Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 23, 2009

State Panel Holds Hearing on Moving Detainees to Thomson Prison

Federal officials tried Tuesday to allay fears that moving terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois could make the state a terrorist target.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lappin, told a legislative panel at a public hearing in Sterling that Thomson would be the most secure of all federal prisons in the country.

Other testimony on the plan to bring terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Thomson Correctional Center appeared evenly split between supporters and critics.

Several conservative opponents of the plan were among the last to testify at a high school auditorium near the Thomson Correctional Center as the hearing ran late into the night Tuesday.

Denise Cattoni of the Illinois TEA Party organization told the panel that Americans aren't being told enough about the implications of any such transfer.

Cattoni said they merely woke up one morning and were told "Gitmo was moving to Illinois.''

But a series of leaders from communities in and near Thomson told the panel their constituents are clamoring for the kind of economic boost a fully open Thomson prison would provide.

Governor Pat Quinn plans to sell Thomson to the federal government to house detainees and for a maximum-security federal prison, and the public hearing probably will not change that. The 12-member Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability could vote on a recommendation to sell Thomson, but Quinn does not have to follow the recommendation.

The hearing adjourned at 9 p.m., and the commission said it would not vote on the proposal before Jan. 14.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2009

Champaign Police Say Gambling Operation Involved Many Players, Thousands of Dollars

Champaign police say a gambling operation broken up by officers last week had been going on for nearly four months.

Deputy Chief John Murphy says the two Champaign men arrested Thursday, December 17th on charges of Gambling and Keeping a Gambling Place had rented out a storage unit in the 600 block of Ashford Court, furnishing it with heating and air conditioning, gaming equipment and selling food. And Murphy says 43-year old Jeffrey Wingo and 30-year old Brandyn Odell were charging $50 admission for players when police executed a search warrant that evening. Those two men and 18 others were issued notices to appear in court for Gambling-Betting or Wagering. And Murphy says the large amounts of potential winnings for players brought in many from outside the area. "Some of them had addresses as far away as Wilmette and Bloomington, and so there were people that were making a concerted effort to participate in the games," says Murphy. "They had dry erase boards up that had the dollar equivalent for each color chip, and based on what we saw there, it was certainly possible for thousands of dollars to end up on the table at any one time."

Murphy says anywhere from 20 to 50 people would show up the alleged poker games on a given night. He says Champaign Police were tipped off by a family member of someone who frequently joined the games. Wingo and Odell are expected to make their first court appearances next month.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2009

Michigan Sues Illinois over Asian Carp Threatening Great Lakes

A spokeswoman for the Chicago-based agency that helps run the waterways into Lake Michigan says it's unfortunate that Michigan's attorney general is going to the U.S. Supreme Court over Asian carp.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox today sued the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the state of Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The lawsuit seeks closure of shipping locks near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and endangering the $7 billion fishing industry.

Water district spokeswoman Jill Horist calls the lawsuit unfortunate and says it won't bring a solution any sooner.

A spokeswoman says Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office is reviewing the lawsuit and has no comment for now.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2009

UI Student’s Take on Copenhagen Climate Conference: Disappointing

Disappointment has been a common evaluation of the Copenhagen climate conference that ended last week.

It wrapped up with nations signing an accord that sets recommended guidelines for carbon emissions but didn't set any binding agreements or long-term goals.

Adam Lentz is a University of Illinois environmental sciences graduate student who got the chance to sit in on the talks. The native of Copenhagen feels most people left without very much optimism - and many world leaders left well before the end of the talks.

"It was, literally, almost all of them," Lentz told AM 580 from Denmark. "They were fleeing Copenhagen before they actually signed off on anything. I have never heard of any other meeting where world leaders gathered and they didn't take what they call a family photo."

Lentz says most observers were surprised by the unity displayed among the nation's developing countries - one likened it to a new world order. He was also struck by the assertiveness of countries that could be more directly affected by climate change, specifically island nations like the Maldives.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2009

Proponents, Opponents Brush Up Arguments Over Thomson Prison Sale

Opponents and supporters of a plan to move up to 100 alleged terrorists to Illinois from Guantanamo Bay are preparing to address the first state legislative hearing on the issue.

Around 50 people are scheduled to testify at Tuesday's hearing before the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

They include labor union officials who say selling the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government to house detainees will create hundreds of jobs.

