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April 2013 Archives

WASHINGTON--Even though fund-raising invites were sent out weeks ago--and I reported on this in an April 12 post--the White House on Tuesday announced that President Barack Obama will hit Chicago for fund-raisers to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

My April 12 post, based on invitations for the events...

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama returns home to Chicago on May 29 for a fund-raiser to benefit the House Democratic political organization. The tab ranges from $1,000 to $50,000 to raise or write. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief Rep. DCCC Steve Israel will be on hand as well as Democratic members of the llinois Congressional Delegation. The main event is at the Chicago Hilton, 720 S. Michigan, with BettyLu and Paul Saltzman hosting a dinner for the major contributors. BettyLu Saltzman was one of the first major Democratic activists to meet Obama when he was starting out in Chicago politics and see in him a man who could become president.


On Monday, March 4, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) keynoted the 6th Annual Northwest Suburban Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Palatine.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in the video is speaking to six northwest GOP organizations hosting the dinner --from Schaumburg, Barrington, Hanover, Northfield, Palatine, and Wheeling Townships-- and thanking the group for an award.

"In the coming months I plan to join with Rand to vote to spend less and borrow less and tax less to save our economy," Kirk said.

Updated...

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama on Monday tapped Sara Lee Ellis and Andrea Wood for Chicago-based spots on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and Colin Stirling Bruce for a slot on the federal court anchored in Springfield.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recommended the lawyers to the White House, after consulting with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)

The positions require Senate confirmation.

"All three of the President's nominees are excellent candidates for federal judgeships in Illinois," said Durbin. "As dedicated public servants, they have each gained a wealth of experience throughout their legal careers. I will work with my colleagues, including Senator Kirk, to see that all three judicial nominees are swiftly confirmed by the Senate."

From Durbin: "Durbin, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, is the senior senator from Illinois. The senior senator from the President's political party has traditionally had the lead role in making recommendations to the President for the positions of Federal District Court Judge, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshal in the senator's home state.

'During the Clinton Presidency, Durbin worked closely with Senator Peter Fitzgerald to ensure that highly qualified candidates for federal judgeships were nominated by the President with bipartisan support in order to secure their confirmation. Before making recommendations to President Obama, Durbin consulted with the office of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)."


Click below for bios....

WASHINGTON--On Day 100 of his second term, President Barack Obama at a press conference Tuesday seemed taken aback by one particular question: ABC's Jonathan Karl--noting Congress ignored Obama's push for gun control and to deal with sequester cuts--asked Obama, "do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?

"Well, if you put it that way, Jonathan -- -- maybe I should just pack up and go home. Golly. You know, the -- I think it's -- it's a little -- -- as Mark Twain said, you know, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point," Obama said.

"Look, we -- you know, we understand that we're in divided government right now. Republicans control the House of Representatives. In the Senate, this habit of requiring 60 votes for even the most modest piece of legislation has gummed up the works there. And I think it's -- comes to no surprise, not even to the American people, but even to members of Congress themselves, that right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill.

"Despite that, I'm actually confident that there are a range of things that we're going to be able to get done. I feel confident that the bipartisan work that's been done on immigration reform will result in a bill that passes the Senate and passes the House and gets on my desk. And that's going to be a historic achievement. And I'm -- I've been very complimentary of the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats in those efforts."

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama called NBA basketball player Jason Collins on Monday after the news broke that he was gay, with the athlete telling his story in the new issue of Sports Illustrated.

"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins said in the story.

"President Obama called Jason Collins this afternoon to express his support and said he was impressed by his courage," the White House said in statement circulated via Twitter.

First Lady Michelle Obama said in a Tweet, "So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We've got your back! -

WASHINGTON--Attorney General Eric Holder--a Democrat--and former Attorney General John Ashcroft--a Republican--speak on the legacy of former Attorney General Edward Levi--who had extraordinary, lifelong ties to the University of Chicago-- Tuesday at an event sponsored by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and the School of Law.

The event is 6 p.m. at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.


WASHINGTON--Newark Mayor Cory Booker hits Chicago on Tuesday for a fund-raising swing as he eyes a New Jersey Democratic Senate run. The funder is at Untitled Chicago, 111 West Kinzie Street

It's relatively low-end as funders go, with tickets from $75 to $750, donate or raise.


Co-Chairs:

Mike Crandall | Keating Crown | Daniel Goodman | Jordan Goodman | Ashley Simmons | Aaron Tucker | Lora Whitticker | Beth Wolfson


Hosts

Vanessa Abron | Marc Carmel | Javon Coney | Abby Baine Dunn | Dan Drexler | Joydeep Dasmunshi | Jeremy Ebie | Evan Eschmeyer | Leslie Fields | Danny Gutman | Jon Hirschtritt | Jarvis Houston | Kamilah Jones | Scott Kannry | Zach Koutsky | Layla & William Lumpkin | Umair Mamsa Sam Matthew | Wendell Mosby | Andray Napolez | Nneka Rimmer | Dave Seman | Holly Snow | Stephen Sotoloff | Dennis Winstead | Michael & Franny Zucker

WASHINGTON--Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is fund-raising in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday for her Senate war chest and her "Off the Sidelines" political action committee--which Gillibrand is using to boost female candidates.

During the day Monday Gillibrand is doing a series of one-on-one finance meetings; followed by a reception at Tabula Tua, 1015 W. Armitage hosted by Grace Tsao-Wu and Lucy Moog.

After that, there is a dinner reception at the S. Prairie Ave. home of Chaka Patterson.
Among the co-hosts: Wendy Abrams · Wally Brewster and Bob Satawake
Touré Claibourne · Laura Ricketts · Judy Wise

Tsao-Wu, Patterson, Ricketts, Brewster and Satawake were among President Barack Obama's very top bundlers for the 2012 campaign, raising more than $500,000 for his re-election bid.

On Tuesday, Joan Hall hosts a breakfast to benefit Gillibrand's "Off the Sidelines" PAC at her East Lake Shore Drive home.

Gillibrand is hitting Chicago on the day Politico's Maggie Haberman reported on Gillibrand's presidential prospects in a story headlined, "Could Kirsten Gillibrand run for President?"

In the 2012 cycle, Gillibrand's "Off the Sidelines" PAC donated more than $1 million to 15 House and Senate candidates, mostly women--and aims to double the contributions in the 2014 cycle.

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(Video by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON -- Takeaways from the just-concluded White House Correspondents' Association Dinner weekend:

◆ Barbra Streisand was my favorite celebrity to spot at the giant Saturday night dinner.

I am not above gawking -- you all knew, right? I just happened to be hanging near the best table in the giant Washington Hilton hotel ballroom -- massive coincidence -- when Streisand and husband James Brolin sat down. Their seatmates included Kevin Spacey and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Streisand was next to Bloomberg.

My problem at this event is always that my Hollywood and sports celebrity recognition quotient is too low. I attribute that to watching entirely too much MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and HGTV. And not enough prime time hit TV shows and movies to properly prep for this event.

So that basketball player on crutches I spotted -- the star who broke his leg at the University of Louisville/Duke game -- what's his name?

But I did see "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg's hit, and a spoof video of Spielberg's next presidential biopic is my top hit pick. The most hilarious part of President Barack Obama's schtick was Obama playing Daniel Day-Lewis playing Obama.

Obama, noting that Spielberg and Day-Lewis, who portrayed Lincoln, were in the audience, set it up. Obama said he was a "little nervous" about Spielberg's next project -- throwing it to the video, a mock preview of Spielberg's pretend new movie, "Obama."

In faux-documentary style, Spielberg is being interviewed in a movie theater. After Lincoln, he said he was "wondering what to do next," and then "in the middle of the night I woke up and it hit me: Obama."

But "picking the right actor to play Obama was a challenge;'' until he realized the obvious, Daniel Day-Lewis, because "he becomes his characters. And you know what" . . . he nailed it."

Cut to Obama, who is identified as "Daniel Day-Lewis, method actor," explaining his approach to playing Obama.

"Was it hard playing Obama? I'll be honest, yeah, it was. His accent took awhile.

" . . . The cosmetics were challenging. You wouldn't believe how long it takes to put these ears on in the morning," Obama says as he pretends to be attaching his ears.

Another funny video -- a "House of Cards" spoof -- featured Spacey playing the conniving congressman, who managed somehow to control hard-to-get tickets and seating for the dinner.

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett had a prominent cameo, where she is calling Spacey's character, wrangling for a prime seat next to headliner Conan O'Brien. "You know I was supposed to sit next to Conan."

Later, Spacey's congressman character worries, "Is Valerie badmouthing me to the president?

Obama's top zingers:

1. "I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be."

2. "This whole controversy about Jay-Z going to Cuba -- it's unbelievable. I've got 99 problems and now Jay-Z is one."

3. "Some of my former advisers have switched over to the dark side. For example, David Axelrod now works for MSNBC, which is a nice change of pace since MSNBC used to work for David Axelrod."

4. Obama was at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum last week, which inspired, "I'm also hard at work on plans for the Obama Library. And some have suggested that we put it in my birthplace, but I'd rather keep it in the United States."

O'Brien ripped the media. That's fair. After all, he is a comic and this was a dinner thrown by a press group. But I don't care for insulting, taunting humor.

"Fox News is watched by conservatives, MSNBC is watched by liberals and CNN is watched by the people who clean the offices at CNN," ripped O'Brien.

O'Brien threw a series of cheap shots at the Hilton hotel chain -- just as hardworking waiters were working around aggressive table hoppers to serve dinner to 3,000 people.

Self-mockery is smart comedy. Taunting a hotel that did nothing wrong? That's not funny.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama is expected to tap Charlotte, N.S. Mayor Anthony Foxx, to become the next Transportation Secretary on Monday, to replace Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood, the Charlotte Observer and other outlets are reporting. A White House source told the Sun-Times Sunday Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker is still on track to be nominated for Commerce Secretary but will not be named on Monday.


(video courtesy C-SPAN)

President Barack Obama's remarks at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner click HERE


WASHINGTON--Hollywood is flocking to Washington for the gala WHCA dinner on Saturday, which has developed into quite a spectacle. Pre-dinner festivities are starting tonight, with a series of parties and late-nights thrown by a variety of outlets.

Politico's Roger Simon tells off dinner critics. [Politico] Expected guests. [Politico] The after party scene. [Washington Post]



The nickname for the dinner is the ''nerd prom.'' Comic Conan O'Brien, the dinner headliner, was part of the crowd today at a lunch for WHCA scholarship winners at the National Journal/Atlantic offices in the Watergate Complex. O'Brien mingled with students for a nice chunk of time. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spoke to the students. Fox News Bill O'Reilly was present; he's offering an internship to one of the students, announced WHCA President/Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry.

Live coverage of the dinner on C-SPAN, CNN and MSNBC.

BUSH_LIBRARY_38744723.JPG
Production crews put the finishing touches on the stage before the dedication ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Kim Johnson)

WASHINGTON -- The dedication today of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University near Dallas brings together four past presidents, President Barack Obama and their spouses.

The cables -- MSNBC, CNN, FOX -- are giving extensive coverage to the opening and go live at 10 a.m. Chicago time. It's a library, museum and policy institute. Take a look at the $250 million structure. [BushCenter.org]

"I never thought about my critics," the two-term Bush tells NBC's Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" this morning as the former president and wife Laura walk through the center, which includes twisted beams from the World Trade Center. Bush interviews are running on all the morning shows.

The Iraq war is one of the most controversial chapters of the Bush presidency. Bush told CNN's John King in an interview, "History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made for Iraq and I'm just not going to be around to see the final verdict."

The presidential line-up at the ceremony:
President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama, President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush, President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter

Heads of state attending:

  • Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (NATO)
  • President Mikheil Saakashvilli and Mrs. Sandra E. Roelofs (Georgia)
  • President Josè Marìa Aznar (Spain)
  • Prime Minister and Mrs. Ehud Olmert (Israel)
  • Prime Minister and Mrs. John Howard (Australia)
  • President Lee Myung-bak and Mrs. Yoon-ok Kim (Korea)
  • Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mrs. Cherie Blair (United Kingdom)
  • President John Kufuor (Ghana)
  • President Francisco Flores Perèz and Mrs. Lourdes Maria Rodriguez de Flores (El Salvador)
  • Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Italy)

Future file
We're going to get our own center. Once the Bush library and museum opens, the next up will be for Obama somewhere--all but certain--in Chicago.

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U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (court photo)

WASHINGTON--U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who will sentence former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson later this year--tapped after Judge Robert Wilkins-- who took their plea-- withdrew from the case-- is a Harvard Law grad and former defense attorney. She plunges into the case for the first time on Friday, when there is a status hearing--this is routine--for both Jacksons.

President Barack Obama nominated her for the bench on June 17, 2010.

From the court bio: "Amy Berman Jackson was appointed as a United States District Judge in March of 2011. Prior to joining the Court, she was engaged in private practice in Washington, D.C. as a member of Trout Cacheris, where she specialized in complex criminal and civil trials and appeals. Earlier, she was a partner at Venable, Baetjer, Howard, and Civiletti. She began her career as a law clerk for the Hon. Harrison L. Winter on the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, and she served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, where she received Department of Justice Special Achievement Awards for her work on murder and sexual assault cases.

"Judge Jackson received her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School and her A.B. cum laude from Harvard College."

