... and realize the three vehicle and traffic law violations you committed."

"You understand me? I don't know what [epithet] planet you think you're on right now," the officer yells, making fun of the Uber driver's accent.

The officer then slams the hood of the Uber car and walks away; the Uber driver tries to apologize to his passengers, who tell him it was not his fault and inform him a video of the exchange was recorded. One of the passengers said it appeared the officer was on a "power trip;" the other called the man's behavior "really inappropriate."

The officer returns to the Uber car about 90 seconds after slamming the hood and storming off, the video shows, and continues to curse at and belittle the driver. The driver keeps trying to dissolve the situation with respectful apologies. Then the officer goes off on him. 

"I don't know where you're coming from or where you think you're appropriate in doing that," the man yells, apparently in reference to the car honk from earlier. "That's not the way it works. How long have you been in this country?"

"Almost how long? Two years?" the officer yells after the driver whispers a response. "I got news for you and use this lesson: Don't ever do that again. The only reason you're not in handcuffs going to jail and getting summonses in the precinct is because I have things to do."

"That's the only reason that's not happening, because this isn't important enough to me, you're not important enough," he says.

The officer turns toward the passengers in the back seat, asks if they are fares and says something about the Uber driver wasting their days, too. The officer hands the driver some kind of piece of paper that looks like a ticket and leaves as the passenger cellphone video pans to the flashing lights on the dashboard of his vehicle, parked behind the Uber car. 

Seth posted video of the exchange on multiple social media accounts. On his Facebook page, he wrote, "Our Uber driver, Humayun, was abused by a police officer today in New York. The rage, door slamming, throwing items into the car, threatening arrest without cause was bad enough -- but the officer's remarks at the end really took it to another level."

Seth wrote on Facebook that he reported the exchange to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. According to his profile, Seth works at a nonprofit in the city and used to work for the parks department.

Asked about the exchange by NBC 4 New York, Seth wrote, "This very unfortunate incident is between the driver, Uber, the officer, and the relevant authorities."

Uber called the behavior in the video "wrong" and "unacceptable," and said it appreciated the NYPD investigating.

"We are in touch with our driver-partner who was subjected to this terrible experience and will continue to provide any support he needs," Matthew Wing, a spokesman for the ride share company, said. 

The CCRB handles complaints about four kinds of alleged police misconduct: force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language. 

Photo Credit: Sanjay Seth]]>
<![CDATA[USC Athletic Director Stands Behind Gay Son, Refuses to Head to Indy in Response to Religious Freedom Bill]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:28:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/134210519.jpg

USC athletic director Pat Haden says he won’t be heading to Indianapolis this week for the College Football Playoff selection committee meeting in response to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign the widely-protested “Religious Freedom” bill.

“I am the proud father of a gay son,” Haden wrote to his 17,000 followers on Twitter Tuesday. “In his honor, I will not be attending the CFP committee meeting in Indy this week. #EmbraceDiversity”

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state.

The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

Pence, on the other hand, says the bill he signed into law week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but on Tuesday announced that he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Man Carved Name on Girlfriend: DA]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:07:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/3-31-2015-Mendoza.jpg

A California man accused of using a razor blade to carve his name onto his girlfriend's chest was arraigned Monday on kidnapping and domestic battery charges, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Sergio Joaquin Mendoza, 25, was arrested after allegedly abusing the woman on numerous occasions between March 17 and 20, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

The DA's office had first reported Mendoza was 39 years old but corrected his age to 25.

The Santa Ana man was charged with a felony count of kidnapping, a felony count of criminal threats, two felony counts of domestic battery with corporal injury, and a sentencing enhancement for personal use of a deadly weapon, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.

Mendoza allegedly got into multiple verbal fights with the victim and punched her on several occasions, prosecutors said. He is also accused of making her sit in his car while he was at work under the threat of violence.

