<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:19:36 -0500 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:19:36 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Driver Held on $1M Bond in Fatal I-55 Chain Reaction Crash]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:15:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Espinal-Quiroz.jpg

The driver of a tractor-trailer involved in a multi-vehicle crash that left four people dead and four others injured was charged early Tuesday and ordered held on $1 million bond.

Francisco Espinal-Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Indiana, was charged with falsifying a log book and willful violation of a log book. Prosecutors say Espinal-Quiroz stated that he started work around 6-6:30 a.m., when in realty he had started work at about 2:30 a.m. He was also cited for failing to reduce speed.

Illinois State Police officials said Espinal-Quiroz was going faster than the posted construction site speed limit when he slammed into car and caused a chain reaction crash involving three vehicles and another tractor-trailer.

In court Tuesday, officials said Espinal-Quiroz has a history of traffic violations dating back 1991, at least three of which were for speeding.

Records show that since 1991, Espinal-Quiroz has also been cited for driving with a a license in his possession, disregarding a traffic control device, driving without a valid license for the type of vehicle he was operating and six other commercial vehicle violations.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records on Espinal Trucking, of which Espinal-Quiroz is the sole employee, show a virtually unblemished safety record. He has been operating in interstate commerce since the fall of 2012, and records show just one inspection during that time.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to look at the construction project on I-55 which has seen four accidents in recent months.

"I am going to our Department of Transportation look at every single part of that project to make sure we accelerate everything we can to improve safety," Quinn said.

Kimberly K. Britton, 43, and Piper Britton, both from Urbana, were killed in the chain reaction crash. Also killed were Vicky L. Palacios, 54, of Coal City and Ulrike P. Blopleh, 48, of Channahon.

Four other people were injured in the crash, including some who needed to be extricated from their vehicles. One of the victims was airlifted to a local hospital.

Another truck driver, Deividas Mockus, 41, of Darien, was killed in a second crash moments after the first crash and about three miles away.

The stretch of I-55 where Monday's two fatal accidents occurred has been the scene of several accidents over the past couple of years.

Photo Credit: Will County Sheriff's Office / NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Crash Victim Was Heading to Work on Day Off]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:21:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Vicky-Palacios.jpg

Vicky Palacios wasn't even supposed to work at her job cleaning a factory on Monday but enjoyed the job so much she went in anyway, her daughter said Tuesday.

The 54-year-old Coal City woman and three others were killed in a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 55 near Arsenal Road in Elwood at about 2:30 p.m.

Palacios' husband died years ago and she raised four children and three step-children by herself, according to one of the daughters.

"She was the best person I've ever known, you know, I love her so much and I'm never going to see her again," Nicole Palacios said. "Everyone loved her. She was a very giving woman, very strong willed, outspoken. That's what people liked about her."

Nicole Palacios said her youngest sibling is serving in the United States Marine Corps and was headed to the Chicago area to help with arrangements.

Palacios lived alone with her cat.

Nicole Palacios said her mother will be cremated but exact details weren't complete because the body was still with the coroner.

Illinois State Police said a speeding tractor-trailer entering stalled traffic in a construction zone caused the chain-reaction crash that killed Palacios as well as Ulrike P. Blopleh, 48, of Channahon, and 43-year-old Kimberly K. Britton and her 11-year-old daughter, Piper Britton, both from Urbana.

The truck driver, 51-year-old Francisco Espinal-Quiroz, of Leesburg, Indiana, was arrested early Tuesday and charged with falsifying a log book and willful violation of a log book. He was also cited for failing to reduce speed and held on $1 million bond.

A fifth person, Deividas Mockus, 41, of Darien, was killed in a second crash moments after the first and about three miles to the north. That stretch of I-55 has been the scene of several accidents over the past couple of years.

<![CDATA[Trump Condo Sells for $3.3 Million]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:34:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/trump-sign-061314-1.jpg

It appears the controversy over the Trump sign isn't scaring high rollers away from buying property in the Chicago building.

Crain's reports a 79th-floor condo at Trump International Hotel & Tower sold for $3.35 million, the highest-priced sale in the building this year.

Personal injury lawyer Patrick Salvi and his wife sold the 3,100-square-foot home in an all-cash transaction, receiving $1.2 million more than they paid for it in 2010.

There's still plenty of options remaining inside the building. The penthouse unit is on the market for $32 million.

<![CDATA[Bruce Rauner: "I Love Uber"]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:55:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rauner_5_19.jpg

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has picked a side in the ride-share debate.

Rauner issued a statement Tuesday pledging support for Uber, calling it an "innovative, growing company that provides ride-share services to millions of people across the country and wants to create 425 more jobs right here in Illinois."

Rauner says he would veto a recently-passed bill that regulates ride-share businesses such as Uber and Lyft.

"I love Uber. And we need a state that supports job creation -- not runs it off," Rauner said in the statement.

Rauner urges Gov. Pat Quinn not to sign the bill saying "it sends another signal that Illinois is closed to innovation."

Mara Georges, the spokeswoman for the Illinois Transportation Trade Association, issued her own statement defending the bill, saying it is "simply focused on making sure all Illinoisans have basic consumer protections when they step into a car for hire."

"Customers have the right to know their driver has passed a comprehensive police background check and drug test and carries sufficient insurance in case of an accident," George said.

"Ride-share companies claim they can regulate themselves, but time and time again they have proven that they cannot protect their drivers or passengers. It is unfortunate that Bruce Rauner would side with Silicon Valley multi-billionaires and venture capitalists, rather than Illinois consumers," George added.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Tony Munoz of Chicago, would create two tiers of regulation.

All drivers would need to pass background checks and have commercial liability insurance of at least $350,000. Drivers working more than 36 hours in a two-week period would need to follow stricter rules, similar to taxis. Local municipalities could set rules for "surge pricing" — which allows drivers to hike prices during high demand — for rides dispatched through a smartphone app.

<![CDATA[TODAYS' FORECAST: A Summer Sizzler]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 07:05:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Andy+Avalos+Updated.jpg
Today: Hazy sunshine this morning will mix with more scattered clouds this afternoon; becoming breezy, hotter and more humid. Scattered showers and thunderstorms develop late afternoon or evening in 30 to 50 precent of the metro area at any given time.  A few storms could become severe with heavy rain, strong winds and large hail. 
Tonight: Scattered showers and thunderstorms likely, a few possible severe early tonight will weaken then end by around 1 or 2 in the morning.  Mostly cloudy, breezy and humid overnight.  Lows in the mid to upper 60s. SW winds shift N 10 to 20 mph.
Wednesday: Any early morning clouds will fade as skies become mostly sunny; it will be breezy, much cooler and less humid in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 70s inland, but cooler lakefront.
Thursday: Mostly sunny and pleasant. Highs in the mid to upper 70s, cooler lakefront.
Friday: Mostly sunny skies become cloudy with showers and storms developing in the afternoon or evening. Highs in the mid to upper 70s.
Saturday: Showers and thunderstorms possible through midday,  then partly cloudy, warm and humid in the afternoon. Highs in the low 80s.
Sunday: Partly sunny, chance of thunderstorms late. Highs in the low 80s.
Monday: Partly cloudy a few showers and storms still  possible; cooler. Highs in the mid 70s.
<![CDATA[Metal Falls From Sky, Hits Home]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:10:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ponder+house.jpg

A piece of metal fell from the sky and crashed into the roof of a Denton County mobile home over the weekend.