At-a-glance, from the Federal Judicial Center Biographical Directory of Federal Judges

Jackson, Amy Berman

Born 1954 in Baltimore, MD

Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Nominated by Barack Obama on January 5, 2011, to a seat vacated by Gladys Kessler. Confirmed by the Senate on March 17, 2011, and received commission on March 18, 2011.

Education:
Harvard College, A.B., 1976
Harvard Law School, J.D., 1979

Professional Career:
Law clerk, Hon. Harrison L. Winter, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 1979-1980
Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Columbia, 1980-1986
Private practice, Washington, D.C., 1986-1994, 2000-2011

WASHINGTON -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hits Chicago on June 13 to be honored by CURE, the epilepsy research foundation -- this while a new poll and the start Wednesday of a new chapter in her life are sparking even more speculation about a 2016 White House bid.

CURE -- Citizens for Research in Epilepsy -- was founded by President Barack Obama's former top strategist David Axelrod, and his wife, Susan, 15 years ago; their daughter, Lauren, has epilepsy.


Clinton, then the first lady, was the draw at the group's very first fund-raising dinner and the boost from her star power was "instrumental in getting us started," Axelrod told me.

The June event will be at the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom and Clinton (a Chicago native: born in Edgewater Hospital, raised in Park Ridge) will deliver remarks for the CURE fund-raiser at a time when guessing about a future presidential run is the top political sport.

Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has been "an extraordinarily in demand speaker and this will be one of her early appearances. We're thrilled to have her," Axelrod said.

Axelrod and I spoke on Wednesday -- the day after a Gallup Poll showed Clinton's popularity soaring. Clinton's 64 percent favorable rating was above Obama's 55 percent and Vice President Joe Biden's 45 percent.

Clinton on Wednesday was delivering the first of a series of highly paid speeches for private groups, with the poll and the speeches driving her political futures higher this week.

In a round of interviews before she left State, Clinton said she would be taking some time off to catch up on sleep and get in shape. Instead, she's working on a memoir and filling her calendar with dates.

Of course I asked Axelrod about Clinton and 2016.

"She is better off staying far away from politics for a while, in my view. I think you can be out there and speak to issues and not be part of the political fray," he said.

Clinton has a special status right now, with her four years at State putting her "more in the category of statesman and that's a good category to be in and if I were her, I'd want to preserve that status as long as possible."

There's been rampant speculation about Biden and Clinton circling each other with an eye at 2016.

"I love the man," Axelrod said of the vice president, "but I think there is general acknowledgment that she is by far the first among equals and if she decides to run, I think she would be the prohibitive favorite to be the nominee. And she would be a strong candidiate in the general election. I think there is broad agreement on that."

Axelrod and Clinton years ago put behind them the hard fought 2008 Democratic primary -- where Axelrod steered Obama's winning bid.

He is "deeply grateful" that Clinton is coming home in June to boost CURE -- which since its founding in 1998 has raised more than $26 million for research.

For those who may see a Democratic primary between Biden and Clinton -- no way, said Axelrod.

"I would be shocked if the two of them ended up running against each other. I don't think that would happen."

It also would not be shocking if Clinton did not run. But if she does what is certain, said Axelrod, is this: "She will be very formidable."

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WASHINGTON-- President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle are trying to discourage daughters Malia and Sasha from getting tattoos with an unusual threat--tattoos for the whole family.

Obama disclosed his anti-tattoo "strategy' in an interview broadcast Wednesday with NBC "Today" Show host Savannah Guthrie, who asked about keeping up with trends and such with Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11.

"Michelle and I have used the strategy, when it comes to things like tattoos -- what we've said to the girls is if you guys ever decide you're going to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo, in the same place. And we'll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo. And our thinking is that might dissuade them from thinking that somehow that's a good way to rebel," Obama said.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama hosted all the females in the Senate--who number only 20--to a White House dinner Tuesday night, discussing the budget, immigration and other issues over Alaskan halibut and peach pie.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) who suggested to Obama he dine with the women--who get together on a regular basis--after the dinner thanked Obama for having them over in a tweet where she added they "had a great discussion."

A White House Official said after the dinner, lasting about two hours, "Tonight, the President met with the bipartisan group of women Senators at the White House for dinner. The President enjoyed continuing his discussion with the Senators about a wide range of items on the agenda, including working together to find common ground on budget issues and new initiatives to grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. The President discussed our continued focus on passing commonsense immigration reform that will strengthen our national security and our economy.

"The group also discussed a number of other priorities, including passing measures to reduce gun violence and expanding educational opportunities for all our children. The President also reiterated his commitment to ensuring all resources remain available as a part of the ongoing investigation into the explosions in Boston last week and commended law enforcement efforts."

The 20 female senators -- 16 Democrats, four Republicans are:

* Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK
* Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD
* Senator Patty Murray, D-WA
* Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH
* Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-WI
* Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA
* Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA
* Senator Susan Collins, R-ME
* Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA
* Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE
* Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY
* Senator Kay Hagan, D-NC
* Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND
* Senator Mazie Hirono, D-HI
* Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-MN
* Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA
* Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO
* Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
* Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH
* Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA

WASHINGTON -- Following the shooting death of a teen near his Chicago home, President Barack Obama was "saddened" the White house said that another young victim fell to gun violence and that he "remained committed" to getting gun control laws though Congress.

White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said, "The President and First Lady were saddened to learn of yet another young victim of gun violence in their hometown of Chicago."

"The President remains committed to pressuring Congress to pass common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence."

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WASHINGTON--The Associated Press was hacked Tuesday with the perp posting a whopper.

Two things could not be true: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney going on at length on Syria and other topics at the White House briefing--with all the network reporters sitting calmly in their front row seats-- at the very same time the AP was reporting there were two explosions at the White House and President Barack Obama was injured.

The AP later removed the tweet, but not before Carney and, in an unusual move the AP White House reporter--who by tradition gets the first question--made a statement when the briefing started.

"Thanks, Jay. I just want to say at the top that it appears as though AP's Twitter account has been hacked. So anything that was just sent out about any incident at the White House is actually false and we'll be putting something out hopefully shortly to clarify that, if that hasn't happened already," AP reporter Julie Pace said.

Replied Carney, "Good. I thank you for that. I appreciate that. And I can say that the president is fine. I was just with him."

The Chicago Sun-Times Lauran Berta tracked the Twitter posts--and how stocks briefly dropped at the fake news.

Updated April 24, 2013
The Obama 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee incorrectly reported donations connected to Chicago's Penny Pritzker. Pritizker personally contributed $250,000 to the inauguration. A firm she founded, PSP Capital Resources, did not give an additional $250,000. An amended report has been filed with the Federal Election Commission.

WASHINGTON--Illinois corporate and individual donors--785 in all-- gave $3.33 million of the $43 million raised to bankroll President Barack Obama's second inauguration festivities, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation for the Chicago Sun-Times, with the $1 million donated by the Chicago-based Boeing Corp. the top state contributor.

The top Illinois givers all have a long donor history with Obama with the next most generous donations totaling $500,000 coming from Penny Pritzker personally ($250,000) and a private investment firm she founded, PSP Capital Partners ($250,000.)

Obama is expected to be nominating Pritzker to be the next Commerce Secretary. She led the fund-raising drive for Obama's 2008 campaign.

The other $250,000 donors are Newsweb Corp. owner Fred Eychaner, through the years one of the biggest Democratic donors in the U.S. and Michael Sacks, the CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management. Sacks and Eychaner also were major donors to the Obama campaign.

AT&T was the biggest giver, with $4.4 million in goods donated. The committee filed a disclosure report Saturday with the Federal Election Commission.

Click below for the entire Illinois Inauguration 2013 list, courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation.

Illinois Donations to Obama's 2013 PIC

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) chairs a hearing Tuesday on "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing."

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Right "will focus on the constitutional and statutory authority for targeted killings; the scope of the battlefield and who can be targeted as a combatant; and establishing a transparent legal framework for the use of drones."

"Targeted killing raises important legal and policy questions that require a public debate," Durbin said in a statement. "President Obama has made it clear he wants to work with Congress to establish 'a legal architecture' for drone strikes to prevent abuses. My subcommittee will begin this important constitutional debate when we meet tomorrow."

Witnesses at the hearing will include: General James Cartwright, United States Marine Corp (ret.); Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer; Peter Bergen, Director, National Security Studies Program, New America Foundation; Rosa Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Colonel Martha McSally, United States Air Force (ret.); and Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law.

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WASHINGTON--The defense team for Boston bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is led by Federal Public Defender Miriam Conrad, a 1979 graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism who left reporting to attend Harvard Law School and start a second career as an attorney.

Conrad was one of three Federal Public Defenders present at the brief bedside hearing held Monday for Tsarnaev at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Conrad attended Northwestern between 1975 and 1979, was an editor at the Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper, moving on to become a reporter at the Miami Herald.

Michele Weldon, an assistant professor at Medill, was one of Conrad's Northwestern classmates. In an interview on Monday Weldon told me Conrad was "one of the smartest people I know, a person of great integrity."

In 1992 Conrad became an assistant Federal Public Defender in Boston and in 2005 was appointed to a four-year term to oversee the entire office, which covers Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

According to an article in a Medill publication, Conrad is married to an attorney in private practice and is the mother of twin boys.

WASHINGTON--Boston bombings suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev will tried in the U.S. civilian federal court system, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. Some GOP senators had suggested he should be tried as an enemy combatant.

"He will not be treated as an enemy combatant," Carney said of the hospitalized Tsaraev.

"We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice. Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be trialed -- tried, rather, in military commissions. And it is important to remember that since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists. The effective use of the criminal justice system has resulted in the interrogation, conviction and detention of both U.S. citizens and noncitizens for acts of terrorism committed inside the United States and around the world. The system has repeatedly proven that it can successfully handle the threat that we continue to face."

A report from Reuters, citing a court official, also said Tsarnaev was formally arraigned in his hospital bed but charges will not be made public until his first court appearance.

WASHINGTON -- The question asked on various Sunday shows was whether the Boston bombings will slow or derail immigration reform; it came up because the suspects are immigrants: The now deceased Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was a legal permanent resident and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, captured Friday, is a naturalized U.S. citizen, according to the FBI.

Five takeaways, as landmark immigration legislation is pending in the Senate with the House version expected to be introduced in a few weeks:

◆White House and Congressional sources are saying the lawmakers who have or will call for delay in dealing with immigration because of the Boston bombings were poised to oppose the measure anyway. The Boston bombings may complicate the road some, but in the end, the vote count may not be significantly impacted.

◆The issue of whether the FBI fumbled in handling Tamerlan Tsarnaev has to do with security, intelligence, whether U.S. laws to monitor threats are sufficient and U.S.-Russian relations--not immigration. A caveat: that is, unless something damaging comes out about the Tsarnaev family immigration history.

◆Watch for House and Senate committees to probe why the older brother--flagged by Russia as a potential problem and subsequently questioned by the FBI -- was not kept under a closer watch.

◆Republicans know it is in their political interests to pass immigration reform before the 2014 elections -- notwithstanding the Boston tragedy. Former GOP vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who has been working with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on immigration issues, make a joint presentation to the City Club of Chicago on Monday.


◆Democratic activist groups know it is in their interest not to paint every Republican with a negative brush; immigration goes nowhere without GOP votes. To that point: The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights--a group with a Democratic tilt -- will "thank" Ryan at an event Monday morning at the Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 W. Erie.

The bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line came on the very week the Senate bi-partisan "Gang of 8" filed their 844-page immigration bill; the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill Friday; a second hearing is on Monday morning.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is in the Senate "gang;" Gutierrez is a member of the House bi-partisan group. He told me Sunday he's not anticipating many defectors because of Boston. Immigration foes "will probably opportunistically take advantage to muddle the issue of why we need immigration reform," Gutierrez said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is also a member of the "Gang of 8," and a noted hardliner on security issues.

On CNN's "State of the Union, Graham said "I want to know how the FBI or the system dropped the ball when (Tamerlan Tsarnaev) was identified as a potential terrorist."

At the same time regarding immigration, "what happened in Boston and international terrorism I think should urge us to act quicker, not slower," said Graham.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, Durbin said on "NBC's "Meet the Press," "the worst thing we can do is nothing."

Though they are known for other issues, Illinois has two members on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Gutierrez and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

Gutierrez told me he looks forward to having the FBI director come before Intel panel for a briefing on how Tsarnaev slipped through the system. Schakowsky told me Sunday, "it is a real stretch to connect what happened in Boston to immigration."

The Boston bombings, said Gutierrez, "is not a reason to stop immigration reform unless you want it to be."

Obama April 22, 2013 week ahead

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WASHINGTON--Bill Daley is telling Democratic senators who voted against gun-control measures last week not to bother coming to Chicago for political money and advising his pals in New York and Los Angeles--other big fund-raising cities--not to donate to them either. In a Washington Post column headlined "Heidi Heitcamp betrayed me on gun control," Daley takes particular aim at the freshman Democrat for her anti-gun control votes.

Without votes from Heitcamp, three other Democratic senators and 41 GOP senators, the Senate gun-control measures fell short of the supermajority of 60 votes needed to survive.

The column comes as Daley--President Barack Obama's former chief of staff and former Commerce Secretary-- is mulling a Democratic primary run for Illinois governor.

