Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2011

Flash Index Reaches Second Highest Point Since Recession Ended

The University of Illinois' flash index went up to 98.7 percent in November, its second highest point since the end of the recession.

Economist Fred Giertz said the results are higher compared to a year ago. While the state has added more than 30,000 jobs, Giertz said the unemployment rate is not going down fast enough.

"It's very difficult to get the unemployment rate down because when we add new jobs, there are always people coming forward to fill them, and that's been the challenge," Giertz said. "I'm optimistic, but in a modified or qualified sense."

Illinois' unemployment rate continues to hover above 10 percent. Meanwhile, Giertz noted that strong holiday sales may have had an impact on the most recent flash index, and he said those figures will be fully reflected in the December reading.

The Flash Index is based on income, corporate and sales tax receipts in Illinois.

Categories: Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2011

Lawyers for Blagojevich Push for Lighter Sentence

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is relying on arguments he made at trial to convince the judge to give him a short prison sentence.

Prosecutors are asking for 15 to 20 years.

Using the federal sentencing guidelines, Blagojevich's lawyers calculate that he should do about three and a half years but they're asking for a downward departure from that starting point. However, under the same federal guidelines prosecutors have calculated the starting point at 30 years though they are asking for less.

Lawyers will haggle over those calculations at the governor's sentencing hearing next Tuesday, and Blagojevich's lawyers will be using arguments they tried to sell to jurors. They say Blagojevich wasn't trying to get bribes, but he was just fundraising. They insist he had no intention of doing anything illegal.

Blagojevich's attorneys also say the governor did not have a leadership role in the criminal activity.

"Mr. Blagojevich sought and took advice from people he trusted," Blagojevich's attorneys stated. "Mr. Blagojevich followed rather than led.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2011

Tapes Show Concern Before Ind. Stage Collapse

A recording of dispatch radio calls shows that emergency workers were expressing concern about severe weather just minutes before winds ripped through the Indiana State Fair and caused a fatal stage collapse.

WTHR-TV in Indianapolis obtained recordings of Marion County dispatch communications from the night of Aug. 13, when thousands of fans were waiting to see a concert by country music group Sugarland.

In one excerpt, workers are warned about five minutes before the collapse that severe weather was moving in and are advised to seek shelter if necessary. Two minutes later, another dispatcher asks if concert fans have been released from the grandstands.

Fair officials have said they were preparing to order an evacuation when the stage rigging collapsed into the grandstands. Seven people died.

Categories: Technology
Tags: technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2011

Ind. Lawmakers Want Cursive Mandatory in Schools

Indiana lawmakers say cursive writing has to be protected in schools and are pushing the issue in the 2012 session.

Terre Haute Sen. Tim Skinner and Oldenburg Sen. Jean Leising said they were horrified when they learned the state no longer required the writing style be taught. They said this week they plan to submit bills when lawmakers return to Indianapolis in 2012.

Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Sample says there is no law saying schools can't teach cursive and can decide to do so locally. The state approved new standards this year that excluded mandatory cursive instruction.

Indianapolis Public School administrator Chris Collier says cursive is essential for a child's development but says she's not sure that it needs to be written into law.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2011

Quinn: No ‘Bidding War’ Over Sears

Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said he's not going to get into a bidding war with other states that are trying to entice Sears to move its corporate headquarters out of Illinois.

The Democratic governor told reporters Thursday that a proposal to give Sears $150 million worth of tax relief is "more than adequate" to keep the company from relocating its headquarters from northwest suburban Hoffman Estates. Illinois lawmakers earlier this week shot down a package of tax incentives that included the Sears tax breaks, but Quinn said he'll work with lawmakers to re-tool the legislation in order to keep the company here.

"It began here in Illinois, it should stay here in Illinois," Quinn said of Hoffman Estates-based company. "I think our particular proposal to Sears is a fair one and I think it's more than adequate."

Quinn was responding to news that the state of Ohio is offering Sears a $400 million package to relocate to the Buckeye State. A spokeswoman for Sears declined to confirm that report.

Sears is giving lawmakers until the end of the year to come up with a package of tax breaks, otherwise the company has threatened to leave the state. A $250 million omnibus tax bill, which included the tax breaks for Sears and Chicago-based CME Group, was overwhelmingly voted down by the Illinois House Tuesday. Both companies have said they may relocate if they don't get some relief from a recent increase in the state's corporate taxes.

Quinn said Thursday he hopes lawmakers can agree on a tax break package by the end of the year, though he stopped short of saying he'd call them back to Springfield for a special session.

"I hope we can get all the folks together - particularly in the House - that did not approve this measure, to take another look," Quinn said.

