Illinois Public Media News
It's been almost a year since the H1N1 flu strain appeared in the U-S --- but health officials are still urging the public to get vaccinated. The Illinois Department of Public Health has launched a new campaign urging people to get vaccinated, if they haven't done so already.
Julie Pryde of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District says less than a third of county residents have been vaccinated for H1N1, or swine flu. She wants more people vaccinated to protect against a possible resurgence of the virus this spring or fall.
"If you do not have a shot for H1N1, you are not protected", says Pryde. "And we are expecting H1N1 to come back. Right now, it really heating up in the southeast and the south. And there are starting to be more and more cases, which indicates to us that it's going to sweep across the country somewhat like it did in the fall."
Pryde says that outside of some flu-like illnesses reported at hospital emergency rooms, there don't seem to be any signs of H1N1 in Champaign County right now. But the Illinois Department of Public Health says 18 new cases were reported around the state last week, including one death.
In contrast, Pryde says the seasonal flu strain seen this past winter seems to have run its course in Champaign County.
The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is offering free H1N1 flu vaccinations, without an appointment. They're available weekdays from 8 to 4 at the agency's headquarters on West Kenyon Road in Champaign. Pryde reminds parents that children will need two shots, spaced a month apart.
University of Illinois administrators are meeting with two 'green energy' student groups next week to decide if a plan for placing a wind turbine on the Urbana campus still has life. A $2 million grant awarded in 2005 will expire in three months, unless the U of I can find a funding source to pick up the remaining cost. With dwindling state funds, members of groups like the Student Sustainability Committee and Students for Environmental Concerns suggest the capital bill approved by Illinois lawmakers, or the U of I Foundation, could pay the remaining $1.7 million for the turbine.
U of I Interim Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Steven Sonka says the turbine would appear to produce a reasonable rate of return, and would be an attractive option if financing were available. But he suggests there are more effective uses for that kind of money... including retro-commissioning of some campus buildings. "These are very high payoff in terms of energy savings, because it's the energy savings that pays back the initial investment,' says Sonka. "And we want to do those, too. But that's a question of financing as well. We've gotten grants in the past to change lighting in buildings, and those tend to have attractive payoffs." With Urbana campus energy costs exceeding $75-million a year, student groups contend the turbine would quickly show some benefits.
Sonka says the student proposals for paying for the turbine's remaining cost would be considered. He says discussions with other 'outside entities' are being considered, but wouldn't comment on them. The initial grant for funding the wind turbine came from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. On Monday, Governor Pat Quinn indicated his support for the project in a visit to campus, noting wind energy was one goal of the recently-passed capital bill.
Governor Pat Quinn is touting the record of a running mate whose only prior experience in public office was on the Carbondale City Council.
In a room full of supporters at the University of Illinois' Illini Union Monday... the Governor cited Sheila Simon's record as a prosecutor and teacher, and her stance on ethics in government. Urbana was an afternoon stop on a six-city flyaround for Quinn and Simon.
Quinn also says it was important for Democrats to select a Lieutenant Governor candidate who understands environmental issues.
"Sheila's going to be chairperson of the Rural Affairs Council when she's elected lieutenant governor", says Quinn. "And I think we should have somebody from downstate Illinois, who understands rural Illinois and understands agriculture."
Sheila Simon has known Quinn for more than 25 years... and says becoming the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor was an easy decision.
"I measure him the way my folks taught me to measure people in government service" says Simon. "Are they someone who puts the needs of other people ahead of their own? And that fits Pat Quinn to a T. He's someone who I respect greatly. He's someone who is straightforward and tackles problems even when it's the unpopular thing to do."
Simon cites the recent passage of a pension reform measure in Springfield as one example.
Simon says Quinn's priorities are her priorities ... including getting Illinois' budget in order and job creation.
The daughter of the late US Senator Paul Simon is a law professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
The Champaign School District is sending out tentative layoff notices to 149 teachers and support staff on Tuesday. That's 46 more than last year, thanks to uncertainties in state finances.
The Unit Four School Board approved the reduction-in- force, or RIF notices Monday night on a 5 to 1 vote. School board member Greg Novak said he voted "no", because too many questions were left unanswered --- although he wouldn't say what the questions were.
RIF notices are a spring tradition for Illinois school districts, with most employees hired back in the fall, when state funding has been finalized.
But due to the state budget crisis, Unit Four spokeswoman Beth Shepperd says they can't predict how much funding will come out of Springfield this year.
"What we're doing is trying to be very reactive to what the state is doing to us", says Shepperd. "Currently, they owe us $1.7 million in payments, that we do not know when or if we will receive. We don't expect it this fiscal year."
Unit Four School Board Vice President Susan Grey says voting on the RIF notices was more difficult than usual, due to the state funding uncertainties.
"Of course we are very concerned", says Grey. "These are people, these are their jobs, their livelihood. And these decisions are not made or taken lightly. I think our administration has done a good job of trying to pull together changes that will have the least amount of effect on the district as a whole, and the students."
