Illinois Public Media News
Governor Pat Quinn said Tuesday he would veto a bill allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons, if it ever reaches his desk.
The measure now being considered in the Illinois General Assembly would allow registered gun owners with requisite training to carry hidden guns in public. Illinois is one of just two states that does not have a provision allowing residents to carry concealed weapons.
But Quinn cited a variety of scenarios, from violence against police to fatal road rage incidents, in saying he will not sign the measure if it passes through the legislature.
"The concept of concealed, loaded handguns in the possession of private citizens does not enhance public safety," Quinn said. "On the contrary, it increases danger."
Quinn's announcement comes as an Illinois House committee is considering the bill, which is sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Brandon Phillips of downstate Harrisburg. With a possible vote on the measure coming the next few days, the governor urged lawmakers to rally against the bill.
"It's defeat, I think, would be a good thing for our state," Quinn said.
The governor said it would be too complicated to allow some municipalities to opt out, saying Illinois "must have a law that applies to a whole state." That's one concession that had been forwarded by the bill's sponsor.
Gun rights advocates say letting Illinoisians carry hidden weapons could help them protect themselves from criminals. But opponents maintain having more guns on the street would only increase violence.
The first witnesses took the stand Tuesday morning, in the 2nd trial of Ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. And Judge James Zagel wasted no time in chiding the defense for asking questions he says are inappropriate.
Like in the first trial, FBI agent Daniel Cain was the prosecution's leadoff witness. Cain testified about the long-running investigation into key members of the Blagojevich administration, and about all the wiretaps used in that investigation.
On cross examination, Blagojevich's lawyers tried to raise doubt by asking why some phone conversations are in evidence and others are not. The judge shut this down, and explained to the jury the legal reasons for excluding conversations- such as, if they were about personal things.
Also on Tuesday morning, John Harris began his testimony. Harris was Blagojevich's chief of staff, and was actually arrested on the same day as the governor. He's testifying for the prosecution in exchange for a lighter sentence, about a number of issues, including Blagojevich's alleged efforts to profit from his power to fill a US Senate seat.
All during the morning's s court action, the ex-governor took notes on a yellow legal pad, as he did the first time around, last summer.
On Monday at Chicago's Rickover Naval Academy High School, students-known here as "cadets"-stood in their platoons on the grassy ball field before school.
And along with the regular morning announcements, they listened to Commander Mike Tooker give this historic message:
"In case any of you haven't heard, last night the president came on television and notified the entire world that Osama bin Laden has been taken out by Special Forces."
Tooker made sure students knew that Navy Seals had a hand in that, but he says, overall, students at the city's only naval academy responded fairly quietly to the news.
"It was my own naval science instructors-the other retired military people who work here-they were the ones who raised their hands and started clapping a little bit, and then the students kind of rolled into that and they started clapping as well."
In fact, Tooker says, it's possible that the naval academy's big win in Friday's baseball game against the Marine Corps Academy was the bigger news.
"That actually generated more applause than the fact that Osama bin Laden had been taken out by U.S. Special Forces," Tooker says.
Memories of 9/11 for many of the city's high school students are interspersed with crayons and kindergarten songs. The U.S. has been looking for Osama bin Laden for most of their lives.
Senior Jocelyn Aguilar, 18, watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on television with her mother, who'd picked her up from school. She was seven at the time. Aguilar says May 2 will remain etched in her mind, as well.
"Oh yeah, I'm definitely gonna remember this day.... You know the whole feeling you got with September 11-this is kind of something that marks as well. "
Aguilar, who plans to enlist in the military when she graduates in June, says students and teachers spent a class period reading news sites about bin Laden's death.
"It's a good thing, but at the same time it's just going to erupt a lot more bad stuff. I'm enlisting in the Marine Corps so I'm definitely going to see a part of that as well. ... It's kind of like a bittersweet feeling."
On the other side of the city, students also pondered what the news would mean.
In a fifth period Global Issues class at Kenwood Academy High School on the city's South Side, students worked to put terrorism networks and two wars into context. Their questions guided the discussion-and there were lots of them: Why wasn't bin Laden captured rather than killed? Would the killing affect President Barack Obama's chances at re-election? Are we at greater risk of a terrorist attack now? How do we know for sure that we got bin Laden?
"Does this mean anything for our troops? Like is anybody coming home? Does that fix anything?" one girl wanted to know.
