Researchers have found an opportunity for public education in a Hollywood blockbuster. "The DaVinci Code" offered a rich backdrop of religious history in laying out its plot. And in its sequel "Angels and Demons," author Dan Brown injects physics - the Vatican is threatened by a bomb planted by the shadowy organization the Illuminati. Its explosive charge is based on antimatter stolen from CERN, the Swiss particle physics laboratory that produces antimatter in its Large Hadron Collider. Physicists want to step in with some caveats. University of Illinois professor Kevin Pitts says CERN, the collider and antimatter are very real, but he tells AM 580's Tom Rogers that antimatter's potential is just starting to be realized.
Illinois Public Media News
A bill to limit campaign contributions passed the Illinois House nearly unanimously in March. But Republicans opposed the bill on a near party-line vote when an amended version passed the Illinois Senate Thursday night.
State Senator Dale Righter of Mattoon voted against the bill in the Executive Committee and on the Senate floor. He says the amendment from Oak Park Democrat Don Harmon would add loopholes that set relatively high limits for transfers between political committees --- and no limits on in-kind contributions, like when one politician pays for TV time or campaign mailings for another. He says that will just concentrate more political power in the hands of the legislative leaders.
"While you've capped everyone else's ability to be involved monetarily in the political system, you have left virtually uncapped the legislative leaders," says Righter, who says the bill would only increase leaders' power when it comes to providing or withholding campaign support.
As amended, the bill would cap campaign contributions at 5-thousand dollars a year from individuals, ten-thousand dollars a year from groups like corporations or unions, and 90-thousand dollars a year from political committees.
Besides Republicans, the reform groups also oppose the bill, including the state Reform Commission set up by Governor Pat Quinn. They want tighter limits on contributions, including caps on in-kind donations. But Quinn is supporting the bill, saying it's the best that can be done at this time.
The measure now goes back to the Illinois House.
The Indiana Supreme Court has heard arguments over who is the rightful mayor of Terre Haute in a legal fight that has gone on since shortly after the 2007 city election.
Attorneys for Mayor Duke Bennett and former Mayor Kevin Burke appeared before the justices Thursday, arguing over whether Bennett was eligible to run for office.
Bennett won the election by 107 votes out of some 12,000 cast, but the state appeals court last fall ruled that the results should be thrown out.
That court sided with Burke's contention that Bennett was barred from being a political candidate because he worked at a mental health agency that received federal funding.
Bennett's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to decide how broadly the federal Hatch Act should apply to Indiana candidates.
Gov. Pat Quinn says he remains optimistic that Illinois lawmakers will raise income taxes to help balance the state budget.
The Democratic governor said Thursday that Illinois won't be able to pay its bills or provide vital services without the nearly $4 billion a tax increase would provide. Quinn says he's confident lawmakers will "live up to their responsibilities'' by passing a balanced budget.
State government faces a budget deficit of at least $11.6 billion. But legislators show little interest in raising taxes. They are talking about passing a budget that would only cover part of the state's annual expenses. That would postpone tough budget decisions until later in the year.
The central Illinois community of Peoria has approved a memorial to singer Dan Fogelberg.
The songwriter _ whose hits "Leader of the Band'' and "Same Old Lang Syne'' helped define the soft-rock era _ was a Peoria native whose music career was nurtured in Champaign-Urbana as a University of Illinois student. He died in 2007 at his home in Maine after battling prostate cancer. He was 56.
The city council this week unanimously approved plans to place the memorial at Peoria's Riverfront Park. The man leading the push for the memorial, Hugh Higgins, says he's thrilled by the decision.
Higgins supports a memorial featuring a boulder etched with the lyrics of one of Fogelberg's songs. The project will be paid for by donations. Higgins estimates the cost at around $10,000.
The Vermilion County state's attorney says officers from the Champaign and Vermilion County sheriffs' departments, and the University of Illinois police acted properly when they shot a 23 year old medical student to death near Oakwood --- ending a police chase that began in Douglas County.
State's Attorney Randy Brinegar says his conclusion comes after reviewing a more than 300-page state police report, and 30 audio and video recordings about the shooting of "Toto" Kaiyewu of Texas on April 6th.