On March 22, he allegedly tried to stop her from leaving a relative's house where he was staying, only allowing it on the condition she let him carve his name on her body, the DA's office said. Mendoza then used a razor blade to cut his first name on onto her chest, according to prosecutors. 

That evening he allegedly forced her into his vehicle, then drove around Santa Ana while threatening to hurt her if she tried to leave, according to the district attorney's office. The next day, he allegedly punched her on the head, attempted to strangle her and head-butted her in the face, prosecutors claim.

Eventually, she managed to escape, with an employee calling police after she ran into a local business. Mendoza was arrested March 26, prosecutors said.

Mendoza is being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on April 8. He faces a maximum sentence of 11 years and eight months in state prison if convicted.

It was not immediately clear whether he obtained an attorney.

<![CDATA[Union Alleges CTA Violated Free Speech Rights]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:25:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CTA-sign.jpg


A Chicago Transit Authority union has accused the CTA of illegally banning the sharing of mayoral election-related literature between workers, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The Amalgamated Transit Union, which endorsed mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and represents more than 10,000 CTA employees, accused the CTA of “violating the First Amendment rights of transit workers.”
A statement by the ATU claims that the CTA posted memos in bus garages and rail terminals barring employees from “communications normally protected by the First Amendment.” The union also states that the CTA’s General Counsel wrote letters warning of possible fines issued if off-duty workers hand out election-related literature to co-workers in non-work areas of CTA property.
CTA Spokesman Brian Steele says the ATU is “alone” among the unions representing CTA workers.
“[The ATU is] seeking to violate long-standing state laws that prohibit political activities on government property and government time at taxpayer expense,” Steele said. “The laws clearly state the activity ATU is proposing is prohibited because of its political nature, and the law is clear that political activity – regardless of who it is for or against – is prohibited.”

<![CDATA[AP Exam Participation on the Rise for U.S. Public School Students: Report ]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:38:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pencil-569703561.jpg

Already sharpening No. 2 pencils and flipping through those flashcards in anticipation of Advanced Placement exam season? You're not alone.

More than 1.4 million public school students took AP exams last year, a 3.8 percent increase from the previous year, according to figured released by the College Board. While the figures for public school population for 11th and 12th graders was not readily available, the College Board reports that roughly 3 million students graduated in 2013.

With the increase in participation came an uptick in students passing the exams, which cover subjects like physics, foreign languages and U.S. history. The success of the nation’s 11th and 12th grade public school students has doubled in the past decade, from 7.6 percent in 2004 to 13.2 percent in 2014, according to the College Board.

About 400,000 minority students took the exams last year, a 7 percent increase for a group that was historically underrepresented in the demographic breakdown of text-takers. Hispanic students are now participating in the AP program at almost the same rate as the nation overall — 19.1 percent of Hispanic students took an AP Exam in 2014, compared to a nationwide figure of 21.9 percent. 

Despite those gains, gaps are still evident for other minority groups. Only 12.9 percent of African American and 12 percent of Native American 11th and 12th grade public high school students took an AP test in May 2014, according to the College Board.

College Board also reported a rise in participation among low-income students. About 350,000 low-income students took an AP exam last year, a 7.3 percent rise. The number of students that use fee reductions in order to take AP exams has climbed as well, doubling from 2004 from 11.8 to 24 percent.

For 2014, Washington D.C. topped the charts for participation with 38.6 percent of students who took the AP exam. North Dakota came in last with only 8.1 percent. However, when it came to actually passing the exam, Maryland was the winner with 22 percent of their students gaining the college credit, while Mississippi was at the bottom of the list with only 3.2 percent of students passing. Overall, 15 states exceeded the national average of 13.2 percent.

A lot rides on a passing grade on an AP exam. A student who receives a passing grade may not have to take the same class in college, which can save money as college tuitions continue to rise.

