Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Trial Over Hot Dog Ads Ends 1st Day in Chicago

The nation's largest hot dog makers argued about the meaning of "100 percent pure beef" and the merits of ketchup Monday in a lawsuit over advertising claims stemming from their years of dog-eat-dog competition.

Attorneys for Sara Lee Corp., which makes Ball Park franks, and Kraft Foods Inc., which makes Oscar Mayer, superimposed giant hot dogs on a courtroom screen as they delivered opening remarks in a case that could clarify how far companies can go when boasting about their products.

"There's never been anything of this scope . . . in the entire history of hot dogs," Sara Lee's attorney, Richard Leighton, said about what the company says is Kraft's false and deceptive ad campaign that claimed Oscar Mayer wieners were the best-tasting franks.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow, who will decide if either company broke false advertising laws, couldn't resist a note of levity as he cast his eyes at the attorneys and proclaimed, "Let the wiener wars begin."

The legal dog fight began when Sara Lee filed a lawsuit in 2009, singling out Oscar Mayer ads that brag its dogs beat Ball Park franks in a national taste test. Leighton argued the tests were deeply flawed and gave as an example that the hot dogs were presented to participants without buns or any condiments, such as ketchup.

"They were served boiled hot dogs on a white paper plate," he told Denlow. As a result, Leighton said, Sara Lee's hot dogs may well have tasted too salty or smoky when consumed sans buns.

Among other flaws, he went on, was a rule barring anyone who ever worked in a factory from taking the test.

"You may be excluding blue-collar workers," he said. "And they're big hot-dog eaters."

Kraft filed a countersuit later in 2009, accusing Sara Lee of running ads for Ball Parks with the tagline "America's Best Franks" based on an award from ChefsBest, a food-judging organization based in San Francisco.

The other focus of the trial is Kraft's claim that its Oscar Mayer Jumbo Beef Franks are "100 percent pure beef." Sara Lee says the claim is untrue, that it cast aspersions on Ball Park franks and damaged their sales.

But Kraft's attorney, Stephen O'Neil, told the judge the 100 percent beef tag was never intended to suggest there weren't other ingredients -- like water, salt and various spices. It was only meant to convey that the meat that was used was all beef, he said.

That stress was designed to counter lingering impressions that hot dogs contain suspect, "mysterious meats," he added. And he said it defied common sense to argue that consumers might take the label as meaning that the one and only ingredient was beef.

"If there was nothing but beef, it wouldn't be a hot dog," he said, "It would be a hamburger."

Denlow let slip that, according to his own personal tastes, neither Oscar Mayer nor Ball Park are top dog.

"I already have my favorite . . . and it's none of the brands on trial," he told attorneys. He said he may reveal which one it is -- but only after a ruling.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Categories: Business
Tags: business

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Judge Denies Request to Block Indiana Voucher Program

A judge has denied a temporary injunction that would have blocked Indiana's broad new school voucher program.

Marion County Judge Michael Keele sided with the state in his ruling Monday and against a group of teachers and religious leaders backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association. They tried to block the measure passed this year by the Republican-dominated General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Attorneys for the state argued before Keele last week that granting the injunction could force students who received vouchers to leave their private schools just as the instruction year is beginning and scramble to re-enroll in public schools.

Keele ruled only on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Their complaint challenging the law hasn't gone to trial yet.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Quinn Wants to Work Out School Official Pay

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to work with regional school superintendents on who should pay their salaries.

Superintendents across Illinois are working for free after Quinn in early July eliminated the funds that pay them and their assistants. That's because there's a budget dispute over where the money to pay them should come from.

Quinn said Monday he thinks "we can work that out'' but provided no details.

He maintains that superintendents should be paid from the "personal property replacement tax'' that corporations and business partnerships pay instead of local property taxes.

He has characterized superintendents' jobs as "administrative overhead'' and called them "bureaucrats'' that aren't central to teaching process. He contends the state should spend its money in the classroom.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Unit 4 Officials Say Supt. Search Process Off to Good Start

Champaign School officials say they have received hundreds of responses to their survey asking the public what qualities they want to see in their next school superintendent.

