Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 16, 2011

U of I Athletic Director Ron Guenther to Retire

University of Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther says he will retire after his contract runs out June 30th.

Guenther said in a news release Monday that he's been working with the university on a succession plan and a search committee has started looking for his replacement. Guenther had talked recently about possibly staying on after June to begin work on a planned renovation of the Assembly Hall.

Guenther's 19 years on the job have been marked by a number of sports-related construction projects. They include the recent $121 million renovation of Memorial Stadium. Interim Vice President and Chancellor Bob Easter praised Guenther for his integrity and high athlete graduation rates.

Guenther is a University of Illinois graduate and played on the football team in the early 1960s.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 16, 2011

Emanuel Sworn in as Chicago’s New Mayor

Declaring that Chicago is ready for change, Rahm Emanuel took the oath of office Monday, becoming the 46th mayor in Chicago's history and the first Jewish resident to occupy the office.

Nearly all of Chicago's top elected officials were on hand for the occasion, as were Vice President Joe Biden and several U.S. cabinet secretaries. The event also featured the swearing in of Chicago's new City Council, City Clerk Susana Mendoza and Treasurer Stephanie Neely.

During his inaugural address, Emanuel praised outgoing mayor Richard M. Daley and his wife, Maggie, for their lifetime of service, but declared that serious challenges lie ahead.

"We must face the truth," he said. "It is time to take on the challenges that threaten the very future of our city: the quality of our schools, the safety of our streets, the cost and effectiveness of city government, and the urgent need to create and keep the jobs of the future right here in Chicago."

Emanuel placed schools atop his list of priorities and vowed to push for quick, effective change - even poking fun at his own high-strung reputation in the process.

"As some have noted, including my wife, I am not a patient man," he joked. "When it comes to improving our schools, I will not be a patient mayor."

The inauguration ceremonies took place in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, a park which became one of the signature achievements of his predecessor, the retiring mayor Richard M. Daley.

Emanuel's inauguration capped a whirlwind - and largely unexpected turn of events - that began with an appearance Emanuel made on PBS' Charlie Rose in April of last year during which the then-White House chief of staff publicly revealed his interest in becoming mayor of Chicago one day.

The comment made national news and stirred the political dust in the Windy City, but the speculation soon dissipated as most seasoned political observers expected then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to seek a seventh term in office. Little did most people know that Daley would stun the political world in September 2010 by announcing his current term would be his last.

Daley's decision not to seek re-election set off a scramble to fill the office he came to occupy for 22 years and created a political vacuum which Emanuel raced to fill. Within weeks, he'd stepped down as White House Chief of Staff and was given a presidential send-off that was carried live on local and national television outlets.

While the list of names of potential mayoral candidates stretched into the dozens, Emanuel's name was always on the short list of top contenders given his political and fundraising skills. In the end, just six candidates remained on the ballot, though it was unclear for weeks whether Emanuel would be one of them.

During much of the fall, Emanuel fended off a series of legal battles that focused on whether he was eligible to run for mayor. At issue was whether he met the minimum one-year residency requirement to be allowed on the ballot. The battle became a centerpiece of the election campaign until the Illinois Supreme Court ultimately ruled in his favor, just a few weeks before the February municipal elections.

On Election Day, Emanuel won a sweeping victory, winning a majority of votes cast and avoiding a run-off, reflecting strength in all corners of the city.

The election not only marked a changing of the guard for Chicago, but it also marked a return to elected public office for Emanuel. Previously, he served for three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the legendary 5th congressional district on the city's north side. While in office, he earned a national reputation as a key architect of the Democrats successful strategy to regain control of Congress in 2006. Emanuel then left Congress in 2009 to serve as Chief of Staff to newly-elected President Barack Obama.

The move wasn't the first time Emanuel left the Chicago area to serve a president. He worked as fundraiser and key advisor to Democrat Bill Clinton during Clinton's 1992 campaign for the presidency and for most of his two terms in office thereafter. It was his work in the Clinton administration on such projects as the passage of the NAFTA treaty that earned him a reputation as a highly effective and fearsome political operator.

But Emanuel's beginnings in politics can be traced back to the man he succeeds as mayor, Richard M. Daley. He worked as a fundraiser for Daley, helping him win election to office in 1989. That experience and those connections helped pave the way for his career since.

"I have big shoes to fill," Emanuel said Monday. "Nobody ever loved Chicago more or served it better than Richard Daley."

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 16, 2011

Rahm Emanuel to be Sworn in as Chicago’s New Mayor ‎

In a major power shift for a city that thrives on tradition, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel takes over as Chicago's first new mayor in two decades on Monday when he replaces the retiring Richard M. Daley, the only mayor a whole generation of Chicagoans has ever known.

