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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (BNO NEWS) — An F-16 fighter jet intercepted two small planes Saturday after they entered airspace which has been temporarily closed for a visit by President Barack Obama, officials said on Sunday, less than a week after a similar incident in the New York area.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said the two separate incidents happened in the Chicago area at approximately 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Central Daylight Time (CDT), just a few hours after Air Force One landed at O’Hare International Airport. Details such as the type of aircraft or the number of people on board were not released by authorities.

An F-16 fighter jet intercepted both aircraft and followed it until it landed without incident, NORAD said in a brief statement. Both pilots were met by law enforcement and questioned why they strayed into the restricted airspace. Other details were not immediately released, but both incidents are believed to have been accidental.

Obama had no public events on Saturday but arrived in Chicago to attend five separate campaign events on Sunday.

Earlier this week, on August 6, two F-15 fighter jets also intercepted two small airplanes when they entered restricted airspace during a visit by Obama to Connecticut and New York. The first incident happened over Long Island where some airspace was closed because Air Force One was stationed at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The second incident happened about half an hour later when a small aircraft flew into temporary restricted airspace near New Haven in Connecticut. It happened when Obama was delivering remarks for his re-election campaign at the Stamford Marriott Hotel in Stamford, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of New Haven.

NORAD is tasked to prevent air attacks against North America and safeguard the sovereign airspaces of both the United States and Canada by responding to unauthorized air activity in or near these airspace. The organization is allowed to monitor, shadow, divert from flight path, direct to land and even destroy targets which are deemed to be a security threat to North America.

Last month, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted a Sunwing Airlines Boeing 767-300 near Quebec City after the plane failed to respond to radio communications. The fighter jets were able to assist the aircraft in re-establishing radio communications with air traffic control, and the airliner then proceeded to its destination without incident. It was on a flight from Paris to Toronto.

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (BNO NEWS) — One person was killed Thursday when a large double-decker Megabus crashed into a pillar on Interstate 55 in southern Illinois, state police said. Nearly 40 others were injured, some of them critically.

The accident happened at approximately 1:22 p.m. local time when the charter bus, which is owned by transportation company Megabus, went off the roadway and struck a bridge abutment on I-55 southbound at mile point 57, located between Chicago, Illinois and Kansas City, Missouri.

Illinois State Police Trooper Doug Francis said one person was killed in the crash while 38 others were injured, including 33 people who were transported by ambulance to local area hospitals and five people who were airlifted. Some of the injured were said to be in a critical condition.

Illinois State Police officials said approximately 64 passengers were listed on the manifest of the bus, but it was not immediately known if all of them were on board. “The total number of passengers is expected to remain fluid until confirmed,” another state police spokesperson said.

In total, 30 ambulances, five helicopters and seven fire departments were dispatched to the scene of the accident. The uninjured occupants of the bus were transported by another bus to the Litchfield Community Center, and then onto St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri. It was not immediately known where the bus was originally headed or coming from.

State police said the accident was possibly caused by a tire blowout, although an investigation is still underway.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Federal regulators on Friday evening closed four banks in Oklahoma, Illinois, South Carolina and North Carolina, bringing the total number of bank failures in the United States so far this year to 28.

The largest bank to be closed on Friday was the Waccamaw Bank which had its headquarters in the city of Whiteville in North Carolina. The bank, which had a total of sixteen branches across North and South Carolina, was closed by the North Carolina Office of the Commissioner of Banks after its regular closing time.

After the closing, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said it immediately entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with the First Community Bank in Bluefield, Virginia, to assume all of the deposits of the Waccamaw Bank. As of March, the Maccamaw Bank had approximately $533.1 million in total assets and $472.7 million in total deposits.

Most customers should see no or little service disruption despite the closure of the institution as the sixteen branches of Waccamaw Bank will reopen on Monday as branches of the First Community Bank, and all depositors of Waccamaw Bank will automatically become depositors of First Community Bank.

