Storm to clobber U.S. Midwest with snow, wind and frigid temps

A jogger runs through the rain past the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2018.

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A storm is expected to clobber Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee with heavy snow, gusty winds and freezing temperatures that will slow travel for millions of commuters on Thursday evening and Friday.

The storm system that stretches from western Montana across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois and east into southern Michigan will drop as much 12 inches (30 cm) of snow and produce 35 miles per hour (56 kph) winds, the National Weather Service said in several advisories.

“Periods of snow will cause primarily travel difficulties. Be prepared for snow covered roads and limited visibilities,” the service said in an advisory for southern Wisconsin.

Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region on Thursday night and into Friday morning.

United Airlines said on Twitter the storm was expected to impact operations this week and that travel waivers were in effect for areas affected by the snow.

Winter weather across the United States over the last several days has killed several people in accidents in the Midwest since Monday, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Deadly winter storm delays travel in U.S. Midwest, Northeast

Weather conditions for winter storm 2-6-18 National Weather Service

(Reuters) – A winter storm will dump snow and freezing rain on the U.S. Midwest and the Northeast beginning on Tuesday after it caused several deaths as it snarled highways and spurred the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Chicago’s main airport.

The National Weather Service warned commuters in northern Texas, east through southern Illinois and Indiana, and New York and Massachusetts, to watch for icy road conditions, wind gusts and reduced visibility throughout the day and into Wednesday.

“The ice and snow will result in difficult travel conditions,” the NWS said in an advisory. “Motorists are strongly urged to slow down and allow plenty of time to reach their destinations.”

Winds of 40-miles an hour(65 kph) and as much as 4 inches (10 cm) of snow are expected across the affected regions, with parts of New York and Vermont getting as much as a foot of snow, the NWS said.

The storm was responsible for the death of six people on Monday in crashes throughout Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

Two people also died in southwest Missouri and more than 70 others were injured after icy roads caused a high number of crashes, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

At Chicago’s busy O’Hare International Airport, the storm caused the cancellation of more than 460 flights, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump administration demands documents from ‘sanctuary cities’

People visit the Liberty State Island as Lower Manhattan is seen at the background in New York, U.S., August 17, 2017.

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday escalated its battle with so-called sanctuary cities that protect illegal immigrants from deportation, demanding documents on whether local law enforcement agencies are illegally withholding information from U.S. immigration authorities.

The Justice Department said it was seeking records from 23 jurisdictions — including America’s three largest cities, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as three states, California, Illinois and Oregon — and will issue subpoenas if they do not comply fully and promptly.

The administration has accused sanctuary cities of violating a federal law that prohibits local governments from restricting information about the immigration status of people arrested from being shared with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Many of the jurisdictions have said they already are in full compliance with the law. Some sued the administration after the Justice Department threatened to cut off millions of dollars in federal public safety grants. The cities have won in lower courts, but the legal fight is ongoing.

The Republican president’s fight with the Democratic-governed sanctuary cities, an issue that appeals to his hard-line conservative supporters, began just days after he took office last year when he signed an executive order saying he would block certain funding to municipalities that failed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The order has since been partially blocked by a federal court.

“Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Democratic mayors fired back, and some including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to skip a previously planned meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the White House with Trump.

“The Trump Justice Department can try to intimidate us with legal threats, but we will never abandon our values as a welcoming city or the rights of Chicago residents,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “The Trump administration’s actions undermine public safety by jeopardizing our philosophy of community policing, as they attempt to drive a wedge between immigrant communities and the police who serve them.”

IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN

The issue is part of Trump’s broader immigration crackdown. As a candidate, he threatened to deport all roughly 11 million of them. As president, he has sought to step up arrests of illegal immigrants, rescinded protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the country illegally as children and issued orders blocking entry of people from several Muslim-majority countries.

Other jurisdictions on the Justice Department’s list include: Denver; San Francisco; the Washington state county that includes Seattle; Louisville, Kentucky; California’s capital Sacramento; New York’s capital Albany, Mississippi’s capital Jackson; West Palm Beach, Florida; the county that includes Albuquerque, New Mexico; and others.

The Justice Department said certain sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia were not on its list due to pending litigation.

On Twitter on Wednesday, De Blasio objected to the Justice Department’s decision to, in his words, “renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities. It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.”

“The White House has been very clear that we don’t support sanctuary cities,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, adding that mayors cannot “pick and choose what laws they want to follow.”

