Illinois Public Media News
Relatives and friends have been looking for two weeks for a missing University of Illinois student but so far have no leads.
Police in Urbana say Nizam Ahmed was last seen May 17 packing up his car at the mosque in Urbana where he lived. He was supposed to arrive in Indianapolis to visit relatives later that day.
Urbana police Detective Matt Quinley says investigators have no reason to believe foul play was involved. He says they've received no tips about the 23-year-old Danville native.
Relatives say he left his cell phone behind and there's been no activity on bank accounts.
Ahmed's father, Syed Ahmed, says hundreds of people are praying for his son.
The state of Indiana says the boyhood home of famed World War II journalist Ernie Pyle will no longer be a state historic site, but its supporters say the battle to reopen it hasn't ended.
The home in the Vermilion County town of Dana has been closed to visitors since January. The state Department of Natural Resources has put off a vote to de-access the property - in other words, to sell or reassign the frame house, a Quonset hut and the exhibits on the site. Spokesman Phil Bloom says the museum attracted few visitors and wasn't economically viable.
But Phil Hess, who heads the group Friends of Ernie Pyle, contends that the state didn't give the museum a fair chance when it laid off the site administrator.
"That was the first position lost, and the staff was cut periodically through the whole time to where the Ernie Pyle site was down to only 1/6 the hours of the average of the other sites in the Indiana system," said Hess. "We were kind of predestined to fail."
Now that the DNR has postponed a decision on disposing of the property until November, Hess says his group will ask the governor's office to reverse the closure decision. Hess claims museum donors were led to believe the exhibits would remain in Dana. DNR officials have proposed moving the most important Ernie Pyle memorabilia to the state museum in Indianapolis.
Roger Ebert's Film Festival kicked off its 12th annual edition in downtown Champaign Wednesday night, with a showing of "Pink Floyd The Wall", and an appearance by Governor Pat Quinn.
Quinn introduced Ebert, who came to the Virginia Theater stage as the near capacity audience rose to their feet to welcome him. The 67-year-old Ebert is a native son of Champaign-Urbana. He attended Urbana High School and the University of Illinois, before launching his career as a film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times and on a long-running TV show.
The governor presented Ebert with a proclamation naming the festival's s opening day as "Ebertfest Day" in Illinois. Reading from the document, Governor Quinn said that Ebert "has guided, informed and challenged Illinois moviegoers, championing films of every genre that lesser critics have ignored or demeaned".
The proclamation also praises Ebert for showing "extraordinary grace and unflagging courage in the face of serious illness, continuing to write with passion, strength and confidence about film, about life, and about the essential connections between the two."
Speaking through a laptop-mounted voice synthesizer, Ebert thanked the governor. "You took office at a difficult time, and brought honor back to the state's highest office", Ebert said through the device. "This is a most meaningful award, and with permission, I would like to share it with everyone involved in Ebertfest."
Ebert uses his annual film festival to highlight movies he feels deserve first-time or renewed attention. His choices range from Hollywood blockbusters, to little-known independent and foreign films, everything from silent movies to musicals.
Roger Ebert's Film Festival continues through Sunday in Champaign-Urbana, with movies shown at the Virginia Theater, and panels on film at the U of I Illini Union. Thursday night's s schedule includes a showing of the extended version of Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now", with the film's sound designer Water Murch as a guest.
Joy and Keith Wiggle say the emotional cost of living in a home that regularly floods is even higher than the thousands of dollars it takes to repair damage and replace belongings.
The couple lives in Decatur and their home floods often. Joy Wiggle says she's tired of worry. She's had to rescue her dog from its backyard kennel and photographs from lower shelves.
Now, some officials say the couple's efforts to talk to municipalities about flooding problems could lead to a solution.
The couple took their case to members of the Macon County Board at least three times in 2008 and 2009.
That led to lengthy discussions by board members and contributed to development of a hazard mitigation plan for the area.
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart's comments doubting that President Barack Obama was born in the U-S have led one local Democrat to call for his resignation.
That's the response of Alan Kurtz, a Champaign Democrat and County Board member ... after a brief video clip of the Republican Schweighart at Thursday's Tea Party rally in Champaign showed up on YouTube. The clip records Schweighart answering an unnamed intervewer's question about whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii:
Interviewer: What do you think of President Obama? Schweighart: I don't think he's an American, personally. Interviewer: You don't think he's American? Do you think he was born in Kenya? Schweighart: You know, if you're not willing to produce an original certificate, like a birth certificate, then you've got something to hide. If he doesn't have something to hide, produce it. Interviewer: So Obama's not a citizen. Schweighart: I don't think so.
Kurtz says he thinks Schweighart's opinion limits his effectiveness as mayor.
"I think it puts him in a unique position of not supporting our president, of speaking without understanding the true facts of the case", says Kurtz. The Champaign Democrat says he thinks Schweighart's opinions are also out of line, because Champaign city officials are elected on a non-partisan basis.
But a Democrat on the city council, Michael LaDue, says that's up to the voters to decide. LaDue says he was surprised to hear Schweighart's comment, because he thought the question of Obama's birthplace was pretty much played out. But he doesn't think the comments reflect on the mayor's ability to lead.
"It's not a local theme", says LaDue. "It's an opinion expressed by a citizen exercising the rights that American citizens enjoy and cherish."
LaDue says Schweighart has been an effective mayor, and he considers calls for his resignation as "over the top" as the mayor's original comments.