"I want my money back," writes Daley. "Last October, I gave $2,500 to support Heidi Heitkamp's campaign to become North Dakota's junior senator. A few weeks later, she won a surprise victory

"I have had a long career in government and politics, but I don't donate heavily to political campaigns. When I contribute, it's because I know the candidate well or am really impressed with the person. Heidi Heitkamp was one of the latter: She struck me as strong-willed, principled and an independent thinker.

"But this week, Heitkamp betrayed those hopes."

Daley said of the three other Democrats who voted against background checks-- Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana-- "no doubt they'll come to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other cities looking for money to fuel their campaigns. These cities, of course, are also too often the destination for illegal guns flowing in from out of state. So I'll have some advice for my friends in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles: Just say no to the Democrats who said no on background checks

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should not be tried in a military court as an enemy combatant.

Durbin told host David Gregory that there are questions the FBI needs to answer regarding anything was missed when agents talked to Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan --who died Thursday following a carjacking and a confrontation with police. The brothers mother told reporters FBI agents had interviewed Tamerlan.

Asked by Gregory, "Do you have questions about the FBI's tracking of the older suspect here who is now dead and whether something was missed," Durbin replied, " Of course I do.

"And I think we should ask those questions. That's our responsibility. But I listened to Mike Rogers and I thought he laid it out as a former FBI agent himself as to what we were faced with when we were asked these hard questions. We've got to make sure as well, let me add David, that we give to the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, federal, state, and local, the resources they need to keep America safe. We live in a dangerous world. We live also in a free and open society, which we value very much. In order to keep Americans safe at the marathon, at every other public event, we need to invest the resources that are necessary for law enforcement."

Some Senators have said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be treated an enemy combatant.

Gregory asked Durbin, "I want to make sure I nail you down on that point, you-- you oppose that?'

Said Durbin, "You bet. Well, let me just tell you, history tells us that we're doing the right thing. Hundreds-- literally hundreds of terrorists, those accused of terrorism, have been successfully prosecuted and imprisoned in the United States using the same process that's being used in this case in Boston. The handful, Liz Cheney and others, who are calling for military commissions, have to explain to us why in-- since 9/11 only six times have we used military commissions. I think we are approaching this in the right way following the law as we should. We are gathering the evidence, and I think at the end, the right decision is being made to pursue this."

WASHINGTON--With the Boston area in a lockdown with the manhunt on for suspects--one dead in an overnight shootout--President Barack Obama on Friday convened a briefing at the White House with his national security team on the unfolding developments, according to a White House official.

According to the official, " Shortly after 9:45AM, the President, joined by Vice President Biden, convened a briefing in the White House Situation Room with his national security team on developments in the investigation as well as the events in Boston and Watertown, MA. Participating in the briefing are Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, Deputy Counsel to the President Avril Haines and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Jake Sullivan.

"Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State John Kerry, and CIA Director John Brennan joined by video conference. The briefing is currently underway. This morning's briefing is a follow-up to the regular briefings that the President received through the night as he was routinely updated on the investigation."

Because of the developments in Boston, Napolitano cancelled her appearance Friday morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify in support of the bi-partisan immigration bill.

FOR THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS: WWW.SUNTIMES.COM


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Flooding on the Edens Expressway Thursday morning forces lane closure.  (Sun-Times photo by Jon Seidel)

Good morning. Thunderstorms, high today 72 [Forecast]

Breaking

Horrific Texas fertilizer plant explosion kills at least 5, injuries scores more and forces the evacuation of the small town of West, about 20 miles north of Waco. [Sun-Times] [NBC]

Breaking

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle fly to Boston for a bomb blast  memorial, "Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service" at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.[Boston Globe] The 10 a.m. Chicago time service will be carried live on multiple platforms.

Breaking

Parts of the Ike, Stevenson expressways shut down by heavy rains, flooding. Metra, CTA, O'Hare and Midway Airports reporting delays and cancellations. Flash flood warnings. For the latest and updates [Sun-Times] 





Sex, drugs, no rock n'roll 
Going to pot... The Illinois House voted to legalize medical marijuana and mandate abstinence in sex education classes for grades 6-12. [Sun-Times][Crain's Chicago Business]

Both bills now move to the state Senate. Lawmakers taking a break from the heavy lifting...as in pension reform. 

Gun-control measures fail

GOP Senators blocked multiple gun-control measures. [Wall Street Journal] [Washington Post]

Obama called the defeat "shameful" [Sun-Times]

The underlying gun bill--with the anti-traffickling provision named after the slain Chicago teen, Hadiya Pendleton-- is expected to be sidelined today. [Sweet, Sun-Times]

Big loss for Obama. [Politico] [Ezra Klein, Bloomberg]

Obama has a lot on his plate. [Real Clear Politics] [Roll Call]

Major takeaway: Obama slapped with big loss on legacy issue. With the Senate shutdown, unlikely the House will act on gun bills.

Weather forces Rahm to delay Washington trip

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was supposed to be in Washington today and Friday; he was grounded in Chicago because of the weather. He was the headliner for an immigration forum hosted by The Atlantic. Tomorrow, Emanuel joins former President Bill Clinton to launch an "Infrastructure Financing for Cities Task Force."  

Emanuel was going to conduct rounds in the White House and huddle with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Boston bomb suspect

Videos of the Boston Marathon finish line blast site yielded the faces of suspects. Now authorities have to find them.[Boston Globe 

Ricin suspect arrested

A Mississippi man was arrested in connection with the mailing of letters containing poison to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Since the anthrax attacks of 2001, all White House and congressional mail is screened. [Sweet, Sun-Times] [Washington Post]

The suspect is an Elvis impersonator [CBS/DC]

POLITICAL BUSINESS 


*White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on Time Magazine's new list out this morning of 100 most influential people in the world.

*Obama dined last night with a group of Democratic senators at a hotel near the White House. This follows two dinners with GOP senators. A White House official said they discussed immigration, guns and the Boston bomb blasts.  Durbin was there along with...according to the official ...Dem Senators Michael Bennet, Chris Coons, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, Mark Warner, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden.

*Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on Wednesday received the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Champion Award from the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation. Context: Rush is on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

*Hello, Illinois.... Mike Schrimpf former Republican Governors Association communications director, is new communications chief for Bruce Rauner's gubernatorial exploratory drive. [Politico] 

*DLA Piper Chicago office associate Katie Jahnke Dale working with DC colleagues on a new partnership between DLA's New Perimeter global pro bono affiliate and the State Department to combat human trafficking across the globe.

DAYBOOK

Pressers....House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at 10:30 a.m. Chicago time; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at 9:45 a.m. Chicago time, both in the Capitol.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Secretary of State John Kerry, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at various Senate committees testifying on fy2014 budget requests

In Springfield, Governor Pat Quinn delivers remarks at the 5th Annual Muslim Action Day breakfast at the Mansion; later, a speech in the State Capitol in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meetings.... Illinois Riverboat Gaming Board, Video Gaming Board.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin headlines the City Club of Chicago lunch.

Nobel Laureate Gary S. Becker delivers the 3rd annual CME Group Lecture on Global Financial Markets, "Will American Retain its Economic Leadership?

Author Thomas Dyja discusses his book, "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream" at the Harold Washington Library.

Chef and Bravo host Curtis Stone discusses his cookbook "What's for Dinner?" at the Barnes & Noble in Skokie's Old Orchard shopping center.

SPORTS TODAY

Cubs owners prey on your hopes by promising titles with Wrigley repairs. [Morrissey, Sun-Times]

Bulls clinch a playoff berth; will play Nets on Saturday in first round. [Sun-Times]

Cubs play the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field this afternoon; White Sox away at the Toronto Blue Jays tonight.

WASHINGTON--A Mississippi man was arrested Wednesday in connection with the mailing of letters containing poison to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a law enforcement source told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The two letters were intercepted at screening centers--located away from the White House and Capitol--and tested positive for ricin, a killer toxin.

The letters each had the same message and were postmarked on April 8 from Memphis, Tenn., according to an FBI bulletin reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. The letters said "to see a wrong and not expose it is to become a silent partner to its continuance."

Each letter was signed "I am KC and I approve this message," according to the FBI bulletin.

Ricin powder poured out of the letter to Wicker when screeners at the remote postal facility--who work wearing biohazard suits--checked the contents. Each letter sent to the Capitol and the White House is slit open and undergoes a series of tests to determine if it contains any hazardous material.

The stepped up security is a legacy of the anthrax and ricin attack that hit the Capitol and other parts of Washington in 2001. The arrest was made by a joint by a joint FBI and Capitol Police Task Force.

The ricin attack is not related to another scare on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, when a man was detained following the delivery of three suspicious packages -- described as sealed envelopes -- to three Senate offices. Law enforcement authorities were notified after the man dropped off the envelopes. Senate personnel are instructed not to accept sealed packages that have not gone through a screening.

The envelopes were found to contain political material. The man was later released.

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans blocked a series of gun-control measures on Wednesday with an anti-trafficking provision named after Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teen shot to death in a park, expected to be sidelined with the rest of the gun bill on Thursday.

Two items of particular interest to the Chicago area -- an amendment expanding background checks to close gun show and other loopholes and another amendment cracking down on gun trafficking and fencing, with similar Pendleton language -- could not muster the 60 votes needed to advance.

Each of those amendments had a majority, but in the Senate, the 60-vote, supermajority threshold was needed to avoid a filibuster.

President Barack Obama -- who could not get the votes Wednesday for legacy legislation -- said: "I see this as just round one." It's not clear -- given that public opinion was on the side of gun-control advocates -- when or under what circumstances gets him round two.

Hadiya's mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton in reaction told the Sun-Times' Becky Schlikerman, "It's just disheartening, these are bills that are being proposed to make our lives safer."

"Something needs to be done. There should be something on the table instead of nothing. . . . I do pray that the gun trafficking law is passed. Something needs to happen."

Sen. Mark Kirk broke with most of the Republicans on the gun votes. Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin were the central crafters of the anti-trafficking language.

Kirk was the only Republican to vote for an assault weapons ban championed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). He was one of four Republicans to support expanded background checks in a deal crafted by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W-Va.).

Kirk, who already had an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association, had little to risk, unlike Toomey and Manchin who had NRA "A" ratings.

WASHINGTON--A string of gun-control measures failed in the Senate on Wednesday--including an amendment to ban assault weapons championed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was the only Republican to vote to advance the ban. The assault weapon ban failed to reach the needed 60-vote threshold with 40 yes votes and 60 no votes. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) voted to reinstate the ban, which expired after being in place between 1994 and 2004.

WASHINGTON--A measure to broaden background checks for gun purchasers failed Wednesday on a 54-46 vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance. The proposal, in the form of an amendment by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was the first of a series of votes on amendments to a firearms bill.

Vice President Joe Biden--who is leading President Barack Obama's drive to pass gun-control legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Ct.--is presiding over the Senate session for the firearms votes.

Illinois Senators Dick Durbin, a Democrat and Mark Kirk, a Republican, voted in support of closing gun show and other background check loopholes.

The Senate is now taking up the gun fencing and trafficking provisions championed by Durbin and Kirk.

WASHINGTON--The bi-partisan Senate immigration bill was filed near 2 a.m. on Wednesday, the "Gang of Eight" the co-sponsors, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) among them.

Read the 844-page bill... Border_Security,_Economic_Opportunity_and_Immigration_Modernization_Act.pdf

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Good morning.  High today 44. [Forecast]

Breaking
Boston bomb parts found. Investigators analyzing remnants of "pressure cooker" bomb; overnight vigil in Boston for victims. [CNN] See the FBI photos: [Sun-Times]

BreakingFuneral services for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Among those present: Queen Elizabeth, Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger. [Sun-Times] [NBC]




Senate gun votes
The fate of a measure to broaden background checks on gun sales is uncertain with only hours left until the 3 p.m. Central vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment to close gunshow loopholes. [The Hill] [Roll Call]

Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has met with Newtown shooting victims families. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is to meet with them today. [Tribune] [Sun-Times]

NBC News is reporting this morning that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) is saying he does not have the votes to pass the background check measure today. [Kelly O'Donnell]

Boston bomb aftermath
Boston bomb victims remembered. [Sun-Times] Bomb pieces found; law enforcement asking for photos, videos. [Boston Globe]

Tragedy hits close to home as Theo Epstein's twin brother ran the Boston Marathon [Sun-Times]

What investigators are searching for. [PBS Newshour]

President Barack Obama called the bombings an "act of terroism" on Tuesday. [Politico]

Family Guy pulls marathon massacre scene. [Sun-Times]

Obama will travel to Boston for an 11 a.m. Thursday interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End. 

For updates during the day: [Sun-Times]

 Anne Semdinghoff funeral today

The wake for the River Forest diplomat killed in Afghanistan was in Oak Park Tuesday; Gov. Pat Quinn among the mourners. Anne Smedinghoff's funeral is today. [Sun-Times] [Tribune]

Former Gov. Thompson, White Sox Reinsdorf sued

Perri Immer, former executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority filed a federal lawsuit against White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and former Gov. Jim Thompson, alleging the two conspired to fire her after she tried to end long-standing practices that boosted White Sox revenue at the expense of the public. [Sun-Times]

Watch your butt

Illinois smokers would be charged $50 every time they're caught tossing out their cigarette butts if a state House bill becomes law. [Sun-Times]

Chicago story obit

Richard Seidel, whose work as an archivist, acquisition librarian, and historiographer helped create world-class UIC collections on pioneering social worker Jane Addams of Hull House, died March 25 in Chicago of complications from a brain tumor. He was 75. [O'Donnell, Sun-Times]

POLITICAL BUSINESS

Freshman Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) Committee assignments: Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Space, Science and Technology. [Sun-TimesNot the prime spots to deal with her prime issue, gun control, but not many slots left to claim. 

