Chicago will elect a black woman as its mayor for first time
By HERBERT G. McCANN
Wednesday, February 27
CHICAGO (AP) — A former federal prosecutor and a county board leader will face each other in a runoff to become Chicago’s first black female mayor after leading a large field Tuesday that included a member of the Daley family that has dominated the city’s politics for much of the last six decades.
Political outsider Lori Lightfoot, who was a federal prosecutor in northern Illinois, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle were the top two vote-getters among 14 candidates, but neither received more than the 50 percent needed to avoid an April 2 runoff. The winner will succeed Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lead the nation’s third-largest city. Emanuel did not seek re-election.
Among those they defeated was William Daley, who has never held major elected office but featured the most famous surname in the race. His father, Richard J. Daley, and brother, Richard M. Daley, held the city’s top job for nearly 43 years of a 55-year span before Emanuel took the oath in 2011. Daley is a former U.S. Commerce secretary who, like Emanuel, served as White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama.
Emanuel ‘s decision not to seek a third term drew some of the biggest names in state and municipal government as would-be successors, along with some political newcomers with strong support, in a transitional election for a lakefront metropolis still struggling to shed its reputation for corruption, police brutality and street violence.
“What do you think of us now?” Lightfoot said Tuesday night to a crowd of her supporters. “This is what change looks like.”
Lightfoot, the first openly gay woman to run for Chicago mayor, has been critical of efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer.
Preckwinkle, who leads the county’s Democratic Party, also made a campaign issue out of McDonald’s shooting.
“We may not be at the finish line. But, we should acknowledge that history is being made,” Preckwinkle, who previously served 19 years on the City Council and was a Chicago Public Schools teacher, told her supporters.
“It’s not enough to stand at a podium and talk about what you want to see happen,” she added, taking an apparent shot at Lightfoot. “You have to come to this job with the capacity and the capability to make your vision a reality.”
Turnout was low Tuesday. Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election, said by late afternoon turnout was around 27 percent of registered voters. The record low for a February mayoral election was 33.8 percent in 2007, when Emanuel was first elected.
“It appears that some voters either just disengaged or are not willing to make a decision until they know who’s in the runoff, assuming there is a runoff,” Allen said.
Businessman Willie Wilson, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza and activist Amara Enyia, who received financial support from Kanye West and Chance the Rapper, rounded out the top vote-getters.
Although a nonpartisan election, the candidates were all attached in varying degrees to the Democratic Party. The Republican Party has virtually disappeared from the city.
“A problem is the absence of the Republican Party offering a different choice and different ideas,” said DePaul University political scientist Larry Bennett. “Those running are all Democrats, offering odd claims of doing something different.”
The variety of candidates reflected the many issues facing Chicago’s next mayor: poor neighborhoods in need of investment, overwhelming pension debt, low-performing public schools and a crime rate that is often pointed to as among the nation’s worst.
However, an issue that took center stage in the contest is the need to change how business is conducted at City Hall. For some that means an end to pay-to-play, paying off influential politicians in order to do business in the city.
Since 1972, more than two dozen city aldermen have been convicted of crimes related to official duties.
Last month, Edward Burke, a 50-year veteran and former chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, was indicted after authorities said a wiretap on his cellphone captured him pressuring executives of a fast-food chain to hire his law firm in exchange for help with permits. Preckwinkle, Mendoza, attorney Gery Chico and Daley all sought to distance their ties to Burke, who had a comfortable lead in his race for re-election on Tuesday.
Reforming the city’s Police Department is a job the winning candidate can’t dodge. A consent decree approved last month by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr. is aimed at tightening supervision, improving training and fixing the department’s disciplinary system.
The decree is the most important consequence of the shooting of McDonald by now-former officer Jason Van Dyke. A video of the shooting sparked demonstrations and resulted in Van Dyke’s murder conviction . Illinois’ attorney general sued the city to force the court’s involvement after years of inaction by the City Council, which dealt with systemic police misconduct in recent years by approving millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements.
Emanuel’s popularity plummeted after release of the McDonald shooting video and he eventually decided not to seek re-election, leading to the scramble to succeed him.
Voters also chose among candidates for the 50-member City Council.