On average, a student who passes two AP exams saves $1,779 at a public college and more than $6,000 at a private school, according to the 2013 College Board report “Trends in College pricing.” In order to pass an AP exam, a student has to score at least a 3 out of 5.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Alinea Crowned Best Restaurant in World]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:02:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/alinea1.jpg

For the fourth consecutive year, Chicago’s Alinea has beat out every other restaurant in the world to be crowned the very best by Elite Traveler readers.

“There’s always that underlying understanding that anything less than number one is not what we want to be,” owner and executive chef Grant Achatz told the magazine.

Luckily, anything less than number one is not often where he finds himself.

Achatz credits the constant evolution of dishes that “surprise and confound the senses” for the restaurant’s success and world-renowned fame over the past 10 years since its opening.

“There’s always that constant curiosity and excitement to come up with something new – a new dish, a new technique, a new way to plate the food, a new service to use – that’s just kind of built into our fabric,” he said in the same interview.

The only other Chicago-based restaurant to make the top 100 list, a compilation of votes from foodies, was another Achatz establishment – Next.

The publication calls Next a “game-changing sister” to Alinea.

“Based on an innovative concept menu format, Next’s offering is overhauled three times annually, providing diners with the chance to experience a brand new culinary adventure on every visit,” they write.

Photo Credit: Alinea]]>
<![CDATA[12 Students Injured When Bus, Ambulance Collide]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:58:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/040115-nws-busaccident6.jpg

Twelve students were reportedly injured Tuesday morning when a school bus and an ambulance collided in northwest Indiana.

The accident happened just before 8:45 a.m. on Ind. 130 at County Road 625 West when the driver of a Superior Ambulance Service ambulance carrying a patient crashed into a Valpraiso Community Schools bus, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.

Police reportedly said the 23-year-old driver of the ambulance, who failed to yield the right of way to the bus, was driving with a suspended license.

Officials said of the 12 students who were injured in the crash, one was taken to Porter Regional Hospital, five to Porter’s Portage Hospital Campus and six were treated and released at the scene. All of the injuries to the students were minor, the NWI Times reported.

Two Superior Ambulance employees and a patient in the ambulance were also taken to local hospitals, but their conditions weren’t immediately known.

The bus was carrying 59 fifth-graders from Memorial Elementary School and three adults who were on a field trip en route to the Challenger Learning Center at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, officials said.

Witnesses told police the ambulance had no emergency lights or sirens operating at the time of the crash, the NWI Times reported. Police said the driver faces multiple citations.

Superior Ambulance could not immediately be reached for comment.

Photo Credit: Times of Northwest Indiana]]>
<![CDATA[How You Can Play Pac-Man on Chicago Streets in Google Maps]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:46:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/google+maps+pacman+in+wicker+park.jpg

Forget the arcade. Google Maps has turned the streets of your neighborhood into a Pac-Man game of its own.

Every year on or around April Fools' Day, Google unleashes a new stunt. Last year, you could play the ultimate "Pokemon Challenge" and search for Pokemon all over the world on Google Maps. This year, you can choose "Pac-Man view" in leiu of "street view" and play the game right there.

When you open Google Maps, you can type in any address in the world. Once Google takes you to your destination, click on the Pac-Man icon in the lower left-hand corner to play the game.

Playing Pac-Man on Chicago's streets is relatively straightforward because of the grid system. But try playing in Tokyo or Lisbon, for example, and it becomes a little trickier to navigate the winding streets.

If the address you type into Google Maps does not have enough roads to power a Pac-Man game, you can click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, which will take you somewhere else in the world.

<![CDATA[Potential Bears Draft Targets: Randy Gregory]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:03:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/11+Randy+Gregory.jpg

We are currently profiling 10 of the players that the Chicago Bears could be eye-balling with the number seven overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. We’ll be evaluating where they would fit in with the Bears, what teams could potentially pick them off ahead of Chicago, and ultimately whether or not we feel the Bears should take them.

So as not to spoil our mock draft, we’ll go alphabetically through the list, and today that leads us to University of Nebraska defensive end/outside linebacker Randy Gregory.