All of the services of the failed bank, including checks, ATM and debit cards, will remain active. “Checks drawn on the bank will continue to be processed,” the FDIC said in a statement which also applies to the three other banks which were closed. “Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.”

The other banks closed by federal regulators were the First Capital Bank based in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, with only one branch; the Carolina Federal Savings Bank based in Charleston, South Carolina, with two branches; and the Farmers and Traders State Bank based in Shabbona, Illinois, with also two branches. All the banks were assumed by another bank, ensuring continuing service for customers.

The FDIC estimated that the combined cost of all four bank failures to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be around $80.8 million, but said it was the least costly resolution for the DIF compared to other alternatives. Friday’s closures bring the total number of U.S. bank failures so far this year to 28. There were 91 bank failures in 2011 and 157 bank failures in 2010.

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CRYSTAL LAKE, ILLINOIS (BNO NEWS) — A small plane crashed near Chicago in Illinois on Thursday afternoon, killing both people on board, federal officials said. The cause of the accident was not immediately known.

The single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza 35 aircraft crashed at around 3:15 p.m. local time in a marshy field in Crystal Lake, the largest city in McHenry County which is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. The aircraft is believed to have attempted to land at Hills Airport amidst windy weather.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory confirmed two people, the pilot and a passenger, were killed in the accident. Their identities were not immediately released, but the Chicago Tribune reported that the victims are believed to have been in their 40s or 50s.

The aircraft, witnesses told local media organizations, was traveling north and trying to line up for a landing at the airport when it began to decelerate and crashed. Strong winds could have affected the landing, but investigations are still ongoing.

The crash tore off the aircraft’s left wing while the nose was heavily damaged.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Tax returns released by the White House on Friday show that the income of President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle suffered a big drop last year due to falling sales from his three books.

The 48-page document was released by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, showing that the Obamas reported an adjusted gross income of $789,674 in 2011, the lowest during their time in the White House. The Obamas reported $1,728,096 of adjusted gross income in 2010 and $5,505,409 in 2009.

The adjusted gross income of the Obamas in 2011 dropped by about a million dollars when compared to a year earlier, mainly due to falling book sales. The tax returns show Obama made about $441,369 in business income in 2011, significantly lower than the $1,382,889 in business income in 2010.

But the tax burden for the Obamas has continued to drop during the previous years. The Obamas paid $162,074 in total federal taxes tax in 2011, or about 20.5 percent, lower than many Americans who earn less. The Obamas also paid $31,941 in state income tax in Illinois, or about 4 percent.

“The President believes we must reform our tax system which is why he has proposed policies like the Buffett Rule that would ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share while protecting families making under $250,000 from seeing their taxes go up,” Carney said in a statement, adding that the Obamas would pay more in taxes under his own proposals.

In 2010, the Obamas paid a total of $453,770 in federal tax, or about 26 percent of their adjusted gross income. The previous two years their federal tax burden was more than 32 percent, with a total federal income tax of $1,792,414 in 2009.

According to the tax returns released on Friday, the Obamas donated $172,130 – or about 22 percent of their adjusted gross income – to 39 different charities. The largest reported gift to charity was a $117,130 contribution to the Fisher House Foundation, a scholarship fund for children of fallen and disabled soldiers, which receives the after-tax proceeds from Obama’s children’s book ‘Of Thee I Sing.’

The White House also released the tax returns of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill. Together, they reported adjusted gross income of $379,035. The Bidens paid $87,900 in total federal tax for 2011. They paid $13,843 in Delaware income tax and $3,614 in Virginia income tax. The Bidens contributed $5,540 to charity in 2011.

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CHICAGO, Illinois (BNO NEWS) — Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the Republican presidential primary in Illinois on Tuesday, defeating former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and gaining more than 40 delegates in the race to become the U.S. Republican presidential candidate.