A classmate responded, "I don't think it does, because he's more of a figurehead. Like this isn't really gonna change anything with the war at all."
In a class earlier in the day, students drew parallels between the violence caused by terrorism and gang violence in their neighborhoods.
(Photo by Linda Lutton/IPR)
A U.S. official says Osama bin Laden died firing at the Navy SEALs who stormed his compound.
A little more than a month before the Al Qaeda leader's death, the Congressional Research Service released a report estimating that U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade have cost about $1.3 trillion.
Congressman Todd Rokita (R-Indianapolis) sits on the House's budget committee. Rokita acknowledges that while bin Laden's death is a victory in the war on terror; it's also an opportunity for the United States to recognize another national security threat - its own debt.
"I see this as a silver lining as a breakthrough to the military industrial complex about how we really need to effectively fight the war on terrorism in the 21st century in a way that is economical and lets us live within our means," he said.
Rokita said more money should be going to support special ops campaigns...like the one that brought down bin Laden...and less on wars that drag on for years at a time and hurt the nation's economy.
"I think it might be more efficient and cheaper in the long run than sending brigades and units and boots on the ground all over the world."
Meanwhile, Congressman Tim Johnson (R- Urbana) released a statement, saying he looks forward to peace in the Middle East, and U.S. troops returning home from the region.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
As expected, Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel completed his long-awaited search for a new Chicago Police Superintendent Monday by naming Garry McCarthy to the post.
Since 2006, McCarthy has led the police department in Newark, NJ, and before that he served as Deputy Commissioner of Operations for New York City's police department.
McCarthy replaces Jody Weis, who left the superintendent's job when his contract ended earlier this year. Former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard was tapped to fill out the remaining weeks of his contract.
Under Weis, the department suffered from morale problems as many rank-and-file officers considered him an outsider. Weis came to the job after working at the FBI.
At a news conference on Monday, Emanuel pointed out that despite his lack of experience in Chicago, McCarthy is a second generation law enforcement official who began as a patrol officer and understands the challenges and needs of urban police departments. "He knows how to run a large police force," Emanuel said.
But he also cited McCarthy's efforts in other cities as a key reason behind his selection. "Garry's experience and reputation will bring new ideas and energy to our police department," Emanuel said.
As Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the NYPD, McCarthy was responsible for orchestrating and determining policing strategies for the entire department. In 2006, Newark Mayor Cory Booker tapped him to take over as that city's police chief.
Emanuel praised McCarthy for his efforts to reduce both Newark's murder rate and its civilian complaints. In 2008, Newark led the nation in murder reduction and in April of last year, Newark experienced it's first murder-free month since 1966.
But budget cuts forced Newark to lay off 167 police last year, and so far in 2011, the city's murder rate is 71 percent above its year-ago levels.
Among the first steps McCarthy plans to take as head of the CPD will be to restore the position of First Deputy Superintendent, a position eliminated under Weis' term. Emanuel promised that he and McCarthy would move quickly to implement such a move.
In addition to McCarthy's appointment, Emanuel also stated that Richard Hoff will stay on as commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department. As he visited more than 40 fire stations across the city, Emanuel said firefighters everywhere asked him whether he'd keep Hoff in the role. "This was an easy choice," Emanuel remarked.
Emanuel will be taking over for retiring Mayor Richard Daley on May 16.
Chicago-area residents with ties to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks seem to have mixed feelings about the death of Osama bin Laden.
Jonathan Markowitz of north suburban Evanston said he was on the 85th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower when the first plane hit just five floors above him. He evacuated the building before it collapsed. Nearly ten years later, Markowitz said he is not celebrating bin Laden's death, though he is reflecting on it.
"One part of me is very happy that the person who has brought war against the United States is no longer able to do that," Markowitz said. "And the other part is sad, thinking that, you know, will one death bring peace? And since it will not, that's a sad thing."
Markowitz said he would be satisfied if bin Laden's death brings closure to some victims' families. But for him, he said it is not a cause for celebration.
"Killing people is not a happy occasion," he said. "I don't think this death will end the war. That's one of the more important things to me."
Lionel Lenz's daughter wasn't so fortunate. Mary Catherine Wieman was 43 and married with three children, when she became one of 175 employees of Chicago-based Aon who died when the South Tower collapsed. Lenz, who lives in Rolling Meadows, said he faults the U.S. for not having killed bin Laden sooner.
