Illinois Public Media News
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk is continuing to improve after a major stroke and has been upgraded to fair condition.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital neurosurgeon Richard Fessler says Kirk is alert, talking and responding well to questions.
The Chicago hospital released a statement Monday about Kirk's progress, a little more than a week after he suffered a stroke that's affected his left side.
Fessler says doctors are very pleased with Kirk's progress.
Kirk is 52 and was in good health when he was stricken.
Doctors believe a clot developed from a tear in an artery in his neck and lodged in his brain. Doctors removed part of his skull to relieve pressure and allow the brain to swell.
State officials are looking for ways to increase the number female prison guards.
The Decatur Herald-Review reported Sunday that the Illinois Department of Corrections wants to boost female and minority recruitment within the department.
Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano says female guards are critical at both male and female prisons. The state operates all-female prisons in Lincoln, Decatur and Dwight.
The announcement comes after a recent report by the Chicago-based John Howard Association on the Dwight Correctional Center. The watchdog group said that it received reports of inappropriate behavior from male correctional officers at the all-female prison.
The watchdog group's report alleges that "inmates expressed distress over lack of privacy.''
Corrections officials say the ratio of male to female guards throughout Illinois' prison system is 5.4 males to 1 female.
The Chicago Bears have hired Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery as their new general manager.
Emery was an area scout for the Bears from 1998-2004. He replaces Jerry Angelo, who was fired after an injury-riddled 8-8 season.
Emery and New England Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht were finalists and both interviewed twice.
The Bears also interviewed San Diego Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye, New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross, and current director of player personnel Tim Ruskell.
Two Champaign men are in custody in connection with the alleged beating and robbery of a man from Australia in Urbana last October.
17-year olds Dorian Wills and Ralph Grey made their first court appearance Friday afternoon. They're also facing counts of attempted murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery, and being held on $750-thousand bond following Friday's court apperance. A third arrest is expected, but 17-year old Anthony Davis is in the Department of Corrections, so it's not known when he'll be in court.
Champaign Detective Robb Morris says 33-year old Clinton Fookes had been in Washington, D.C. for a conference, and was visiting with computer science faculty at the U of I.
Morris says the man had apparently lost his way on the evening of October 20th when walking from downtown Champaign into Urbana, and five men lured him into a stolen van. He says the men sought out to find someone with money on them.
"More than one of them admitted when they left a house they'd been at earlier in the evening, their intent was to find an easy mark for a robbery," Morris said.
Morris says Fookes was left for dead in a barn on far North Mattis Avenue in Champaign, but was able to flag down a car the following morning, and was treated at Carle Hospital for a laceration to the back of his head, concussion, broken nose, cuts, and scrapes.
Morris says property stolen from Fookes linked him to those arrested. He doesn't expect further arrests, since the other two men in the van didn't play a role in the attack.
Morris says Fookes is now recovering at home.
Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is doing well, according to his doctor. Kirk suffered a stroke last weekend and has undergone two surgeries to relieve swelling in his brain.
Dr. Richard Fessler is a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Fessler provided the following update on Senator Kirk's condition Friday morning.
"Senator Kirk is doing quite well this morning. He is alert, responding more rapidly to questions and the swelling in his brain has stabilized. While he remains in serious but stable condition, we are pleased with his continued progress."
Meanwhile, Kirk's colleagues are still processing the news of Kirk's situation.
U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley said he thought his staff made a mistake when they informed him of Kirk's stroke. Quigley recently traveled to Poland with Kirk on business.
"He was vibrant, strong, articulate, and rip-roaring ready to go," Kirk said.
Quigley said Kirk kept up his jogging routine despite the trip's demanding schedule. The Senator remains in serious but stable condition.
The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to step into a legislative dispute over the collection of $1,000-a-day fines imposed on Democrats who boycotted the House to protest a right-to-work bill.
The court voted 4-1 Friday to accept jurisdiction over the state's appeal.
The attorney general's office asked the high court to intervene after a Marion County judge blocked the House from collecting fines through payroll deduction. In a related development Friday, the judge extended his order blocking the fines for another 10 days.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the dispute properly belongs in the Legislature, not in the courts. He says that under constitutional separation of powers, a court cannot interfere in the workings of the legislative branch.
House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer didn't return a phone call seeking comment.
Urbana Assistant Police Chief Anthony Cobb has been selected as the new chief of police for the city of Champaign.
Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said Cobb has a solid track record based on his 20-year tenure with the Urbana Police Department.
"He's very clear from a leadership standpoint, which is really important about understanding the issues and some of the things that need to be done," Carter said.
Cobb said his top priority will be to improve morale within the Champaign police force.
The issue of police community relations in the department has come under scrutiny in the last few years following the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington.
A number of citizens have also alleged that Champaign police have used excessive force when arresting two African American youths in the last few months.
Cobb said he plans to take a closer look at the department's use of force policy, and work to improve relations with the community.
"Situations and obstacles that we're facing at the Champaign Police Department, those didn't come about overnight and we're not going to get them corrected overnight. It's going to take time. It's going to take commitment. It's going to take effort," " Cobb said. "I would love to get to the point when I'm ready to retire from the city of Champaign, everyone who's back here says he's done a good job."
Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery said she is looking forward to working with Cobb. She said having someone who is familiar with Champaign-Urbana will go a long way.
"He has shown that he is a leader in the community," Avery said. "I think his community policing speaks for itself. So, I think that we're off to a great start with our new Chief Cobb."
Cobb has been with the Urbana Police Department since 1992, starting off as a patrol officer for about four years, later advancing to a school resource juvenile officer, to eventually becoming assistant chief of police in 2010. He was the department's first community policing officer, and he piloted a program related to the Urbana Police Department's current community policing approach.
"A lot of people feel that since I'm an African American from an African American community that's where all my interests and talents are going to lie," Cobb said. "That's not true. I am committed to the citizens of Champaign period."
The last time Champaign had an African American police chief was in the early 1980's with William Dye, who held that position from 1975 until 1982.
Cobb was selected to lead Campaign's Police Department from a field of more than 45 candidates following the retirement of R.T. Finney in Jan. 2012. He will join the Champaign Police Department on March 12, and will earn a salary of $140,000 a year.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Illinois Senator Shane Cultra says the State High School Association needs to be more flexible in allowing student athletes to play football.
A bill sponsored by the Onarga Republican opposes IHSA rules, mandating that a student participate in a minimum of 12 practices before they can play in a game, even if that student was away for military training. The Senator's bill would provide a waiver to those students who recently completed basic training.
Cultra's bill was filed after a senior at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School, Eddie Nuss, was declared ineligible to play his season opener for that reason. Cultra understands the IHSA's concerns about health risks, but says his measure would have safeguards.
"Let the staff of the school examine the student athlete when they come back," he said. "And if they're in great shape, and they think they're probably able to play without the required number of practices, then they're going to make a recommendation to the school board, who would then give them a waiver for how many practices they missed."
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman says research shows military training doesn't necessarily mean a student is acclimated to play football - citing 5 students who died in practice in the US around the country last year due to heat-related illness. He says schools boards aren't medically qualified to make such a call.
"There's quite a bit of research that indicates regardless of the condition a kid comes to the football practice, that they need to be acclimated to play football," Hickman said. "That takes time. Our physicians, our trainers, that our sports medicine advisory committee says that takes at least 12 days."
Physicians on the IHSA's sports medicine advisory committee say it takes 12 to 14 days of practice before a student is ready to play football. Hickman expects those doctors to bring testimony to Springfield if the bill is debated this year.
Nine-year Champaign County Board member John Jay of Mahomet is the new chair of the county board's Republican Caucus.
Jay was unanimously chosen Thursday night to replace Alan Nudo (Dis 3-Champaign), following his unexpected resignation from the county board over the weekend, when he also withdrew from a state senate race. Jay said he just hopes to continue what Nudo started, and strengthen ties on the other side of the aisle.
"We've got some really serious issues facing us as a board," he said. "They're not Republican or Democrat issues. They're county issues. and we're going to have to address those - the (Champaign County) Nursing Home being one, and the (Champaign County) Jail being another one. So I hope we can come to some resolve on those issues."
The caucus also learned Thursday it will have to fill another county board seat in District 3. Brad Jones of Champaign has served since he was appointed in 2006, but stepped down Thursday night because of the time demands of a job he's taken with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Jay says he and fellow Republicans did all they could convince Nudo to finish his board term. Jay said the two resignations feel like 'losing two wheels on your vehicle at once.'
'Both of those men were leaders, they were both really good with numbers,' he said. "This is a number game, trying to keep our head above water. They're both going to be missed very, very much."
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said both District 3 vacancies could be filled by first-time Republican candidates. Both Jeff Kibler and Don Kermath are pursuing seats in the re-drawn district 5 next fall, but could be appointed to the county board as soon as next month since they live in the current district 3.
Indiana could become the 23rd right-to-work state as early as Wednesday depending on how soon Gov. Mitch Daniels decides to sign the divisive labor bill.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday he expects the state Senate to take a final vote Wednesday on the divisive legislation following a Monday committee hearing on the bill.
Indiana is set to become first state in the union-heavy Rust Belt to ban union contracts that include mandatory fees for representation.
The measure passed easily in the House this week after Democrats ended an off-and-on boycott that had stalled the measure through the start of the session. The final House vote set the stage for the bill to make it into law shortly before 150,000 football fans pack Indianapolis for the Feb. 5 Super Bowl.
"We have a Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event in the history of this state, even bigger than the (Indy) 500. And that's saying a lot because we've hosted some big events here," Long said Thursday.
"And for those who are threatening to disrupt it, why would we give them that opportunity?" Long asked. "The Senate is in position to move it now, and it makes senses for us to do it."
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, said Republicans are trying to avoid embarrassment during the Super Bowl by speeding the bill to Daniels. Republicans heavily outnumber Democrats in the Senate 37-13, guaranteeing that Democrats can't use the same stall tactics applied in the House.
"I think their intention is to speed this bill through and send it with wings to the governor's desk and he signs it on Thursday," Simpson said.
Indiana AFL-CIO president Nancy Guyott said union members will continue to talk with Republican senators in hopes of persuading more to vote against the bill, but that the Senate's speed is aimed at shutting out the public.
"It seems that they'll stop at shutting no doors to the Hoosier citizen having a part in this process," she said.
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