With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, front-runner Romney won 47 percent of the vote to Santorum’s 35 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who did not campaign as much in Illinois as their opponents, won 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

“Thank you, Illinois! What a great night!” Romney told his supporters at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel near Chicago after U.S. networks projected he would win the presidential primary. “Elections are about choices. And today hundreds of thousands of Illinois voters have joined millions across the country in our cause.”

Illinois has a total of 69 delegates and 54 of them are tied to the primary and were at stake during the primary on Tuesday. Romney’s convincing victory, winning more than 428,000 out of nearly 910,000 votes, is expected to earn him at least 41 of those delegates and Santorum 10.

“Congratulations to Governor Mitt Romney and all of the other victorious local Republican candidates on hard-fought victories today,” said Pat Brady, Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “Now that we’ve had a spirited debate within our party, I urge all Illinois Republicans to unite behind all of our nominees for the November General Election.”

In a brief statement following the primary, Gingrich criticized Romney for ‘relying’ on outspending his opponents. “We need a nominee who offers powerful solutions that hold the president accountable for his failures,” he said. “This is the type of leadership I can offer as the nominee, and this campaign will spend between now and when the delegates vote in Tampa relentlessly taking the fight to President Obama to make this case.”

Also on Tuesday, Romney won the support of Aguadilla Mayor Carlos Méndez who is also the chairman of the Republican Party of Puerto Rico. With the support of Méndez, who was previously a supporter of Gingrich, Romney has now won all 23 delegates at stake in the U.S. territory.

“While I originally supported Newt Gingrich and still believe that he can be a leader in our party, it is time that Republicans unite behind one candidate,” Méndez said in a statement. “Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly supported Governor Romney [during the primary] on Sunday and it is clear that he is the most capable candidate to bring jobs to Puerto Rico and fix the mess in Washington, DC.”

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination. According to a CNN count, Romney is currently leading with a total of 562 delegates. Santorum has 249 delegates, Gingrich has 137 and Paul has 69. The winner will face incumbent President Barack Obama on November 6.

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) — Three crew members were killed on late Monday morning when a U.S.-owned helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, its owner said. There were no survivors.

The accident happened at around 10:45 a.m. local time when a helicopter belonging to AAR Airlift, a unit of Chicago-based AAR Corp., crashed in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province. The aircraft was conducting operations for the U.S. Department of Defense, although it was not part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“The Company has confirmed that there were three crew member fatalities,” AAR Airlift said in a brief statement. “The families of all three crew members have been contacted. The Company reports that no passengers were aboard the aircraft at the time of the accident.”

AAR Airlift said the cause of the accident was not immediately known and gave no other details. However, district police chief Major Omar Jan told Pajhwok Afghan News that the aircraft caught fire, possibly as a result of a technical fault, while attempting an emergency landing.

But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed its fighters had shot down the aircraft. “The attack took place at 11:00 am today as the enemy aircraft took off from a base while carrying troops away when it came under an armed attack in Shawal area, catching fire in mid-air before violently crashing onto the ground, instantly killing all invaders and crew onboard,” he said.

Contrary to the Taliban claim, ISAF said no service members were on board the aircraft and the casualties are believed to have been U.S. civilians. The Taliban frequently exaggerates its statements for propaganda purposes, but is also known to falsely claim credit for accidents.

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (BNO NEWS) — Former Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Wednesday after being convicted of numerous counts of corruption, prosecutors said.

Blagojevich, who is to turn 55 on Saturday, was convicted on 18 felony counts of corruption during his tenure as governor, including his effort in 2008 to illegally trade the appointment of a United States Senator in exchange for $1.5 million in campaign contributions or other personal benefits.

Blagojevich, a lawyer and former state prosecutor, state legislator, and U.S. Representative, was arrested on December 9, 2008, while serving as the governor of Illinois. A two-term Democrat, he was removed from office in January 2009.

The governor was accused of using his office in numerous matters involving state appointments, business, legislation and pension fund investments to seek or obtain financial benefits as money, campaign contributions, and employment for himself and others, in exchange for official actions, including trying to leverage his authority to appoint a United States Senator to replace then President-Elect Barack Obama.