Chicago public affairs lobbyist Bill Griffin joined the law firm of Riordan Fulkerson Hupert & Coleman. He's a well-connected Democratic insider who has represented American Airlines for more than thirty years.

Very Rare . . . a Democratic leaning immigrant rights group will honor a Republican. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights next Monday holds an event to deliver a "thank-you" to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who is working with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on immigration legislation working its way through Congress. Ryan and Gutierrez headline a City Club of Chicago lunch on Monday.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) named Tuesday to a special House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee "Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation." Lipinski's district contains many rail, truck facilities.

DAYBOOK

Obama meets with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, welcomes the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride to the White House, dines with Democratic Senators at a Washington hotel. Durbin will be part of the Senate group.

Secretary of State John Kerry offers his first congressional testimony since taking over State, justifying his fiscal 2014 budget before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel makes brief remarks at the 100 Club breakfast, unveiling an exhibit honoring the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at City Hall. With City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman announcing a West Side jobs program at Malcolm X College.

Meetings: Cook County board, RTA board, Illinois Riverboat Gaming board.

Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp speaks in Northwestern's Contemporary Thought Series on Evanston campus.

Environmental Law & Policy Center 20th Anniversary Celebration at Navy Pier.

SPORTS TODAY

Blackhawks to host Penguins at Soldier Field next season [Sun-Times]

New Bears coach Marc Trestman has the need for speed [Sun-Times

White Sox play Blue Jays in Toronto; Texas Rangers meet the Cubs at Wrigley Field; Bulls host the Washington Wizards at the United Center.

WASHINGTON--Freshman Rep. Robin Kelley (D-Ill.) sworn-in last week, was appointed to the Oversight and Government Reform and Science, Space, and Technology Committees--not panels with central responsibility for her main campaign issue, gun control.

Committee spots are made by party leaders. Kelly had to line-up behind other freshmen who took office in January. By the time she got to Congress last week, it was clear there was no space for her on the Judiciary Committee, the panel which does most of the heavy lifting on gun issues. The Government Reform panel will handle some aspects of the pending gun trafficking legislation.

Coming from a safe Democratic district, Democratic leaders did not see a need to assign Kelly to a higher profile committee which could bolster a re-election bid--or help in fund-raising.

Kelly's communications chief, Kayce Ataiyero said Kelly will continue to push her core issue, gun-control, even though she is not on the Judiciary panel.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said in a statement that Kelly "has brought progressive values and a firm commitment to the middle class to the halls of Congress, and she will place those same principles and priorities front and center in her work to support science, invest in innovation, and conduct strong oversight on behalf of the American people," Leader Pelosi said. "These committee assignments reflect the faith of the Democratic Caucus in Congresswoman Kelly's abilities and leadership, and we look forward to working together to create jobs, grow our economy, and build a brighter future."



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Seated, from left, are: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor; Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Attorney General Eric Holder; Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; and FBI Director Robert Mueller. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Durbin on the Boston blasts

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WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama called the twin Boston blasts an "act of terrorism" on Tuesday morning, with federal authorities not clear who carried out the attacks near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in a briefing from Boston this morning that two explosive devices were found.

"This was heinous and cowardly act, and given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror," Obama said.

Obama added, "What we don't yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why, whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That's what we don't yet know, and clearly we're at the beginning of our investigation. It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened.

"But we will find out. We will find whoever harmed our citizens, and we will bring them to justice."

Obama today--and last night--did not take any questions following his statement.

CLICK BELOW FOR THE TRANSCRIPT...

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama--for the second time in less than 24 hours--hits the Brady Briefing Room at the White House, at 11:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday. Last night, Obama read a statement--and took no questions--in the wake of the Boston bomb blasts. The event is open to the press--meaning--the expectation is he will take at least a few questions. What could be on the plate today: An update on the federal government response to the explosions and a boost to the bi-partisan immigration bill. Obama added to his schedule today a meeting with Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY.) two members of the "Gang of Eight" who drafted the sweeping immigration bill.

The "Gang of Eight" cancelled a press conference to unveil their immigration proposals, with everything eclipsed today by the Boston tragedy.

WASHINGTON--With a big assist from Hollywood producers and studios, Mayor Rahm Emanuel scooped up $378,700 from individuals in the first quarter of 2013, building a $1.9 million warchest in his main campaign fund, Chicago for Rahm Emanuel.

A companion fund controlled by Emanuel, The Chicago Committee, reported raising $110,000 in the past three months, according to finance disclosure reports filed Monday with the State of Illinois.

To be precise, Emanuel has $1,908,696.08 on hand for a 2015 re-election bid, a sum to ponder as the Chicago Teachers Union is starting to organize against his re-election.

Emanuel's brother, Ari, is a Hollywood agent; the mayor held a fund-raiser in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

Among the Hollywood donors:
$10,500
LB1 Entertainment
Lionsgate Entertainment

$5,300
Disney CEO Robert Iger
Windsor Media president Terry Semel
NBC Universal President Ronald Meyer
HBO Executive Michael Lombardo
Overbrook Entertainment co-founder James Lassiter
A Squared Entertainment executive Andy Heyward

$5,200
Former Disney chier Michael Eisner

$2,500
Writer producer Laurie David
Writer Aaron Sorkin

$1,000
Pamplona Productions writer Amy Lippman
Picturemaker Productions writer producer director Glenn Caron





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Good Morning. High today 54, partly cloudy[Forecast]


Breaking

In the wake of the twin blasts at the Boston Marathon, a White House official tells the Sun-Times that overnight, President Barack Obama "received updates from his Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco on the ongoing response efforts and investigation into the explosions in Boston, including the continuing federal support for those activities. 

"The President made clear that he expects to be kept up to date on any developments and directed his team to make sure that all federal resources that can support these efforts, including the investigation being led by the FBI, be made available. Later this morning the President will receive a briefing from his Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other senior members of his team."

Takeaways: The first major attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001 now overshadows a week where Congress is starting to grapple with two major items on Obama's legacy agenda, immigration and gun-control. The Boston tragedy will likely mute--for a few days--critics and supporters.

Anchors for the morning network shows--NBC, ABC, CBS--in Boston; the marathon bombings will dominate the news today.

Breaking

The Senate "Gang of Eight"--including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)--unveil their long-awaited bi-partisan immigration bill with a key provision in the sweeping measure a 13-year path to citizenship for the millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. The bill would cover individuals in the U.S. prior to Dec. 31, 2011.  The  11 a.m. ET press conference was cancelled as the Boston blast dominates the day.  [Washington Post] Durbin played the key role in adding Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) to the "Gang of Eight." First Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill is set for Friday.




Boston bombings

The aftermath...From the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications: "At this time, we are not aware of any additional threats." Tighter security in Washington D.C. on Tuesday morning, especially around the landmarks. Ramped up security on the Metro. 

Explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon--12 seconds apart--killed three and injured at least 144. [Sun-Times] 

[Boston Globe] [Boston Herald] [CBSBoston]


Nightmare: Brothers watching marathon each lose a leg. [Boston Globe]


Photo gallery: [Sun-Times]

Map: [Sun-Times]

Obama: "We will find out who did this." Video and transcript. [Sun-Times] What Obama is learning talking about terror. [Politico]

Chicago's security challenges. [Bowman, Sun-Times] 

Bombing turns Marathon area into a war zone. [New York Times]

The hunt for the bomber(s) [Time]

London marathon on Sunday; planners are "confident" there will be no security problems. [London Telegraph]

For updates through the day: [Sun-Times]

Wrigley Field Deal: Not so fast

There are still big discrepancies between what Emanuel has agreed to support and what the Cubs say they need to preserve Wrigley for 50 years and make it the moneymaker Ricketts says he needs to turn the Cubs into a perennial contender. [Crain's Chicago Business, [Sun-Times]

Oust Rahm Drive

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis isn't waiting for 2015 to try to oust Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom she blames for closing a historic number of public schools, she said Monday, announcing an aggressive campaign to train his possible replacement. "If the mayor and his handpicked corporate school board will not listen to us, then we must find those who will," Lewis said.The popular Lewis, who hit the national stage during the historic Chicago teachers strike in September, strongly denied she'd be the one seeking to replace Emanuel. Nor would she name candidates she had in mind. Instead, the CTU and other partners are launching a new effort to get 100,000 new voters registered in time for the 2015 elections when Emanuel is expected to seek reelection. They also plan to train possible candidates for mayor, alderman and statehouse offices, and increase donations to their political action committee to financially support potential candidates. [Sun-Times] [Crain's Chicago Business] 

Meanwhile, Emanuel continues to raise a lot of money for his political war chest; see Political Business below. And note to CTU: you can't beat someone with no one. At some point, a candidate--not a concept--will need to surface if this political attack is to be taken seriously.

Gun-control fate uncertain
The immigration bill gets dropped in the Senate as the chamber grapples with gun control. Despite efforts from Vice President Joe Biden on down, the Senate votes may not be there. [Politico]

Washington Post/ABC News Poll shows "most Americans, including half of all gun owners, say it is possible to enact new laws without infringing on gun rights, and overwhelming majorities support expanded background checks at gun shows and for online gun sales." 

And on immigration, "There are deep partisan differences on the other marquee issue slated to soon start moving in the Senate: comprehensive immigration reform. Overall, support for legislation that includes a way for undocumented immigrants to live legally in the U.S. is higher than ever, with nearly two-thirds of Americans backing a pathway to legal status. However, while three-quarters of Democrats and at least six in 10 independents support such a move on immigration reform, support drops sharply among Republicans. As with gun legislation, the results are yet another reminder that Republican lawmakers face a fractured base on these two volatile issues." [Washington Post]


POLITICAL BUSINESS

While the CTU ponders mounting a challenge to Emanuel, the union besides a voter drive, needs a face (as noted above) and a lot of money. Emanuel's latest campaign disclosure, filed Monday--covering Jan. 1-March 31 shows that in the first quarter of this year he raised $378,700 and has $1,908, 696.08 in his "Chicago for Rahm" war chest.

The report shows Emanuel picked up a lot of Hollywood money from producers, directors, writers and studios. I'm told he threw himself a fund-raiser when he was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for an "Education Mayors" conference. Brother Ari Emanuel is the big Hollywood agent. 

A sampling...Aaron Sorkin, $2,500; Michael Eisner, $2,500; Laurie David, $2,500; Lionsgate Entertainment, $10,500...Check out my blog later for more details....[Sweet]

.....Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) sworn-in last week, is staffing up in Chicago and Washington. Among the first wave of hires:

Audra Wilson - District Chief of Staff  (former Director of Diversity Education and Outreach and Adjunct Professor, Northwestern U. Law; former welfare advocacy staff attorney, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; former Deputy Press and Policy Director, U.S. Senate Candidate for Barack Obama.

Dante Sawyer- Chicago Office Coordinator/Constituent Services Representative -  former Field Director, Robin Kelly for Congress

Anthony Beckham - Constituent Services Representative/Caseworker - Ministry Outreach Coordinator, Robin Kelly for Congress; former small business owner        

E. Brandon Garrett - Chief of Staff - Policy and Political Advisor for Vice President Joe Biden at Obama for America; former Policy Director for the Congressional Black Caucus.                                                                                               

Kayce Ataiyero - Communications Director (former Chicago Tribune reporter, former Deputy Communications Director at Illinois State Treasurer's Office, most recently did communications in the Quinn administration).

Tony Presta - Scheduler and Office Manager (former scheduling and logistics coordinator at Illinois State Treasurer's Office, former special assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer at Cook County Government)

 

DAYBOOK

President Barack Obama meetings with United Arab Emirate Crown Prince Moammed Bin Zayed, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, NASCAR's  Sprint Cup series champ Brad Keselowski

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks at groundbreaking ceremony for Grundfos' new North American headquarters in Downers Grove. 

Visitation for Anne Smedinghoff, U.S. diplomat from River Forest killed in Afghanistan. Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park. 

Panel discussion on the legacy of the late Mayor Harold Washington. Chicago State University

Chicago native and Academy-award winning director William Friedkin joins Filmspotting co-founder and host Adam Kempenaar to discuss his new memoir "The Friedkin Connection." Harold Washington Library, Pritzker Auditorium. In case you did not get the reference, Friedkin directed the French Connection. He is married to  former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing, another Chicago native. [Tribune]

NPR "All Things Considered" host Michelle Norris speaks in the Columbia College "Conversations in the Arts" series. Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Very fun to guest on her show.

SPORTS TODAY

Cubs play the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field; White Sox  in Toronto for match with the Blue Jays. The Blackhawks and the Bulls are both off Tuesday.
 


WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama offered support Monday to the people of Boston in the wake of terror bombings at the Boston Marathon and vowed, "we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. ...Responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice."

Obama said at the end of his brief remarks to the nation from the White House Brady Briefing Room, "We will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable."

On a day where Boston was stunned by the explosions, Obama said "there are no Republicans or Democrats; we are Americans united in concern for our fellow citizens." Said Obama, "All Americans stand with the people of Boston."days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats; we are Americans united in concern for our fellow citizens.

Obama said he was briefed by his homeland security team on the events in Boston and bolstered security around the nation.