The Justice Department last year threatened to withhold certain public safety grants to sanctuary cities if they failed to adequately share information with ICE, prompting legal battles in Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

In the Chicago case, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction barring the Justice Department from withholding this grant money on the grounds that its action was likely unconstitutional. This funding is typically used to help local police improve crime-fighting techniques, buy equipment and assist crime victims.

The Justice Department is appealing that ruling. It said that litigation has stalled the issuance of these grants for fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Makini Brice; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Upper Midwest factory sector grows fastest in three years

Steam is seen drifting from a factory over the Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in this February, 6, 2014 file photo.

(Reuters) – A gauge of factory activity in the U.S. Upper Midwest improved to the strongest level in over three years in December, led by much stronger readings on new orders and production, according a private survey released on Friday.

Marquette University and the Institute for Supply Management-Milwaukee said their seasonally adjusted index on manufacturing in the Milwaukee region rose to 65.57 this month from 59.62 in November.

The December figure was the highest since November 2014 when it was 68.9.

A reading above 50 indicates regional factory activity is expanding.

The upbeat snapshot of upper Midwest business activity coincided with a jump in a similar measure for the Chicago area.

On Thursday, MNI Indicators and ISM-Chicago said their jointly developed Chicago Purchase Management Index rose to 67.6 in December, the highest since March 2011.

The Marquette University and Milwaukee ISM survey’s component on new orders, a proxy on future activity, increased to 88.33 from 66.46 last month, while its production gauge improved to 72.65 from 57.94.

Not all the components improved in December. The survey’s employment index fell to 58.67 from 61.73, while its six-month outlook gauge slipped to 71.43 from 73.33.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Violent crime in U.S. rose in 2016 vs. 2015: Justice Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Violent crime rose 4.1 percent nationwide in 2016 compared to the 2015 estimates, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.

Violent crime, which the report defines as non-negligent killings, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, had steadily dropped since 2006, but had increased slightly in 2015, according to the annual report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The report … reaffirms that the worrying violent crime increase that began in 2015 after many years of decline was not an isolated incident,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The report said an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes took place across the country in 2016, an increase of 4.1 percent over the 2015 estimate.

In cities with populations larger than 100,000, the violent crime rate in 2016 was up 3.4 percent compared to the estimate from 2015.

President Donald Trump, who took office in January, has said he would do more to fight criminal gangs and would send in federal help to stem violent crime in Chicago.

The Justice Department has reversed or distanced itself from many of the Obama administration’s policies, including consent decrees to reform police departments and limits on transferring certain types of military gear to local law enforcement agencies.

 

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Bill Trott)

 

Chicago sues Trump administration over sanctuary city plan

FILE PHOTO - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel listens to remarks at a news conference in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. on December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

By Julia Jacobs

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago on Monday sued to prevent the Trump administration from enforcing new policies that would withhold money from so-called sanctuary cities that deny U.S. immigration officials access to local jails.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, said the federal policies force the nation’s third largest city to choose between its constitutional rights and funding for law enforcement.

“These new conditions also fly in the face of longstanding City policy that promotes cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities,” the lawsuit said.

The policies also include a requirement that local law enforcement agencies give federal authorities 48 hours notice before releasing anyone wanted for immigration violations.

Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Sunday that the city would sue, escalating a pushback against an immigration crackdown launched by Republican President Donald Trump’s administration.

“We are bringing this legal challenge because the rhetoric, the threats from this administration embodied in these new conditions imposed on unrelated public safety grants funds are breeding a culture and climate of fear,” Emanuel’s senior legal adviser, Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel, said on Monday.The conditions from the Justice Department apply to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, which provide money to hundreds of cities. Chicago is expected to receive $3.2 million this year for purchasing equipment.

Siskel said the city will follow the initial complaint with a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the government’s imposition of the new conditions.

The city will request a decision from the judge before the Sept. 5 deadline to apply for the Byrne grant, Siskel said.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday that Chicago officials have shown an “open hostility” to enforcing laws designed to reduce crime and protect law enforcement.

He added that more Chicagoans were murdered last year than residents of Los Angeles and New York combined, and that Chicago needed to reverse a “culture of lawlessness.”

“This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety,” Sessions said in a statement.

The lawsuit is the first to challenge the Justice Department over the Byrne program but is not the first legal attack on the administration’s sanctuary city policies.

Emanuel said on Sunday that the lawsuit would prevent the administration from setting a precedent that could be used to target other funding.

