The latest local news

Plungers make a splash for a good cause

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ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- Dozens of brave souls, and some timid ones, took the plunge at Wick's Lake by Jumer's Casino.

Families in shark or unicorn costumes, women in tutus or handcrafted pirate ships, police and fire teams in matching t-shirts, all took to the water for a good cause supporting  Special Olympics athletes.

Participants are asked to come up with at least $100 to donate.

The daring ones among the plungers jumped right in to cheers from the crowd. Others had to be coaxed into the frigid 46-degree water.

"This is our sixth year," said Mary Schreiner. She was here with her family, all five members dressed in shark costume.

Her grandson Toland didn't seem to mind the cold water.

"Toland has a special needs brother who isn't able to plunge at all with us this year. But Toland who's three years old stepped up to the plate to become baby shark," she said.

The shark family participated as Team Maddox. They say Maddox is their hero and the motivating force behind their plunge.

Senate Candidate Mark Kelly returns $55,000 from paid speech in United Arab Emirates

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(CNN) — Former astronaut Mark Kelly this week returned $55,000 he was paid for a speech in the United Arab Emirates last year at an event sponsored by the country’s crown prince and attended by leaders of the country.

Kelly delivered the speech along with his twin brother and fellow astronaut Scott Kelly as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Kelly is now a Democratic candidate in the 2020 US Senate race for the seat held by Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona. Kelly has pledged to refuse corporate political action committee donations and to fight the influence of big money in politics as cornerstones of the early days of his campaign. The appearance could open Kelly to criticism of foreign influence now that he’s running for the Senate.

CNN’s KFile, which was reviewing Kelly’s time on the paid speaking circuit, first reached out to Kelly’s campaign last Thursday to inquire about his appearance in the UAE. An aide to Kelly’s Senate campaign said he received a fee of approximately $55,000 from his speakers bureau, Keppler Speakers, who booked the appearance and paid Kelly through a consulting firm. The aide said Kelly decided to return the money this week to Keppler Speakers.

In early March, The Intercept reported Kelly made at least 19 paid appearances at corporate events across the US.

According to local reports from the United Arab Emirates, Kelly and his brother spoke at the June 2018 event in Abu Dhabi about human space exploration and the future of the UAE space program. The lecture was titled “The Sky is not the Limit: Life Lessons from NASA’s Kelly Brothers” and his appearance was promoted by the UAE embassy in the US. NASA and the UAE have formal agreements to cooperate on space exploration and research.

In a statement to CNN, Kelly’s campaign spokesperson, Jacob Peters, said, “Like many other former astronauts, Mark has given speeches to a variety of groups about his experiences in space, the United States Navy, and how he and (his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords) worked together to overcome tragedy. This engagement was focused entirely on Mark sharing his experiences in space and discussing our countries’ space programs.”

In a tweet tagging his brother, Scott Kelly said he broke the Ramadan fast with the crown prince.

The paid speaking circuit is not uncommon in the world of politics. But there have been some controversies over the nature of some speeches, with critics and ethics officials charging the paid speeches can be used to direct influence. Hillary Clinton was criticized by the political left during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and then by Republicans during the general election for paid corporate speeches and foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation.

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was also criticized in 2017 for giving a $45,000 speech in 2015 in Moscow to RT, a Russian state-owned television company.

Kelly’s speech was delivered as part of a lecture series sponsored by the crown prince, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the UAE’s military. In this position, he has also played a leading role in the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, which has been accused of committing war crimes against civilians. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have denied the allegations.

The UAE and its authoritarian government have been accused routinely of violating basic human rights, according to numerous international human rights organizations, and reports from the United Nations and the US State Department.

Kelly isn’t alone in giving speeches to the lecture series. Others include former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bill and Melinda Gates, the Microsoft founder and his wife who co-chair the world’s largest private charitable organization.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly reflect that it was Scott Kelly who tweeted about a meal with the crown prince and that it was the UAE embassy in the US that tweeted about Kelly’s speech.

For the second time in a week, a Parkland student has died in an apparent suicide

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(CNN) — A second Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student has died in what police are calling “an apparent suicide.”

The student, who was enrolled at the Parkland, Florida, school at the time of death, has not been publicly identified. The death occurred Saturday evening and is under investigation, said Coral Springs Police spokesman Tyler Reik.

It’s unclear under what circumstances the student died, or what connection, if any, the student had to last year’s shooting at the high school.

News of the student’s death comes as the Parkland community is mourning the passing of a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, Sydney Aiello, who died last Sunday.

Aiello, who survived the 2018 massacre at the school, took her own life after suffering from survivor’s guilt and being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, her mother told CNN affiliate WFOR.