Rachael Thompson and Richard Myszkowski heard a loud bang Saturday morning while they were feeding their 11-month-old inside their home on Seaborn Road near Ponder.

When they went outside to inspect, they found what looked like a metal turbine on the roof of their mobile home.

Thompson said it weighed only a few pounds but hit with enough force to put a large gash in the metal roof.

"It was like somebody threw a hammer at the house," she said. "What else is going to fall out of the sky?"

Luckily, the object didn’t penetrate the home, as the family of five was inside at the time.


"Thank God it fell on the roof," Myszkowski said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the matter, and a spokesperson said they are working to identify the object.

The family believes it may have fallen from a plane, as they see frequent air traffic in the area.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Niles Leaders Approve Controversial Gun Shop, Range]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:52:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/469413157.jpg

The Niles Village Board voted Tuesday to approve a gun shop and firing range over the objections of some residents who feel it is too close to a couple of schools.

Board members voted 4-1 in favor of the Sportsmen’s Club and Firearms Training Academy after the Niles Plan Commission voted earlier this month to recommend approval.

Opponents and supporters packed Tuesday's meeting for what's become a divisive issue in the community.

The business is planned for the 6100 block of West Howard, close to Nile West High School and New Hope Academy.

Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo told NBC 5 that the facility will mostly be used by police officers.

But some parents believe it sends the wrong message because of the recent history of school shootings nationwide.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former Niles West, IU Player Dies During Practice]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:35:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Shawn-afryl.jpg

Campus officials say a football player at Winona State University who recently transferred from Illinois has died while working out with teammates.

Winona State said in a news release that 22-year-old Shawn Afryl died Tuesday during a workout at Maxwell Field on the campus in Winona, Minnesota. Information about his cause of death was not immediately available.

School officials said the 6-foot-3, 310-pound offensive lineman had recently enrolled after his transfer.

Illini coach Tim Beckman said in a statement that his players were saddened to hear of the death of a "great teammate." Winona State coach Tom Sawyer said Afryl had shown maturity and leadership in his short time at the Division II school.

Afryl is a graduate of Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois, in the Chicago suburbs.

Photo Credit: www.fightingillini.com]]>
<![CDATA[Are the Obamas Moving to California?]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:56:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/JASON_WU1.jpg

President Obama and First Lady Michelle may be the buyers of a $4.25 million home in California's Rancho Mirage, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Though the White House denied the rumors, the L.A. Times cites unnamed real estate agents as confirming that the Obamas are in escrow on a 3.29- acre, James Bond-esque estate in a swanky gated community where Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope once kept properties.

Former President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, resided in the desert city, the headquarters of the Betty Ford Center for addiction and rehabilition.

The Obamas visited the area for the Father's Day holiday and, in February, the president played golf with Larry Ellison, another high-profile Rancho Mirage resident, on the software billionaire's private course.

The First Couple's reported new house was built in 1993 and includes four bedrooms and a gym as well as a pool with a 20-foot waterfall, two spas and a rock lagoon, according to the L.A. Times. Next door to the property: a "bighorn sheep preserve" and the interior decorater Michael S. Smith, an Obama pal.

As previously reported, Michelle Obama -- said to be a fan of California -- had been considering a move to the Palm Springs area after leaving the White House. The president likes New York City, another post-Washington option. Neither wants to move back to Chicago, according to reports.






Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sand Tunnel Caves In, Kills CA Man]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:54:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/07-22-2014-half-moon-bay-credited.jpg

A man was killed at a Bay Area beach on Monday after a giant hole he was digging in the sand collapsed and buried him, according to fire officials.

When responding Cal Fire crews showed up at Francis State Beach in Half Moon Bay about 5:30 p.m., they found a man in his 20s “completely covered by sand,” authorities said.

Officials say the man was standing in a 10-foot deep "tunnel" when the sand started caving in around him.

“It is one of those situations that can go from having a good time on the beach with friends and family to extremely dangerous and critical within seconds,” Cal Fire’s Jonathan Cox said.

The man was identified by the San Mateo County Coroner's Office as 26-year-old Adam Pye, of San Lorenzo. A memorial page remembering Pye was setup on Facebook.

More than 30 firefighters from around San Mateo County responded to the scene and – along with bystanders – managed to extricate the man from the hole in about half an hour, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Firefighters are using the man’s death as an opportunity to remind the public about the “hidden dangers associated with the beach.”

“Remember to stay away from cliffs, use caution when swimming in big surf and refrain from digging too deeply in the sand," Cal Fire said in a press release.

Photo Credit: Dean Coppola / Half Moon Bay Review]]>
<![CDATA[Durst Urinates on CVS Candy: Cops]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:44:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/2715242.jpg

A New York City real estate heir acquitted of his neighbor's murder a decade ago is back in trouble, this time for a bizarre outburst in which police say he urinated on a rack of candy at a Texas drug store.

Police say multimillionaire Robert Durst unzipped his pants in a Houston CVS, exposed himself and then urinated on a cash register and candy before walking away from the store just after noon Sunday, Houston NBC affiliate KPRC reported.
He had left the scene by the time police arrived, but on surveillance video he did not appear to have been agitated or argumentative before the incident, police said.
A store manager said he recognized the man as a regular customer who was at the store to pick up a prescription, police said. 
Durst is now being charged with criminal mischief, a class B misdemeanor. He has not been taken into custody.
His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Durst has been making national headlines for decades, for his admitted role in a grisly killing.
He was acquitted in 2004 in Galveston of the murder of an elderly neighbor after the man's dismembered body parts were found in Galveston Bay.
Durst had been arrested in 2001, jumped bond, was found in Pennsylvania trying to steal a sandwich and a Band-Aid from a grocery store and eventually faced trial in the murder. He claimed he had shot Morris Black in self-defense during a struggle over a gun, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Although Durst was acquitted of murder, he was sentenced to and served time in prison for evidence-tampering and bond-jumping in connection with the case.
He later served more time in jail for violating the terms of his parole, in part for returning to the boarding house where he had shot Black.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Postal Workers Protest Staples in Chicago]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:55:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/219*120/staples+protest+7-20.jpg

Hundreds of members of the American Postal Workers Union protested outside a Staples in Chicago Tuesday in hopes to keep mini-post offices from opening up inside the business.

The group, which included leaders from the Chicago Teachers Union, gathered outside a Staples at Wabash and Washington in Chicago to “turn up the heat” on their “Don’t Buy Staples” campaign.

The protest comes as postal workers claim the stores finished a pilot program allowing for postal counters to open in more than 80 Staples stores nationwide.

“About a week ago, the USPS and Staples attempted to derail the boycott,” Union President Mark Dimondstein said. “They announced the pilot was over, but admitted that Staples clerks would continue to do the work of uniformed postal workers under a program with a different name. We’ve got news for them: our campaign to stand up for living-wage jobs and quality service for our customers isn’t over until we say it’s over.”