Sanctuary cities in general offer illegal immigrants safe harbor by declining to use municipal resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Dozens of local governments and cities, including New York and San Francisco, are part of the sanctuary movement. “Sanctuary city” is not an official designation.

The lawsuit came nearly two weeks after Sessions said the Justice Department would bar cities from the Byrne program unless they allowed immigration authorities unlimited access to local jails and give the 48 hours pre-release notice.

Chicago and its high murder rate have been frequently criticized by Trump, and cracking down on illegal immigration was a theme of his 2016 presidential campaign.

(Reporting by Mark Weinraub and Julia Jacobs; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

As shootings soar, Chicago police use technology to predict crime

A Chicago police officer attends a news conference announcing the department's plan to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. on September 21, 2016.

By Timothy Mclaughlin

CHICAGO (Reuters) – In a control room at a police headquarters on Chicago’s South Side, officers scan digital maps on big screens to see where a computer algorithm predicts crime will happen next.

Thrust into a national debate over violent crime and the use of force by officers, police in the third-largest U.S. city are using technology to try to rein in a surging murder rate.

And while commanders recognize the new tools can only ever be part of the solution, the number of shootings in the 7th District from January through July fell 39 percent compared with the same period last year. The number of murders dropped by 33 percent to 34. Citywide, the number of murders is up 3 percent at 402.

Three other districts where the technology is fully operational have also seen between 15 percent and 29 percent fewer shootings, and 9 percent to 18 percent fewer homicides, according to the department’s data.

“The community is starting to see real change in regards to violence,” said Kenneth Johnson, the 7th District commander.

Cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Denver, Tacoma, Washington, and Lincoln, Nebraska have tested the same or similar technologies.

The techniques being used in Chicago’s 7th District’s control room, one of six such centers opened since January as part of a roughly $6 million experiment, are aimed at complimenting traditional police work and are part of a broader effort to overhaul the force of some 12,500 officers.”We are not saying we can predict where the next shooting is going to occur,” said Jonathan Lewin, chief of the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Technical Services. “These are just tools. They are not going to replace (officers).”

The department’s efforts come after a Justice Department investigation published in January found officers engaged in racial discrimination and routinely violated residents’ civil rights.

That probe followed street protests triggered by the late 2015 release of a video showing a white police officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald a year earlier.

Some critics of the department fear the technology could prove a distraction from confronting what they say are the underlying issues driving violence in the city of 2.7 million.

“Real answers are hard,” said Andrew Ferguson, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia who has written a book on police technology. “They involve better education, better economic opportunity, dealing with poverty and mental illness.”

 

‘KILLING FIELDS’

Chicago’s recent rash of shootings – 101 people were shot over the Independence Day weekend alone – prompted President Donald Trump to bemoan the response of city leaders to the bloodshed, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to describe some of its areas as “killing fields.”

One of the technologies being used in the 7th District is HunchLab, a predictive policing program made by Philadelphia-based company Azavea. It combines crime data with factors including the location of local businesses, the weather and socioeconomic information to forecast where crime might occur. The results help officers decide how to deploy resources.

Another is the Strategic Subject’s List, a database of individuals likely to be involved in shootings that was developed by the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Police are tight-lipped about how it is compiled, saying only that the algorithm looks at eight factors including gang affiliation and prior drug arrests to assign people a number between 0 and 500. A higher number reflects higher risk.

They are also using the gunfire detection system made by ShotSpotter Inc which uses sensors to locate the source of gunshots. Police officials declined, however, to say how many such devices were installed in the 7th District.

“We can’t give away the kitchen sink and tell them all of our secrets,” district commander Johnson said.

 

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Ben Klayman and Lisa Shumaker)

 

College professor, second man sought in fatal Chicago stabbing

College professor, second man sought in fatal Chicago stabbing

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) – A nationwide manhunt was under way for a Northwestern University professor and an employee of Britain’s Oxford University who are accused in a fatal stabbing in Chicago last week, police said on Thursday.

Wyndham Lathem, 42, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Northwestern, and Andrew Warren, 56, who works at Oxford, are both at large, but Chicago police said the authorities have some idea where they might be.

“We strongly encourage Professor Lathem and Mr. Warren to do the right thing and turn themselves into any police department,” the statement said.

Officers who responded to a call last Thursday found a 30-year-old man in central Chicago with several cuts to his body, police said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene and has not been officially identified.

The police have not given a motive for the slaying or what relationship the man may have had with Lathem and Warren.