The Details:

Injured for a good chunk of his college career, Gregory nonetheless has scouts talking as the NFL Draft approaches. In his final season with the Cornhuskers the defensive end racked up six and a half sacks and a total of 54 tackles, and he continued to impress with his speed and athleticism off the snap. His quick feet are touted often by scouts, and he is one of the best hand-fighters at this draft, able to prevent linemen from locking onto him cleanly at the line of scrimmage.

What He’d Bring to the Bears:

The Bears are looking for athletic defensive ends, and Gregory would definitely fit that bill. He is a bit undersized for the position, so odds are that he would alternate between defensive end in 4-3 sets and outside linebacker in 3-4 sets. The latter role is especially appealing to the Bears, especially if Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston don’t work out at the position.

Other Teams That Could Target Him:

The Oakland Raiders are one of the teams that could look for pass rush help, but they’ll likely go wide receiver if Amari Cooper is available at that position. That would leave Washington and New York as potential options, but if Dante Fowler, Jr. is available, then it’s more likely that he would be drafted than Gregory.

Should the Bears Take Him?

If the Bears are going to draft a defensive end, we’d like to see someone a bit more polished and more of a complete product than Gregory is. He still has to gain strength in order to be effective at the NFL level, and we’re a bit put off by his low weight. Add in the fact that he failed a drug test at the NFL Combine, and you can easily question whether or not he has the dedication to make it in this league.

Some may dismiss it as a rookie mistake, but when you know you’re going to be tested for drugs, it doesn’t reflect well on you to fail the test.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Quenneville Hints at "Good News" Regarding Kane's Injury]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:22:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*121/464523260.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks have won their last two games to help vault them back into serious discussion about a Central Division title run, but the news could get even better as Patrick Kane continues to make progress after suffering a broken clavicle in late February.

“There’s been excellent progress,” head coach Joel Quenneville said before last night’s game. “It could be good news. We’ll see.”

While that’s far from a hint that Kane will be back on the ice in the near future, it is good news for a team that has struggled offensively without him. In the 15 games that Kane has been out, the Blackhawks have only scored three or more goals on seven occasions, and they have been shut out three different times. In that span, they are averaging just 2.4 goals per game, and as a result they have been putting extra pressure on their already shaky defense and on Corey Crawford in net.

Even with those factors in place, the Blackhawks have to be careful not to allow Kane to rush himself back. Collarbone injuries are delicate and take some time to heal, and letting Kane come back and take contact is something that has to be weighed carefully before it takes place. As evidenced by Monday’s game against the Kings, which saw the Blackhawks hit repeatedly all over the ice, games are only going to continue getting more physical from here, and even though Kane is adept at avoiding checks, teams will want to test his resiliency early and often when he does get back onto the ice.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How Accurate Are Mayoral Polls?]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:08:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm+and+chuy+2+getty.jpg

It looks like Mayor Rahm Emanuel is headed for a victory on April 7, according to the latest poll results at least.

But how much stock should we put in the polls?

Both Ogden and Fry and the Chicago Tribune have conducted regular polls for the mayoral race both before and after the Feb. 24. election. Their results are not the same, but both show that Emanuel has gained a significant lead over Garcia in the past few weeks.

The Chicago Tribune released its latest poll results Tuesday showing Emanuel with 58 percent of voters and Garcia with only 30 percent. Another 9 percent were undecided. In the newspaper's March 6-11 poll, the mayor had 51 percent, while Garcia had 37 percent.

Ogden and Fry's results are slightly more conservative. Their latest numbers, released Sunday, show Emanuel with 47.6 percent of the vote and Garcia with 34.2 percent, factoring in the undecided voters.

The weekly Ogden and Fry polls have shown Emanuel with a significant lead since March 15. The poll immediately before that, however, painted a more bleak picture for the mayor. Emanuel held only 43.5 percent of the vote to Garcia's 38 percent.

More than anything, the polls reflect Emanuel's amped up ad game in the last few weeks. But although the numbers bode well for Emanuel, it does not guarantee him a victory.

