Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2010

Reinstated Professor Says His Religious Studies Syllabus Won’t Change

The professor at the heart of a controversy over religious studies at the University of Illinois doesn't believe there's a permanent resolution to the dispute.

Kenneth Howell has accepted the U of I's offer to return to teach an introductory course on Catholic teaching, more than two months after he was let go. A student who was not in the class had complained of an email Howell had sent to one of his students defending the church's views on homosexuality and natural moral law.

Howell says the incident will not affect his teaching, except perhaps for a broader scope of issues covered at the end of the course.

"I'm going to give a general lecture on natural moral law because that's the essential part of Catholicism," said Howell. "Then I'll ask them (his students) if they want me to deal with the question of capital punishment or just war or homosexuality, and they will choose."

The U of I is now paying Howell for his work as an adjunct professor - until his removal in May, Howell had been paid by the St. John Catholic Newman Center, where he has now been reinstated as the head of the center's Institute for Catholic Thought.

A faculty-student committee on the Urbana campus is looking into the general issue of outside involvement in academics - Howell says he has not been asked to appear before that committee.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 10, 2010

Champaign Police Community Relations Plan Posted Online for Comment

Champaign city officials are hoping for plenty of feedback on a draft version of their plan to improve police-community relations. The plan was posted on the city's website last week, and city spokeswoman Joan Walls says they'll be taking comments online through this Friday.

Walls says the plan is distilled from the input they received during the community forum they held on the issue last March. About 300 people attended the forum, which was held in the wake of the fatal shooting by a police officer of Kiwane Carrington last year. Walls says this is a chance for the forum participants to provide feedback on the plan developed from their discussions.

"We released this draft plan to the Forum participants as promised", says Walls, "to ask them to take a look at it, to make sure we've not lost any important information. And if there was something that maybe they heard at the Forum that perhaps was not included, to provide us with feedback. And so there's an opportunity for them to do that, through an electronic survey."

The draft plan lists 32 specific actions meant to improve relations between Champaign police and the community, especially youth.

Walls says the feedback from both forum participants and the general public will be incorporated into the draft plan to be discussed by the Champaign City Council at their August 24th study session.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 29, 2010

Black Panther Party Co-Founder Reflects on Civil Rights Issues

Bobby Seale co-founded the controversial Black Panther Party in 1966. The Panthers preached a doctrine of militant black empowerment to end to all forms of oppression against black people. The Black Panther Party was dismantled after 20 years, and Seale and others have taken on non-violent activism. Seale stopped in Champaign to talk to local teachers. He spoke to Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers about the Party's legacy and how changes in the world have shaped his activism.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 20, 2010

First Black Scholar in National Academy of Sciences was U of I Graduate

The first black scholar admitted to the National Academy of Sciences is being remembered as a mathematician who had a unique way of getting to the heart of the problem.

David Blackwell died of natural causes July 8th at the age of 91. The Centralia native attended the University of Illinois at age 16, earning his doctorate in mathematics in 1941. Blackwell's time at the U of I was followed by an appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, alongside Albert Einstein, as well as time teaching at Howard University, and the University of California at Berkley, where he taught math for over 30 years. UCLA statistics professor Thomas Ferguson says he first met Blackwell as a student at Berkley in the early 50's. "He had this way of finding the right questions to ask that were the right problems to look at," said Ferguson. "Then he would go after those problems, and actually come out with something really interesting to say about them. In each of these areas that I'm thinking, he writes some sort of fundamental paper that everybody else jumps on, and then keeps going."

David Blackwell was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965. His career had its share of obstacles. In 1942, he was blocked from becoming an honorary Princeton faculty member because of his race. Blackwell's initial efforts to teach at U-C Berkeley were also blocked for the same reason. But he also wrote two books, published more than 80 papers and eventually held 12 honorary degrees from schools like Harvard and Yale.

Funeral services are tentatively set for July 31st.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 08, 2010

Ordinance Banning Indoor Furniture on Porches Heads to Urbana Council

An ordinance banning outdoor storage of indoor furniture was approved by the Urbana City Council's Committee of the Whole.

The ordinance follows a recent Urbana house fire that left 25 year old Ashley Ames severely burned. The fire started on a front porch couch. Fire Chief Michael Dilley says the ordinance is geared to limit overstuffed furniture such as couches, chairs and mattresses because its a large ignition source.

Dilley says outdoor furniture fires are not an isolated incident in Urbana in past years, and the regulation is not a restriction of one's freedom of choosing a lifestyle.

"We regulate lifestyle every day," Dilley said. "We have codes and ordinances that help people be safe, and this is just another one that over a period of years we've found that it's a problem. We don't just go out and pull something out of thin air. When we start having issues when people die, then we look at them."

Aldermen Dennis Roberts was the only vote in dissent. Roberts says people used to say quote "your home is your castle."

"It's possible, yes, that a fire could start on a porch because of a couch," Roberts told the council. "But does that mean no one should ever have a couch on the porch? I don't think so. I think we have to use common sense, and I think it's a shame that we're trying tro regulate people's styles of living outdoors."

The Urbana City Council will vote on the Ordinance next Monday.