It's not the first time workers have protested the center. Nationwide protests were also held earlier this year after news of the pilot program was first announced.

The workers say the pilot program jeopardizes their jobs and the security of the mail, because the retail counters are staffed by Staples employees, not postal workers.

“We’re not falling for that ruse, and neither are the labor and community allies who have joined with us in this fight,” said Dimondstein. “This campaign will continue so long as the USPS tries to replace experienced, uniformed U.S. postal workers who are accountable to the American people with low-wage, high-turnover employees who have little training and who are not qualified to handle the U.S. Mail.”

<![CDATA[Sleeping Man Dumped Into Recycling Truck]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:43:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/dumpstergeneric1.jpg

A man who fell asleep in a dumpster woke up in the back of a garbage truck.

San Francisco firefighters had to rescue the man who became stuck inside a Recology cardboard recycling truck early Tuesday morning.

The truck driver said he was doing his normal routine at about 6:30 a.m. – lifting trash into his truck – when he heard yelling from the back of the truck. He drove straight to the nearby fire station at 16th and Irving streets to get the man out.

Veteran firefighters who helped free the man are calling the bizarre rescue “a first.”

The man was partially crushed by the truck’s hydraulic system, which is used to compact the cardboard to make more room. He suffered shoulder injuries but is expected to be OK.

Recology spokesman Robert Reed said 20-year veteran driver Mike Jones immediately shut the hydraulic system off when he realized what was happening.

“He heard this gentleman pounding in the back of the truck,” Reed said. “He actually talked to the gentleman from the cab of the truck and said ‘I’m going to drive you to the fire station.’”

The man was awake enough to mumble responses back to the firefighters and paramedics as they wheeled him to a waiting ambulance.

Authorities said it appears the older man was sleeping in the dumpster when it was picked up and tossed into the back of the Recology truck.

The driver’s quick actions earned Jones a nice title from Battalion Chief Smith.

“If he hadn’t heard him, he would have been trapped in that all day long and may have died,” Smith said. “So he is a hero. He saved his life.”

Had the man remained in the truck, he would have ended across town at Recology’s Recycle Central at Pier 96, dumped onto a tipping floor larger than basketball court with recyclables piled up 20 feet high.

Jones went through a debriefing with the company safety team and then went back to finish his route.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Alpana Singh Reveals Details About New Chicago Restaurant]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:39:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Blogapalooza_14_alpana.jpg

With plans for her upcoming eatery ripening quickly, Alpana Singh has announced some details about her highly anticipated Chicago venue.

Construction is underway at the Michigan Avenue location, located across the street from the Art Institute, Singh told Eater Chicago.

The name of the restaurant is Seven Lions and Singh says it will be an "American clubhouse," featuring "comfortable and approachable" updated American cuisine and a largely American wine list.

She told the foodie site she hopes to open the location later this year or by early next year.

The restaurant will hold a large center bar with a separate dining room, a sidewalk patio and private event space.

Rumors of the restaurant sprouted more than two years ago after the master sommelier announced she was parting ways with Lettuce Entertain You and resigned her post as host of WTTW's popular "Check, Please" program.

The project is in conjunction with Bistronomic owners Matt Fisher and John Ward.

Photo Credit: Leon Serdin]]>
<![CDATA[Paul Vallas Slams Rauner's Tax Plan as "Reckless"]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:26:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Paul+Vallas+1200.jpg

Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate, Paul Vallas, unleashed a passionate rant slamming Bruce Rauner's newly released tax plan as "totally disingenuous if not totally dishonest."

Tearing into Rauner at a press conference Monday, Vallas lamented: "After a 500-day wait, this is what we get — a plan that would put an $8 billion hole (in Illinois' budget). This extreme and reckless proposal doesn't add up, not even close."

Vallas questioned Quinn's Republican rival on his proposal to freeze property taxes, phase out the increase in the state's income tax and impose a sales tax on services like golf memberships and charter flights that he dubbed "non-essential" and said would generate $600 million in revenue. (Quinn, meanwhile, wants to keep the income tax rate at 5 percent to avert a pension-related fiscal crisis amid warnings -- and another downgrade -- by Moody's Investor Services. The rate, originally designed to be temporary, reaps about $8 billion annually.)

His voice rising, the lieutenant governor candidate -- formerly head of Chicago Public Schools and a controversial advocate for education reform -- said Rauner's pitch would decimate the state-wide school system.

"And if you don't think that you can cut $8 billion dollars from discretionary spending and not devastate schools across the state and in the poorest communities -- absolutely, absolutely destroy their schools as they currently exist ... this is even worse than smoke and mirrors," opined Vallas.

Defending his "Bring Back Blueprint," Rauner said Monday: "Unfortunately our government is very inefficient, very wasteful and we’ve got to restructure.”

The Winnetka venture capitalist's tax-and-jobs-growth strategy is polling well among voters but has come under fire for offering scant details on how Illinois would pay for proposed cuts. Per Ward Room's own Mark Anderson: "(L)ike so many Republican budget proposals, Rauner’s plan guts state revenue collection from one set of taxes and expects that miracle economic growth will make up the difference."

And without further ado, here's Paul Vallas:

<![CDATA[Beretta Leaves MD After New Gun Law]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:10:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/181*120/0909-maryland-flag-generic.jpg

Gun maker Beretta U.S.A. will move all of its manufacturing out of Maryland to a new factory in Tennessee, the company announced Monday, after protesting Maryland's strict gun law passed last year.

The company met with employees Tuesday to tell them that 160 manufacturing and related jobs would move. Beretta's headquarters, including about 95 administrative and executive jobs, will stay in Accokeek, Maryland.

Previously, the company had said it would use the new Tennessee plant only for making new products. That plant will be an expansion for the company and may eventually employ 300 people, said Jeff Reh, Beretta's general counsel.

"We are fairly upset about even having to consider a move," Reh said. "Our preference would have been to stay and grow in Maryland for decades to come.

"But we have to be prudent about our future, and we have more chance to expand and grow in a state that is more positive to the second amendment," Reh said.

Beretta was active in lobbying against Maryland's Firearm Safety Act of 2013, considered one of the nation's most restrictive gun laws. It bans 45 types of assault weapons and prohibits buying ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds. Gun buyers must be fingerprinted and licensed before buying a handgun.

Gun buyers and gun shops sued to stop the law from taking effect, but a federal court refused to block the law, and it went into effect in October.

Gun-control groups have said the law is partly responsible for statistics showing gun deaths in Maryland fell 24 percent in the first five months of 2014 compared with the same period in 2013.

Beretta said the legislative battle over the bill was a wake-up call for the company. One version of the law would have outlawed gun manufacturing in Beretta's home state; that version passed the state Senate and was supported by the governor, and was stopped in the state House, after Beretta lobbied hard against it.

"The obvious conclusion is that political developments can have an economic effect," Reh said. "It's really not fair for a legislature to just blithely pass restrictions without expecting some kind of reaction."

Jeff Cooper, the company's general manager, said in a statement: "The possibility that such restrictions might be reinstated in the future leaves us very worried about the wisdom of maintaining a firearm manufacturing factory in the state."