Here's why.

Both polls showed Emanuel with a greater lead before the Feb. 24 election than he actually achieved. The mayor's numbers were relatively accurate, but Garcia's supporters came through in the actual election where they didn't in the polls.

The last Chicago Tribune poll before the Feb. 24 election showed Emanuel with 45 percent and Garcia with 20 percent. On Election Day, however, Emanuel gained only one point, but Garcia surged to 34 percent.

Likewise, in the Ogden and Fry poll just before the February election, Emanuel held 48.3 percent of the vote to Garcia's 26.5 percent.

Mike Fourcher, of Aldertrack, also makes a case for Garcia gaining significant ground at the last minute. In an analysis about poll results Tuesday, Fourcher points out Garcia's confidence in his ground game with union members and community groups going door to door and bringing supporters to the polls.

In another strike against the mayor, Fourcher highlights the wealthier demographic of Emanuel's supporters, who are more likely to be out of town for Spring Break on Election Day.

The determining factor for the mayoral race is most likely the early vote. While the polls indicate the success of each candidate's campaign moves, what really matters is who turns up to vote.

Despite the record early voting numbers and trends in recent polls, as Fourcher says, it's probably still too early to call this race.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sign Asks Joggers to "Stop Pooping" Along Trail]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:05:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ss3-31-15-1.jpg

To whoever has been pooping on the public bike path in Hampton, Illinois – please stop, officials have asked.

“Stop pooping on bike path,” read two new signs along the trail. And no, it’s not a message directed towards pets.

Apparently joggers who poop along the path have been an increasing problem for Hampton over the past two years, the city’s Public Works supervisor Scott McKay told NBC station KWQC.

"When the individual does it, it does it right in the lane. It’s not on the center line. It’s not off on the grass," he said. 

McKay said there's certainty the act is done by a human and not an animal because the culprit adorns it with toilet paper and leaves the same footprints.

So now he's taken matters into his own hands. In case the runners were under the guise that it was okay to use Mother Nature’s open roadways as their personal toilet, they now have a friendly reminder educating them otherwise.

McKay said he hopes the signs solve the problem.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Liou/KWQC]]>
<![CDATA[Firefighter Injured While Battling Pilsen Fire]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 05:22:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fire-1300-cullerton-1.jpg

A firefighter was injured while working on an extra-alarm fire in the Pilsen neighborhood on the South Side early Tuesday.

The fire at the vacant building in the 1300 block of West Cullerton Street was first reported about 3 a.m. and was upgraded to a two-alarm blaze 20 minutes later, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Joe Roccasalva.

Flames were on all floors of the three-story building, Roccasalva said. By 4 a.m. five hoses were being used to douse the blaze.

A firefighter sustained a minor injury, but more details were not immediately released, according to a tweet from Fire Media Media affairs.

The fire was mostly extinguished by 4:15 a.m., but firefighters were chasing remaining "hot spots," including one on the roof.

Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Suburban High School Students Arrested for Filming Porn]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:37:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_twitter_generic.jpg

Four southwest suburban Chicago high school students have been arrested on child pornography charges after filming themselves in a sex tape and posting it online, police said.

The teenagers, all students at Joliet Central High School, were taken into custody Friday from the school after a parent tipped off the police about the video, The Times Weekly reported.

The students, three males and one female, ranged from the ages of 14 to 16 years old, officials say.

Joliet Deputy Chief Al Roechner told the publication the sex was consensual but the teens crossed a “serious line” when they posted it to a Twitter account. Doing so is creating and distributing child pornography, which is a Class X felony.

The video has since been removed.

As of Monday evening, all four students remained in custody at the River Valley Juvenile Detention center, according to The Times Weekly.

<![CDATA[River North Motorist Drives Off From Back of Tow Truck]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:50:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/223*120/Tow+Truck.jpg

Chicago resident Tony Marengo says he is used to seeing vehicles get towed out of the Walgreen’s parking lot across from his River North apartment at Clark and Ontario – but never with a driver still behind the wheel of the car.