"You know, I think of that all the time, too, and I think to myself, 'My daughter would still be here if this guy would've been taken out a few years ahead of time," Lenz said.
Lenz says he's glad bin Laden has been brought to justice, but even that cannot bring closure to his daughter's death.
A Milwaukee man faces a charge of Attempted Murder in connection with the shooting outside Champaign's Marketplace Mall on Sunday.
Champaign police have obtained a warrant for 28-year old Dontrell Thompson, who remains in Carle Hospital as a result of being fired upon by officers yesterday, but bond is fixed at $2.5 million.
The victim is still hospitalized as well. Police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said a motive won't be determined as long as both men remain hospitalized, but it's believed the men know each other. Officers have also secured two vehicles from the mall parking lot that may have been used to transport both men.
Dunn said initial information indicated rounds may have been fired inside the mall as well, but she says no evidence has been found to support that claim.
"This shooting could have very easily affected more people," Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said in a statement. "Our officers rushed to the shooter after hearing shots fired and stopped the shooter from causing further injury to the victim."
Finney said two off-duty officers who were already at the mall also assisted and prevented further injury.
Champaign Police, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, and FBI continue their investigation.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call Champaign Police or Crimestoppers at 373-TIPS.
At the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh faced a decision that would likely mean devastation on one side of the waters or the other.
The 55-year-old officer, whose nearly two decades of command in the Army Corps of Engineers includes a stint in Iraq and helping oversee the restoration of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, decided Monday that the best course was to blow a massive hole in the Birds Point floodway levee in southeast Missouri.
Doing so was expected to drown 130,000 acres of rich farmland and destroy 100 homes. Opting not to could have meant wiping out the entire town of Cairo, Ill.
"Making this decision is not easy or hard," Walsh told reporters after announcing Monday that the plan would proceed. "It's simply grave - because the decision leads to loss of property and livelihood, either in a floodway or in an area that was not designed to flood."
While waters and emotions have risen, the straight-talking Walsh has maintained a business-like demeanor. He met with people on both sides of the river, some of them angry or upset about the plan, which aims to relieve pressure on the flood wall at Cairo, a long-struggling community of 2,800 residents. In answering people's questions, he's often cited statistics or protocol. And he's shown empathy, if not emotion.
"I recognize all of your lives will be impacted," he told one group of property owners in East Prairie, Mo., last week. "But these levees have never been under this pressure before."
Even those opposed to the Corps' plan appreciate how Walsh - who is responsible for managing the entire length of the Mississippi River valley, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico - has handled the situation.
"The general has a very difficult decision to make relatively quickly," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, whose administration opposed the plan all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, said before the choice was made. "He understands the magnitude of the decision on his plate."
Nearly everyone is already out of Cairo. Mayor Judson Childs ordered mandatory evacuation after a massive sand boil was discovered, creating fears of an uncontrolled levee break. Barges brought explosive devices to the Missouri site, about 130 miles south of St. Louis. The Corps said an initial series of explosions was expected after 9 p.m. Monday.
Since the floodwaters began to rise to near record levels last week, rhetoric has sometimes been harsh from both sides of the river. Missouri officials not only condemned the idea of blasting the levee but filed suit to stop it. Childs last week implied racism was at play, saying Cairo - a community that is 70 percent black - was on the "verge of being the next 9th Ward of New Orleans," referring to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
If Walsh was feeling pressure, he was neither showing it nor talking about it. He declined interview requests for this story.
He said last week, though, that he would rather use the controlled levee break to ease the floodwaters than do nothing and risk seeing a levee burst or be topped elsewhere where more lives and less farmland were at risk, and insisted he's not taking the decision lightly.
Walsh "has lived up to his reputation, Nixon said. "He's very sharp and focused on the job at hand."
The native of Brooklyn, N.Y., assumed his first command in San Francisco in 1994, moved to Sacramento, Calif., and then onto Corps headquarters in Washington, eventually becoming chief of staff. In 2004 he took command of the division in Atlanta, then went to Iraq, where he was commander for the Corps' Gulf Region Division. Walsh took command of the Mississippi Valley division in 2008, a region that includes portions of 12 states and encompasses 370,000 square miles.
Until now, the married father of two has kept a relatively low profile - except for one word he said in June 2009.