Vice President Joe Biden was expected to attend the morning inauguration ceremony at a popular downtown park before Emanuel heads over to City Hall and, for the first time since he was elected in February, walks into the fifth-floor office that was Daley's lair for 22 years.

"When I go there, which will be right after I get sworn in ... unless I take a wrong turn, that will be the first time, it will be with my family," said Emanuel, who plans to have his wife, Amy Rule, their three children, his two brothers and parents in tow.

Biden's attendance is testament, in part, to Emanuel's high profile in Washington where he worked until October. He quit as President Barack Obama's top aide to come back to Chicago to run for mayor.

"I'm glad he's decided to come and represent the administration and I'm also glad on a personal level because of our friendship," Emanuel said last week. "It's about Chicago, it's not about me."

Emanuel inherits a city with big money problems. Not only has Emanuel's transition team predicted a $700 million budget shortfall next year, but thanks to some controversial decisions by Daley - most notably the push to privatize parking meters - he has limited avenues to find funds to improve schools and repair the city's aging infrastructure.

It's a challenge Emanuel has not shied away from.

Emanuel, who represented Chicago in Congress before he left for Washington, made his feelings about his desire to be mayor known more than a year ago during an interview on Charlie Rose's PBS talk show. He said "it's no secret" that he wanted to run for mayor if Daley didn't seek re-election.

When Daley announced last fall that he wouldn't seek a seventh term after 22 years in office - longer than any other mayor in the city's history - some wondered if Emanuel had known anything when he made that comment. But if he did, that didn't stop him from just days before Daley's stunning announcement renewing his lease with the tenant who rented his Chicago home while the Emanuels lived in Washington.

That decision to rent his house was at the center of, as it turns out, the only thing that stood between Emanuel and the mayor's office: the legal battle over whether or not he was a resident of Chicago and eligible to run for mayor.

That fight ended with an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in his favor, but not before an appellate court panel decided that Emanuel's time away from the city made him ineligible to run and knocked his name off the ballot.

With that out of the way, Emanuel simply steamrolled over his opponents. Branded as a Washington outsider by other candidates including former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, Emanuel didn't miss an opportunity to remind voters that, unlike his opponents, he had friends in high places, even as he sought to convince them that he was one of them.

There was the campaign stop by former President Bill Clinton and the visit to Chicago by the Chinese President Hu Jintao - a visit, Emanuel reminded reporters that included a private meeting between the two.

Armed with a $14 million campaign war chest that dwarfed those of his opponents, the only question in the last weeks of the race was whether Emanuel would get 50 percent of the votes plus one vote to avoid a runoff.

Emanuel, who kept his temper and his legendary profane vocabulary under wraps during the campaign, ended up collecting 55 percent of the vote.

Once elected, Emanuel wasted little time putting his administration together, bringing with him a number of people from his days in Washington. For key posts, he went far outside the city.

He hired the schools chief in Rochester, N.Y. to run the city's massive school system. He went to Newark, N.J., to find his police superintendent, choosing the head of that department rather than promote someone already in the department. And where Daley hired a local newspaper reporter as his press secretary, Emanuel hired his away from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 16, 2011

Former Blagojevich Staffer to Testify During Corruption Trial

An old friend from Rod Blagojevich's early political career will be on the stand Monday in the former governor's retrial.

John Wyma was chief of staff when Blagojevich served as a congressman and stayed on as a consultant and fundraiser through Blagojevich's time as governor. He parlayed his relationship with Blagojevich into a very lucrative career as a lobbyist. Clients paid him thousands of dollars a month because he could get meetings with the governor or his staff.

Prosecutors subpoenaed Wyma about some of his business dealings, and in 2008 he provided information that allowed prosecutors to start recording the governor's phone calls. Blagojevich talked about Wyma outside court last Thursday after Wyma started his testimony. Blagojevich seemed unusually thoughtful.

"John Wyma was someone that I thought was a close and good friend and to see him lie like he's lying, understanding that he's doing it because he's being compelled to do it because he may have done some things wrong," he said. "He's afraid that he's going to get prosecuted, doesn't take away the sense of sadness that you feel because this guy was once someone that you thought was a good friend."

Wyma is testifying with a grant of immunity from prosecutors, meaning he can't be prosecuted for any crimes he committed related to this case, provided he tells the truth. He's testifying about conversations he had with Rahm Emanuel about Barack Obama's senate seat just after the 2008 presidential election.