Marengo said he was at home around 8:30 p.m. Sunday when he heard loud yelling from outside. When he went to the window, he saw a tow truck traveling with a white jeep on the back.

Seems normal, but soon he noticed the yelling was coming from inside of the car being towed – the driver was still inside.

“We could hear the guy in the driver’s seat of the car yelling out of the window,” Marengo said.

“He was like, ‘Hey! Hey! Hey, buddy!’” he said of the frantic driver trying to get the tow truck operator’s attention.

Marengo says it was then that the tow truck finally pulled over to the side of the road. And once he did, he was the one in for the surprise – as the man behind the Jeep put his car in drive and sped off.

“It was crazy,” said Marengo, who is CEO and President of Chicago-based Company The MacTutor, Inc. “Then he was just sitting there, I imagine calling a supervisor or something.”

Marengo captured the whole ordeal on his phone and uploaded the video to his YouTube account. It has garnered nearly 10,000 views in less than 24 hours.

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<![CDATA[Jesus Chuy Garcia's Attack on Rahm Emanuel's "Trickle-Down" Economics grows sharper]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:51:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm+chuy+cand+forum.jpg

In a speech given at the City Club of Chicago Monday, Cook County Commissioner and mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia attacked incumbent Rahm Emanuel as a Reagan-esque advocate of “trickle-down” economics, who is also more focused on possible future national office than he is on solving Chicago’s problems.

“Chicago is becoming a city of the very rich and the very poor with fewer and fewer people in between,” Garcia said. “We’re becoming a city with glittering buildings surrounded by crumbling neighborhoods. A city with the finest restaurants, surrounded by communities full of people who can’t afford a decent meal. A city with some job growth in a small area downtown, surrounded by a vast area where unemployment rates are 25 to 30 percent. A city with fancy shopping areas surrounded by other areas with boarded-up business districts.” 

The implications of those told facts is that mayor Emanuel is heavily to blame for at least not attempting to reverse those trends in Chicago. It is interesting that these attacks, perhaps Garcia’s most pointed and eloquently specific of the campaign, came not during one of the previous three head-to-head debates with Emanuel that were televised city-wide, but instead in front of a relatively small audience inside one of downtown Chicago’s longest-running symbols of exclusivity and wealth.
Perhaps Garcia will hit these points, in particular, during the final head-to-head debate with Emanuel. It would appear to be a good idea.
In last week’s debate televised on Fox 32, Garcia all too often let out incredulous chuckles in reaction to claims made by Emanuel, instead of letting those outside of his own choir in on the joke and elucidating what about the mayor’s comments and record he found so preposterous and offensive.  
Though he hasn’t detailed how, specifically, he’d reform the city’s use of TIF districts, Garcia at least was sharper than ever in his criticism of the unfair way they are currently appropriated, Monday. “Nearly half of the city’s TIF money, 48 percent to be exact, has gone to an area that stretches roughly from the Gold Coast on the north to McCormick Center to the south, and from the United Center on the west to the lake,” he said.
“In other words, our TIF money goes downtown. These locations contain just 11 percent of Chicago’s population and 5 percent of the geographical area. But they’ve gotten half of the $1.3 billion in TIF money the mayor has passed out since he’s taken office.
“The mayor of Chicago is spending TIF money in the exact opposite way that it’s supposed to be spent after promising not to do it. It’s Robin Hood, in the reverse. It’s been going on for years.”
Criticisms from Garcia that the way Chicago has long done business, including under Emanuel for the past four years, is largely broken and inequitable is on-point. Unfortunately for the challenger, he’s not giving many more specific alternative plans to the mayor’s own vague and potentially misleading ones.
As the incumbent, Emanuel has largely relied on a cautious strategy based on the notion that even dissatisfied voters will be uneasy voting for a relative unknown who doesn’t have executive government experience. As challenger, Garcia has chosen his own version of an equally conservative approach that relies on the idea that voters will be so upset with the incumbent over the city’s decline and financial peril that he doesn’t need to actually propose specific plans of his own that make better sense (and math) than the mayor’s.
Both approaches have been almost entirely negative and not inspiring in the least. As long as he’s content to ride a wave of disappointment in Emanuel, it’s at least good to see Garcia finally hitting a bit harder and tighter. 