Unit 4 School Board President Sue Grey said distribution during the spring term and in the summer during school registration events has yielded a return of nearly 800 surveys--and that doesn't include surveys handed out during Champaign-Urbana Days over the weekend in Douglass Park. Grey said those surveys will guide the search firm hired to help select a new superintendent.

"They're compiling the data, putting together a superintendent profile, based on what our community is telling us," Grey said.

Grey said the survey results will help in designing a profile of what qualities the next Unit Four superintendent should have. In the meantime, she says the search firm, School Exec Connect, is already looking for applicants.

"They actually do have advertisements out in two national publications that are very familiar to the education community," Grey said. "We're pleased with the results. They say they're actually getting some nibbles."

Consultants from School Exec Connect, will be in Champaign in mid-September to gather public input face to face. That visit will include a public meeting on the evening of Sept. 12 at Centennial High School. Until then, Unit 4 officials say they will continue to take surveys from the public, as well as applications from people interested in serving on a community search committee.

Champaign School officials hope to hire a new superintendent by the start of 2012. That person will succeed Arthur Culver, who stepped down in June. Robert Malito is serving as interim superintendent, but is limited to 100 working days in the position.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Ind. Gov: Smoking Ban has Chance to Pass Next Year

Gov. Mitch Daniels says support is growing for a statewide ban on smoking in public places and it has a chance to pass next year.

The Evansville Courier & Press reports Daniels says he wants to see the percentage of adult Hoosiers who smoke drop to 20 percent by the end of his term. A recent report put the state's smoking rate at a historic low of 21.1 percent.

A bill that would have banned smoking in public places statewide failed to pass last session after it was loaded up with exemptions.

Proponents of a statewide smoking ban say it improve Hoosiers' health and the state's economy. Opponents say the marketplace should determine which restaurants or other retailers are smoke-free and which allow people to smoke.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Google Acquires Illinois-Based Motorola Mobility

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Google is buying Illinois-based cell phone maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in cash in what is by far the company's biggest acquisition to date.

Google Inc. will pay $40.00 per share, a 63 percent premium to Motorola's closing price on Friday.

The companies say the deal has been approved by the boards of both companies.

"Motorola Mobility's total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies," said Google CEO Larry Page in a statement. "Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers."

The deal gives Google direct control over the maker of many of its Android phones. In pre-market trading, shares of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. are up 60 percent, or $14.72, to $39.19.

What Google likely wants from the acquisition is Motorola's trove of more than 17,000 patents on phone technology. Google recently lost out to a consortium that included Microsoft Corp., Apple and Research In Motion Ltd. in bidding for thousands of patents from Novell Inc., a maker of computer-networking software, and Nortel Networks, a Canadian telecom gear maker that is bankrupt and is selling itself off in pieces.

Motorola has nearly three times more patents than Nortel.

Earlier this year, Motorola Mobility's CEO announced the company would be staying put in Illinois thanks to a 10-year benefit package from the governor. Motorola Mobility has about 3,000 employees.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Categories: Business, Technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 14, 2011

Wind Causes Fatal Accident at Indiana State Fair

The summer evening at the Indiana State Fair turned strangely cold. The wind blew hard, then harder still, tearing the fabric from the roof of the wobbling grandstand stage.

The crowd, waiting under a thunderous sky for the country duo Sugarland to perform Saturday, had just been told over the loudspeakers that severe weather was possible. They were told where to seek shelter if an evacuation was necessary, but none was ordered. The show, it seemed, was to go on.

None of the phone calls workers had made to the National Weather Service prepared them for the 60 to 70 mph gust that blew a punishing cloud of dirt, dust and rain down the fairground's main thoroughfare. The massive rigging and lighting system covering the stage tilted forward, then plummeted onto the front of the crowd in a sickening thump.

Five people were killed, four of them at the scene, where dozens ran forward to help the injured while others ran for shelter out of fear that the devastation had only begun. Dozens of people - including several children - remained hospitalized Sunday, some with life-threatening injuries.

"Women were crying. Children were crying. Men were crying," fairgoer Mike Zent said.

The fair canceled all activities Sunday as officials began the long process of determining what happened and fielded difficult questions about whether the tragedy could have been prevented.

"We're all very much in mourning," Cindy Hoye, the fair's executive director, said during a news conference Sunday. "It's a very sad day at the state fair."

