Illinois Public Media News
Whether a federal court sides with Democrats or Republicans on their versions of a Congressional map, Illinois' 15th District would still include parts of Champaign County.
Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), 53, would end up in that district, and he and most other GOP lawmakers are challenging the Democrats' map as part of a lawsuit. The suit contends that the map is unfair to minorities and Republicans.
Shimkus, who hasn't declared his candidacy, visited members of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce Friday morning. He said he's hopeful the Democratic map won't stand up in court.
"I mean the Democrats thought we were over," he said. "They got more than they bargained for, and in our system of government, how are conflicts solved? Through the courts."
One difference between the maps is that the GOP's version would place less of Champaign and Vermilion Counties in the 15th district. Under either map, that district would contain all of Edgar, Coles, and Douglas Counties, but not the cities of Champaign or Urbana. Those areas would fall under a redrawn district inherited by U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Urbana), who plans on running for re-election.
During his meeting with chamber members, Shimkus was asked about the economy. He said the debate over raising the debt ceiling created more uncertainty about the state of the economy. He said his constituents want Congress to just stop spending.
"We know the economy, we know the job issue is difficult, but they really want to get control of this fiscal position," he said. "I think we did that by having that fight (with the debt ceiling debate), and now we just have to move forward."
As a Congressional Super Committee looks at ways to save more than a trillion dollars over the next decade, Shimkus said entitlement programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, should be considered for possible cuts.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Champaign Police are boosting patrols around school zones after getting reports of three more attempted child abductions, bring the total to 8 being investigated this week alone.
White male suspects are sought in each case of these latest reports. One occurred about 6 p.m. Tuesday on the city's north side, at the corner of Bradley Avenue and Bloomington Road. A 13-year old old girld says two men in a red truck if she wanted a ride. On Wednesday afternoon around 2 p.m., a man corner of Hollycrest and William reportedly offered a nine-year-old boy some candy. That suspect is described tall and skinny with long shoulder length hair.
And Friday morning about 8:15 on the Pine Street near Elm, a 10-year-old boy says a male suspect asked he wanted a ride. That man is described as in his 40's with long blond hair and a blonde/brown beard. He was driving an older model red truck with a silver bumper with dents on the passenger side.
The Champaign Police Department is working with the Champaign County Sheriff's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, and the Illinois State Police.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is disputing a report that his office is luring a Chicago-based company across the state border.
Crain's Chicago Business reports the Republican governor is offering the CME Group $150 million to move its headquarters to Indiana.
Daniels would not comment on his efforts to move the CME Group, but he denies the information came from his office.
"Anybody who might be looking at bringing jobs to our state, we respect their confidence and it would hurt our chances if we ever spoke openly before an agreement was reached," Daniels said.
Indiana has been advertising in Illinois to try to persuade businesses to move after Illinois raised the personal income and corporate tax earlier this year.
The state of Illinois has released the list of non-compliant public pools that will be shut down tomorrow because of a drainage issue.
Illinois' Department of Public Health announced this week that new drain covers are needed so swimmers won't get trapped.
In Champaign County, that list includes one municipal pool and three motels. Rantoul's Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center, which is closed for the season, is on the list.
One of the motels listed, the Historic Lincoln in Urbana, has been closed since 2009 and undergoing massive renovations under a new developer. The county's list also includes Champaign's Country Fair Apartments and Lake of the Woods Apartments in Mahomet.
Four swim clubs in Macon County could be impacted. The Decatur Surf Club, Sun and Fun Swim Club, and Holiday Park Swim Club, and Mt. Zion Swim Club are part of the list, as is the Decatur Family YMCA. But the Y's Exective Director says that listing was error on the state's part.
The operator of the one community pool in Paris on the state list says he's aware of the drainage issue, and the pool closed two years ago. Will Welsh, Executive Director of the Paris Community YMCA, said the Y hopes to collect the $3,500 dollars necessary to fix the pool and reopen it by next summer.
The Paxton Park District Pool is also listed, and closed for the year. On its web site, a message from the district says the community is doing all it can to reopen sometime in 2012.
The University of Illinois has argued in federal court that student records should remain protected under federal privacy laws.
Friday's hearing before a three-judge panel in Chicago stems from the 2009 admissions scandal at the U of I. The Chicago Tribune investigated the so-called 'Category I' list of well-connected students who were admitted over more qualified ones. The newspaper sought the names as part of its coverage and sued after the university refused.
U of I attorney Sam Skinner said both the university and Tribune want an expeditious decision by an appellate court regarding student records, including their names and addresses, as well as those of their parents. At issue is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Skinner contends not complying would jeopardize federal grants and financial aid.
"We believe that we need to know from a federal court that we're not violating federal law before we disclose it and putting federal funds in jeopardy," he said. "And I think we're going to take some additional briefs, but this matter will eventually wind up in federal court because it's an interpretation of federal law as it relates to federal funding."
Both sides have two weeks to file those additional briefs to explain why the case should be heard in federal court rather than state court. Skinner said he expects a decision in the next few months.
A Champaign Police official says they're working to determine if any links exist between a series of attempted child abductions in the last several days.
Deputy Chief Troy Daniels says there doesn't appear to be anything connecting the suspects. His department has contacted the FBI's behavioral unit to analyze the 5 attempted abductions that have occurred since September 20th. Four have taken place in Champaign, and fifth was in the Dobbins Downs neighborhood on the edge of the city.
The most recent report came from northeast Champaign Wednesday, where the mother of an 11-year old said a man in a minivan approached the girl at a bus stop, and left once the parent got his attention. A separate incident on the west side Monday, but reported Wedesday, involved an 11-year old boy who was approached by a male driver who offered him a ride, and the child ran away.