In the summer of 2010, Blagojevich went to trial and was convicted of lying to FBI agents when he falsely told them in an interview on March 16, 2005, that he did not track, or want to know, who contributed to him or how much money they contributed to him, but the jury was deadlocked on all remaining counts.

During trial, prosecutors relied heavily on wiretap tapes in which Blagojevich spew profanity and speculated about getting a Cabinet job in exchange for the Senate seat. His attorneys, however, said he was a big talker but never actually engaged in corruption.

Earlier this year, Blagojevich was convicted on 17 additional counts, including 10 counts of wire fraud, two counts of attempted extortion, two counts of conspiracy to commit extortion, one count of soliciting bribes, and two counts of conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes.

Blagojevich was sentenced for shaking down the chief executive of a children’s hospital for $25,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for implementing an increase to pediatric reimbursement rates. In addition, he was sentenced for holding up the signing of a bill to benefit the Illinois horse racing industry in an attempt to illegally obtain $100,000 in campaign contributions and lying to the FBI in 2005.

After a two-day hearing, U.S. District Judge James Zagel imposed the 14-year sentence, stating that “the harm here is not measured in the value of money or property… the harm is the erosion of public trust in government.”

Blagojevich was ordered to surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on February 16, 2012, to begin serving his sentence. The prison term is the longest-ever imposed on a former governor in the Northern District of Illinois.

The judge also imposed a fine of $20,000 and two years of supervised release after completing his prison term. Blagojevich also must pay a special assessment of $1,800, or $100 on each count of conviction.

“Blagojevich betrayed the trust and faith that Illinois voters placed in him, feeding great public frustration, cynicism and disengagement among citizens,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “People have the right to expect that their elected leaders will honor the oath they swear to, and this sentence shows that the justice system will stand up to protect their expectations.”

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BEDFORD PARK, ILLINOIS (BNO NEWS) — A former FedEx employee opened fire at one of the company’s facilities in a Chicago suburb on Thursday morning before killing himself, police said.

The former employee, whose name has not been disclosed, reportedly entered the FedEx facility in Bedford Park in Cook County, Illinois, which is a small suburb outside Chicago, at around 7:50 a.m. local time. He soon got in a vehicle and opened fire indiscriminately, causing panic among employees.

Cook County Sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki told the Chicago Tribune that police responded to several emergency calls and surrounded the building as SWAT teams were stationed outside.

At 9:30 a.m. local time, after security personnel entered the building’s parking lot, police announced that the gunman was already dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No other victims were found.

Details of the incident remain unclear, but police described the incident as a “domestic” situation. Sources to the media also explained that the gunman had been involved with a woman who worked at the FedEx facility.

Several workers recognized the man as a former employee.

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CHICAGO (BNO NEWS) — The town of Tiskilwa in northern Illinois was evacuated on early Friday morning after a freight train derailed and several tankers containing ethanol exploded. There were no reports of injuries.

Twenty-six cars of the 131-car train derailed at around 2 a.m. local time, including seven to nine cars loaded with ethanol, according to Mick Burkart, chief operating officer of Iowa Interstate Railroad. He said that investigators have been unable to determine the cause of the accident since they have been unable to get close enough to the train, the Chicago Tribune reported.

As of 9.30 a.m. local time on Friday, the fire was under control but still burning in the town of 800 people located some 115 miles (185 kilometers) west of Chicago. “It’s under control, there are no casualties and it didn’t cause any structural damage,” said Les Grant of the Bureau County Emergency Services and Disaster Administration, according to the report.

Grant said the evacuation of Tiskilwa was voluntary but most evacuated, although several people decided to stay behind. Most residents went to stay with friends or relatives out of town or went to work.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was dispatching a six-person team to investigate the accident. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also sent a representative to the scene to evaluate the situation, the newspaper reported.

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