"We're continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolds, and I've directed the full resources of the federal government to help state and local authorities to protect our people, increase security around the United States as necessary, and investigate what happened. The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight, and Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.

"We don't yet have all the answers, but we do know that multiple people have been wounded, some gravely, in explosions at the Boston Marathon. I've spoken to FBI Director Mueller and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, and they're mobilizing the appropriate resources to investigate and to respond. I've updated leaders of Congress in both parties, and we reaffirmed that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats; we are Americans united in concern for our fellow citizens.

"I've also spoken with Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino and made it clear that they have every single federal resource necessary to care for the victims and counsel the families. And above all, I made clear to them that all Americans stand with the people of Boston.

"Boston police, firefighters and first responders, as well as the National Guard, responded heroically and continue to do so as we speak. It's a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day without regard to their own safety in dangerous and difficult circumstances, and we salute all those who assisted in responding so quickly and professionally to this tragedy.

"We still do not know who did this or why, and people shouldn't jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. Any -- any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.

"Today is a holiday in Massachusetts -- Patriots' Day. It's a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it's a day that draws the world to Boston's streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town; so are its people. I'm supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.

"You should anticipate that as we get more information, our teams will provide you briefings. We're still in the investigation stage at this point, but I just want to reiterate we will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable."

BoehnerPOTUS.JPG />House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on the phone with President Barack Obama (photo courtesy Boehner office)

WASHINGTON--In the wake of the Boston bombings on Monday afternoon--during the Boston Marathon-- President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke about 5:30 p.m. ET about the tragedy which left at least two dead and dozens injured, according to a Boehner aide.

From Boehner office: "We expect Boehner will lead a moment of silence in the House from the Speaker's chair for the victims of the Boston bombing during votes this evening at approximately 6:30 PM."

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama will address the nation on Monday night in the wake of the Boston bombings. He will speak at 6:10 p.m. ET from the Brady Briefing room at the White House

WASHINGTON--Freshman Rep. Tammy Duckworth will report raising $351,285 in the first quarter, the yield from fund-raising events in the Chicago area, Washington and direct mail appeals. That's one of the top totals from the House freshmen class.

Duckworth's finance chair is Democratic activist John Atkinson; her fund-raising consultant is Leah Israel.

"Congresswoman Duckworth has sent a strong message that she will have the resources to continue standing up for working families," said Atkinson. "In just 100 days she has helped secure approval of the Elgin O'Hare Western Access Project, introduced legislation to assist small businesses, and stood against efforts to eliminate the guaranteed benefit of Medicare. Congresswoman Duckworth was outspent 13 to 1 by right-wing Super PACs in 2012, but her grassroots fundraising has proved yet again that she will never back down to the right-wing extremists who attacked her and working families in 2012."

Duckworth defeated former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) by some ten points last November. Duckworth--who is unlikely to face an expensive primary again-- is building a strong war chest in order to--and this is a standard technique--discourage major GOP opposition in 2014.

Updated...

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State John Kerry is en route to Chicago on Monday morning to pay a condolence call on the parents of slain diplomat Anne Smedinghoff, who grew up and attended high school in the western suburbs.

A State Department spokesman told the Sun-Times on Monday Kerry "will stop in Chicago on his way home from Tokyo to visit the parents of Anne Smedinghoff and express his condolences in person in a private meeting."

In Tokyo, Kerry told the U.S. embassy staff that Smedinghoff's killing should not deter nor strip them of motivation or idealism. She died in Afghanistan following an April 6 apparent suicide bombing attack.

"I'm going to be stopping in Chicago on the way back. The reason I'm stopping in Chicago is to visit with the parents of Anne Smedinghoff, who we lost just, as you know, a few days ago. And this is a family. Everybody understands and feels that kind of a loss. A 25-year-old young woman, full of idealism, full of hopes, taking books to children in a school so they can learn, and wiped out by terrorism, by the worst kind of nihilistic nothing - violence that doesn't stand for anything except killing people and stopping the future.

"So we're not going to be deterred. We're going to be inspired. And we're going to use Anne's idealism as another motivation for the idealism that brings all of you to this effort in the first place. We can make this world better. We can strengthen other countries. We've seen it happen. I used the example earlier today of what we did only 10, 20 years ago: We were giving aid to the Republic of Korea, and it was still struggling and emerging. Today, Korea is giving aid to other countries, and it's a strong nation with a vibrant democracy, and it's a partner in these kinds of efforts. That's what this is all about. Mongolia today, hosting a conference on democracy; who would have thought about that a number of years ago? Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi standing with the generals, a prisoner of 20 years, and working towards democracy. That's what this is all about.

"So I just want to say a profound thank you to all of you. As long as I'm Secretary of State, I promise you I will do everything in my power to cover your back. You cover mine, and we'll be a good team together and we'll get the job done," Kerry said.

The wake for Smedinghoff will be on Tuesday in Oak Park at the Drechsler, Brown & Williams funeral home; the funeral is Wednesday at St. Luke's Catholic Church in River Forest. The State Department will hold a memorial service at a later date.

Kerry heads to Chicago after winding up an Asian tour; en route his plane stopped in Alaska.

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Good morning. High today in the mid 60s. [Forecast]

Breaking

The Cubs and city make a deal for Wrigley field renovation. Must be a miracle on Addison; a Jumbotron is on the way.  News conference 11 a.m. at Wrigley Field, but the story burst out last night; see links below.

Breaking

Secretary of State John Kerry will stop in Chicago on Monday to visit the parents of Anne Smedinghoff, a young U.S. diplomat from River Forest who was killed while delivering textbooks in southern Afghanistan on April 6. [Sun-Times]

Breaking

The Senate "Gang of Eight" will unveil a bi-partisan immigration bill on Tuesday morning. Congress returns from spring break with a major week ahead; the main action is over in the Senate with historic gun-control and immigration legislation debated. Prognosis: Immigration measures will be easier to pass than gun provisions.

Exclusive: Mayor Rahm Emanuel heads to Washington this week; on Thursday he's the headliner at a forum hosted by The Atlantic.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Friendly confines facelift

The Cubs will renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it under a "framework" unveiled Sunday that includes a 5,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field; an 800-square-foot see-through sign in right field; 40 night games; street fairs on weekend game days, and signage all over a new hotel and open-air plaza. [Sun-Times] [Tribune] [Crain's] [ABC7]

Negotiations between the Cubs and the city have been in extra innings. A timeline with the details. [Sun-Times] And speaking of baseball, with the release of "42," a photo gallery of Jackie Robinson in Chicago. [Sun-Times]

Senate tackles immigration, guns

It's a big week ahead for Congress--immigration, guns, and the budget, where Democratic are not happy with President Barack Obama's proposed changes to Social Security. The House has a series of budget hearings. [House.gov]

On the Senate side, it's guns and immigration. Sweeping immigration proposal to be released on Tuesday [USAToday] Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) is the man to watch. [Washington Post]

On the gun front, families of shooting victims will be on Capitol Hill, along with former Rep. Gabby Gifford (D-Az.) recovering from her head wounds and her former astronaut husband, Mark Kelly. The couple is leading a major drive for gun control. May be schisms within the pro-gun community. [Washington Post]

Jesse Jackson Jr. surfaces

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. surfaced at the Saturday meeting of Operation PUSH. [ABC7] Facing sentencing at the end of June, Jackson's team is starting a "campaign" in the hopes that he will get less than four or five years in prison.

Crony conflict

One of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's biggest campaign contributors, Howard Labkon, has the president of the Fraternal Order of Police on his company's payroll -- a relationship that's come to light as Emanuel and the union try to negotiate a new contract for 10,400 Chicago cops. [Sun-Times]

Abortion doctor trial

Assessing whether there is "enough" coverage of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. [Washington Post] The developing storyline breaking into mainstream media--pushed by conservative outlets--is that the Gosnell trial is not getting the attention it deserves from national media because of an abortion rights bias.

Justin Bieber and Ann Frank

Bieber visited Ann Frank's hideout in Amsterdam, where her family and others hid from the Nazis--and his note in the guest book has triggered an uproar. Because it was more about him than her. [Bill Zwecker]

Chicago story obits

Blues guitarist Jimmy Dawkins was a son of Mississippi with a stinging West Side style. [Sun-Times' Maureen O'Donnell]

CSO trumpet great Adolph 'Bud' Herseth dies at 91 [Sun-Times' Andrewhttp://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/sports&id=9064877 Patner]

Political Business

*Political veterans John Borovicka and Mike Alexander--each with deep government and political networks-- are teaming up to launch Alexander & Borovicka Government Solutions. The firm will work at the federal, state and city levels.

At-a-glance: 

Borovicka managed Rahm Emanuel's first campaign for the House in 2001 and went on to be his Chicago District Director; ran the Chicago office of State Senator John Cullerton; worked for now Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). Borovicka was Deputy Campaign Manager for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's final reelection campaign in 2007.

Alexander has long ties to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), working in his Senate campaign and later joining his Senate staff, working in Washington and Illinois. In 2003, Alexander became the Director of Local Government Affairs for the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity (DCEO), serving under Jack Lavin, the current Chief of Staff to Governor Pat Quinn.

*Robert Weinberger,  former 10th Congressional District Democrat nominee on Sunday wed Jennefer Hirshberg, a one-time press secretary for former First Lady Nancy Reagan at a lovely ceremony in suburban Washington. Durbin--who interned with Weinberger in the office of  the late Sen. Paul Douglas (D-Ill.)-- offered the first toast.


Daybook

*Obama honors the BCS National Champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide on the South Lawn of the White House.

*Gov. Pat Quinn chairs a meeting of The Big River Moves Leadership Forum to discuss economic and environmental issues facing Mississippi River states at the Blackstone Hotel.

*Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle paddles down the North Branch of the Chicago River with canoeists and kayakers. She launches from the Skokie Lagoons, Willow Road and North Forest Way.

*Quinn and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)--in her first joint appearance with the governor since her swearing-in last week-- will announce a project to update the Kankakee area's water infrastructure.

*Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno headlines the City Club of Chicago.

*Because it's April 15... Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) now a WIND-AM talk show host at a Chicago Tea Party and Tea Party Patriots Tax Day Tea Party Rally at the Daley Center. 

And happy birthday to cousin David, a Chicago parking and transportation planner whose last name really is Taxman.

Sports Today

White Sox at Toronto; Bulls at Toronto; Blackhawks host the Stars.


WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama returns home to Chicago on May 29 for a fund-raiser to benefit the House Democratic political organization. The tab ranges from $1,000 to $50,000 to raise or write. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief Rep. DCCC Steve Israel will be on hand as well as Democratic members of the llinois Congressional Delegation. The main event is at the Chicago Hilton, 720 S. Michigan, with BettyLu and Paul Saltzman hosting a dinner for the major contributors. BettyLu Saltzman was one of the first major Democratic activists to meet Obama when he was starting out in Chicago politics and see in him a man who could become president.


Organizing for Action--the spin-off group created out of the Obama presidential campaign--will report later Friday that first-quarter fund-raising hit just under $4.9 million from 109,582 supporters. The OFA has been scouting for a headquarters in Chicago; the group already set up shop in Washington.

Click below for OFA Executive Director Jon Carson's letter pitching supporters for small dollar donations....the list of big contributors comes out later today....

OFA is teaming with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to hold "We Have Not Forgotten and Demand Action" events as the Senate starts debating gun-control bills.


ebertupload.JPG


Good morning. Sprinkles, dreary, high 46....

Breaking

Organizing for Action--the spin-off group created out of the Obama presidential campaign--will report later today that first-quarter fund-raising hit just under $4.9 million from 109,582 supporters. The OFA will be opening a headquarters in Chicago.

Breaking

Secretary of State John Kerry is in South Korea, warning North Korea a missile launch would be a "huge mistake." [NBC News] Pentagon concludes North Korea has learned how to make a nuclear weapon. [New York Times] 

Breaking

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pushes gun control legislation Friday morning at Urban Prep Academy, West Campus, 1326 W. 14th St

_________________________________________________________________________________

Gun debate starts

Beating a filibuster threat, the Senate starts a debate over gun-control measures expected to extend through next week and possible beyond. The GOP senators wanting to block all the gun legislation were slapped down in a 68 to 31 vote to let the debate begin. Stats: 16 Republicans and 52 Democrats voted to proceed; 2 Democrats and 29 Republicans opposed at least letting the measures face a vote. [Washington Post]

The Illinois Senators, Democrat Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk voted to let gun legislation move ahead. [Sun-Times]

The Thursday votes don't guarantee the gun bills--including expanding background checks and cracking down on fencing and trafficking--will pass. All the Senate said was that these bills deserve a vote. Getting rid of the filibuster only let the gun legislation survive to face more tough hurdles. Whatever the Democratic-run Senate passes and sends to the House will face a massive battle in the chamber controlled by the GOP.

Roger Ebert tribute

We'll miss you. Music, speeches, John and Joan Cusak honored Roger Ebert at a tribute at the Chicago Theater. [Sun-Times] [Crain's Chicago Business]

Clout on the clock

Former Tollway worker caught snoozing apparently has clout. Authorities say Joseph Caffarello wasn't shy about bragging that his connection to late mob street tax collector Anthony "Jeep" Daddino was protecting him. [Sun-Times]

Kelly sworn in

Kelly takes the oath of office, makes her first remarks from the House floor. [Sun-Times]

She now holds one of the safest seats in the entire House, representing a district so heavily Democrat that just a few months ago now disgraced awaiting sentencing former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) won a term without even showing up.