<![CDATA[Pence: We'll Fix "Perception" Problem of New Law]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:55:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pence-presser-468206814.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday said a bill he signed into law week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but said he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters during a morning press conference from Indianapolis.

The Republican reiterated earlier comments that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to discriminate but to protect religious freedom. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law alleged it could provide some businesses the opportunity to refuse providing services or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

Pence said he found that claim "offensive," and called upon the state's General Assembly to address the issue.

"This law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," he said. "The intent of the law was to give the courts in our state the highest level of scrutiny in cases where people feel that their religious liberty is being infringed upon by government action."

His comments Tuesday were a follow-up to an op-ed piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal that the law was not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Monday a Perfect Storm for Blackhawks' Playoff Seeding]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:20:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/177*120/468182706.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks went into Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings with a good opportunity to not only make up some ground in the Central Division race, but they also had an opportunity to make a big statement against the defending Stanley Cup champions in a tough second game of a back-to-back set.

They accomplished both of those goals and more thanks to their performance in the game, a 4-1 victory that saw them play excellent hockey on both ends of the ice. Their offense churned out some excellent opportunities, their defense played much better than it has in previous games, and goaltender Scott Darling turned in a solid effort in the rare moments that he was seriously tested.

For the Blackhawks, the win was a good moment after a couple of bad losses last week, but it represented something far better than that as the team managed to get a perfect storm of results to help their playoff standing. The Calgary Flames took care of the Dallas Stars in a 5-3 victory, pushing themselves to three points ahead of the Kings for third place in the Pacific Division. The Hawks also got some great news when the St. Louis Blues dropped a 4-1 decision to the Vancouver Canucks, leaving Chicago just one point behind the Blues for second place in the Central Division.

As things stand right now, the Blackhawks are four points behind the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the division, with one game in hand on their rivals from Tennessee. They don’t have another game left against the Predators during the regular season, but they shouldn’t hope for much help. The Predators only have two games left against teams that are in playoff contention, and they also have two games remaining against the Dallas Stars before the end of the season.

For the Blackhawks, the thing that they have to immediately focus on is getting three more points in the standings. Even if the Kings were to win out in that scenario, three more points would be enough to clinch a playoff berth for the Hawks, and with games left on the docket against the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche, that would seem to be well within reach.

After actually clinching a spot, the Hawks have a great chance to try to overtake the Blues for second place in the Central, as the two teams have two games remaining against each other this season. The two teams have played each other three times so far this season, with the Hawks taking two of the first three meetings.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Should Cubs Have Moved Home Opener?]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:08:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/flash+survey+new.jpg

Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said last week the renovation project will take an extra year. The team's home opener is Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.


<![CDATA[Indiana's Religious Freedom Law: Who Opposes, Favors]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:45:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mike-pence-protests-split.jpg

Indiana’s new religious freedom law provoked fierce reaction from both sides — critics who believe it provides a poorly disguised excuse to discriminate against gays and lesbians and supporters who say it protects religious beliefs.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the law last week and but the backlash was so widespread that on Tuesday he called for additional legislation this week to clarify that the law was not a license to discriminate.  He continued to insist that the bill had been mischaracterized and did not permit the denial of services to anyone, including gays and lesbians.

"Heavens no," he said, when he asked whether he expected the reaction.

The federal government and 20 other states have similar religious protection laws but some legal experts say the Indiana law broadened who could claim a religious burden and under what circumstances. Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws.