In addition, Mayor Laurel Prussing says that June 8th 2010 has been proclaimed Al Johnston Day in Urbana. The veteran Urbana Police Officer recently retired.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2010

Terre Hute NAACP Branch Ordered to Reorganize

The NAACP's national headquarters has ordered its Terre Haute branch to reorganize and remove all of its top officials for failing to comply with the civil rights group's policies.

The Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent a letter to its Terre Haute branch directing it to reorganize and remove all of its elected officers and executive committee members.

Rev. Gill Ford of the national group says the branch is being reorganized, not disbanded.

The move comes seven months after the Terre Haute branch hosted the statewide NAACP convention in Terre Haute. That event attracted 300 statewide delegates.

Categories: Civil Rights

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2010

Attorney for Carrington Family Calls Suspension a “Good First Step

The attorney representing Kiwane Carrington's family in their civil lawsuit against Champaign Police says Thursday's decision to suspend the police officer involved to 30 days' unpaid suspension doesn't necessarily make their case stronger.

But James Montgomery Junior says he plans to build the family's case on the testimony of the only other witness to the shooting other than the officers - the teenager who was with Carrington, Jeshaun Manning-Carter.

"While Officer Norbits claims he doesn't remember them (certain alleged facts in the case that Montgomery wouldn't disclose), this young man does, and (he) will shed clear light on the fact that Kiwane Carrington was wrongfully shot, and there was some conduct there that went beyond accidental firing of the weapon."

Montgomery calls Officer Daniel Norbits' 30 day suspension a good first step toward picking up the pieces from the shooting. Yet another investigation of the police shooting incident - this one by the Justice Department -- is still in progress.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 22, 2010

Champaign Police Officer Involved in Fatal Shooting Faces Suspension

The officer who shot and killed a teenager during a scuffle behind a Champaign home last fall will be suspended without pay for 30 days.

Officer Daniel Norbits and Police Chief RT Finney had responded to a call on Vine Street last October 9th-in the ensuing confrontation with 15 year old Kiwane Carrington and another teen, Norbits' firearm went off, killing Carrington. The incident worsened already-tense relations between Champaign police and African-Americans in the city. 30 days unpaid suspension is the toughest discipline allowed short of termination under the city's union contact with police.

Retired McLean County judge John Freese was one of two outside experts asked to investigate the incident. Freese found that Officer Norbits violated police rules by not having enough control over his firearm with struggling with Carrington - namely, his trigger finger was improperly placed.

"While the officer was using his left hand to try to take Carrington to the ground, the weapon which was in his right hand had sufficient pressure placed on the trigger to discharge the weapon," Freese said. "And training would have expected the officer to have his finger indexed on the side of the weapon so it would be outside of the trigger guard."

City Manager Steve Carter also used an internal investigation to determine that Norbits failed to maintain control of the weapon. He believes the discipline fits the violation - it's the strongest punishment short of firing.

"The death of a person in Champaign-Urbana is a serious matter for sure," Carter said. "The public has some right to expect our police officers to handle their weapons in a way that doesn't endanger the public."

The other outside investigator in the case, retired Urbana police chief Eddie Adair, says the indexing technique is taught to all officers, but it should be reiterated every year to rookies and veterans alike.

"We see this as an opportunity to improve on how we administer our training," said Adair. "Because even if it is a tragic incident, it's still an opportunity for us to learn as human beings. That's what's most important here."

The union representing Champaign Police issued a prepared statement saying it's extremely disappointed by Norbits' suspension. The Fraternal Order of Police labor council says Carrington brought about the tragedy through his own resistance.

In December State's Attorney Julia Rietz decided not to file criminal charges against Norbits or Finney. Earlier this month, the state's attorney's office dropped a juvenile charge against the other boy involved in the incident.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 29, 2010

Judge Lifts Order that Kept IL Abortion Notification Law Unenforced

A Cook County judge has lifted a temporary restraining order on a never-enforced Illinois law requiring that a girl's guardians be notified before she has an abortion, but that doesn't mean the law goes into effect right away.

Judge Daniel Riley on Monday also approved a stay, or grace period, to let appeals be worked through in the case.

The law requires doctors to notify the guardians of a girl 17 or younger 48 hours before the girl gets an abortion.

Earlier this month, Riley heard arguments from the Illinois attorney general's office and the American Civil Liberties Union on the 1995 Parental Notice of Abortion Act.

ACLU of Illinois Executive Director Colleen Connell says the group is exploring legal options, including filing an appeal.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 15, 2010

Lawsuit Settlement Requires New Homes for 4500 Mentally Ill Illinoisans

A lawsuit that complained that thousands of mentally Ill people in Illinois are being treated unfairly is about to be settled.

The settlement orders the state to transfer 256 people from larger institutions to smaller homes or apartments over the next year, with nearly 400 more transferred next year. Over the next five years the agreement between the state and the American Civil Liberties Union would affect about 4500 mentally ill Illinoisans.

Diane Zell heads the Champaign chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She says too many people left institutions only to be warehoused in nursing homes not designed to care for them. She fears that the state's economic situation may not mean a smooth transition for many of those people.

"Most poeple who have serious mental illness have not completed their education, and they may not be employed, at least not employed to the extent where they have health insurance," said Zell. "So this is a problem that won't go away."

Nevertheless, advocates of the mentally ill are hailing the agreement as a landmark. The settlement needs a judge's approval and both sides have requested a hearing to consider the specifics of the plan.


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