A funeral for Aiello, who was a student at Florida Atlantic University, took place on Friday.

Seventeen people — 14 students and three staff members — were killed when a gunman opened fire at the high school on February 14, 2018. The shooter, who confessed, has been indicted on 17 counts of murder.

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, here’s how to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

Ann’s Helping Hands torn down after lease expired

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PORT BYRON- The thrift store with the big heart was taken down piece by piece.

For over a decade Ann's Helping Hand has been serving those in need. The store was filled to the brim with donated clothing, furniture, and anything else someone might need to restart their life.

"Fire victims, whenever we see someone in need, flood victims, we try to be there," said Ann McCarrel, owner of Ann's Helping Hands.

Townspeople complained the thrift store was an eye sore. Rent went up for Ann and eventually her lease was terminated.

Ann hopes to keep offering her helping hand to the community.

"It makes a big difference when it's done as a community."

A GoFundMe was started to raise money for a new location. You can find more out here.

 

Barr releases his conclusions regarding the Mueller investigation

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WASHINGTON- The Mueller investigation found neither President Trump nor any of his allies conspired with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference, according to a

Attorney General William Barr, who was appointed February 14 to replace Jeff Sessions, received Mueller’s findings on March 22. On March 24 he sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee describing his reading of Robert Mueller’s findings. Read the letter yourself here.

According to the letter, the report was primarily concerned with Russian election interference, collusion, and obstruction of justice.

Russian collusion

Barr said the Special Counsel’s investigation “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The letter then goes on to describe the Russian government’s actions against the U.S. These included a disinformation campaign and a successful hacking into the DNC.

According to the letter, the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russia despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

Obstruction of justice

The Mueller report highlighted a number of actions by the President which could qualify as obstruction of justice. However, instead of reaching a definite conclusion, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question.

Barr’s letter said “the Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'”

Donald Trump responded to this news in a tweet reading “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

Barr and Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded after two days the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” per the report.

Moving forward

The full details of the report have not been released yet. Many people on both sides of the aisle have demanded the report be made public, according to NPR. In his letter Barr stated the report will be considered a confidential report to the Attorney General, but he will make efforts to release as much as possible.

The Mueller investigation handed off some aspects of the investigation to other offices. Barr said he will not release any information which may impact any ongoing investigations.

Mueller’s investigation saw the indictment of 34 individuals, including Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

 

Salvation Army serves 9,600 meals to flood victims

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Omaha, NE (KMTV) — As of Saturday, the Salvation Army has served approximately 9,600 meals to those affected by floods–and the number will continue to grow next week.

With more than ten mobile kitchens moving around flood-impacted areas of western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, the Salvation Army Western Division pushed forward with its flood relief efforts on Saturday as the week came to a close.

According to a press release from The Salvation Army, it is estimated that they served some 9,600 meals, over 10,000 drinks and more than 10,000 snacks. About 2,250 volunteer hours have been tallied up to this point as well.

The following is a review from the press release of Saturday’s efforts, along with a look ahead to next week:

In Council Bluffs—The Council Bluffs Corps team was in action Saturday in Mills and Fremont Counties in southwest Iowa. Among their work there: doing intake at a food-and-supplies distribution center in Glenwood, Iowa. The team is now planning to spearhead three-meal-per-day food-service operations starting midweek next week in Hamburg, Iowa. It also plans to distribute flood clean-up kits there in the coming days.

In Sioux City—The Sioux City team continues to provide refreshments in the nearby community of Hornick, Iowa, and is set to resume food service there on Monday. Officers and staff plan to head over to Ponca, Nebraska, next week to assist with flood-relief efforts there.

In Omaha—Officers, staff, and volunteers from the Kroc Center continued food service today in several Sarpy County lakeside communities. Elsewhere, the Disaster Resource Center continued its operations near 84th and Center—both distributing flood-relief items and taking in donations thereof. It’s open again Sunday (12 p.m.-5 p.m.) and will continue operations next week.

In Fremont—Officers, staff, and volunteers have been distributing flood clean-up kits, and continue to work in food-service functions in town, as well.

Several Washington Capitals players say they will skip the team’s White House visit Monday

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(CNN) — When the NHL champion Washington Capitals visit the White House on Monday, they’ll do so without a few key members of their Stanley Cup-winning team.

Braden Holtby, the Caps’ star goalie, will not attend the event because he wishes “to stay true to my values,” he said Friday in a video on NHL.com.

“For me, it’s just a personal thing. I believe in what I believe in, and in order to stick to those values, I think I have to do what I feel is right,” Holtby said. “But that doesn’t make a difference on anyone else’s decision. We stick by every single teammate that we have and their decision.”