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley issued a statement, saying his administration was "disappointed with this decision" and pointing out other job growth in the state -- the administration says Maryland has created more than 24,100 total jobs since last June.

Prince George's County spokeman Scott Peterson echoed that disappointment, adding, "if there were any issues that the county could have addressed to keep Beretta here, you can be sure that we would have addressed them immediately."

<![CDATA[Review: Polar Loop Wearable Device]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:14:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Polar_Loop.jpg

Wearable activity trackers have turned into the latest must-have gadget over the past few years. While specific abilities vary from device to device, all trackers ultimately serve the same purpose: to give you an idea of your daily activity level and motivate you to move more for a healthier life.

Polar, long known for its heart rate monitors, entered the activity tracker market last year with Polar Loop. Like other activity trackers, Polar Loop will log your basic fitness statistics-steps taken, calories burned and hours slept, but also utilizes Polar's heart rate monitor background to enhance its data collection.

Because activity trackers often rely on arm swing to give you credit for movement, some may not recognize exercises where your arms tend to remain still, such as cycling. But when paired with an optional heart rate monitor, Polar Loop notices your elevated heart rate and counts that toward your daily activity goal.

Polar Loop is also waterproof, allowing you to wear it at all times, even if you choose to swim.

I enjoy health and fitness statistics, and in my experience wearing a Polar Loop for the past two months, it's given me a good idea of just how much I do or don't move.

While my regular exercise combined with normal day-to-day movement generally hits my daily activity goal, I spend a fair amount of my day sitting, particularly during the week.

I knew this before wearing a Polar Loop -- after all, I do have a desk job -- but seeing my statistics (available online through Polar Flow and the Polar Flow app for iPhones and Android devices), showed me how infrequently I actually move.

Both the Polar Flow app and Polar Loop notify me when I haven't moved for more than an hour, although I've personally found the app notification more useful as I often don't see my Polar Loop lighting up to remind me to stop sitting.

The device isn't always perfect -- I've gotten credit for over 300 steps while showering, for example -- but nevertheless, it is a useful way to gauge your personal activity trends over time.

While a Polar Loop can't actually force you to move, it has helped motivate me to make more of an effort to get up throughout my day, even if only for a moment. As more and more evidence shows the risks of sedentary lifestyles, I like having a device that reminds me that marathon training alone doesn't counteract eight hours at a desk. I need to move throughout my day, and Polar Loop encourages me to do just that.

The Polar Loop retails for $109.95. You can purchase it online or at any number of local retailers.

Photo Credit: Polarloop.com]]>
<![CDATA[Storms Expected After Hot, Humid Day]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:40:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Heat_Generic_Sun_Generic.jpg

It appears Tuesday’s hot temperatures will be a one hit wonder in the Chicago area.

With temps forecast to rise near 91 degrees Tuesday, and humidity levels making the air feel close to 100 degrees, the Chicago area is finally getting a taste of summer heat, but stormy weather and cooler temps are on the way.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are forecast to develop during the late afternoon and evening hours Tuesday. Some storms could become severe with heavy rain, strong winds and large hail.

Much of northern Illinois is under a slight risk for severe weather Tuesday.

The storms are expected to weaken heading into the overnight hours as cooler temps make their way into the area.

Highs Wednesday will drop into the mid-70s, making for a breezy and less humid day.

Temps are expected to stay in the 70s heading into the weekend as showers and storms return to the forecast.

Tuesday’s temps could make Tuesday one of the hottest days the city has seen this season.

So far, the Chicago area has only seen two other days in the 90s, both of which took place before the summer season began.

The average number of 90-degree days during the summer season is 14. Last year, the city saw 13 days with temps in the 90s.

Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia]]>
<![CDATA[Marine Wife Had Affair: Court Docs]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:57:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Erin-Corwin-Jon-Corwin-Mari.jpg

The missing 19-year-old pregnant Marine wife may have been having an affair with a married neighbor who was also a Marine, newly published court documents show, as detectives said Tuesday they are "looking for a crime scene" in the search.

Erin Corwin had a possible secret relationship with 24-year-old then-Marine Cpl. Christopher Lee, both Lee's neighbor and Corwin's friend told investigators, according to a court documents obtained by The Desert Sun.

Detectives investigating her disappearance said in a statement Tuesday they have received information of possible places to search for evidence of foul play, but emphasized there is still "not enough evidence to rule out that Erin Corwin could be voluntarily missing."

"We are looking for a crime scene," San Bernardino County Sheriff's Capt. Leland Boldt said in the statement.

Deputies on Tuesday would not address the information in the affidavit for a search warrant, which state that officials believed the Corwins' neighbors, Lee and his wife Nicole, had evidence about the disappearance.

Corwin, who is three months pregnant and was last seen leaving her Twentynine Palms home June 28, told her husband she was headed to Joshua Tree National Park to look for hiking trails, authorities said.

Her husband, Marine Cpl. Jonathan Corwin, reported her missing the next day. Erin Corwin’s car was found in Twentynine Palms two days after she disappeared.

Erin Corwin’s friend in Tennessee told deputies the woman was having an affair with Lee, who might be the father of her unborn child, according to the documents, and Lee was afraid his wife would find out.

The friend also provided text messages showing that Lee was planning to take Erin Corwin hunting on the day she disappeared. They were going to spend a "special day" together to celebrate her pregnancy at an undisclosed location, the documents said.

Lee initially denied an affair with Erin Corwin but later admitted the two were "close" and had kissed, according to the documents. He denied having a sexual relationship with Erin Corwin and told deputies the day she disappeared that he went hunting in Joshua Tree National Park alone.

Deputies believed Erin Corwin "could have been harmed by an unknown firearm," the documents stated. Her cellphone was turned off after she allegedly left with Lee so officials were unable to track her using GPS, but a witness saw them leaving together in his car, deputies said.

The document also describes information about the behavior of Christopher and Nicole Lee that led detectives to believe "they were concealing evidence."

The tire tracks on Christopher Lee’s Jeep were similar to tire tracks found near Erin Corwin’s car, the documents said.

When questioned by detectives, the owner of a Yucca Valley home where the Lees were storing belongings before moving said Nicole Lee told her that Christopher Lee was worried that he did not have an alibi for the day of Erin Corwin’s disappearance.

The owner told deputies that Nicole Lee said detectives did not have a case against them without a body, and that she berated her husband for "not being able to keep his lies straight," the documents stated.

Detectives "believed they were concealing evidence and discussing further plans of action to likely conceal or destroy evidence," according to the documents.

Deputies served the search warrant at the Yucca Valley home and arrested Christopher Lee on July 4 for possessing a destructive device, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

The felony arrest was not related to the search for Erin Corwin, officials said. Lee was released two days later after posting bail.

Lee was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps on July 7 and has moved back to his home state of Alaska, NBC affiliate KMIR reported.

Erin Corwin is described as 5 feet, 2 inches tall, weighing 120 pounds and three months pregnant, officials said. She has light brown hair and blue eyes.

Any information regarding the whereabouts of Erin Corwin can be shared through the Specialized Investigation Division 909-387-3589 or dispatch at 909-387-8313. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or go to www.wetip.com.