The governor reiterated his support for a Senate-passed version of the tax package that also includes tax credits for low-income families. Some Republicans had objected to that provision, but Quinn said he's not backing down from it.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2011

Caterpillar: Tax Vote Sign of Illinois Dysfunction

Caterpillar Inc. says this week's vote by Illinois lawmakers that killed a package of tax breaks for several companies was a bad signal to send. Illinois is trying to convince the heavy-equipment maker to build a new factory in the state.

Caterpillar's Jim Dugan told The Associated Press that Tuesday's vote was a product of the state's "rudderless, dysfunctional business climate.''

The tax package was intended to hold onto Sears and several financial exchanges that have threatened to leave Illinois.

Peoria-based Caterpillar plans to move about 1,000 jobs from Japan to a North American location still to be decided.

Illinois officials have said they've talked to the company about possibly building the plant in the state. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 01, 2011

Ebert Says Show Going on Hiatus at End of Year

Movie critic Roger Ebert says the public television program "Ebert Presents: At The Movies'' will go on hiatus at the end of December.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic wrote on his blog Wednesday that the move is necessary to allow the public television stations that carry the show to plan their programs for the beginning of the new year.

Ebert wrote that although it is distributed by American Public Television to all 50 top markets, he hasn't been able to line up additional funding for the show.

The show is hosted by Associated Press movie reviewer Christy Lemire and Mubi.com film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

Ebert wrote that he and his producer wife, Chaz, really believe in the show and its mission to "provide an intelligent place for the discussion of movies.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2011

Ill. State Police Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit

Ill. State Police Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit

The Illinois State Police agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a former death row inmate who spent almost two decades in prison for the 1986 murders of a newlywed couple before a judge released him because of flawed evidence.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2011

Greater Community AIDS Project Marks World Aids Day in Champaign

Greater Community AIDS Project Director Mike Benner

World AIDS Day in Champaign is Thursday, Dec. 1, and it is being marked by a free showing of the documentary "We Were Here." The film is about the fight against AIDS when it first appeared in San Francisco's gay community 30 years ago. The 5:30 PM showing at the Illinois Terminal Building is sponsored by the Greater Community AIDS Project (GCAP).

Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with GCAP's director, Mike Benner about the services they provide, and Benner's own experiences as a person living with HIV. GCAP provides support services for people with HIV and AIDS in a ten-county region, including low-cost housing, food assistance and emergency financial aid. The agency is funded by government grants and private donations raised mostly through local fund raising events. One of them is coming up Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Levis Faculty Center on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. The GCAP 2011 Holiday Gala Fundraiser will feature dinner, live music and an auction.

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Categories: Community, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2011

Prosecutors Want Blagojevich to Spend Two Decades in Prison

Attorney's for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich say he's a "tragic figure" who should receive a light sentence for his corruption convictions. But prosectuors want a federal judge to give Blagojevich 15 to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced next week.

Both sides outlined their arguments in court filings Wednesday. Blagojevich is set to be sentenced Dec. 6.

Prosecutors say a heavy sentence is required because former Gov. George Ryan's 6 1/2- year sentence clearly wasn't long enough to deter Blagojevich and others from engaging in public corruption. They also point out that Blagojevich won office on a pledge to clean up corruption.

Blagojevich's lawyers say his sentence should fall under the federal guidlines of 41 to 51 months in prison.

Prosecutors say Blagojevich engaged in criminal activity even after he had been interviewed by the FBI, when he knew he was under investigation, and when many of his closest advisors had already been indicted and convicted. They say Blagojevich has a law degree and knew he was committing crimes and yet, to this day, he insists he did nothing wrong.

Prosecutors also argue that Blagojevich should get a heavier sentence than Tony Rezko.

Rezko is the former Blagojevich fundraiser who was given a 10 1/2-year sentence just last week for his role in the corrupt administration. Prosecutors say, as governor, Blagojevich bears more responsibility in the conspiracy than Rezko, who was a private citizen.

And unlike Blagojevich, Rezko provided valuable cooperation after he was convicted. Prosecutors also point out that Blagojevich spent seven days on the stand telling stories that the jury ultimately found to be lies.

Furthermore, Rezko had no part in Blagojevich's attempts to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat because he was already in prison by that time in 2008.

Prosecutors say Blagojevich still hasn't accepted responsibility for his actions.

But in their Wednesday court filing, the ex-governor's lawyers paint him as a "tragic figure" who has undergone a precipitous fall from being Illinois' executive, to an "impeached, unemployed criminal defendant, abaondoned by all of his advisors and friends; a figure drawing public ridicule and scorn."

His lawyers conclude by saying "despite a strong and seemingly defiant exterior, no one is more acutely aware of the tragedy that has become his life's work and aspirations as is Mr. Blagojevich himself.


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