Holtby, who was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, said his support for the LGBTQ community was one factor in his decision not to attend.

“My family and myself, we believe in a world where humans are treated with respect regardless of your stature or what you’re born into,” he said.

A Capitals spokesman said the team, which won its first-ever title last June, will take part in a private tour and meet President Trump in the Oval Office. There will be no official ceremony or media availability while the team is at the White House.

Holtby is one of several Capitals players from last year’s team who have said they won’t attend the ceremonial visit at the White House — a traditional event for championship teams that has increasingly become politicized in recent years.

Devante Smith-Pelly, a major goal-scorer during Washington’s playoff run who now plays with the minor league Hershey Bears, said last June that he would not visit the White House because of Trump’s polarizing comments.

“The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” Smith-Pelly, who is black, told Postmedia. “Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross. I’m not too into politics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don’t agree with.”

Capitals forward Brett Connolly said last August that he also would not attend, according to SportsNet.

“For me, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Connolly said. “I think there’ll be a few guys not going, too. Like I said, it has nothing to do with politics. It’s about what’s right and wrong. And we’ll leave it at that.”

But plenty of Caps players have said they will attend, including the team’s star, playoff MVP Alex Ovechkin. The Russian-born player told the Washington Post he was “excited” to go to the White House.

Trump’s history with other sports champions

The Capitals’ triumph last June was the first championship for a Washington, DC, team in one of the four major sports leagues in more than 25 years.

After their title, Trump praised the team and Ovechkin in a tweet.

“Congratulations to the Washington Capitals on their GREAT play and winning the Stanley Cup Championship. Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, was spectacular – a true Superstar! D.C. is popping, in many ways. What a time!”

Since taking office in early 2017 Trump has hosted events with the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Clemson and Alabama college football teams and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

But several championship teams have chosen not to attend these White House ceremonies — or have been disinvited by the President. Stephen Curry and several of his teammates on the Golden State Warriors said they would not attend in 2017, after which Trump said they were not welcome. Trump also canceled a planned visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles after some players said they would not attend.

Shortly after that decision, Trump told reporters he hoped to host the Capitals.

“I think we’ll have the Caps, I mean we’ll see. You know my attitude: If they want to be here, it’s the greatest place on Earth, I’m here. If they don’t want to be here, I don’t want them,” he said.

Trump has not hosted a women’s championship sports team for a solo event at the White House. But a November 2017 event honoring multiple NCAA championship squads included a number of women’s sports teams, including the University of Maryland’s women’s lacrosse team and the University of Utah’s co-ed ski team.

Individual players have skipped these honorary events in the past, as when Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas missed a 2012 visit while Barack Obama was president. He said at the time he decided not to attend because “the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.”

Trump lays low as he awaits findings of Mueller report

WQAD News -

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump is laying low at his Florida estate as he awaits the findings of the special counsel investigation, heeding the advice of his lawyers, who warned him against tweeting about the probe before details were released.

Trump, who spent the weekend golfing and relaxing with his family, was said to be relieved and happy that Robert Mueller’s probe ended without any new indictments, according to people close to the White House. Still, it was unclear whether Mueller’s report was critical of Trump’s actions, and the president’s lawyers told him tweeting about the investigation before that was clear might make his life more difficult.

The president notably did dial back his high-octane Twitter account over the weekend. His only public messages came Sunday morning, when he wrote “Good Morning, Have A Great Day!” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Trump aides said Sunday that the White House had not been briefed on Mueller’s report, which was turned over to the Justice Department on Friday afternoon. Attorney General William Barr spent the weekend combing through the report and planned to release its findings as early as Sunday.

The president has railed against Mueller for months, calling the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt.” The inquiry focused on whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 campaign, as well as whether the president tried to obstruct the probe.

A larger pack of aides than normal — including press secretary Sarah Sanders — traveled with Trump to Mar-a-Lago to manage any fallout. Trump was briefed on what his supporters would say on television throughout the weekend; aides hoped the president might stay quiet if he felt his messages was getting out even if he wasn’t delivering them himself.

White House officials were cautious about declaring victory or getting ahead of the details, said a person familiar with White House thinking, who like others, insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Trump allies like Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan handled television interviews over the weekend, while White House officials were expected to speak more during the week.

Trump spent the weekend surrounded by aides, friends and family, including son Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, who are at the Florida estate for spring break with their children. Trump’s eldest son was out fishing with his children when the report was delivered.

The president and first lady Melania Trump celebrated their son Barron’s 13th birthday with dinner on the patio of Mar-a-Lago on Friday night. Trump also attended a GOP dinner that night and basked in the applause of hundreds of dressed-to-the-nines attendees.