Photo Credit: Locate Erin Facebook page]]>
<![CDATA[Off-Duty Officer Charged With Firing Gun Into Suburban Home]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:34:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/210*120/police+siren.JPG

A south suburban police officer has been charged after he allegedly fired his weapon into a home while off duty and drinking at a friend’s house.

John Silas, 38, was charged with felony reckless discharge of a firearm and his bond was set at $75,000 Tuesday morning in connection to the March 8 incident.

Prosecutors allege Silas went to a friend’s house in the 17000 block of Baker Street in Country Club Hills where he and a friend were drinking alcohol.

According to prosecutors, Silas pulled out his .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun and fired several rounds into the ground. One of the bullets crashed through the front window of a house across the street and lodged into a wall, officials said.

A resident of the home, who had been sitting on a coach near the front window just seconds before the bullet entered the home, called 911 to report the shooting.

Officers responding to the scene also found a bullet in an SUV parked in the home’s driveway at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors allege Silas called a fellow officer that evening and asked the officer to do him a “favor” by getting rid of evidence recovered from the home, according to a release from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. He allegedly acknowledged in a second phone call to the officers that he was the one shooting bullets into the ground when one accidentally went into the front window of the home across the street.

Test results from the Illinois State Police Forensics Lab confirmed the bullet recovered from the wall of the home was fired from Silas’ gun, the state’s attorney’s office said.

Silas is expected to appear in court again August 22.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA["Supermom" Among Victims of I-55 Chain-Reaction Crash]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:00:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ulrike-P.-Blopleh.jpg

One of the five people killed in a pair of crashes that occurred moments apart on Interstate 55 on Monday was described as a "supermom" and a "beautiful human being" who was well-known in the community from her work volunteering as a Jehovah's Witness.

Ulrike P. Blopleh -- Uli, as she was known -- was in the front passenger seat of the family van when she and three of her four children were involved in the 2:30 p.m. crash near Arsenal Road, in Elwood. Blopleh's 16-year-old daughter was at the wheel and two other children were in passenger seats, family spokesman Steve Flynn said Tuesday outside the family's Channahon home.

"As the 12-year-old described it, he said, 'Dad we had a car in the van,'" Flynn said.

The youngest boy, who Flynn believed is 10 years old, was flown in a medical helicopter to Loyola University Medical Center. He was stable and expected to be OK, Flynn said. The other children were transported to two different hospitals before being released.

He declined to provide the names of the children.

Flynn said the 48-year-old Uli was well-known in the community and that the family has had hundreds of offers of help and support in the hours since the crash.

"She was a great girl. She was a supermom. As Moses, her husband, described her, she was the home," said Flynn.

The family worships out of the Kingdom Hall in Wilmington, and Flynn said he expected a service would be held for Blopleh this weekend.

She requested to be cremated, he said.

Illinois State Police said a speeding tractor-trailer entering stalled traffic in a construction zone caused the chain-reaction crash that killed Blopleh as well as Kimberly K. Britton, 43, and Piper Britton, 11, both from Urbana, and Vicky L. Palacios, 54, of Coal City.

The truck driver, 51-year-old Francisco Espinal-Quiroz, of Leesburg, Indiana, was arrested early Tuesday and charged with falsifying a log book and willful violation of a log book. He was also cited for failing to reduce speed.

A fifth person, Deividas Mockus, 41, of Darien, was killed in a second crash moments later about three miles to the north. That stretch of I-55 has been the scene of several accidents over the past couple of years.

Photo Credit: Steve Flynn]]>
<![CDATA[Masked Men Rob Oswego Home, Steal Car]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:05:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/oswego+home+invasion.jpg

Four men broke into a suburban Oswego home early Tuesday and may be headed to Chicago in a stolen Audi, according to police.

Oswego Police Chief Dwight Baird said the men broke into the home in the 300 block of Hemlock Lane at about 6:02 a.m.

Baird said four masked and partially masked African-American men forcibly entered the home brandishing handguns and threatened six victims, including a woman approximately 40 years old and five men between the ages of 17 and 21.

Two of the victims were physically battered, police said. They refused transportation to the hospital and were treated at the scene.

The suspects took all of the victims' phones and keys and left the scene in a recently purchased 2010 white Audi Q7 with Illinois Registration V701752. Police said the vehicle was purchased out of state.

Police believe the home invasion was an isolated incident.

"The victims of this home invasion continue to be uncooperative by refusing to be interviewed by our department," police said in a statement, adding, "the Investigation has determined that this incident is focused towards this home and its occupants."

A loaded handgun was recovered at the scene and detectives were working to find the owner.

Neighbors told NBC 5 the home's occupants moved into area a couple months ago.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Dad: Son Stopped Me From Killing Alleged Abuser]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:42:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/071814+raymond+frolander.jpg

A Florida father who made national headlines when he beat a man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his 11-year-old son says he did what he had to do and would have killed the man if his son hadn't stopped him.

"My immediate feeling was to kill him, so he will never hurt anyone again," the father told NBC affiliate WESH.

The father, whose identity wasn't revealed to protect the victim, said he doesn't regret his reaction after he says he caught 18-year-old Raymond Frolander with his son last week.

Frolander was left bloodied and bruised, but the father said it could have been worse.

"My son saved Raymond. Raymond was motionless on our floor. I went to the kitchen to grab a butcher knife and my son stopped me. My son came in front of me and saved his attacker's life," he said.

Frolander remains behind bars without bond on a sexual battery charge. The father wasn't charged.

The father said he treated Frolander like his own son but claims the man left town after a sexual assault attempt three years ago that the victim never told anyone about. But Frolander recently returned, the father said.

He also said he thinks his son forgave Frolander, otherwise the beating would have been fatal.

"I think he must have because, he saved his life," the father said. ""It's going to be a long time before I can ever forgive that, if I can."

<![CDATA[Man Dumped in Garbage Truck]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:38:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/07-22-2014-recycling-rescue-2.jpg

A man who fell asleep in a dumpster woke up in the back of a garbage truck.

San Francisco firefighters had to rescue the man who became stuck inside a Recology cardboard recycling truck early Tuesday morning.

The truck driver said he was doing his normal routine at about 6:30 a.m. – lifting trash into his truck – when he heard yelling from the back of the truck. He drove straight to the nearby fire station at 16th and Irving streets to get the man out.

Veteran firefighters who helped free the man are calling the bizarre rescue “a first.”

The man was partially crushed by the truck’s hydraulic system, which is used to compact the cardboard to make more room. He suffered shoulder injuries but is expected to be OK.

Recology spokesman Robert Reed said 20-year veteran driver Mike Jones immediately shut the hydraulic system off when he realized what was happening.

“He heard this gentleman pounding in the back of the truck,” Reed said. “He actually talked to the gentleman from the cab of the truck and said ‘I’m going to drive you to the fire station.’”

The man was awake enough to mumble responses back to the firefighters and paramedics as they wheeled him to a waiting ambulance.

Authorities said it appears the older man was sleeping in the dumpster when it was picked up and tossed into the back of the Recology truck.

The driver’s quick actions earned Jones a nice title from Battalion Chief Smith.

“If he hadn’t heard him, he would have been trapped in that all day long and may have died,” Smith said. “So he is a hero. He saved his life.”