Here’s a look at who has been speaking out about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Those Speaking Out Against the Law

The head of the NCAA told NBC News on Monday that he was "deeply concerned" about the Indiana law. Indianapolis hosts the Final Four in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's men's basketball tournament on Saturday.

The chief executives of nine major Indiana-based companies wrote to Pence on Monday saying they were worried about their own employees and the reputation of Indiana. Among the companies: Angie’s List, Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Eli Lilly and Co. and Roche Diagnostics.

Salesforce, the cloud computing company, said it was canceling all company travel to Indiana and in a Washington Post op-ed, Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is gay, called the new wave of legislation dangerous.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce called the law unnecessary.

AFSCME, the country’s largest public-employee union, said it would move a planned women's conference out of Indianapolis this year because of the law.

Among politicians, Hillary Clinton, widely expected to run for the Democratic 2016 presidential nomination, tweeted: "Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today."

Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut signed an executive order banning state-backed travel to Indiana, and called the law “disturbing, disgraceful, and outright discriminatory.” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle also restricted government-sponsored travel to the state.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, told Fusion that Pence was on the wrong side of history.

Entertainers also took stands against the law.

The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance.

"Parks and Recreation" star Nick Offerman canceled a comedy show in Indianapolis in May, citing the new law. But he said he would go forward with a show Wednesday at Indiana University and donate the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign.

Supporting Indiana's Law

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, said Pence was protecting religious liberty. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is weighing a run for the Republican nomination for the presidency, said on Fox News that he thought people should be allowed to live out their religious faith.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another likely Republican candidate, said the law would allow people of faith to express their beliefs. Speaking on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, he said that once the facts were established, he thought people would see that the law was not discriminatory.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Krishnamoorthi Launches Campaign to Replace Duckworth]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:14:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/RajaKrishnamoorthiTammyDuckworth.jpg

Raja Krishnamoorthi announced Tuesday that he plans to seek another run for U.S. Congress.

The former Deputy State Treasurer who made unsuccessful runs for comptroller in 2010 and Illinois' 8th Congressional seat in 2012 announced Tuesday his campaign to replace Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

Duckworth announced Monday her candidacy to challenge Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016.

"Tammy has been an excellent Representative for this district," Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, said in a statement. "I want to continue Tammy’s advocacy for working families, with a focus on helping more people to succeed in the new economy. I will work hard to provide education and job opportunities so more families can achieve the economic security they need."

Krishnamoorthi, 41, is the president of Sivananthan Labs and Episolar, Inc., a collection of small businesses that sell products in the national security and renewable energy industries, and a co-founder of InSPIRE, a non-profit organization that provides training in solar technology to Illinois students and veterans. 

“In our rapidly changing global economy, the ability of working families to reach and hold onto economic security is under threat,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We need people in Congress who understand the opportunities provided by the New Economy and how to make sure more Americans are prepared to seize them. That requires practical, pragmatic ideas and far less partisanship and politics."

Krishnamoorthi plans to form a federal election campaign committee later this week.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Poll: Emanuel Has Commanding Lead Over Garcia]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 08:31:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-elecciones-emanuel-garcia.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel earned his widest lead over challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in the latest poll of the runoff campaign. 

The results of a Chicago Tribune poll, released late Monday, show the incumbent mayor with the support of 58 percent of the registered voters polled between last Wednesday and Sunday. Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner, had the support of 30 percent of those polled. Another 9 percent of the 724 voters polled said they were undecided.

The margin of error in the poll was 3.7 percent.

Emanuel's lead in the Tribune poll, conducted by APC Research, is wider than one released Sunday and conducted by Ogden and Fry. That poll had Emanuel at 47 percent to Garcia's 34 percent.

The April 7 runoff is a first for Chicago since it changed its election system and falls during Spring Break for Chicago Public Schools. More than 82,000 ballots have been cast in the current Early Voting period.

The Chicago Tribune has endorsed Emanuel for a second term.

Photo Credit: Especial]]>