Got goat?

Rick Telander muses on the goat head delivered to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts at Wrigley Field and the "Billy Goat" curse. (on the Cubs, not the Billy Goat Tavern.) [Sun-Times]  Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking this very seriously. He's on the case. [Sun-Times] This is a diversion from the on-going renovation negotiations between the city and Ricketts. "Bottom of the 9th in that process," Emanuel said. [Sun-Times]

 Did you know...there is a Billy Goat pub in Washington D.C. Not far from the Capitol...

Political Business

*Durbin hosting fund-raiser today for Sen. Chris Coons.

* Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon speaks at the Union League Club of Chicago. The day after the Illinois House votes to abolish the Lt. Gov. position

*Friends of the late Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch gather Saturday for her memorial at Northwestern University Law School's Thorne Hall, 375 E. Chicago

Sports Today

Cubs play the San Francisco Giants; White Sox at the Cleveland Indians; Blackhawks face the Red Wings in Detroit; the Chicago Bulls.

Daybook

Love her movies. Actress Nia Vardalos,  7:00 p.m. at Anderson's Bookshop Naperville; Saturday at National Hellenic Museum, National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted, at 6:30 p.m. 

 ...Martin Donnelly, UK Permanent Secretary for Business, Innovation and Skills, speaks on "The Future of the EU" with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Chicago Club, 81 E. Van Buren.  ...Metra Board of Directors conducts special meeting

 ...WLS Radio, 890 on the dial celebrates 89 years in Chicago at Navy Pier. 

Talkers Today

 Joel Weisman hosts WTTW's Chicago Week-In-Review with guests this Friday

  -Mary Ann Ahern, NBC-5 News

- Jesse Rogers, ESPN 1000

- Jon Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune

- Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times

 Lynn Sweet is on CNN's new show, "The Lead with Jake Tapper" in the 3 p.m. Chicago time hour



The compromise gun background check bill the Senate is considering is HERE.

Republicans in the Senate failed on Thursday to block the chamber from taking up a series of gun-control bill. With a filibuster threat clear, the Senate will spend at least the next week debating gun legislation. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat and Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, voted to let debate begin. See the Roll Call HERE

http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatordurbin/8640735236/
(Photo by office of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

One of the best Illinois traditions has been the Thursday coffees hosted by Illinois senators for anyone from Illinois who is in Washington when the Senate is in session. It's a tradition going back over 35 years, started by the late Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) After Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) suffered a stroke--sidelining him for almost a year--the two-Senator coffees obviously were put on hold. On Thursday, Durbin and Kirk held their first coffee of the 113th Congress.


CHICAGO--The usually cautious first lady Michelle Obama came home Wednesday to voluntarily plunge herself into a controversy, speaking out for the first time on two life-and-death matters: On preventing youth violence in Chicago and the need for Congress to at least vote on gun control measures.

To this I can only add: Finally.

What is the point of being one of the most popular people in the U.S. with a powerful platform if you don't use it? I just hope Mrs. Obama's era of being risk-averse is over -- when it comes to protecting kids in her city, my city, our city.

I've covered Mrs. Obama for years and never saw her as emotional in public as she was in delivering her speech before some 800 Chicagoans at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan.

They were gathered together by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help bolster the fund-raising he is leading to create a $50 million pot of money to finance a variety of programs to help at-risk Chicago kids. Wednesday marked the first time Mrs. Obama has lent her considerable support specifically to a Chicago project.

What triggered Mrs. Obama's breaking up -- tearful and choking on some of her words -- was her recounting of attending the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old King College Prep student shot to death last January in a park about a mile from the Obama family home in Kenwood.

Hadiya's horrible death profoundly impacted Mrs. Obama -- raised on the South Side, a product of Chicago's public schools and park district summer camps -- because she heavily identified with the Pendleton family -- which struck her as very similar to her own.

One could almost hear the unspoken words, "but for the love of God this tragedy could have fallen on me or my own," when Mrs. Obama talked about meeting Hadiya's parents at the funeral.

"What I realized was Hadiya's family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her. But I got to grow up, and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine."

Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley was at the luncheon and he told me afterwards, "I've never seen that kind of emotion, I've never seen that depth of feeling."

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Hadiya's mother, told me afterward, "I was very appreciative she took my family story so sincerely. Choking up, her sister, Kimiko Cowley-Pettis completed her thought, that it was very meaningful that Mrs. Obama "compared herself and her upbringing to Hadiya's."

The White House on Tuesday was downplaying the possibility that Mrs. Obama was going to comment on the series of measures proposed by President Barack Obama to curb gun violence pending in Congress. Usually, Mrs. Obama does not go near anything controversial. And everything about gun control is controversial.

Instead, the suggestion was that Mrs. Obama would be handling in her speech the less controversial aspects of the comprehensive approach needed to reduce violence -- not getting into gun-control -- instead focusing on behavioral, educational, and mentoring programs such as the ones Emanuel wants to underwrite serving Chicago youths.

But these are make-or-break days for the gun-control measures. The Senate is poised to start a series of major votes on gun bills on Thursday -- first having to dispose of a Republican filibuster threat that could block everything.

The White House has been looking for enough GOP senators to put together a 60-vote filibuster-proof coalition. And Mrs. Obama on Wednesday joined in the push, crossing the invisible line she, and her handlers, have been drawing for years to keep her out of the fray.

Jumping in, Mrs. Obama said, "Right now, my husband is fighting as hard as he can, and engaging as many people as he can, to pass commonsense reforms to protect our children from gun violence. And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress."

We don't know yet if Mrs. Obama has actually started a new activism. I hope her first efforts to help Chicago's at-risk kids -- and prod Congress to curb gun violence -- won't be her last.

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Good Morning. Overcast, drizzle, high today in the low 50's. Goose Island streets open again...

Breaking

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) swears in Robin Kelly at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time. Kelly holds presser afterwards to talk about her swearing-in on the House floor. Freshman Kelly is allowed to inherit the well-situated Rayburn House Office Building suite of the man she is replacing, disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. 

Breaking

Two brothers shot at on the South Side, a man grazed by a bullet in Lakeview and a car-on-pedestrian accident in Goose Island were among the stories that happened between midnight and 6 a.m. in Chicago. [Sun-Times

___________________________________________________________________________________

Senate gun-control votes

Four months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the Senate today is set to hold a series of crucial votes on gun-control laws, with big resistance from the National Rifle Association. The House will not act until the Senate sends over legislation. [USA Today] President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate: guns, immigration, new budget. [Washington Post]

Sandy Hook families will be at press conference with Democratic senators in the Capitol this morning, pushing for a package of measures to curb gun violence.

Michelle Obama jumps in gun fray

With the Senate poised to act, First Lady Michelle Obama, back home in Chicago spoke out for the first time--with great emotion-- about youth violence and for the first time, gets involved in a controversial issue, urging Congress to allow votes on gun bills. [Sun-Times] And finally time she did. [Lynn Sweet] Mrs. Obama spent two hours at Harper High School on the South Side. [Mary Mitchell] [Bloomberg]

Mrs. Obama made it a day-trip. She headed from Harper back to Midway Airport, returning to Washington last night.

Quinn's gun push

With gun measures pending in Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn headlines an Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence rally "in support of common sense gun legislation" in front of the Abe Lincoln statue at the state Capitol.

Wright's daughter indicted

Imagine if this story broke during the 2008 election, when the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright--then pastor for presidential candidate Barack Obama threatened to derail his bid. Jeri Wright, his daughter, was indicted Wednesday on charges of money laundering and lying to federal investigators in an expanding 2009 state grant-fraud case.[Sun-Times]

Political Business

* Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) will be reporting more than $390,000 raised in the first quarter. Aiming to discourage the man he beat for the tenth district seat from trying again, Schneider's team noted that he raised more than former Rep. Bod Dold (R-Ill.) "raised in his first quarter in 2011."

*Ald. Tom Tunney holds a fund-raiser aimed at the LGBT community. Double entendre on invite: "Come out to support equality." Tunney Honorary co-chairs: state Rep. Deb Mell and spouse Kelly Cassidy; state Rep. Greg Harris; Ald. James Cappleman and Water District Commissioner Debra Shore. Happening at the Lincoln Park home of Brad Lippitz and Jonathan Pizer. The tab ranges from $100 to $1,000.

* Last night, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) threw  a fund-raiser at Nationals Stadium during the Nationals-White Sox game.

* Cook County Committeemen huddle today to select a replacement for the latest pol forced to resign because of corruption, former Cook County Board Members William Beavers, convicted on federal evasion charges last month.

Daybook

Memorial for Roger Ebert, the beloved Sun-Times movie critic who died last week. His funeral was Monday and today, a tribute at a fitting place, the Chicago Theater, 175 N. State.

 ...Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams in announcing Chicago's completed transition to a grid garbage system at 11:30 a.m. CT, 900 East 103rd St. 

...U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin at Greene Elementary School, 3525 S. Honore on student health. ...National ACLU president Susan Herman at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

Obit

Donald L. Duster, the grandson of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells. Under former Gov. James R. Thompson, he led the state's Department of Business and Economic Develop. [Sun-Times Obit writer Maureen O'Donnell]

Sports Today

Bulls play New York Knicks; Cubs host San Francisco Giants; White Sox continue stand against Washington Nationals. The Nats beat them Wednesday 5-2. 


Talkers Today

HBO's "Veep" star Julia Louise-Dreyfus guests on Ellen DeGeneres; Edie Falco on Jon Stewart; Alec Baldwin on David Letterman; LL Cool J on Jay Leno; Tom Cruise on Jimmy Kimmel; Carl Reiner on Craig Ferguson and Vince Vaughn on Jimmy Fallon.

Lynn Sweet discusses her Michelle Obama column on Julie Mason's SiriusXM show, 12:03 p.m. Chicago time.




THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the First Lady
________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release April 10, 2013


REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT VISIT WITH CHICAGO YOUTH

William R. Harper High School
Chicago, Illinois


2:45 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA: I want to hear from you all. And I have as much time as we need to take. I am just thrilled to be back home.

I don't know how much you know about me, in addition to being the First Lady, but I grew up in South Shore, went to public schools here. My parents -- working class folks. And one of the reasons why I like to talk to kids, especially from my city, is to make sure you all know that there isn't much distance between me and you. There really is not.

The only difference that I can see is that -- you know, I went to school every day, worked hard, did my homework, tried not to listen to the haters, tried to take care of my business. And the truth is, is that in this world today, if you stay focused, you can still make that happen, even with all of the challenges that we all face.

And I want to make sure you guys are on track and really understand that the best thing you can do for yourself in life is to really be serious about your education. That is truly the ticket in this country to get where you need to go.

But I'm not going to talk, because we're not going to -- I'm a participant in today's activities. And I want you to feel free to do what you do, but I want you to at some point be able to ask me whatever you want to know. Whatever I can tell you, it's all -- I find that it's always better to hear from you and hear what you want -- to find out what I can tell you.

But I want to do a lot of listening. I want to learn about what's going on in your lives, what's going on in your school, your communities. I want you to tell me what you think I need to know, to tell the President, to tell the rest of the country. So I'm really here to listen.

And I am very excited to be here. You all look good.

STUDENTS: Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA: And I am so proud of you all. And I am honored to be here at Harper. I really am. So I'm going to stop talking for a second.

END 2:48 P.M. CDT

# # #

-----


First Lady Michelle Obama showed off her new bangs during President Barack Obama's inauguration in February. Now she's not so sure. Mrs. Obama told Entertainment Tonight, "I'm like a girl. What's next?" she told Entertainment Tonight about her buzzed-about haircut in a video interview (above). "We take it day by day. They're starting to grow out, getting a little irritating. But it's okay!"

Watch for yourself, First Lady Michelle Obama in Chicago with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to discuss ways to prevent youth violence. The live stream will start about 11:30 and you can watch below.

Watch live streaming video from chicagomayorsoffice at livestream.com

Two key senators forged a bi-partisan compromise deal on gun background checks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announcing the details at 11 a.m. ET at a press conference in Washington. This comes as the entire Senate is poised to debate major gun legislation as early as Thursday, with a filibuster threat from GOP senators overcome on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided to move ahead with the first procedural votes once a group of eight Republican senators, including Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said they would not block votes on gun measures. Reid and Senate Democratic believe, I'm told, that with 55 Senate Democrats, there is strong potential for getting to the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.

The final fate of the gun proposals is far from certain. The Senate will head into next week with the gun measures dominating the agenda. "All of next week will be gun week in the Senate," a source close to Senate leadership told me Wednesday morning.

The Manchin/Toomey deal was finalized by the Tuesday deadline set by Reid. If their negotiations failed, Reid would have instead called a tougher measure already passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) with provisions that Manchin and Toomey and a group of other senators--including Kirk--did not support.

Reid was open to the Manchin/Toomey deal since they have "A" ratings with the National Rifle Association and were seeing as advocating from a variety of perspectives---from the NRA's to second amendment concerns raised by Kirk--with an NRA "F" rating--and others.

The underlying gun package to be voted on next week includes provisions cracking down on gun trafficking and fencing co-sponsored by Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) named for Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teen shot to death in a South Side park last January, just a few blocks from the Obama family Kenwood home.