Had the man remained in the truck, he would have ended across town at Recology’s Recycle Central at Pier 96, dumped onto a tipping floor larger than basketball court with recyclables piled up 20 feet high.

Jones went through a debriefing with the company safety team and then went back to finish his route.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn Signs $1 Billion Road Project Plan]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:56:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/illinois-tollway-generic.jpg

Gov. Pat Quinn signed an approximately $1 billion capital spending plan on Tuesday intended to create jobs and help repair and improve Illinois roads and bridges after a harsh winter.

The Chicago Democrat approved the bipartisan legislation that also will provide lawmakers with opportunities to attend popular ribbon-cutting ceremonies in an election year. The plan got overwhelming support in the final days of the legislative session, though some lawmakers were concerned that they didn't have enough time to study where the money would go.
Transportation officials said the money will go toward "shovel ready" road projects that are beginning this summer. Quinn estimated that the projects will create some 14,300 jobs. Most of the 210 projects include resurfacing portions of major roadways around Illinois and repairing bridges.
"It is imperative for all of us that we make investments to make sure we take good care of these roads and bridges, relieve congestions, get people to their destination as quickly as possible, as safely as possible," he said standing near a downtown Chicago interstate exchange where construction work is ongoing.
Some lawmakers supporting the repair program said it was necessary because the $31 billion "Illinois Jobs Now" program that Quinn signed in 2009 is set to run out of road funding sometime this year. But Transportation Department spokeswoman Paris Ervin said that $115 million will be doled out this year for various projects.
The winter repair plan will be paid for by selling bonds and paying back the loan with revenue from retired bonds. It was scaled back to gain Republican support amid concerns that the state couldn't afford a higher price tag. Democrats failed to gather votes to extend an income tax increase set to roll back in January, potentially creating a loss of $1.8 billion in revenue.
Among the projects are $48 million for replacing the bridge, lighting, surveillance and sign boards on the inbound Interstate 55 in Chicago. Other projects include resurfacing parts of Interstate 57.
"After the historic winter we experienced, many of our roads and bridges are in desperate need of attention," Erica Borggren, the acting head of the Illinois Department of Transportation, said in a statement. "This construction program is the shot in the arm that our transportation system and our economy needs."
Some lawmakers and a transportation group had proposed paying for road construction with a fuel tax increase, and ending the practice of diverting funds earmarked for road projects to other parts of the budget. That plan was opposed by gas station owners who say the state's fuel tax is already too high.
Quinn is seeking a second full term with a challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.

Photo Credit: Brian Fitz Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Second City Expands Comedy Training Center]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:59:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Old-Town_second-city.jpg

The training center for Chicago's famous Second City comedy group is expanding.

The Second City Training Center announced Tuesday that it will lease a 25,000 square foot former AMC movie theater next to its Piper's Alley location on the city's North Side.
The expansion would double the comedy school's space to include new classrooms, student theaters, voice-over studios and on-camera training areas.
"We are very excited to enhance our students' experience with the development of this new space,” said Andrew Alexander, CEO and Executive Producer of The Second City, Inc in a statement on the web site. “This will give the opportunity for more student performances in front of audiences, resources to enhance their education, places to work and collaborate, and program-specific materials and technology in classrooms. For our team, it's taking what's already a fantastic training institution and heightening it to the best experience possible for our students."
Second City says the space should be finished and students can start using it by spring of 2015.
The Second City improv comedy group has been in Chicago for more than 50 years. Its alumni include actors like John Belushi, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis.


Photo Credit: flickr.com/acordova]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Suddenly, Rahm’s Millions May Not Be Enough]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:36:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm_clinton.jpg
Rahm Emanuel, meet Ras Baraka.
For those not following New Jersey politics, Baraka is the political progressive who won the 2014 mayoral election in Newark, the state’s largest city. To win, Baraka beat Shavar Jeffries, who many political observers in Jersey saw as the candidate of the state’s political establishment. Baraka’s victory is seen by many across the country as a significant victory for a progressive candidate in a big city mayoral race.
For Chicagoans, the 2014 Newark election may be of some interest. While every election has its own dynamics and, more importantly, its own backstory and political intrigue, a number of key similarities exist between the 2014 Newark race and the upcoming Chicago mayoral election.
For one, the Newark mayor's office had for years been occupied by Cory Booker, a major player in national Democratic politics just like Rahm Emanuel.
For another, the 2014 election was widely seen as a referendum on Booker’s particular brand of big donor, corporate-friendly politics that dominated Newark during his reign. For many here in Chicago, Mayor Rahm is seen more as “Mayor 1%”, more focused on the welfare of the city’s elite than everyday citizens.
As well, Newark’s education system had been gutted by powerful political interests. In 2013, Newark schools superintendent announced plans to consolidate, relocate and re-configure more than one-quarter of the city’s schools, including transferring neighborhood schools to charter school operators. As a result, education issues dominated the 2014 race, helping to define the candidate’s profiles in the minds of many voters.
Just like Chicago.
So why does what happened in Newark, New Jersey matter to Chicagoans? It’s simple. Boiled down to its essence, the 2014 Newark race represented an important and somewhat unexpected victory for a progressive politician facing big money interests all too eager to paint him a “too radical” for the mayor’s office.
Baraka won by gathering together a coalition of old-school neighborhood activists, union supporters, and high name recognition as a community organizer, public school teacher and champion of the dispossessed. He also gained key support from the Working Families Party, who helped propel New York progressive mayor Bill de Blasio to victory.
And today, such a pathway to the mayor’s office on the fifth floor of Chicago’s City Hall suddenly doesn't seem like such a long shot as it has in the past.
There’s clearly a growing progressive movement taking shape in Chicago, and for the first time in a long time, it’s starting to set its sights specifically on the mayor’s office. Coupled with the current mayor’s abysmal poll numbers, a citywide violence crisis, the closing of 50 public schools, a pension debacle in the making and a mayor seen as out of touch with everyday citizens, and you’ve got a whole lot of Chicagoans ready to find an alternate to the current administration. 
Throw in two potentially strong, deeply progressive candidates—Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti—and you’ve got a significantly different playing field than even a few months ago.
Not to mention a newfound sense of optimism among the city’s progressives and activists that is starting to turn from “what if” to “why not now”?
In response, it appears Rahm Emanuel is doing the one thing he knows how to do better than anything else: raise money.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Emanuel is “fighting sagging Chicago polls with [a] fundraising blitz.” And there’s little doubt Rahm will have the ability to flood the campaign with millions of dollars in donations.
But it may not be enough. After all, Baraka’s opponent Jeffries spent as much as three times the amount of his opponent, much of it coming from corporate donors and charter school advocates.
Chicago may be seeing for the first time in a long time—at least since the election of Harold Washington in 1983—a real battle between grassroots activism and big-money campaign donations.
If I were Rahm, maybe I’d want to ask Ras Baraka how that turned out for him.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Slender Man" Stabbing Victim Receives Military Purple Heart]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:37:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/wis-stabbing-purple-heart.jpg

The parents of a young Wisconsin girl stabbed 19 times, allegedly by classmates, say someone has anonymously sent the girl a very special gift: a card and an actual military purple heart.

