Illinois Public Media News
A federal judge on Friday gave the Army Corps of Engineers the go-ahead to intentionally break a Mississippi River levee in southeastern Missouri to spare a flood-threatened Illinois town just upriver.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr.'s ruling followed a five-hour Thursday hearing over Missouri's bid to halt the possible intentional levee break.
The corps has proposed using explosives to blow a 2-mile-wide hole through the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri's Mississippi County, arguably to ease waters rising around the upstream town of Cairo, Ill., near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
The corps halted its preparation for the break Thursday, saying it needed until the weekend to assess whether a sustained crest of the Ohio at Cairo would demand the extraordinary step.
The river's crest at the Cairo flood wall could reach 60.3 feet - nearly a foot above its record high - as early as Sunday, corps spokesman Jim Pogue said. The wall protects the town up to 64 feet, but there's concern the crest could last up to five days, putting extra pressure on it.
Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee all want the corps to move forward with the plan. Missouri had sought a temporary restraining order to block the detonation. It was not immediately clear early Friday whether Missouri planned to appeal Limbaugh's denial of the order.
John McManus, an assistant Missouri attorney general, had argued the break would unleash a torrent of water that would carve a channel through prime farmland, flood about 90 homes and displace 200 people. The rush of water also stood to cause an environmental catastrophe, sweeping away everything from fertilizer to diesel fuel, propane tanks, pesticides and other toxins, McManus and some of the four witnesses who testified for the state suggested Thursday.
Attorneys for the corps and the state of Illinois countered that the farmers already have land that's flooded and have been given ample notice to clear their properties of anything toxic. The state of Illinois and the town of Cairo argue the well-being of Cairo's 2,800 residents outweighs farmland that would be swallowed up by the rush.
Indiana's governor has a tough choice to make soon. And it's not about whether he'll run for president.
This issue is much closer to home.
This week, the Republican-led Indiana House voted to approve a bill that would cut all funding to Planned Parenthood. The Indiana Senate approved the measure earlier this month. In all, the pregnancy planning agency would lose $3 million and could force the closure of several offices statewide.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, has said he doesn't want state or federal lawmakers to worry about social issues right now.
He wants them to concentrate on all things dealing with the budget, which he says threatens America's future.
"I haven't gotten involved in those things (social issues). I have said that I think they ought to concentrate on the debt problem," Daniels said. "So, these other things aren't unimportant but I just don't think anything should get in the way of making a very bold move before our whole American dream comes crashing down."
If Daniels signs the bill, state would also lose $4 million in federal family planning grants.
But signing the bill would likely give Daniels more support with conservatives who oppose abortion if he decides to seek GOP nomination for president.
The Illinois Supreme Court is looking at a proposal to give jurors the right to ask witnesses questions during civil trials.
The questions could be modified or excluded after being reviewed by the attorneys and the judge in a case.
"The judge would read or provide a copy of the juror questions to all the lawyers in the case," Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor said. "It would give those attorneys an opportunity to object to any question."
Tybor said if a juror's question is presented to a witness, the judge would then allow attorneys to ask follow-up questions.
Supporters of the plan say this measure would provide lawyers with signals of a juror's focus, and encourage jurors to be more observant during a court case.
But some critics say allowing jurors to publicly talk about a case before closing arguments could jeopardize a final verdict.
"It might skew the results of the process that we have refined over the last several hundred years," said Urbana Attorney Tom Bruno, who chairs the Illinois State Bar Association. "Often just by the nature of questions that the questioner is asking, you can see where their mind is going with it or what their thoughts are on it."
Bruno added he is also concerned this proposal could delegitimize the role of prosecutors and defense attorneys.
"Part of this notion that the jury may think up better questions than my opponent could think up assumes the opposing council isn't smart enough or sharp enough or clever enough to think of asking these questions themselves," Bruno said.
The Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee will hold a public hearing for community input about the proposal on Friday, May 20, 2011 at 10 a.m. at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in Chicago.
The measure would have to be approved by the Rules Committee, and then the full Supreme Court.
The Champaign County State's Attorney's Office has filed an Indirect Criminal Contempt petition against the landlords of the Cherry Orchard Village apartments.
During a bench trial earlier this month, Bernard and Eduardo Ramos were convicted of violating a local health ordinance by failing to legally connect the property's sewer and septic systems. They must pay more than $54,000 in fines, and are barred from housing tenants until the property is brought up to code.
But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Champaign County Sheriffs Deputies and Public Health District officials have confirmed people are still living there.
"The petition alleges that despite the judge's order Champaign County Sheriffs Deputies and Public Health District officials have confirmed that people are still residing in the complex," Rietz said in a statement.
The Ramoses must appear in court on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 2:30 to answer the petition.
Cherry Orchard is located right outside of Rantoul, and has traditionally housed migrant workers.
The Carle Foundation is selling its pharmacy division to Walgreens.
The drug store's purchase of Carle RxExpress will mean four of its pharmacy locations will close in the next two months. By May 31st, Carle pharmacies on Urbana's Cunningham Avenue and Windsor Road will close, along with the location in Danville. In June, Carle's South Clinic location will consolidate with main lobby pharmacy at Carle Hospital. The remaining six will stay open under the Walgreens banner, and Carle's remaining inventory will transfer to nearby Walgreens locations.