Police have restricted Lathem’s passport and Warren’s visa, and arrest warrants were out for them. Federal officials are aiding in the case and a national alert has been sent to law enforcement agencies, it said.

Northwestern said that Lathem, a faculty member since 2007, had been placed on administrative leave and banned from the Chicago-area school.

“There is no indication of any risk to the Northwestern community from this individual at this time,” it said in a statement.

Warren is a senior treasury assistant at Somerville College, part of the Oxford University network, the college said in a statement.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson)

Chicago sugary drink tax to take effect next week after ruling

Soda in Walmart

By Julia Jacobs

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A sweetened beverage tax will take effect in Chicago on Wednesday after an Illinois judge threw out a lawsuit by retailers that argued the measure was vague and unlawful.

Cook County, which includes Chicago and surrounding suburbs, joins a growing number of localities across the United States that have adopted measures to cut consumption of sugary drinks for health reasons, including Seattle and San Francisco.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kubasiak decided in the county’s favor on Friday, about a month after he had halted implementation of the penny-per-ounce tax in response to the lawsuit by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“We believed all along that our ordinance was carefully drafted and met pertinent constitutional tests,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement released after the ruling.

The retailers had argued the tax was unlawful because it exempted custom-made sweetened beverages, such as coffee drinks made in a cafe, and only taxed pre-made beverages, such as sodas, sports drinks and flavored water.

In his order on Friday, Kubasiak agreed with the county that there was a significant distinction between taxing the two types of sugary beverages.

County attorneys had also argued that taxing custom-made beverages would put an excessive administrative burden on the county, and that taxing widely available pre-made beverages would be more effective in improving public health.

Preckwinkle said in the statement that the county, which passed the tax in November, lost at least $17 million in revenue in the weeks in which the measure was delayed.

Kubasiak said in his order that he was aware of the county’s “budgetary turmoil” as a result of the revenue loss but that it did not factor in to his decision making. “The Court is not party to the County’s budget matters and is not moved by its public airing of those matters,” he said.

In response to the plaintiffs’ claims that the technology needed to collect the tax would not be ready for quick implementation, Preckwinkle said the retailers should have been prepared to collect the tax a month ago.

David Ruskin, an attorney for the retailers’ association, said the plaintiffs are considering an appeal.

“We are disappointed with today’s ruling,” Rob Karr, president of IRMA, told reporters. “I can only imagine the outrage felt by consumers.”

(Editing by Patrick Enright and Matthew Lewis)

Chicago policemen plead not guilty to cover-up in shooting of black teen

A Chicago police officer attends a news conference announcing the department's plan to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

By Chris Kenning and Suzannah Gonzales

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Three current and former Chicago police officers pleaded not guilty on Monday to felony charges of conspiring to cover up the fatal shooting of an African-American teenager by a white officer, a killing that sparked days of protests.

Detective David March and Officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney were each charged last month with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

The men entered their pleas at their arraignment in a packed Chicago courtroom before Circuit Judge Diane Gordon Cannon. The next hearing is Aug. 29.

The indictments arose from the 2014 incident in which Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke. Video footage of the incident showed he was shot as he walked away from police while holding a pocket knife.

March, Walsh and Gaffney, who were on the scene the night of the shooting, are alleged to have conspired to conceal the facts of McDonald’s killing to protect their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution, according to prosecutors.

A police dash-cam video of the shooting, released more than a year after the incident, led to days of protests and thrust Chicago into a national debate over the use of excessive force by police against minorities. The indictment said the officers created false reports on the killing of McDonald.

Walsh and March are no longer with the force. Gaffney was suspended without pay, Chicago police representatives said. All three men are white.

Tom Breen, Walsh’s lawyer, told reporters that his client would be acquitted. The judge set bond at $50,000 and released the men on the their own recognizance.

Van Dyke, accused of murder in the McDonald shooting, pleaded not guilty in 2015. In March, he pleaded not guilty to 16 new counts of aggravated battery. No trial date has been set.

The cases come after Chicago police in May finalized stricter limits on when officers can use firearms and other force, the latest attempt to reform a department roiled by misconduct and criticism in the wake of McDonald’s death.

Last month, members of Black Lives Matter and other groups sued the city to force federal court oversight of those reforms.

“Until people, particularly police officers that do wrong, are held accountable and arrested and put in jail, until that happens there will be no trust among the community and law enforcement,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist who was at the hearing.

 

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Matthew Lewis)