Good morning. Grab your rain gear, stormy weather ahead. [Sun-Times]

Exclusive
Hours after her election to the House, Robin Kelly is jetting to Washington Wednesday catching the 8 a.m. American Airlines flight. Kelly day ahead: O'Hare Airport interview, in D.C. meetings to get her operation set-up. Swearing-in Thursday afternoon, followed by a reception in her office. Kelly easily won the special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. [Sun-Times]

Breaking
Two semi-trucks collided on Interstate 80 early Wednesday, killing one of the drivers and closing the expressway to westbound traffic in Joliet, Illinois state police said. [Sun-Times]

Breaking
First Lady Michelle Obama heads to the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan for 11:30 a.m. lunch with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bolster his fund-raising drive to bankroll projects for at-risk youths. Mrs. Obama motorcades over to Harper High, 6520 S. Wood for 2 p.m. event.


Senate gun deal
Two key senators forged a bi-partisan compromise deal on gun background checks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announcing the details at 11 a.m. ET at a press conference in Washington. This comes as the entire Senate is poised to debate major gun legislation as early as Thursday, with a filibuster threat from GOP senators overcome on Tuesday. [Sun-Times] [Washington Post]
Prognosis: Major hurdles ahead as Senate debates gun measures next week.

Michelle Obama back home
When Mrs. Obama speaks this morning--to a group of some 700 business, civic and community leaders gathered by Emanuel, we'll be listening to see if the ever cautious First Lady speaks out about gun-control. [Lynn Sweet column] [The Hill] [Marin Report]
And Mrs. Obama is not sure about her bangs. [People]

Remembering slain diplomat
Touching service at Fenwick High School in Oak Park for alum Anne Smedinghoff, who died "in the smoking chaos of a car bomb attack in southern Afghanistan." [Sun-Times]

New life for old post office
A stunning high-rise multi-use is proposed to replace the old main Chicago Post Office with the distinctive feature of having part of the building built over the Congress Parkway. [Sun-Times Grid]

Obama $3.77 trillion budget unveiled
President Obama delivers a statement about his proposed budget from the Rose Garden at 10 a.m. [Washington Post]

Early GOP react from Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, out Wednesday morning."Reminder That You Can't Trust the Numbers That the White House Uses in Previews of Their Budget." Obama dines with GOP senators at 6:30 p.m. ET in the Old Family Dining Room. On the menu: dishing up good will.

4 takeaways from senior White House officials budget briefing:


  • *Budget contains last offer Obama earlier put on the table so the GOP should be open to it.

  • *False choice, having to choose between deficit reduction and job creation.

  • *Let's get the era of government by crisis behind us.

  • *If the GOP refuses to put revenues in the deal, there is no deal.

Political business
Emanuel's Deputy Communications Director Kathleen Strand and AllState's Corporate Communications Strategy Manager Bobby Kellman - both Hillary Clinton campaign alums - have set their wedding date. October 5 at the South Shore Cultural Center. Same place Rahm and Amy/Barack and Michelle wed.

...Obama tapped for United State Holocaust Memorial Council: Rabbi Sam Gordon from Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette and Maureen Schulman, Eli's Cheesecake public relations chief.

...Harold Washington's gang is getting together today, heading to the City Council chamber when aldermen take up a resolution proclaiming April 15 "Harold Washington Day." As the late mayor would say, "You want Harold, you got him."

Daybook
Play it again. Chicago Symphony Orchestra press conference to announce projects for the 2013-14 season. ...Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams at the University of Illinois, Chicago to keynote 4th annual World Health Day symposium. ...UIC also hosting "Top Chef" quarter finalist Beverly Kim, to talk about her experience on the TV show. ..Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. ...Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) guested on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown," hosted by Chuck Todd.

Sports Today
Cubs host Milwaukee, White Sox away game with the Washington Nationals. Keep an eye out for the political fund-raisers....


Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is one of eight Republican senators who are open to at least having votes on measures to curb gun violence, scheduled for Thursday. Other Republican senators have threatened to filibuster.




Democrat Robin Kelly easily won Tuesday the House seat held by disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill), awaiting sentencing in June on federal corruption charges. AP called Kelly the winner in the special election in the heavily Democratic second district of Illinois seat. The Sun-Times story is HERE.

Kelly by the numbers, per Emily's List: "98th Woman, 75th Democratic Woman To Serve In The 113th Congress."

"EMILY's List is thrilled that Robin Kelly will become the 75th Democratic woman to serve in the 113th Congress" said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY's List.

Kelly made gun-control a centerpiece of her campaign--she got a big assist from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PAC--and was joined by the parents of Hadiya Pendleton--shot to death in a South Side park-- at her victory press conference on Tuesday night.

Below, the prepared text of her remarks...


When I first announced for Congress in December, I asked you to stand by me in a fight that was bigger than any one person.

I told you then--and throughout this campaign--that our fight wasn't about me--it was about you.

about your dreams. Your hopes. your families.

You lent us your hearts, your time and your support. And look at where we are now.

I'm sure that you remember that---when we began this campaign-- there were a whole lot of people who counted us out, naysayers who said we couldn't win.

Well, we not only won an election

we took on the NRA

we gave a voice to the voiceless,

and we put our communities on a brand new path to a brighter day.

Yes, we've seen some tough times and some setbacks. I know for some of you, your faith in your leaders is a little shaken.

Dr. King once said that "Only in the darkness, can we see the stars." Well, you all, you are the stars.

First Lady Michelle Obama hits Chicago on Wednesday to help Mayor Rahm Emanuel raise $50 million to help at-risk kids downtown and then travels to her native South Side to meet with Harper High School students whose lives have been touched by violence.

The Harper stop was announced on Tuesday by the White House. Mrs. Obama "will meet with a small group of students and counselors at Harper High to hear firsthand about their experiences.

"Harper High School is a Chicago public school that has been profoundly affected by violence - 29 current or former students have been shot in the past year; 8 of them died."

From my March column:

"That Mrs. Obama is lending her support to the initiative is significant in particular because -- campaigns aside -- she rarely makes public appearances not connected to her signature issues of combating childhood obesity and helping military families. This will also mark the first time that Mrs. Obama is making a visit home to help a Chicago charity."

At Roger Ebert's funeral

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CHICAGO--Seemed the right thing to do, live tweet Roger Ebert's funeral. Never done it before, but figured Roger would get a kick out of the multiple platforms covering his lovely send-off on Monday at the Holy Name Cathedral.

The sad occasion served as a gathering of the Sun-Times tribe; colleagues present and long past, some I have not seen for years.

Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke; so did former Sun-Times publisher John Barron, Jonathan Jackson, the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, stepping in to speak on behalf of his father and Roger's wife, Chaz, who got a standing ovation. Roger "would have loved this," she said.

Roger could have jumped to another outlet any time through the years, but always wanted his home base to be the Sun-Times said Barron in his appreciation. "Roger was a true newspaperman."

Jackson said he called Spike Lee this morning as he was working on his speech and Lee ordered him to write down--and deliver this message: "he was a champion of my work and other black film makers."

Emanuel talked about how "Roger's name became synonymous with Chicago and the movies."

Said Quinn, "We love you Roger. We always will. Thumbs up."

The Sun-Times has complete coverage on every platform: Start HERE for the package.


April 8 is Holocaust Remembrance Day.....

From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

"Between 1933 and 1945, the German government, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, carried out the systematic persecution of and murder of Europe's Jews. This genocide is now known as the Holocaust.

The Nazi regime also persecuted and killed millions of other people it considered politically, racially, or socially unfit. The Allies' victory ended World War II, but Nazi Germany and its collaborators had left millions dead and countless lives shattered.

Sara Bloomfield, Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

"I think the important thing to understand about this cataclysmic event is that it happened in the heart of Europe. Germany was respected around the world for its leading scientists, its physicians, its theologians. It was a very civilized, advanced country. It was a young democracy, but it was a democracy. And yet it descended not only into social collapse but world war and eventually mass murder."

Margaret Thatcher, dead at 87

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Margaret Thatcher, Britain's only female prime minister, great friend of former President Ronald Reagan--known as the "Iron Lady"-- died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 87.

Daily Mail story is HERE.

Daily Telegraph story is HERE.

The BBC obit is HERE.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hits Chicago on Monday for a high-dollar fund-raiser hosted by Illinois GOP House members: Peter Roskam, Rodney Davis, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, John Shimkus and Aaron Schock,

The funder is at Dikta's Restaurant, 100 E. Chestnut

The price points:

Host Committee: $50,000 Contribute or Raise

Roundtable Discussion: $25,000 Contribute

VIP Photo Reception: $10,000 Contribute

General Reception: $5,000 Contribute

The cash goes to several Boehner-related war chests: Friends of John Boehner, the National Republican Congressional Committee, The Freedom Project, and the Ohio Republican Party State Central & Executive Committee


In the wake of President Barack Obama apologizing to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for complimenting her on her good looks comes this blockbuster finding from a new study: when it comes to a female candidate, any media coverage about her appearance--even positive--hurts her with voters.

That's a key conclusion of the poll for the Women's Media Center and She Should Run, to be released Monday in Chicago at the Council on Foundations annual conference at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan.

The survey's release is timely because Obama's remark about Harris is the latest in the long-running struggle of women seeking public office, not to have their looks influence how people assess their credibility.

Obama apologized Friday for saying, during a Thursday fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee near San Francisco that Harris is "brilliant," "dedicated" and "tough." What Obama said after that is what got him in trouble: "She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general."

The "Name It. Change It" survey, conducted by Celinda Lake of Lake Research and Robert Carpenter of Chesapeake Beach Consulting found that when any media coverage focuses on a female contender's appearance--positive, negative, or neutral--"it made voters less likely to vote for her."

Lake said, "Women candidates pay a real price when they are covered in a way that focuses on their appearance.
"Even what we thought was benign coverage about how a woman dresses has a negative impact on her vote and whether voters perceive her as in touch, likeable, confident, effective, and qualified. And, in close races, sexist coverage on top of the attacks that every candidate faces can make the difference between winning and losing."

Harris through her spokesman shrugged off the Obama comment, an option an incumbent and Obama loyalist--not in an election battle--can easily take.

"When a woman candidate's looks become part of the election story, she loses ground," said Julie Burton, President of the Women's Media Center.

The on-line survey was conducted March 3-7 of 1,500 likely voters, with an oversample of women between the ages of 18-35.

ASGK Public Strategies, the firm headquartered in Chicago, founded by David Axelrod and Eric Sedler, is creating a new practice group--focusing on crisis communications, litigation and issues management--and signed Tracy Schmaler, former Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the Department of Justice, to helm the operation.

Schmaler will be an ASGK Managing Director and head of the new practice group, based in Washington.

"Tracy's service in senior positions with the Obama Administration and on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as her time working for Silicon Valley giant Yahoo! Inc., makes her uniquely positioned to lead this specialized practice group," said Eric Sedler, Managing Partner at ASGK.

From the firm on the new group: "The practice will provide strategic public affairs and media relations services to clients needing assistance with crisis communications, corporate and other complex litigation, government investigations, regulatory matters, and general issues management."

While at the Justice Department, Schmaler "developed and managed the Department's overall media strategy on high-profile law enforcement, policy and legislative issues including crisis communications involving the Attorney General, congressional investigations and hearings, as well as significant criminal, civil and antitrust litigation," the firm said.

And more: "Prior to serving in the Obama Administration, she oversaw global public affairs for Yahoo! Inc., where she advised the CEO and executive leadership team on communications strategy involving policy and regulatory issues such as Internet privacy, intellectual property, and corporate social responsibility efforts in emerging markets around the world.

"She also served on the company's crisis communications team responsible for key priority matters, including Microsoft's attempted hostile takeover bid, the proxy contest with Carl Icahn, and domestic and international policy communications around the proposed Yahoo! - Google search marketing agreement.

"Tracy has also worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee as Communications Director where she served as chief spokesperson for the Committee and its Chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, on issues such as Supreme Court and other judicial nominations, patent reform, oversight investigations of the Executive Branch and criminal justice policy.

"Prior to her career in public affairs, Tracy was a political reporter in Vermont, where she covered state and national politics."

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.) were optimistic about the prospects of Congress passing comprehensive immigration reform Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," with Gutierrez saying that the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans cannot be rushed.

Gutierrez told host Candy Crowley, " I am very, very optimistic that the House of Representatives is going to have a plan that is going to be able to go to a conference with the Senate in which we're going to be able to resolve differences.

He added, "One thing I have a lot of confidence is what we're doing -- a lot of people say rush, rush, rush. Why can't you get it? You know something, the first thing you have to do when you have four Republicans and four Democrats who agree on virtually nothing else and who argue and fight and debate about everything else, you have to create a sense of trust and camaraderie that exists as you develop such on an issue like this. Having said that, I think first thing we're going to do is we're going to put people in a safe place. That is 11 million people, you can give them a work permit, Social Security card, a driver's license.

"... And then the second part is the path to the green card, that permanent residency which leads to citizenship."

The University of Chicago Institute of Politics, founded by David Axelrod, former top strategist for President Barack Obama, cuts the ribbon Monday on its new headquarters on campus, a totally refurbished house at 5707 S. Woodlawn.

A stream of political stars have been making their way to the U. of C. IOP in the past months, with more on hand Monday for the morning ribbon cutting and, in the evening, a symposium titled "What's Next for the Republican Party."