Gov. Mitch Daniels called the accident an "unthinkable tragedy" and said the wind burst was a "fluke" that no one could have foreseen. Dan McCarthy, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Indiana, said the burst of wind was far stronger than gusts in other areas of the fairgrounds.

The seemingly capricious nature of the gust was evident Sunday at the fair, where crews placed a blue drape around the grandstand to block the view of the wreckage. A striped tent nearby appeared unscathed, as did an aluminum trailer about 50 yards away. The Ferris wheel on the midway also escaped damage.

First Sgt. Dave Bursten of the Indiana State Police said the lack of damage to structures on the fair's midway or elsewhere supported the weather service's belief that an isolated, significant wind gust caused the rigging to topple.

"All of us know without exception in Indiana the weather can change from one report to another report, and that was the case here," he said.

The stage toppled at 8:49 p.m. A timeline released by Indiana State Police shows that fair staff contacted the weather service four times between 5:30 and 8 p.m. At 8 p.m., the weather service said a storm with hail and 40 mph winds was expected to hit the fairgrounds at 9:15 p.m.

Bursten said fair officials had begun preparing in case they needed to evacuate visitors for the impending storm. At 8:30, additional state troopers moved to the grandstand to help in the event of an evacuation, according to the timeline.

Meteorologist John Hendrickson said it's not unusual for strong winds to precede a thunderstorm, and that Saturday's gust might have been channeled through the stage area by buildings on either side of the dirt track where the stage fell, at the bottom of the grandstand.

Fair officials said the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration and state fire marshal's office were investigating. Bursten said the investigation could take months.

The owner of Mid-America Sound Corp., which installed the rigging, expressed sympathy for the families of those killed or injured. Kerry Darrenkamp also said the Greenfield, Ind.-based company had begun "an independent internal investigation to understand, to the best of our ability, what happened."

Zent, of Los Angeles, said the storm instantly transformed what had been a hot, sunny day.

"Just everything turned black. ... It was really cold, it was like winter, because I had been sweating all day. Wind blew over the ATM machine," Zent said.

He and his girlfriend, Jess Bates, were behind the grandstand when the heard a noise - the stage collapse. They began running as the wind buffeted them.

Bates said a woman who had been in the second row of the concert with her teenage daughter grabbed her and sobbed as she recounted pulling her daughter to safety while others rushed forward to try to help those pinned beneath the scaffolding.

"She was gripping me very tight, and I could just feel her shaking," Bates said. "She said, 'My daughter is all I have in this world and I almost lost her tonight,'" Bates said.

 Dr. Dean Silas, a gastroenterologist from Deerfield, Ill., said it took about five minutes to work his way from the grandstands to the track after the collapse. He saw three bodies covered with plastic when he arrived.

He said it took about 25 minutes for volunteers and emergency workers to remove victims from beneath the rigging and load them onto makeshift stretchers.

"There had to be 75 to 100 people there helping out," he said.

Bursten identified those killed as Alina Bigjohny, 23, of Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago, 29, of Chicago; Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah; and two Indianapolis residents: 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich and 51-year-old Nathan Byrd. Byrd, a stagehand who was atop the rigging when it fell, died overnight.

Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles sent a statement to The Associated Press through her manager, saying she watched video of the collapse on the news "in horror."

"I am so moved," she said. "Moved by the grief of those families who lost loved ones. Moved by the pain of those who were injured and the fear of their families. Moved by the great heroism as I watched so many brave Indianapolis fans actually run toward the stage to try and help lift and rescue those injured. Moved by the quickness and organization of the emergency workers who set up the triage and tended to the injured."

Nettles and Kristian Bush, who perform as Sugarland, canceled their Sunday show at the Iowa State Fair.

Concert-goers and other witnesses said an announcer warned them of impending bad weather but gave conflicting accounts of whether emergency sirens at the fair sounded. Some fair workers said they never heard any warnings.

"It's pathetic. It makes me mad," said groundskeeper Roger Smith. "Those lives could have been saved yesterday."

Fair spokesman Andy Klotz said the damage was so sudden and isolated that he wasn't sure sirens would have done any good.

Indiana is prone to volatile changes in weather. In April 2006, tornado-force winds hit Indianapolis just after thousands of people left a free outdoor concert by John Mellencamp held as part of the NCAA men's Final Four basketball tournament. And in May 2004, a tornado touched down south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, delaying the start of the Indianapolis 500 and forcing a nearly two-hour interruption in the race.