Opponents scheduled to speak include conservative activist Beverly Perlson. She says U.S. Naval detention center in Cuba has worked well and that there's no good reason to bring prisoners to the small northwestern Illinois community.

The hearing is at a high school auditorium in Sterling, which is southeast of Thomson.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2009

Blood Banks Make their Seasonal Calls for More Donations

Some regular activities sometimes get short-shrift over the busy holiday season - donating blood is one of them.

Community Blood Services of Illinois is holding two blood drives Tuesday, hoping to get people into the bloodmobile at a time when donations often trail off. Spokeswoman Ashley Davidson says her agency has tried to plan in advance, knowing that fewer donors and continued high demand combine for a seasonal problem.

"We try to schedule as many drives as possible and we do a lot of in-center calling as well," Davidson said. "We really try to increase our total recruitment around this time, especially if we need certain blood types. We do try to cushion for it because we know at this time of year, our donations do go down."

Davidson says it takes about 500 donors every day in the region to keep the supply of blood at its member hospitals in east-central Illinois adequate. Right now she says there's a fairly serious shortage of type-O blood as well as A-negative and B-positive.

Tuesday's blood drives take place at Urbana's Provena Covenant Medical Center and at the U of I Employees Credit union main office in Champaign.

Categories: Community, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 18, 2009

Terre Haute Mayor to Visit Nazi Death Camp

Terre Haute's mayor will travel to Poland next month with a Holocaust survivor to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Mayor Duke Bennett will join about 50 other people on the trip to the former Nazi death camp where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died during World War II.

Eva Kor, a Terre Haute resident who founded the city's CANDLES Holocaust Museum, will be part of the group.

Kor's family was taken to the death camp near the end of World War II. She and a twin sister, Miriam, survived being subjected to Nazi experiments, but their parents and two older sisters died in the camp's gas chambers.

Auschwitz was in the headlines Friday, when Polish police reported that the camp's infamous iron entrance sign, which declares in German "Work Sets You Free,'' has been stolen.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 18, 2009

Buyout Could Be Choice For Some U of I Employees

Employee buyouts are being looked at as another option for the University of Illinois to cut costs next spring.

Campus units were told earlier this month to make contingency plans to reduce spending by 7, 10, and 15 percent. Those plans were to be submitted earlier this week. U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler says this is just another possibility as state reimbursements to the university are behind by about $400 million. "For several months the university has been struggling with a mounting financial crisis," says Kaler. "We're working on several options and buyouts are one of those, but we don't have details yet on any of the options." Kaler says it's too early to speculate who may take advantage of a buyout plan.

The U of I is also considering implementing a furlough policy next spring that's already been put together. Kaler says administrators have other cost-cutting proposals on the table, but couldn't be more specific.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 18, 2009

Reward for Whooping Crane Shooting Info Now at $10,000

The reward money offered in connection with the shooting of a rare whooping crane in Indiana is now at $10,000, up from $7,500.

Government wildlife agencies, conservation groups and a private citizen have contributed money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever shot the whooping crane near Cayuga in western Indiana's Vermillion County around December 1st.

The U-S fish and Wildlife Service says a leg band on the dead crane identifies it as the 7-year-old mother of "Wild-1", the only whooping crane chick to ever successfully migrate after being hatched in captivity. There are only about 500 whooping cranes left in the world.

If you have information on the shooting, you can call the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-TIP-IDNR.

Categories: Environment

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 18, 2009

St. Rep. Winters Defends Bill to Cut Tuition Waivers for State University Employees

The sponsor of a bill to eliminate the 50 percent tuition waivers available for children of state university employees says it's a sacrifice the state needs to make.

Dave Winters of the Rockford area submitted the bill (HB4706) last week and acknowledges that he's received some unhappy phone calls from state-employed parents since he did so. But Republican state representative says public employees shouldn't be seen as having a special privilege not available to others.

"We have to realize that it's a fiscal crisis", says Winters. "The state can shut down the universities. If we go another year or two in the current spending habits without making some tough decisions, I think we're facing disaster this year with so many of our social service agencies on the verge of closing or having already closed."

Winters also says he'll probably amend the bill to allow students already using the tuition waivers to continue to do so. And he says he would add a controversial scholarship program for state lawmakers to the chopping block.

Winters also says universities could be given the option of continuing the tuition waivers, but he says they'd have to compete with many other programs and services for a shrinking pool of state funding. He expects more lawmakers to sign onto his bill when the legislature reconvenes next month.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

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