The city has a tradition of having a dominating mayor and a City Council that isn’t aggressive in serving as a separate branch of government, according to Bennett, the political scientist. That has meant the performance of various city departments hasn’t received adequate scrutiny.
R. Kelly insiders may have helped R&B star with sexual abuse
By MICHAEL TARM
AP Legal Affairs Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — After R. Kelly met a girl celebrating her 16th birthday at a restaurant, it was his manager who handed her Kelly’s business card with the R&B star’s personal phone number on it, telling the teen that Kelly wanted her to give him a call, according to prosecutors.
The 52-year-old singer-songwriter was charged last week with sexually abusing the girl once a month for a year after she retrieved the card from her mom’s purse and phoned Kelly. In all, prosecutors accuse him of abusing four females, three of whom were between 13 and 17.
Kelly is looking at the possibility of decades in prison if convicted, but there’s no official word on whether the manager or anyone else in his inner circle might face charges for complicity in any abuse or for failing to report abuse if they suspected it.
Legal experts say it’s not obvious what laws could be invoked.
All 50 states require that certain professionals, including doctors and teachers, report any suspicions of child abuse, but only around a third mandate that all adults do. Kelly’s home state of Illinois is not among them.
More than 10 Kelly associates, such as agents and security guards, could be exposed to criminal liability in the Chicago case for staying silent about abuse or actively assisting Kelly, said Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for two Kelly accusers.
In a phone interview, he said Kelly depended heavily on others to target underage girls, to transport them and to pay them off to keep quiet over the years he ascended from busking on Chicago subway platforms to become a best-selling music artist.
Kelly “could not have accomplished this for 28 years without the assistance of others who looked the other way because they didn’t want the R. Kelly gravy train to end,” Avenatti said Tuesday.
The question isn’t limited to Kelly insiders. Critics have blasted law enforcement for not pursuing the Grammy winner more aggressively.
“Every system in this city — police, courts, the South and West sides, the churches, everybody — has failed these young black female victims,” argued Jim DeRogatis, who as a Chicago Sun-Times reporter played the central role in revealing the sex-abuse accusations. He told television station WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” on Monday that 48 women have shared with him their stories of abuse by Kelly since 1991.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, declined to comment on any possible criminal exposure involving people around Kelly. He said he is “constrained by the canons of ethics” from addressing anything other than allegations directed at his client.
Music industry stalwarts seemed to look the other way when whispers began 25 years ago and grew louder.
Fans didn’t back away either.
In 2013, after allegations of abuse were widely known, concert venues sold out for the tour promoting his album “Black Panties.” The album peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B chart and sold 500,000 copies by 2015. His next album, “The Buffet,” went to No. 1 in 2016.
If prosecutors do go after Kelly’s confidantes, Avenatti expects many to turn on him.
“His handlers and enablers are going to look to save their own butts as opposed to R. Kelly,” he said.
In practice, charges against someone other than the abuser are rare.
At Penn State University, three administrators were convicted of child endangerment in the case of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in 2012 of raping and sexually abusing multiple boys.
In sentencing former university President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley in 2017, a judge said it should have been easy to pick up the phone to report what they suspected about Sandusky.
“They ignored the opportunity to put an end to his crimes when they had a chance to do so,” Judge John Boccabella said.
Texas has one of the toughest state reporting requirements, mandating that all adults report suspected child abuse. Violators can be imprisoned for up to a year and fined $4,000.
Of just 117 people charged between 2008 and 2012 under the Texas law, fewer than a quarter were eventually convicted, in part because of the challenges of proving that someone did not do something, according to a 2013 report by the Houston Chronicle.
“It’s hard to prove a negative sometimes,” Jane Waters, then chief of the special victims bureau of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, told the newspaper.
A bill dubbed The Speak Up Act , introduced by Sen. Bob Casey, would make it a federal crime in all 50 states if an adult who suspects child abuse does not report it. But in eight years since its introduction, the proposal has not garnered sufficient support to even come up for a vote.
At least some child advocates worry about unintended consequences of laws mandating all adults, in all situations, report suspected abuse. They say child-protection resources nationwide are already stretched thin and a burst of new reports, including an uptick in false ones, could draw staff away from investigations with better chances of leading to charges.
Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm
Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the investigations into R. Kelly.
US suffers setbacks in effort to ban Chinese tech company
By KELVIN CHAN
Tuesday, February 26
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The U.S. government’s fight to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from next-generation internet networks appears to be flagging.
The two sides faced off Tuesday at the world’s biggest mobile technology trade fair, in Barcelona, Spain, where they sought to win over customers and governments.
The U.S. argues Huawei is a security risk as it could give the Chinese government backdoor access to snoop on internet users worldwide. Huawei rejects the claim, which it says is part of the United States’ broader effort to stifle China’s economic and technological ascent.
On Tuesday, a top Huawei executive used a keynote speech at the show, called MWC Barcelona, to poke fun at U.S. intelligence.
“PRISM, PRISM, on the wall, who is the most trustworthy of them all?” said Guo Ping, Huawei’s rotating chairman, in a reference to a U.S. data gathering program.
“If you don’t understand that, you can go ask Edward Snowden,” he told the audience, referring to the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed the program in 2013.
Under the PRISM program, the NSA, pursuant to secret court orders, collected intelligence about foreign threats through U.S. Internet companies.
In raising the U.S. government’s history of snooping on citizens, Guo appeared to seek to portray the United States as hypocritical in accusing the Chinese of being a risk for users’ data privacy.
Huawei is the world’s biggest maker of networking equipment used by phone and internet companies, and its gear is considered by experts as affordable and high quality.
Banning the company from supplying the networks — work that is ongoing in many countries this year — could delay the rollout of 5G networks, which are meant to power the next generation of technological innovation, from self-driving cars to remote surgery.
Huawei made its presence felt at the four-day conference in Barcelona, where some 100,000 visitors are expected and the company’s red logo featured widely. It unveiled an expensive, new foldable phone that made headlines and turned attention to a product that’s not facing any global controversy.
The United States government also dispatched a delegation to lobby its case, which it has pressed with allies across the world in recent weeks.
“The global nature of data flows and interconnectedness means that threats to U.S. networks have a direct bearing on the security of our allies, just as threats to our allies networks have a direct bearing on the security of the United States,” said Robert Strayer, the top U.S. diplomat for cybersecurity policy.
“To this end the United States is asking other governments and the private sector to consider the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese information technology companies.”
Strayer did not detail specific security threats Huawei poses, despite being asked by reporters to do so in a news briefing on the show’s sidelines.
The U.S. campaign took a symbolic hit after the United Arab Emirates, a key ally in the Middle East, said it would use Huawei in its networks. And European allies are balking at banning the company outright.
Strayer denied Washington was retaliating as part of a broader trade war between the U.S. and China, saying the motivation was based on security concerns partly related to Chinese laws requiring companies to comply with intelligence requests.
Strayer called Huawei “duplicitous and deceitful,” pointing out that U.S prosecutors have charged the company with intellectual property theft and allege its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
However, it’s far from clear that telecom executives in Europe and other regions are buying Washington’s argument, with leaders of some of the biggest mobile operators calling for fact-based security assessments.
The U.S. is “fighting an uphill battle” against the telecom industry, said Paul Triolo, head of geotechnology at the Eurasia Group consultancy. “They don’t have a smoking gun here,” so they’re trying to build a stronger case around the company’s behavior and issues with the Chinese government, he said.
Guo, one of three Huawei executives who take turns as chairman, said the telecom industry needs unified standards and clear regulations. He rejected the U.S. allegations.
“We don’t do bad things. Here, let me say this as clear as possible. Huawei has not and we will never plant ‘back doors’ and we will never allow anyone to do so in our equipment.”
Underscoring the company’s growing momentum in fighting the U.S. allegations, the telecom provider Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, a strong U.S. ally in the Mideast, said it signed a deal with Huawei to deploy its 5G technology. Majority government-owned Etisalat is one of two main mobile providers in the UAE.
Etisalat offered no financial terms for the deal it signed with Huawei.