Carle Foundation Executive Vice President John Snyder said the retail pharmacy industry has become more competitive, with new consolidations. He said Walgreens can offer discounts on generics and 90-day prescriptions that Carle can't sustain. But Snyder said consumers using Carle pharmacy locations won't see a change in service.
"They have quite a bit of experience in taking over hospital pharmacies, as well as medical office building pharmacies," he said. "They don't run them like typical Walgreens stores. They do recognize there's a difference. Their plan is to run them basically as they're run now with the same hours, and hopefully the same staff."
Snyder says Walgreens has committed to hiring about 80-percent of Carle's 76 pharmacy workers, and will interview all who apply. He said other employees with the necessary skills will be offered the chance to transfer to other jobs at Carle, while remaining workers will receive a severance package. But Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffany Washington said there wasn't a specific figure, only saying that a 'large majority' or Carle RxExpress employees would still have positions at the pharmacies.
Financial terms of the sale weren't disclosed. Proceeds from the sale will go towards the purchase of new hospital facilities and equipment.
The word 'overlooked' is no longer part of the title in Urbana native Roger Ebert's annual film festival.
But the director of the 13th annual event at the Virginia Theater in Champaign says it's still a large part of the mission. Nate Kohn says attendees may be surprised with some of the names attached to the screening, including the Friday night movie, a love story that will be accompanied by Director Norman Jewison.
"Very few people are familiar with the film 'Only You', and yet it stars Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei, pretty prominent names," said Kohn. "I think that's a good example. Most people cite 'In the Heat of the Night' as (Jewison's) best-known film."
Jewison has been nominated for five Academy Awards, winning an honorary Oscar in 1999. Other guests appearing with their work including actress Tilda Swinton, and directors Richard Linklater and Tim Blake Nelson.
Kohn says usually, Friday afternoon is reserved for annual viewing of a silent film accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. But he says Fritz Lang's vision of the future from 1927, with missing footage, will be among the festival's biggest highlights Wednesday evening.
"Because 'Metropolis' was just recently restored to its full length, some missing footage was found in Argentina..." said Kohn. "We thought it was signifcant enough to move it to the opening night film."
'Metropolis' is among those listed in Ebert's 1998 'Great Movies' essay. Meanwhile, free panel discussions will be held at the University of Illinois' Illini Union beginning at 9 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning.
Kohn admits the traffic presents a challenge with the Illinois Marathon going on at the same time Saturday. But he says coordinators worked with Champaign police so transportation could flow as smoothly as possible.
A World War II veteran who became famous as the Empire Carpet Man has died at age 89.
Empire Today spokeswoman Marlo Michalek says Elmer Lynn Hauldren died Tuesday at his Evanston home. A cause of death wasn't given but Michalek said he had been sick.
Hauldren was the voice of Empire carpet on television advertising in the 1970s. The ads later aired around the country in cities like New York, Washington and San Francisco. He was the company spokesperson until he died.
The company says it chose Hauldren as its on-air talent after auditioning several others for the role. Hauldren helped launch the carpet company's "588-2300" jingle.
Hauldren was the father of 6, grandfather of 18 and great-grandfather of 10. He also was a singer in a barbershop quartet.
Indiana is poised to become the first state to cut all government funding for Planned Parenthood.
The move would be a significant victory for anti-abortion activists but could pose a political predicament for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels as he considers running for president.
The Indiana House voted 66-32 Wednesday to cut off the $3 million in federal money the state distributes to the organization for family planning and health programs. The Senate approved the measure earlier this month.
Indiana risks losing $4 million in federal family planning grants if Daniels signs the bill.
A veto could antagonize ardent conservatives wary of Daniels' calls for a truce on "social issues" to focus on the economy. But signing the bill also could provide the political cover he needs from critical social conservatives.
The Army Corps of Engineers is waiting to decide if it will intentionally break a levee to help relieve flooding problems in a Southern Illinois town. But farmers in Missouri are objecting to the plan.
Flooding in Cairo, Illinois is so bad, more than 100 people have been evacuated. It's a town of 2,800 residents at the southern tip of Illinois between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
"I'm 50 years old, and I can't recall seeing it higher before," said Sheila Simon, Illinois' lieutenant governor.
She said she hopes the water levels start to go down, or else the Army Corps might have to poke holes in a Mississippi River levee near Cairo.
But farmers in Missouri say that would flood their land and ruin crops. In a statement, Blake Hurst, the head of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said 130,000 acres of farmland could be destroyed.
Missouri has filed a lawsuit to block efforts to break the levee. A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel says no group is immune from the sweeping changes he plans to make in the city of Chicago.
Emanuel said Wednesday that means changes for non-profits and charitable organizations as well. For instance, he said he no longer wants non-profits and charitable organizations to get free city water in their facilities.
He says it's all part of his philosophy that every group needs to make some sacrifices so no one group has to sacrifice more than it should. Emanuel takes over as mayor May 16. He says nobody is in a "sacrifice-free zone."
Emanuel made his comments at an arts event in downtown Chicago. He was initially asked whether non-profits should pay property taxes. He promised to look into it and give a fuller answer later.
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