Daniels stood by the fair and its officials as they prepared to reopen Monday with a public memorial service to honor the victims.

"This is the finest event of its kind in America, this is the finest one we've ever had, and this desperately sad ... fluke event doesn't change that," he said.

Sunday's accident was the worst at the Indiana fairgrounds since a 1963 explosion at the fairgrounds coliseum killed 74 people attending an ice skating show.

(AP Photo/Jessica Silas)

Categories: Environment, Government

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 13, 2011

Obama Heads to Illinois to Rally Voters

President Barack Obama is headed to western Illinois during a three-day bus tour of Midwestern states this week.

Obama's itinerary is scheduled to include stops in Atkinson and Alpha in Henry County where he'll preside over town hall-style on Wednesday before returning to the White House.

The White House says President Barack Obama expects to get an earful from regular folks, including supporters, who are frustrated by Congress and some of Obama's decisions.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama expects to hear from people who are fed up with dysfunction in Washington and what he says is the willingness of some lawmakers to put politics ahead of the country.

Earnest also said Obama even expects some of his own supporters to challenge some of the compromises he made during negotiations with Congress to reduce government spending and trim the nation's debt.

Obama plans five events over three days in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The tour begins Monday with a town hall-style event in Cannon Falls, Minn., followed by a second question-and answer session in Decorah, Iowa


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 12, 2011

Database Lets Anyone Track Outstanding Warrants in Cook Co.

A new online database lets people to see who has outstanding warrants in Cook County.

Sheriff Tom Dart said there are about 44,000 people in Cook County who have outstanding warrants. The new online database, he hopes, will help the office get some tips on the whereabouts of those people.

"This has a way of really flushing out the system, as well, and really doing a lot of very positive things because there's nothing good with having this many warrants in the system," Dart told reporters Friday.

Dart said about a third of the warrants outstanding are for traffic offenses and about 13,000 are for drug or theft charges.

The majority are not wanted for violent crimes, Dart said.

"There is a hope that there will be quite a few people who'll go to this website just, frankly, to check, maybe, theirself (sic) out," he said.

The sheriff said he's putting together a 500 most wanted list for the website, as well.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 12, 2011

Settlement Could Lead to Big Park in Chicago for Mexican Neighborhood

The city of Chicago could be near the end of a five-year legal battle for control of a former industrial parcel with potential to help form a 24-acre park. If an eminent-domain settlement holds up, the space could be an asset for a Mexican-American area of the Southwest Side.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sanjay T. Tailor this week signed off on the deal, under which the city will pay $7.5 million for 19 acres owned by 2600 Sacramento Corp.

The money will go to the Cook County Treasurer's Office and remain there as the company's owner, Joanne Urso, tries to settle with her lender, Texas-based United Central Bank, which last year filed a federal suit to foreclose on the property.

"I don't get a penny," Urso said Friday afternoon.

Urso's property would combine with a 5-acre plot the city already controls.

Activists in the Little Village neighborhood hailed the settlement.

"We have not seen any park development in over 75 years," said Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

Wasserman's group has been pushing for the land to become a park for five years. She said the deal could inspire residents of other neighborhoods.

"Regardless of language and regardless of immigration status, as long as there is determination in these communities, we can continue to get the things that we need," she said.

The park concept has the backing of the local 12th Ward alderman, George Cárdenas.

The land was once the site of an asphalt and tar manufacturing facility. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the plant operated from about 1918 to 1982. The agency eventually declared the land a Superfund site. The contamination included cancer-linked chemicals that turned up in nearby homes and yards. An EPA statement says Honeywell International Inc. finished a site cleanup last year.

The city filed its eminent-domain suit in 2006. Reaching an agreement became more complicated last year, when the foreclosure proceedings began.

The payment, due September 7, will consist of $6 million from the Chicago Park District and more than $1.5 million from city general-obligation bonds, according to Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The time-frame for turning the land into a park is not clear. Ownership will transfer to Chicago upon payment, but the city is not specifying a date for transferring the acreage to the Park District. Hoyle said that could possibly happen later this year.

Categories: Community, Environment, Health

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