The UAE has increasingly courted Chinese investment in the country as its real-estate market sags through a downturn. Chinese construction firms meanwhile rapidly build highway overpasses and infrastructure at the site of the 2020 World Expo, or world’s fair, in Dubai. Chinese President Xi Jingping visited the Emirates last June.
The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Huawei deal. The UAE hosts some 5,000 American troops, many at the Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi. Dubai also is the busiest port of call for the U.S. Navy outside of the United States.
Follow Kelvin Chan at www.twitter.com/chanman
Jon Gambrell in Dubai contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s technology coverage at https://apnews.com/apf-technology
Iran’s foreign minister hopes resignation empowers diplomats
By NASSER KARIMI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday he hoped his sudden resignation would reinforce the position of his fellow diplomats, hinting that a dispute with the security apparatus and hard-liners led to a “deadly poison for foreign policy.”
Mohammed Javad Zarif’s move sent shockwaves through Iran, where tensions are already running high over America’s withdraw from the nuclear deal he helped negotiate with President Hassan Rouhani.
The Tehran stock market dropped 1,927 points Tuesday, down some 1.16 percent. The Iranian rial, which has rapidly depreciated amid uncertainty over the deal’s future, stood around 135,600 rials to $1. It had been 32,000 to the dollar at the time of the deal.
The state-run IRNA news agency said Zarif told colleagues his resignation would aid in “restoring the ministry to its legal position in foreign relations.”
Zarif elaborated in an interview published Tuesday by the daily Jomhuori Eslami.
“A deadly poison for foreign policy is that it becomes the subject of factionalism and parties’ quarrel,” Zarif reportedly said. “There should be trust toward servants of foreign policy on the national level. Without trust in them, everything will go with the wind.”
The remark appeared to be aimed at other bodies within Iran’s government. Zarif was not present for a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday. Assad was warmly received by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard.
Zarif’s resignation called to mind a similar move in 1988 by then-Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, said to have been triggered by outside pressure. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the time opposed the resignation and Mousavi continued his job.
It was unclear if Assad’s visit to Tehran had an impact on Zarif’s decision. On Tuesday, authorities shuttered the pro-reform Ghanoon daily which had in its early edition of the day called Assad an “uninvited guest” on the front page. The paper said on its Telegram channel that it was closed until further notice.
Later on Tuesday, and without mentioning the resignation, Rouhani praised Zarif as well as Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati as soldiers on the battlefield against U.S. pressure.
“Today, the front line against the U.S. are the foreign and oil ministries as well as the Central Bank,” Rouhani said in a televised address. “Zarif, Hemmati and Zanganeh have stood in the front line.”
Prominent pro-reform lawmaker Ali Motahari said Zarif’s resignation came in response to the “interventions by unaccountable bodies in foreign affairs.”
He said Rouhani was unlikely to accept the resignation “since there is no alternative” for Zarif.
However, not everyone was sad to see Zarif go. Lawmaker Behrouz Nemati said that hard-line lawmaker Javad Karimi Ghodousi brought him cookies to celebrate Zarif leaving.
Iran’s powerful parliamentary committee on national security and foreign affairs was scheduled to discuss Zarif’s resignation later Tuesday though its pronouncements are considered mostly advisory.
Analysts say Rouhani faces growing political pressure from hard-liners within the government as the nuclear deal unravels. Iranian presidents typically see their popularity erode during their second four-year term, but analysts say Rouhani is particularly vulnerable because of the economic crisis assailing the rial, which has hurt ordinary Iranians and emboldened critics to openly call for his ouster.
The son of a wealthy family, Zarif overcame hard-line objections and Western suspicions to strike the accord with world powers that saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
But the deal was later challenged by the administration of President Donald Trump, which pulled America out of the accord. In doing so, Trump also fueled Iranian suspicions about U.S. intentions dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Zarif had faced withering criticism at home after he shook hands with President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long a critic of Iran, welcomed Zarif’s departure.
“Zarif is gone, good riddance. As long as I am here Iran will not get nuclear weapons,” he wrote in Hebrew on Twitter. Iran has always said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and U.N. inspectors say it is still complying with the 2015 nuclear accord.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, commenting on Zarif’s resignation, said “we’ll see if it sticks.”
“Our policy is unchanged — the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people,” he said.