The card simply read: "The only heart I could find -- be strong."

Though the stabbing victim has been receiving purple hearts made from paper, this is the first military medal that's arrived. 

"Our family continues to be so moved by the prayers, well wishes, packages, financial support and purple hearts from around the world," the family said in a statement. "Our little girl has received thousands of (paper) purple hearts from numerous countries and from every state in the United States."

Upon hearing of the gift, Wisconsin Secretary of Veterans Affairs John Scocos said he wasn't at all surprised by the gesture.

"Those who receive this military recognition do so because they have been wounded or killed in an action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces. American service men and women are also moms and dads, uncles and aunts brothers and sisters. It does not surprise me that a decorated veteran unselfishly gave this amazingly brave and courageous little girl something from his or her heart."

Through Monday, a "Hearts for Healing" fund created in the girl's honor had received more than $50,000 in donations.

Prosecutors say the 12-year-old victim was stabbed by acquaintances who tried to kill her in hopes of becoming agents of "Slender Man," a fictional character notorious for stalking and terrorizing children. The accused told investigators they believed Slender Man had a mansion in a Wisconsin forest and they planned to go live with him after the slaying.

Though the pair are being tried as adults, NBC News is not publicly identifying them or showing their faces. Doctors earlier this month said one of the girls was mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Wisconsin law requires attempted homicide cases to start in adult court if a suspect is at least 10, but the girls' attorneys have said they hope to see the charges moved to juvenile court, where more services might be available.

<![CDATA[Chicago Cabbies Seek Fare Increase ]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 06:58:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/182*120/taxi+cab+chicago+generic.jpg

Struggling Chicago cab drivers released a plan Monday aimed to put more money in their pockets.

Drivers say their Comprehensive Income Improvement Plan needs to be implemented in order to survive.

"Nobody will survive. Cabs will be something you see in the movies," driver Karen Chamberlin said.

The United Taxi Drivers Community Council (UTCC) is the union that represents Chicago cab drivers, and they say their ranks are thinning, partially because of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, but also because they can't make enough money to survive.

"Less income and over-regulation. Even the newest drivers who take the chauffeur license cannot hang on long enough to learn to do a good job as a cab driver. It's not as easy as it looks," UTCC secretary Peter Enger said.

The UTCC's 10-point plan to revive the industry includes a mandatory, citywide smartphone hailing app that would replace what it says are antiquated radio dispatch systems.

In addition to changes in dispatching, the cabbies want a fare increase equivalent to about 25 percent, which the cab drivers haven't seen in eight years.

"My lease rate is up almost double from the last time we got a rate increase," Chamberlain said. "Fuel is double since we last got an increase. Customers have gone down. We don't have the customer base anymore."

But many riders aren't sympathetic, saying cabs are already too expensive.

"It's too expensive. You hop in a cab and it's 5-10 bucks for two to three blocks. I feel bad for them because the gas it so expensive," rider Brendan Appel said.

The taxi union says Chicago ranks 35th in the nation when it comes to cab fares, but the increases would vault the city into the top 10.

Any fare increase would require the city's approval.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sticker Shock Kicks in For ComEd Customers]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 20:42:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/power_lines_generic.jpg

Chicago ComEd customers are in for a little surprise when they get their bill this month, the result of a 38 percent rate hike that went into effect on June 1.

The increase comes just as many customers are cranking up the air conditioning during the summer.

"It went from like 20 bucks a month to like 75 bucks a month," a customer told NBC 5.

"My last power bill was like $150 a month, and that was much higher than I expected," another customer said.
CHECK: Chicago Power Calculator
Jim Chilsen with the Citizens Utility Board says Chicagoans there are ways to minimize the damage on your next bill. First, follow through on common sense cost-savings measures like closing your curtains, blocking skylights and turning your thermostat a few degrees higher when you're out of the house.

"The easiest and most reliable way to cut your electric bill is through energy efficiency," Chilsen said.

But most people don't realize that you also have an option to switch power providers. Chicago customers should look closely at their bill to see if their provider is ComEd or Integrys.

"Most households were switched over to Integrys Energy Services. For a good number of customers, it could be a good deal to go back to ComEd. Other customers may want to stay with their alternate supplier," Chilsen said.

Determining which company provides the best deal depends on your personal habits and usage.

The City of Chicago and the Citizens Utility Board have launched a free online calculator at ChicagoPowerCalculator.com where you can figure out which option is right for you.

Switching power suppliers is a free process.

Photo Credit: clipart.com]]>
<![CDATA[Former Navy SEAL Killed in Skydiving Crash]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:42:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/032413+skydive+parachute+generic.jpg

A former Navy SEAL was reportedly killed in a skydiving accident Sunday after his parachute became tangled in midair with another diver’s chute.

Ex-military parachutist Frederick H. Platt Jr., 44, of Racine, was doing a solo jump when his parachute became tangled with the chute of another experienced jumper, 27-year-old Neil A. Kuhlman, in what officials call a “canopy collision,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Platt died after he plunged onto a road in the Town of Yorkville just west of Interstate 94 near the Sylvania Airport. Kuhlman landed in a tree roughly 100 yards away and suffered minor injuries.

Both jumpers were reportedly skydiving through Skydive Midwest.

The two chutes collided somewhere between 800 and 1,200 feet, Racine Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Daniel Adams told the Journal Sentinel.

Canopy collisions, while avoidable, are most detrimental at heights below 1,800 feet because it leaves jumpers with little time to cut their main chute and deploy a back-up chute, officials said.

Platt, who was in the Navy SEALs from 1988 to 2001, was working as a Navy reservist for the Department of Homeland Security at O’Hare Airport, his wife, Stacy Hux, told the Journal Sentinel. Officials said he done more than 2,000 jumps.

Hux said the couple met while doing a tandem skydive jump and married last year. She is set to give birth to their first child later this year.

Pratt was reportedly expected to appear in court regarding charges stemming from a domestic violence incident with his wife last year. Hux said the incident stemmed from a brain injury Pratt suffered in a motorcycle crash along with health problems following his service in the Navy SEALs.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Racine County Sheriff’s Department are investigating.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks to Appear 20 Times on National TV in 2014-15]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:37:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP951214797254.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks are arguably the top television draw in the NHL, and with the release of their national television schedule on Tuesday morning, that argument was bolstered significantly.

During the 2014-15 regular season, the Blackhawks will appear on NBC and NBCSN a grand total of 20 times, with 11 of those being exclusive games that can only be seen on the two networks (the other nine will still be available on either Comcast SportsNet or WGN).

The most significant of those games of course is the 2015 Winter Classic, which the Hawks will play against the Washington Capitals in the nation’s capital. “Wednesday Night Rivalry” games against the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers will also be on the docket as the Hawks play before a national TV audience for a quarter of their schedule.

Here is the full list of games that will air on national television (games that will only be available on NBC or NBCSN are marked with an asterisk).