Black males with separate descriptions and vehicles are sought in each of those cases, and white males are being sought for two other incidents this week. Daniels says it's not unheard of to have suspects start such behavior at the same time, and they're completely unrelated.
"So that's a possibility, and it's also possible that as more publicity occurs, we look at each case very carefully and we scrutinize the information that's been being given to us to make sure it's accurate and true," said Daniels. "We do believe that we have cause for concern on these cases and we have a number of people that are working them."
Daniels says anyone who might see suspicious activity that could be related to the recent reports is encouraged to Champaign Police or Crimestoppers.
United States Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) says the U.S. doesn't need to give any more aid to Libya.
Kirk joined Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in a meeting with the head of the National Transitional Council. He said the delegation met with some of Libya's current leaders and toured the destroyed U.S. embassy complex.
Speaking in a conference call Thursday from Libya, Kirk said the country has enough money to support itself. with at least $100 billion seized from former leader Moammar Gadhafi.
"I had my worries that those funds were not being released on time, but I was reassured by key figures -- the chairman, the prime minister, and the finance minister -- that they have adequate resources for their capacity right now," Kirk said.
Kirk also said he wants to end the no-fly zone over Libya to encourage civil aviation.
Kirk said Gadhafi's image also has been ripped down from dozens of billboards. He called it the "remnants of a cult of personality.''
A NATO-backed rebellion ousted Gadhafi, who remains on the run and is suspected of hiding in the southern desert.
Authorities have identified the body found north of Champaign Monday morning as a Danville woman.
The Champaign County Sheriff and Coroner's office say 43-year old Angelica Vasquez had been reported missing by her husband. Her body was discovered Tuesday morning along Rising Road, just north of Bradley Avenue.
Authorities used fingerprints to identify the body, and are treating the case as a homicide investigation. Sheriff Dan Walsh says his office is not releasing any details on the cause of death.
The Champaign County Sheriff and Danville Police Department are handling the investigation.
The parent company of health insurance provider PersonalCare says it's continuing negotiations with Christie Clinic, but the Champaign-based medical clinic says it's not interested.
Christie Clinic first announced on Tuesday that PersonalCare had terminated its contract with the clinic, and that patients should switch to other providers in the next enrollment period (Oct. 10 - 28, 2011).
But in a statement posted Wednesday on the University of Illinois HR homepage, PersonalCare said it was still negotiating with Christie Clinic --- at least regarding its Open Access Plan for state employees and retirees.
"Although our agreement is scheduled to terminate on January 1, 2012, it is PersonalCare's strong desire to continue our long-standing partnership with Christie Clinic and that Christie Clinic remain an in-network provider for years to come", the statement said.
The News-Gazette reported that according to a spokesperson for PersonalCare's parent company, Coventry Health Care, the contract termination was a procedural move needed to renegotiate a new contract.
But a statement issued today on the Christie Clinic website that since their contract with PersonalCare had been renewed in the past by simply amending the old agreement, there was "no requirement to terminate the existing agreement in order to renegotiate specific terms".
"Because the Christie Clinic team is committed to providing the highest quality health care to the communities we serve, we are working closely with our patients, the state of Illinois and private employers to make this transition as seamless as possible for Christie Clinic patients," Christie Clinic said in an earlier statement. "We will be working directly with employers and their brokers who currently contract with PersonalCare about their options."
People in Champaign County who want to have uninterrupted access to Christie Clinic physicians are being urged to switch to Health Alliance HMO coverage or Health Link's Open Access Plans in the next enrollment period.
The University of Illinois said it is reviewing what the contract termination means for U of I employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the PersonalCare health plans, and if any decisions need to be made during the upcoming Special Healthcare Enrollment Period.
Four Republican senators traveled to Libya on Thursday to meet with the nation's new rulers, the highest-profile American delegation to visit the country since the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.
The four lawmakers - John McCain of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida - met with the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, and other high-ranking officials of the group that is now governing Libya after revolutionary forces ousted Gadhafi from power.
The fugitive leader remains on the run and his whereabouts unknown, but Libya's new rulers suspect he is hiding in the southern desert of the North African nation.
The senators toured Martyrs' Square and planned a news conference later Thursday. They traveled from Malta, where they met with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi on Wednesday.
After months of fighting, anti-Gadhafi forces seized control of Tripoli late last month, and have solidified their control over much of the rest of the country. Battles still continue in three on three main fronts - Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and the southern city of Sabha.
The leaders of Britain, France and Turkey have visited Libya, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman has met with the NTC's leaders in Tripoli. But the congressional group was the most significant American presence to visit Libya as the nation begins a new chapter.
McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and panel member Graham had pressed President Barack Obama for U.S. military intervention in Libya, weeks before the U.N. Security Council voted in March to authorize military action to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone. McCain had invoked the humanitarian disasters in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.
When other lawmakers criticized Obama for acting with limited congressional consultation, McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, defended the president.
In April, McCain traveled to Benghazi, where he called the rebels "patriots" and "heroes."
Rubio is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kirk serves on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.
The trip contrasted sharply to the last visit by McCain and Graham to Tripoli in August 2009, when they met with Gadhafi and his son Muatassim to discuss the possible delivery of non-lethal defense equipment as the erratic Libyan leader was moving to normalize his relations with the international community.
According to a classified document released by WikiLeaks, the delegation, which included McCain, Graham and two other senators, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, held back-to-back meetings with Muatassim.
During that visit, McCain characterized the overall pace of the bilateral relationship as excellent during and noted the drastic changes over the previous five years. He also assured Muatassim that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security, the WikiLeaks cable said.
It also noted the senators met with Gadhafi late at night and he hardly said a word. A note at the bottom of the memo said the delegation was told that they had to postpone the meeting from the afternoon because Gadhafi likes to nap after he breaks his fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
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