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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

IL inmates help clean up after November tornadoes

Monday, 09 December 2013 05:44 Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois state prison inmates are among those who have been taking part in recovery efforts after last month's deadly tornadoes. The Illinois Department of Corrections says department staff and inmates have helped with debris removal.

   The two dozen tornadoes that swept across Illinois on November 17th damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 homes and killed seven people.

   The crews will head next to the city of Diamond on Tuesday.

Ex-police officer faces DUI, impersonation charges

Monday, 09 December 2013 05:38 Published in Local News

   CASEYVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Authorities say a former metro-east police officer has been charged with driving under the influence and impersonating a police officer.

   Caseyville Police Chief Jose Alvarez says 56 year old Harold J. Johnson of Brooklyn is being held in the St. Clair County Jail with bond set at $10,000.

   Authorities say Johnson was pulled over for a traffic violation early Saturday. Alvarez says Johnson was driving under the influence and claimed to be a Brooklyn police officer during the stop. He had a loaded gun with him, which police seized. Police later learned Johnson had been fired from the Brooklyn police force earlier this year, but he hadn't turned in his gun and badge.

   It was not immediately clear if Johnson has an attorney.

Hagel to meet with Pakistan's prime minister

Monday, 09 December 2013 01:47 Published in National News

   ISLAMABAD (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Pakistan Monday for meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the nation's new army chief, hoping to further repair a strained and sputtering relationship between Washington and Islamabad.

   His visit comes on the heels of the latest interruption of U.S. military shipments out of Afghanistan through the main border crossings into Pakistan. Anti-American protests along the route in Pakistan prompted the U.S. to stop the shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi last week, due to worries about the safety of the truckers.

   The protests center on the CIA's drone program, which has targeted and killed many terrorists but has also caused civilian casualties. Pakistan has called the drone attacks a violation of the country's sovereignty, but the issue is muddied by the fact that Islamabad and the Pakistani military have supported at least some of the strikes in the past.

   Shireen Mazari, the information secretary for the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said in a statement Monday it's time for the government to speak forcefully to the U.S. to demand an end to the drone attacks. The party is leading the protests.

   The Pakistani government blocked the routes for seven months following U.S. airstrikes that accidentally killed two dozen soldiers on the Afghan border in November 2011. Pakistan finally reopened the routes after the U.S. apologized.

   The rift led the U.S. to sever most aid to Pakistan for some time, but relations were restored in July 2012. Since then, the U.S. has delivered more than $1.15 billion in security assistance to Pakistan, including advanced communications equipment, roadside bomb jammers, night vision goggles and surveillance aircraft.

   A senior defense official said these issues will come up in Hagel's meetings, and acknowledged the lingering tensions between the two countries. Over the past year, relations between Washington and Islamabad have been improving, and Sharif met with President Barack Obama and Hagel in late October in Washington.

   Hagel is expected to tell Pakistani leaders that the U.S. wants the border crossings to remain open, said the defense official, who was not authorized to discuss the private meeting plans publicly and requested anonymity.

   The U.S. has also been frustrated by Pakistan's unwillingness to target the Haqqani terrorist network, which operates along the border and conducts attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

   Defense officials said Hagel will be the first high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Gen. Rahaeel Sharil, who took over as head of Pakistan's powerful Army at the end of last month.

   Following their meeting in Rawalpindi, Hagel and Sharil echoed each other's desire to work to strengthen the countries' relationship.

   The last Pentagon chief to visit Pakistan was Robert Gates in January 2010.

   Hagel flew to Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he visited U.S. troops but declined to meet with President Hamid Karzai, who has rankled the U.S. by refusing to sign a security agreement before year's end.

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