During a Senate hearing on the Gulf Coast restoration, Sen. Barbara Boxer took exception to Walsh's reference to her as "ma'am."
"You know, do me a favor," the California Democrat said. "Could you say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am?'"
"Yes, senator," Walsh responded, though military officials quickly pointed out that protocol directs that officers may use "sir" or "ma'am" when addressing those above them in the chain of command.
Amid the flooding, the general faced stakes far greater than hurt feelings.
Robert Jackson, a commissioner in Mississippi County, Mo., who owns 1,500 acres in the floodway, became animated and even mildly cursed during the forum in East Prairie, saying that blasting the levee would not only damage farm land but undo millions of dollars of work the county has done on everything from roads to ditches.
Walsh remained calm, but stood firm that all options were on the table. And Jackson said later that he understood what the general was up against.
"Human lives come first," Jackson said. If people died because a levee broke downriver, "They'd drag him in front of a Senate committee tomorrow to answer for it."
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
The cicadas are coming ---- but not just the cicadas that can be heard every summer.
These are periodical cicadas that emerge from the ground for mating in 13 and 17 year cycles. This particular brood of 13-year cicada is known as the Great Southern Brood, or Brood XIX. And they will soon be seen and heard in the billions in a region that stretches from the southeast out to Missouri and Arkansas --- and includes central and southern Illinois.
University of Illinois entomologist James Appleby said you will know when the Great Southern Brood is here, by their mating song.
"Their song is referred to as the long, drawn-out word, 'Pharoah,'" Appleby said. "So they'll go, 'Phar-aoh, phar-aoh, phar-oah' - that's the song. And it's extremely loud when all these males emerge."
While the males make all the noise, the female cicadas do all the damage ... to the branches of trees where they lay their eggs. Appleby said mature trees usually survive the onslaught, but the cicadas can pose a risk to younger, smaller trees. With the huge numbers of cicadas expected, he says homeowners may want to take precautions.
"If you have a young tree that you just purchased this year, perhaps last year, to protect it, I think it would be a good idea to get some nylon meshing or some type of netting and just net the tree ... the branches, because that's where the females will deposit their eggs," said Appleby, who makes bi-monthly appearances on WILL's "Illinois Gardener".
Cicadas from the Great Southern Brood have already emerged from underground in many southern states. Locally, Appleby said he has already seen the chimney-like exit holes that cicadas make in preparation for their lives above-ground. They will die off in about five weeks, at which time their eggs will hatch, sending a brood of nymphs underground, to emerge in 2024.
Two people are hospitalized after a shooting at Champaign's Market Place Mall.
Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney says police officers were at the mall late Sunday afternoon, responding to a vehicle being recklessly driven around the mall, and a person exiting the vehicle with a gun. At around 4:45, one male fired multiple shots at another male outside the mall near the LensCrafters shop.
"When they got to that particular area, they encountered an armed subject who had shot and was continuing to shoot a subject who was laying on the ground," Finney said.
Several law enforcement agencies responded to the shooting, including officials from the University of Illinois, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, the Urbana Police Department, and the Illinois State Police. Finney said the shooter was injured after two police officers fired their weapons.
The two injured individuals were taken to Carle Hospital for treatment, but Finney wouldn't release details about their conditions. He said several people were taken into custody as persons of interest, but no charges have been filed.
Theresa Pickett of Hoopeston was in a department store with her family when the shots rang out.
"We were toward the back of the store, and all we could see were people coming back and the employee was like you need to go to the back of the store," Pickett said. "There was a shooting. And so everyone started running and screaming. It was awful."
There are reports that shots were also fired inside the mall, but Finney couldn't confirm that information.
The shooting occurred on the same weekend during which Champaign hosted thousands of visitors attending Roger Ebert's Film Festival, the Illinois Marathon and a statewide school math tournament. Mayor-elect Don Gerard said the shooting was a tragedy that "punctuated what was an extraordinary weekend for Champaign."
In a statement, Gerard said: "My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims' families. I am thankful for the swift response of our first-responders and the units which support their efforts in such unfortunate times of crisis."
Finney said police are still exploring the motivation behind the attack, but he said there is no evidence to suggest that this was a random shooting.
People with information about the shooting should call Crime Stoppers 217-373-TIPS or Champaign Police 217-351-4545.
(Photo courtesy of Mitch Kazel)
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