The increase in RIF notices is sharpest for support staff --- the 53 RIF notices going out to them is two-and-a-half times greater than last year.
Shepperd says Early Childhood and Reading Enrichment programs are among the hardest hit by the RIF notices. But she says the impact will be felt in other programs, because tenured teachers may take positions elsewhere in the district, forcing the layoff of non-tenured teachers.
Earlier this month, the Urbana School Board approved RIF notices for 139 employees --- also an increase from last year.
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.
Just over 600 employees on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus want to take advantage of voluntary separation programs offered early this year.
Friday is the deadline for applicants looking to leave their jobs or retire through the program. The incentive was offered earlier this year as a means for the U of I to cut costs amid Illinois' bleak financial picture. Spokeswoman Robin Kaler says human resources staff had no idea how many applicants they'd get, but she says the mere volume means employees won't hear word on a decision until the first week of May. Kaler says departments will soon have their work cut out for them when reviewing names. "Would allowing 'Person X' to separate save you money?,' says Kaler. "And obviously, if a unit has more than one person who's signed up, they would look at the whole picture. It might be that 'boy, we'd need to replace a piece of this person, but if that person also left, we could replace two people with one, or something like that." Kaler says the 613 applicants included about 350 civil service workers, and 180 academic professionals. Meanwhile, about 90 tenured faculty members, and another 16 adjunct professors and lecturers took advantage of a voluntary retirement incentive. About 30 applicants weren't eligible for the program, with about 20 more names to review. Human Resources on the Urbana campus offered the Campus Separation Incentive programs to anyone who had been on campus for at least four consecutive years. The retirement incentive applies to staff who meet State University Retirement System eligibility requirements. Eligible employees approved for either incentive would receive a lump sum payment of half their annual salary, with a maximum payment of 75-thousand dollars.
30 to 50 cadets at Rantoul's Lincoln's Challenge program could face expulsion over a fight in the academy's dining hall Sunday night.
The National Guard-sponsored academy is for students who dropped out of high school but want to rebuild their lives. National Guard public affairs director Major Brad Leighton says the fight apparently grew out of a dispute over a basketball game earlier yesterday. He says today staff are trying to sort out how the fight developed into an incident that brought about 20 Rantoul police officers to the hall, looking at surveillance tapes of the cafeteria.
No one was reported seriously injured.
Leighton says Lincoln's Challenge works on a military basis and has a zero-tolerance policy against fighting, so cadets involved may be kicked out of the program. Academy director Peter Thomas says the school is working as normal today.
The FBI in Illinois says weekend raids in Ohio and Indiana are part of an ongoing investigation led by the FBI in Michigan.
Raids were conducted in all three states and at least three people were arrested, two in Ohio and one in Illinois.
Federal warrants were sealed, but one federal law enforcement official says some of those arrested face gun charges. That official also says they're pursuing other suspects.
A militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian militia group.
George Ponce, who works at a pizzeria next door to a home raided in Hammond, Ind., said he and a few co-workers stepped outside for a break Saturday night and saw a swarm of law enforcement officers.
Ponce said officers yelled "get back inside'' and told them the house was being swept for bombs. He estimates agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.
A Chicago man accused of terrorism is scheduled to be in court Monday, but some of the public proceeding may be held in private.
Prosecuctors say the case against Tahawwur Rana includes classified information.
Information the government would like to use against him, but information the government would not like to trot out in a public courtroom.
That's why much of Monday's s hearing may be closed.
The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will likely discuss how they'll handle evidence that falls under the "Classified Information Procedures Act," or CIPA.
The act allows prosecutors to protect certain information by using only partial evidence, a part of a recording or a document.
Prosecutors would present the evidence to the judge who then decides how much of it can be seen by defense attorneys.
Rana has been charged with supporting another Chicagoan - David Headley - as he helped plan the 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed more than a hundred and sixty people.
The Illinois State women's basketball team defeated Illinois 53 to 51Sunday, in a close game that sends the Lady Redbirds to the Women's NIT Final Four.
Senior Jenna Smith scored with 1:43 left in the game to give Illinois a 51-50 lead over ISU. But the Redbirds' Katie Broadway shot a three-pointer with 17.5 seconds left to regain a lead that turned out to be the final score. Two Illinois shots at the basket in the final seconds --- the first by sophomore Lydia McCulley and the rebound by Smith --- were unsuccessful.
The game was close for most of the first half, with ISU pulling ahead to a 28-19 lead with three minutes in the half. Illinois started the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 33-32 lead at the 15:53 mark. After that, the lead went back and forth the two teams, with neither one leading by more than four, up through the Redbirds' two-point victory margin.
Freshman Karisma Penn led Illinois with 13 points, while Smith followed up with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in her final game for the Illini.
Nicolle Lewis was the Redbirds' top scorer, with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The game was played at Redbird Arena in Normal, in front of 4,459. ISU will host California Thursday, April 1st, in the Women's NIT semifinals. Illinois finishes its season with a 19-15 record, including their first-ever quarterfinal appearance at the WNIT..
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