Illinois Public Media could not reach Schweighart for comment Friday. But the mayor told the News-Gazette that he stands by the comments, except for one point he wished to clarify --- that he does believe Barack Obama is a U-S citizen, and that he just doubts if he's native-born.
Pink Floyd The Wall'' in its only surviving 70 millimeter print, and "Apocalypse Now Redux'' --- a longer 2001 re-edit of Francis Ford Cuppola's 1979 original --- are among the 13 movies on the schedule next month at Roger Ebert's annual film festival.
Organizers announced the lineup Friday for this year's Roger Ebert's Film Festival. The festival will be April 21-25 at the Virginia Theater in Champaign, with related events at the Illini Union at the University of Illinois. The Chicago Sun-Times film critic is a native of Urbana and a U of I graduate.
Other movies on the schedule include the 2009 Oscar Winner "Departures'' and a 2007 film shot in Rwanda with local actors called "Munyurangabo.''
This year's silent film is 1929's "Man With a Movie Camera", an avant-garde Russian film. As in past years, the three-person Alloy Orchestra will accompany the showing.
Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, will once again act as emcee for the festival. Roger Ebert is unable to speak due to cancer surgery, but plans to play a role using a computer synthesis of his voice.
According to its organizers, Roger Ebert's Film Festival features films that the film critic feels have been overlooked, either by critics, distributors or audiences, or because they come from an overlooked genre or format.Besides the film showings, guests connected with many of the films will appear on the Virginia Theater stage for informal Q-and-A sessions after the screenings. The festival is presented by the University of Illinois College of Media, of which Illinois Public Media is a part.
Festival passes for the festival are sold out. Tickets for individual films go on sale April 5, through the Virginia Theater box office.
Movie reviewer Roger Ebert says he and his wife are going ahead with plans to produce a new movie review television program with the working title "Roger Ebert presents At the Movies.''
The Champaign-Urbana native wrote Thursday on his Chicago Sun-Times blog that he can't give details, but they're "deeply involved'' in talks. Ebert says they've held tests with potential hosts and they know who they will use. He says the new show would have a strong presence online.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning reviewer writes that he would like to make "occasional appearances'' on the air. Ebert lost his ability to speak after cancer surgery.
Ebert also writes: "the Thumbs will return,'' referring to the well-known "thumbs up'' and "thumbs down'' reviews.
Also Thursday, Disney-ABC Domestic Television announced the cancellation of "At The Movies,'' the successor show to Ebert's review programs with the late Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel and later with the Sun Times' Richard Roeper.
Disney-ABC said the last show with A.O. Scott of the New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Tribune will air in August.
The Prairie Meadows subdivision in Savoy is among the areas that could be annexed into the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District later this year.
Managing Director Bill Volk says the CU-MTD Board has directed his staff to prepare annexation and legal notices for five areas. Public hearings will be held before the board takes a vote on annexation.
Prairie Meadows is the first major residential area of Savoy to be considered for CU-MTD annexation since the village and the transit district signed an agreement two years ago. Volk says that agreement protects some parts of Savoy from MTD annexation --- but not new residential areas.
"There are sections in Savoy that we cannot annex for 23 years, but other areas of Savoy, as they become annexable we are allowed per the agreement to annex that territory," Volk said.
The Stone Creek subdivision in southeast Urbana is also on the CU-MTD annexation list. Non-residential areas up for annexation include the Clearview commercial development site in northwest Champaign, some industrial tracts near the Apollo Industrial Park in north Champaign, and Willard Airport.
Volk says the CU-MTD Board will not vote on annexing the territories until after the next fiscal year begins July 1. If annexation is approved, property owners would not pay taxes to the MTD until the summer of 2012.
Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan's wife and lawyer say they are seeking clemency from President Barack Obama, citing health reasons for seeking Ryan's early release.
Ryan's 75-year-old wife, Lura Lynn, has a terminal lung disease and says she now is on oxygen 24 hours a day.
And Ryan's attorney, former Gov. Jim Thompson, says Ryan himself has health problems, including kidney disease and infected teeth.
Ryan, who was sent to a federal prison in Indiana after his 2006 conviction on corruption charges, turns 76 next Wednesday.
In a telephone interview Wednesday with the Chicago Tribune, Lura Lynn Ryan confirmed she had made a previous plea for clemency for her imprisoned husband in 2008 by calling then-President George W. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush. She said she was unsuccessful.
Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday for former Champaign County auditor and Democratic Party Chair Gerrie Parr --- who died last week at age 63.
Parr was elected Champaign County Auditor in 1992. She had worked in the auditor's office under her predecessor, Laurel PrussingAs auditor, Parr was frequently at odds with the Champaign County Board's Republican majority --- perhaps all the more so because she had also become the county's Democratic Party Chair. Al Klein holds the post today, and says Parr was a great leader of the party..
"She came on in 1994", Klein says of Parr's chairmanship, "when we were at the nadir of our experience, down to the minimum on the county board, and helped bring the party back until, by 2000, we had taken the county board for the first time in county history."
Klein says Parr was industrious, energetic, and bore no ill will towards anyone during her ten years as auditor and Democratic party chair. He credits her success as party leader to hard work, and an attitude of "get things doneand do what you can and keep on going".
After stepping down as auditor and party chair, Parr held other Democratic party positions, but she also battled cancer. Her death came late Friday at her sister's home in Waukegan, where she was receiving hospice care.
A memorial service for Gerrie Parr will be held Thursday at 1 PM at St. Pat's New Church in Wadsworth, located near Waukegan. Klein says the family plans to hold another memorial service in Champaign-Urbana, possibly in March.
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