He spent Saturday golfing with singer-songwriter Kid Rock in temperatures that hit the 80s, and headed back to his golf club again on Sunday. Trump also spent time on the phone with trusted confidants.

The president’s low-key approach was a marked shift from his posture in recent days. Beginning last weekend, he unleashed a storm of tweets that were unusually harsh and varied, even by Trump’s standards.

He leveled fresh recriminations at the late Sen. John McCain. He called adviser Kellyanne Conway’s husband a “loser husband from hell,” former FBI Director James Comey a “dirty cop” and former Vice President Joe Biden as a “low I.Q. individual.” And Trump tweeted ongoing denouncements about the Mueller probe, saying it is the “biggest scandal in the history of the country.”

Aides blamed that Twitter explosion in part due to too much free time. Heading into this high-stakes weekend, Trump advisers made a point of keeping the president busy and focused on positive developments, according to the Republican close to the White House.

While White House aides were pleased that the president kept a low profile through much of the weekend, few thought he would be able to stay out of the conversation for long.

A few more showers to dodge tonight… More active weather later next week

WQAD News -

Flood warnings continue along several area rivers including the Mississippi and Rock. Crests are occurring now and will continue this week. Be prepared for road closures and detours in these areas.  Second crest still on track for parts of the Mississippi River by the Sunday-Monday time period. For more information on river levels go to https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=DVN

Not quite done with the raindrops yet!  Expect a few more scattered showers this evening hours before the passage of a cold front drys out the rest of the night.  We’ll keep it cloudy for the rest of the night with lows dipping around 30 degrees.

The passage of this front will lead to a brighter but chiller day with highs not getting out of the 40s.  Have that light jacket as a northeast breeze will put a bit of a chill from time to time.

This cool down will be short lived though as high temperatures will bounce back into the lower 50s under more sun on Tuesday.

Warmer winds will then blow in for the rest of the work week sending temperatures around 60 degrees during this periods for daytime highs.

However, this will also lead to our next round of showers along with a few thunderstorms.   The better coverage appears to take place Thursday night into Friday before chilly 40s return the following weekend.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

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New bill will create hotline for Illinois students to report bullying

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SPRINGFIELD- A new bill will help Illinois students anonymously report bullying.

State Rep. John Cabello, R-Manchester Park, is the driving force behind a bill that will allow students under 18 to use a toll-free hotline to report harassment, according to IL News.

A hotline already exists. The Department of Children and Family Services operates a hotline for reporting child abuse or neglect.

“There should be no cost involved, at least to the state,” Cabello said. “Everything is already there. It’s just another way of trying to make sure we get these kids the help they need.”

When called, the operator will give the caller information on how to handle their situation. The next step is to notify school officials about the details of the call. In severe cases where the bullying involves criminal action the police will become involved.

Locally, a recent Facebook post by a Moline High School student created buzz about students’ ability to report bullying. According to the post, students have been subjected to racial slurs and other forms of bullying.

The post says no action was taken by the school after reports were made, but when the bullied student retaliated they were sent to the office. Moline High School could not be reached for comments.

Cabello says his idea was inspired by similar accounts from across his region.

“What we’re trying to do is give the kids going through this another avenue of trying to make sure it stops.”

Illinois farms get bigger, fewer as farmers age

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EDWARDS, Ill. (AP) — The number of farms in Illinois is going down, but the remaining operations are growing bigger as aging farmers struggle to find successors, according to agricultural officials.

The Illinois Farm Bureau says the state has 71,000 farms, down from 241,000 farms a century ago, the Journal Star reported .

Succession is a major issue for older farmers, said Ross Pauli, who has an 800-acre farm in Edwards. Many farmers in the state don’t have relatives who will take over the business, so neighboring farms take over the land instead and grow, he said.

“I don’t have any kids to take over when I’m ready to retire,” Pauli said. “I’d like to find a young farmer for my land.”

Pauli, 57, represents the average age of farmers in Illinois, according to the farm bureau. Nationally, farmers older than 65 outnumber farmers younger than 35 by a ratio of six to one.

Farmers are likely working past the age when others would have retired because they “like what they’re doing,” said Patrick Kirchhofer, manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau.

“It’s a lifestyle that a lot of people like. You can be your own boss and you’re rewarded by making good decisions,” he said.

New farms likely aren’t starting because the industry is expensive and difficult to break into, Pauli said.

“You can’t go out and buy land and the equipment needed unless you’re raising vegetables on smaller acreage,” he said.

Already established farms will probably continue to grow, said Chris Magnuson, a spokesman for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

“Existing farmers are always on the lookout for more land,” he said.

Advances in technology have allowed farmers to be more productive, giving them the capability to farm more ground with fewer people, Magnuson said.

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