Expected at the 11 a.m. CT ribbon cutting ceremony: members of the Institute's Board of Advisors, including: Julian Castro, Stephanie Cutter, Larry Grisolano, Brad Keywell, Bill Kristol, Isaac Lee, Mike Murphy, Beth Myers, Neera Tanden and Howard Wolfson.

On the bill for the 6 p.m. forum on the GOP, moderated by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace:

· Haley Barbour, former Republican governor of Mississippi

· Bill Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard

· Mike Murphy, Republican political consultant

· Beth Myers, former senior advisor to Gov. Mitt Romney

· Ramesh Ponnuru, conservative columnist and senior editor at National Review

Current fellows at the IOP are:

*Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour

*Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau

*Former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Col.)

*Former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio)

*Former Obama Cabinet secretary Chris Lu

*Journalist Bethany McLean

A Sun-Times video tribute to our beloved Roger Ebert: Click HERE to watch.

Roger Ebert passed away on Thursday. It's a very sad day for the Chicago Sun-Times and Roger's many friends. President Barack Obama sent his condolences in a statement:

"Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Roger Ebert. For a generation of Americans - and especially Chicagoans - Roger was the movies. When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive - capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical. Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient - continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. The movies won't be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family."


Chicago Sun-Times Neil Steinberg's tribute to Roger is HERE.

The Sun-Times package on Rogert Ebert is HERE.

Roger's last blog post was April 2--headlined "A leave of presence" --and it is HERE.

A recovering stroke victim, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) tells Yahoo! News he support's President Barack Obama's proposal, unveiled this week, to invest $100 million in brain research. The brain study will be part of the budget Obama will present to Congress on April 10.

From the story by Yahoo! News Chris Moody, Kirk's statement:

"Having suffered an ischemic stroke, I understand the importance of investing in science and technology to better understand our brain's circuitry and neurological interactions," Kirk told Yahoo News. "The new BRAIN initiative, which includes fostering partnerships with private institutions, will help bring us closer to learning more about mapping the most powerful, innovative tool in our bodies. After meeting with the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke [NINDS], I hope the research from the BRAIN initiative will continue to help doctors and scientists better understand strokes, their effects, and long-term health impacts."

President Barack Obama is in San Francisco and the Bay area for Democratic fund-raising events to benefit the House political operation and the Democratic National Committee. This fund-raising is separate from the fund-raising appeals the Obama team is also making for his new Organizing for America, the group spawned from his campaign to help sell his programs.

One of Obama's Thursday events--both for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-- was at the home of a billionaire environmentalist, Tom Steyer--who has been an outspoken opponent to the Keystone XL pipeline. Getting U.S. approval of the pipeline for Canadian oil is a priority for the Canadian government.

The report from the San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci and Drew Joseph: "The visit drew protests from opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and from Republicans, who slammed it as a jaunt to "billionaires' row."

"Obama appeared first at a cocktail reception at the Sea Cliff home of billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, where about 100 guests paid $5,000 to $34,200 to attend the fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."

Obama hits Atherton on Thursday for the Democratic National Committee.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel jumps on the Chicago leg of brother Ezekiel's book tour on Thursday and Friday to tout the memoir of his older brother--known as Zeke-- "Brothers Emanuel, A memoir of an American Family."

The rundown:

Thursday - Zeke and Rahm interview with CBS (will air at 10pm Thursday evening) ; Zeke has a talk and book signing at Winnetka Community House hosted by the Book Stall

Friday - Zeke and Rahm interview on WGN (live at 7:30am).

Zeke has a talk and book signing at the Union League Club ; Zeke and Rahm interviews with Chicago media

Monday - Zeke will be on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight"

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mark Kirk announced Tuesday he supports gay marriage, the result of a new appreciation for life and love he's gained as a survivor of a stroke that almost killed him.

It's another chapter in an evolving stroke-inspired journey for a man who opposed gay marriage when he started running for the Senate in 2009 -- worried about a challenge from the right in the 2010 GOP primary.

Kirk's announcement tells us a few things:

♦ Kirk didn't want to be bringing up the rear on this issue.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) also announced his support for same-sex marriage on Tuesday, with a post on Facebook.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) recently told the touching story of wanting his gay son to be able to wed in declaring his gay marriage backing.

With Portman and Kirk the only Republican senators for gay marriage, that makes them stand out. Portman's politics are often to the right of Kirk. Supporting gay marriage early -- that is for a Republican -- helps Kirk burnish a moderate credential.

Sen. Dick Durbin is one of 48 Democratic and Independent senators who back gay marriage.

♦ Curiously, Kirk, the top Republican in the state, did not use the occasion to explicitly call on the Illinois House to pass a pending gay marriage bill the state Senate already approved.

President Barack Obama wrestled with gay marriage for years. It was only last May that Obama said: "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."

However once Obama was in -- well, he was in. Last December, as state lawmakers in Springfield started to take up gay marriage legislation, Obama (a former state senator) sent a statement that if he were still in the Illinois Legislature, "he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally."

Obama, Durbin and seven House Democrats -- all from the Chicago area -- have urged the Illinois House to pass the now stalled state bill.

♦ Kirk is not anticipating a 2016 GOP primary challenge where gay marriage support would be an issue. Anyway, that's years away.

♦ Kirk's stroke has liberated him. Kirk vaulted into the news with a heartfelt, 68-word statement: "Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back -- government has no place in the middle."

A Kirk staffer told a gay marriage advocate: "The journey story is clear; he is unshackled since he came back from his stroke."

♦ Kirk and his staff, I'm told, did hear from a lot of people urging him to speak up on the gay marriage issue sooner than later.

Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project told me, "We've met with his staff and talked to him."

River Forest residents Lee and David Neubecker are the parents of Braiden, 10. On March 1, David Neubecker and Braiden met with Kirk legislative staffer Gretchan Blum in Washington.

Neubecker said his daughter made the case why "her two dads should be allowed to get married."

Kirk's past opposition to gay marriage seems based more on politics than convictions, given what he told the Illinois Radio Network on Tuesday.

"Most of us have gay acquaintances at work or at church and we know them and the thought of legally discriminating against our own friends and co-workers is an anathema to me," Kirk said in the interview.

Kirk wrote a column that ran in the Washington Post on Feb. 1 about how his stroke -- which kept him out of the Senate almost a year -- gave him a new outlook on life. Wrote Kirk: "I want my life to count for something more than the honors I once craved. I believe it will. My faith is stronger. My humility is deeper. I know I depend on family and friends more than I ever realized. I know, too, that the things that divide us in politics are infinitesimal compared with the dignity of our common humanity."

Kirk's journey continues.

WASHINGTON--Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in an interview on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" rejected the National Rifle Association proposal, announced Tuesday, to arm at least one staffer in each school. The suggestion comes as the NRA is lobbying against a package of measures to reduce gun violence.

Emanuel spoke to Tapper from Chicago.


Highlights from CNN....

- Rahm rejected the recommendation of the NRA on arming school staffers " I think that is not what schools are for and that's not where you want the time and training for principals and teachers. "


- Rahm doesn't regret not spending more time on guns as chief of staff for President Barack Obama: "for people to then kind of look back and said, you know, in the middle of either the financial or the auto scandal, he should have done X, there are choices you make."

- Rahm on Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential prospects: "she has a lot to offer"

Click below for transcript

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama on Tuesday endorsed the Democratic candidate, Robin Kelly, running to replace disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) in the special election next week. Kelly is expected to win the seat in the heavily Democratic district, facing only nominal GOP opposition.

Obama pal Cheryl Whitaker is chairing Kelly's campaign; Kelly and Obama served together in the Illinois General Assembly.

In a statement released through the Kelly campaign Obama said:

"In my State of the Union address, I laid out a vision to make the United States a magnet for jobs and manufacturing, equip every American with the skills they need to do those jobs, and ensure that hard work leads to a decent living. To continue moving America forward, I need partners in the House of Representatives like Robin Kelly. I have known Robin for many years and I am confident she is the perfect choice to represent the Illinois 2nd Congressional District," said President Obama.

"Robin is a tireless champion for building small businesses, supporting middle-class families, protecting our seniors, improving transportation and expanding access to health care. I share Robin's passionate advocacy to end gun violence with common sense solutions because like her, I believe families impacted by gun violence - especially in my home city of Chicago - deserve a vote. As a member of Congress, Robin will help us get that vote and that's why I urge you to elect Robin Kelly as your representative in the United State Congress."

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel debuts on CNN's new show, "The Lead with Jake Tapper," taping a segment with Tapper from CNN's Chicago bureau. Tapper's show starts at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. Chicago time.

Updated..

WASHINGTON--In a reversal, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) announced on Tuesday that he backs gay marriage saying in a statement released on his Senate web site Tuesday surviving his stroke opened his mind to have "greater respect for others."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is also a supporter of gay marriage. Also on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced his backing of gay marriage. Illinois and Delaware legislatures currently have pending measures to legalize gay marriage.

Kirk opposed gay marriage when he was running for the Illinois Senate seat in 2009--when it could have been an issue in the 2010 GOP primary when he was worried about a challenge from the right.

Back in September, 2009, after Democratic Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias came out in support of same-sex marriage--and repeal of the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman--known as the Defense of Marriage Act--Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown asked about Kirk's position.

Wrote Brown, "Informed of Giannoulias' comments, a spokesman for Kirk offered a succinct response: "Congressman Kirk opposes gay marriage, supports the Defense of Marriage Act, and agrees with President Clinton's policy of "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

Once Kirk was the nominee--running against Giannoulias--he was still against gay marriage, saying in an Oct. 19, 2010 debate, "I-- I oppose gay marriage, and-- I support civil unions. But I also don't think we should have a federal takeover of all marriage law in the United States. I think the federal government is already trying to take over too much." (My post with the debate transcript is HERE)

Kirk, in his Tuesday statement said, "When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others.

"Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back-- government has no place in the middle," Kirk said.

Kirk defended Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady when his chairmanship was threatened recently because of his personal support for same sex marriage.

"Senator Kirk and Senator Carper have shown tremendous leadership in announcing their support for marriage equality," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement. The group is a major national lobbying organization for gay rights

"It is a sign of our progress that so many of their colleagues are showing the same political will. Democrat or Republican, there can simply be no excuse for standing on the wrong side of history when it comes to this basic question of justice," Griffin said.

"We continue to see the momentum behind marriage equality grow, especially among Republicans." said Rick Garcia, Director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and Policy Director for The Civil Rights Agenda in a statement. The group is the largest Illinois Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender civil rights advocacy organization.

"The momentum is stunning and we welcome it," Garcia said.

With the Senate out of session, Kirk is in Chicago this week.

WASHINGTON-- Louis Susman, the Chicagoan who is stepping down as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, will be the non-executive chairman of DJE Holdings, the parent company of the public relations firm founded by Chicago's Daniel J. Edelman, who died in January, Politico is reporting.

The Sun-Times reported in February that Ruth Edelman was named deputy chairman of DJE Holdings following the death of her husband.


updated....

WASHINGTON--Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) mentioned as a 2016 presidential candidate, hits Chicago on April 1 for a fund-raiser at the Near North home of Joyce and Judson Green, the event chairs.

The price points range from $1,000 to $10,400, which includes a private dinner for two after a reception. The funder bankrolls the Rubio Victory Committee.

The pricing:

$1,000 per Individual

$2,600 Event Sponsor (Includes Two Tickets to General Reception)

$5,200 Event Host (Includes Private Dinner For One After Reception)

$10,400 Event Co-Chair (Includes Private Dinner For Two After Reception)

WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is back in Illinois for the first time since returning to the Senate on Jan. 3 following an absence of almost a year following a stroke. Kirk was back in the state on Sunday, and on Monday, was taking meetings in his Chicago Senate office. Kirk, who has not made a sustained public appearance since his stroke--aside from climbing up the Senate stairs on Jan. 3--lunched Monday with GOP Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross and State Sen. Matt Murphy.

Also, Kirk presented a Legion of Merit award to Col. Joseph Noferi of north suburban Lincolnwood in a ceremony in his Loop office at 230 S. Dearborn.

Updated with Japan, Naperville details...

WASHINGTON--Caroline Kennedy is expected to be tapped for an ambassadorship, NBC and ABC News is reporting on Monday--with the daughter of President John F. Kennedy to appear later this week in the Chicago suburbs: Thursday in west suburban Naperville and Friday in north suburban Highland Park.

Kennedy's endorsement of President Barack Obama during his heated Democratic primary in 2008 with Hillary Rodham Clinton was very important at the time; in a column, she compared him to her late father.

ABC News and the Washington Post is reporting that Kennedy will be headed to Japan.

The Friday event at the Highland Park Library, from the library: "Caroline Kennedy, Honorary Chair of National Library Week and author of "Poems to Learn by Heart," will discuss her book. The event includes a performance by Poetry Out Loud. Wine and cheese to follow. Ticketed event. $175 ticket includes signed copy of book and ticket to the library's Saturday, April 27, fundraiser, Librarypalooza."

The Thursday event, according to Anderson's Bookshop: "Caroline Kennedy Ticket Tuesday, April 4 at 7:00 p.m
Pfeiffer Hal on the campus of North Central College 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville Ticket includes a copy of Poems to Learn by Heart and Admission to the event

"A portion of the proceeds will be donated to NCUSD 203 charity No Reserved Seating •No Refunds
Price: $26.44"

Obama April 1, 2013 week ahead

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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