Tuesday, Oct 21: vs. Philadelphia 7:30pm NBCSN

Wednesday, Dec 3: vs. St. Louis 7pm NBCSN*

Thursday, Jan 1: at Washington 12pm NBC*

Sunday, Jan 4: vs. Dallas 7pm NBCSN

Sunday, Jan 11: vs. Minnesota 7pm NBCSN

Wednesday, Jan 21: at Pittsburgh 7pm NBCSN*

Wednesday, Jan 28: at Los Angeles 9:30pm NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb 3: at Minnesota 7pm NBCSN

Sunday, Feb 8: at St. Louis 11:30am NBC*

Monday, Feb 9: vs. Arizona 7:30pm NBCSN

Sunday, Feb 15: vs. Pittsburgh 11:30am NBC*

Wednesday, Feb 18: vs. Detroit 6:30pm NBCSN*

Sunday, Feb 22: vs. Boston 11:30am/2pm NBC*

Sunday, Mar 8: vs. New York Rangers 11:30am/2pm NBC/NBCSN*

Wednesday, Mar 18: at New York Rangers 7pm NBCSN*

Wednesday, Mar 25: at Philadelphia 7pm NBCSN*

Monday, Mar 30: vs. Los Angeles 7:30pm NBCSN

Sunday, Apr 5: vs. St. Louis 11:30am/6:30pm NBC/NBCSN*

Tuesday, Apr 7: vs. Minnesota 7:30pm NBCSN

Thursday, Apr 9: at St. Louis 7pm NBCSN

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[State Law Loophole Creates Safety Concerns for Juvenile Shelters]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 23:24:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Aunt_Marthas.jpg

A state-funded facility meant to keep troubled youth safe is allowing kids to leave the facility all hours of the night, and the state says there is nothing it can do about it, NBC 5 Investigates has found.

It's happening at Aunt Martha's short-term shelter in Bronzville.

"They can come and go as they please," said Karen Collymore Chalmers, who lives across the street from the shelter.

"I can sit in my living room and see them fighting in the middle of the street, and I call the police. Sometimes they come. Sometimes they don't."

Police did show up last month just before midnight, when three kids were shot while standing in front of Aunt Martha's at 50th Street and Michigan Avenue. NBC 5 Investigates has learned all three kids were wards of the state and living at the emergency shelter.

One of the victim's -- an 11-year-old girl who was shot in the ankle -- had left the group home minutes before the shooting. Apparently staff members tried to talk her out of leaving, but could not.

The young girl and the two teens all survived the shooting.

"I think it's an extremely dangerous and volatile situation that's waiting to happen," said state Rep. Ken Dunkin, who lives on the same street as the facility. "It's probably going to be worse than just being shot, but possibly ending in death."

Dunkin took video of a 13-year-old resident outside the facility around midnight over the July 4th weekend.

"Having kids that have literally no supervision, whatever access to come out of state-run facility is an abomination," Dunkin said.

The problem is, the shelter can't lock the kids inside the facility, even though they are wards of the state. That's only allowed in state psychiatric facilities and jails. Kids who live in short term shelfter are not supposed to walk out, but state rules say if a child demands to leave, and they're not considered dangerous to themselves, no one can stop them.

In fact, NBC 5 Investigates has found police have been called to the facility 27 times in the last 12 months. But current and former employees say there's a bigger problem inside the facility.

"We have children who come from all walks of life there. So it's not uncommon to know there will be violence there. We understand that," said Aurelia Daniels, a former employee at Aunt Martha's. "Some children, they punch staff, throw things at the staff. Other children might just bite staff. I've been bit by a client and she broke the skin and I had to go to the emergency room."

Daniels says she was attacked by residents four times during the year she worked at the home. Multiple other former employees tell NBC 5 Investigates they were also assaulted.

"They're going to react and act out and sometimes engage in physical aggression to express how they're feeling about being there," said Raul Garza, President and CEO Aunt Martha's Youth And Service Center. "They're frustrated."

Garza heads Aunt Martha's Youth and Service Center, which receives roughly $72 million in funding a year for the community health centers, facilities for families and shelters for children.

"We train the staff to try to de-escalate situations, given the kids have had a traumatic experience in the home setting," Garza said.

Since the shooting outside the facility, Garza says they've increased the number of staff at the shelter. In addition, they have ramped up security and worked with neighbors to resolve issues.

Both neighbors and employees say they don't want the shelter shut down. They simply want things to change.

"No kid should be left untouched or unchanged ... No kids are unsalvageable. These children all could be helped, they all could be reached," Daniels said.

<![CDATA[I-55 Crash Scene Notorious For Accidents]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:56:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/I-55_crash_7-20_2.jpg

The stretch of Interstate 55 where Monday's two fatal accidents occurred has been the scene of dozens of accidents over the past couple of years.

Ongoing roadwork near the Des Plaines River Bridge has led to constant backups.

Police confirm that prior to Monday's incidents, the area has seen 58 crashes in the last year. There were three fatalities.

They include the June 11 death of an Osceola, Indiana, man who was killed when he was involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer truck in the northbound lanes near Arsenal Road.

On July 17, a 68-year-old woman was killed in a six-vehicle accident in the northbound lanes near River Road, and a week later, a 61-year-old Arlington Heights man was killed in his Audi TT sports car just south of Interstate 80 in the southbound lanes.

Residents of nearby towns like Elwood and Channahon say the I-55 issues have spilled into their communities.

The communities have complained about motorists jumping off of I-55 to leapfrog the backups, causing ongoing safety concerns in their communities since the beginning of the project began.

State officials claimed a few weeks ago that accidents were down in the construction zone due to increased warning signs, including smart signs that give motorists the actual travel times through the zone.

The project is expected to continue through October.

<![CDATA[5 Killed, Four Injured in Dual I-55 Crashes]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:55:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/I-55_crash_7-20_truck.jpg

Illinois State Police say a speeding truck entering stalled traffic in a construction zone caused a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 55 Monday that killed four people and injured four others.

A fifth person was killed in a second crash about three miles away.

Eyewitnesses told police a truck driver entered the construction zone at a high rate of speed in the northbound lanes of I-55 near Arsenal Road, in Elwood, at about 2:30 p.m. The tractor trailer slammed into a car and caused a chain reaction crash involving three vehicles and another tractor-trailer.

Kimberly K. Britton, 43, and Piper Britton, 11, both from Urbana, were killed. Also killed were Vicky L. Palacios, 54, of Coal City and Ulrike P. Blopleh, 48, of Channahon.

Four other people were injured in the crash, including some who needed to be extricated from their vehicles. One of the victims was airlifted to a local hospital. 

The truck driver, 51-year-old Francisco Espinal-Quiroz, of Leesburg, Indiana, was arrested early Tuesday and charged with falsifying a log book and willful violation of a log book. He was also cited for failing to reduce speed.

Police said he underwent mandatory drug and urine testing as part of the initial investigation.

I-55 northbound was closed for several hours at River Road, but reopened around 8:15 p.m.

Minutes after the crash and about three miles to the north, another accident (pictured, below) occurred in the southbound lanes of I-55 near U.S. Route 6, the first interchange a mile south of I-80.

A tractor-trailer rear-ended another big rig, sending both drivers to local hospitals. One of the drivers, Deividas Mockus, 41, of Darien, was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet.

The southbound lanes were closed for several hours, but reopened at about 5 p.m.