Brinegar says there's "limited" squad car video that shows Kaiyewu brandishing a machete as he approaches police, after police stop-sticks forced him to stop his car on I-74 near the Oakwood exit. And he says "independent witness statements" confirm threatening behavior in his initial encounter with a police officer in the Douglas County town of Villa Grove. Brinegar says the statements confirm "that the suspect did place his car in reverse and back up toward the Villa Grove police officer."
Brinegar had little to say about why Kaiyewu acted as he did. He says an autopsy and toxicology tests found only marijuana and caffeine in his system. He would not comment on Kaiyewu's mental state, and said he would not release his medical and psychological records without permission from his family.
The family of Toto Kaiyewu questioned last month whether he truly threatened officers. Brinegar says his heart goes out of Kaiyewu's family and friends, and calls his death "every parent's nightmare".
Senator Roland Burris is in the midst of a two-day tour through some central Illinois cities while still denying offering to pay for his appointment to the Senate.
On Wednesday Burris toured the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - he watched a brief presentation on supercomputers, toured a soybean research lab and met with U of I chancellor Richard Herman.
But the visit is being overshadowed by Burris' appearance in a wiretapped phone conversation released by a federal judge this week. In it, Burris is heard telling the brother of former governor Rod Blagojevich that he'd "personally do something" for Blagojevich's campaign fund if he were appointed to the Senate. Burris says he never gave any money and has been open about it.
"We said that we would look at this transcript and might have to supply some additional information. That's all that we did. There was no attempt to do any wheeling and dealing to not disclose," Burris told reporters. "That did not take place."
Burris said the Illinois House impeachment committee didn't ask about the conversation with Robert Blagojevich when Burris testified - and that's why he said he hadn't mentioned it. He says he's been transparent with that committee, US Senate investigators and others.
The General Assembly no longer wants to put a restriction on how old someone must be to attend the University of Illinois.
No matter how smart or qualified, anyone under the age of 15 cannot enroll at any of the UI's three campuses -- which meant, of course, that a 14-year old high school graduate who last year had wanted to attend the Urbana-Champaign campus could not.
Representative Naomi Jakobsson says in the end, the student enrolled at nearby Parkland College, but it wasn't ideal. The legislature sent a measure to the governor that removes any restrictions.
Jakobsson admits the college lifestyle may be a bit mature for the younger set, no matter how smart they are. "There is a lot that goes on and one has to consider the maturity level of the student, to make sure that they're really able to be in a situation where there aren't kids around," Jakobsson said.
UI hopefuls still have to meet other requirements. They include four years of high school level English and three years of math, or demonstrating the equivalent level of knowledge and skills.
Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy says he's "deeply saddened'' by the death of former band member Jay Bennett.
The 45-year-old Bennett was found dead early Sunday in his Urbana home. Tweedy said in a statement Monday that Bennett made "significant contributions'' to Wilco's songs and the band's evolution. Tweedy said Bennett would be remembered "as a truly unique and gifted human being.''
Bennett worked as a sound engineer and played instruments for Wilco from 1994 to 2001.
An autopsy was planned for Tuesday by the Champaign County Coroner.
Earlier this month, Bennett sued Tweedy, claiming he was owed royalties for songs during his seven years and five albums with the group.
A memorial service is scheduled for this Saturday at the University of Illinois College of Law for John Cribbet. The former Urbana Campus Chancellor died Saturday in Urbana after a long illness.
Cribbet was chancellor from 1979 to 1984, and dean of the College of Law before that. He was on the law school faculty for more than 60 years, both before and after his chancellorship. Current U of I Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman said through a news release that he remembers Cribbet as a "larger than life figure", who brought a sense of wisdom and purpose with him, "even in the simplest encounters".
As Chancellor, Cribbet is credited with hiring football coach Mike White, and planting the seeds for the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. As a law professor, he was considered a pioneer in the field of property law. His textbook, "Cases and Materials on Property" is now in its 8th edition.
Cribbet, a native of Findlay, is survived by his wife, two daughters and their families. A memorial service will be held this Saturday, May 30th, at 2 PM, in the Max L. Rowe Auditorium, at the U of I College of Law Building in Champaign.