(Photo by Rob Wildeboer/IPR)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 16, 2011

Jurors Due in Chicago Court for Mumbai Terror Case

A Chicago courtroom could become the unlikely venue for revealing alleged connections between the terrorist group blamed for the 2008 rampage that killed more than 160 people in Mumbai and Pakistan's main intelligence agency, which has come under increased scrutiny following Osama bin Laden's killing.

Jury selection begins Monday in the case against Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, who is accused of helping a former boarding school friend serve as a scout for the militant group that carried out the three-day attack in India's largest city. Though the accusations against Rana are fairly straightforward, the implications of the trial could be enormous.

To make their case, federal prosecutors may lay out alleged ties between Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed for the attacks, and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as the ISI. The trial comes amid growing suspicion that the ISI was complicit in harboring bin Laden, who was killed by Navy SEALs during a May 2 raid, and could lead to further strains in the already frayed relations between Pakistan and the United States.

The key government witness could be David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American with a troubled past who pleaded guilty last year to laying the groundwork for the Mumbai attack by Lashkar-e-Taiba. Headley, who is cooperating with U.S. officials, told interrogators that the ISI provided training and funds for the attack against India, Pakistan's long nemesis.

Headley told authorities that Rana provided him with cover for a series of scouting missions he conducted in Mumbai. Headley also told interrogators that he was in contact with another militant, who has ties to al-Qaida, as part of a separate plot to bomb a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons that offended Muslims.

"What you'll have now in Chicago is a trial which will undoubtedly demonstrate links between Pakistan government agencies and one of the most competent terrorist organizations operating in South Asia - Lashkar-e-Taiba," said Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp. The trial "just adds more fuel to an already tense situation."

Nearly 100 potential jurors are expected at Chicago's federal courthouse Monday. They'll be asked to fill out forms with a range of questions, from personal views on Islam to knowledge of Pakistani militant groups. Jury selection is expected to last several days.

Experts say Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means "Army of the Pure," was created with the ISI's help in the 1980s as a proxy fighting force to battle with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Counterterrorism officials say the group has gained strength with the help of the ISI since then, possibly with the help of retired officers. Pakistani officials have denied any ties with the group.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is accused of carrying out the three-day siege in Mumbai in which 10 gunmen attacked two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and a busy train station in India's financial capital, killing 166 people, including six Americans.

Rana, a Canadian national who has lived in Chicago for years, owns a Chicago-based First World Immigration Services, in the city's South Asian enclave. He and Headley met as teenagers at a Pakistani military boarding school outside Islamabad.

Prosecutors say Rana, who was arrested in 2009, provided cover for Headley by letting him open a First World office in Mumbai and travel as a supposed representative for the agency. He also allegedly helped Headley make travel arrangements as part of the plot against the Danish newspaper that in 2005 printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which angered many Muslims worldwide.

Rana is charged with providing material support for terrorism in India and Denmark. In court documents, Rana's attorneys have said he believed Headley was working for Pakistani intelligence. Headley also told authorities that he told Rana he "had been asked to perform espionage work for the ISI," according to a court filing.

"Part of the defense will be that Headley used his connections with ISI to explain the things he was doing," Rana's attorney Patrick Blegen told reporters last week. Rana "has maintained his innocence since the day he was arrested."

However, U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled that that proposed defense was "objectively unreasonable."

Prosecutors have declined to comment ahead of the trial. A senior Pakistani intelligence official said he hasn't been following the trial and didn't have comment on it.

Some experts doubt the trial will reveal much, saying federal prosecutors may work hard to keep sensitive information from surfacing in the courtroom, and Headley is not the most credible witness. Headley reached a plea deal with prosecutors in the terrorism case in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and previously had been an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after a drug conviction.

Details of Headley's possible testimony were revealed last year in an Indian government report detailing what he had allegedly told Indian investigators during questioning in Chicago.

In the report, Headley is cited describing how the ISI was deeply involved in planning the Mumbai attacks and how he reported to a man known only as "Major Iqbal," whom he called his Lashkar "handler." But some experts have suggested Iqbal could be a retired ISI officer, or that he may not even exist. In the indictment, his name is listed as unknown, and he's referred to only under the alias "Major Iqbal."

Rana is actually the seventh name on the indictment, and the only defendant in custody. Among the six others charged in absentia are "Major Iqbal" and Sajid Mir, allegedly another Lashkar-e-Taiba supervisor who also "handled" Headley.

Also indicted is Ilyas Kashmiri, the commander of the terror group Harakat-ul Jihad Islami who also is believed by Western intelligence to be al-Qaida's operational chief in Pakistan. During his travels for spying and training, Headley allegedly met with Kashmiri in Pakistan, and Kashmiri gave him instructions on how to carry out the Danish newspaper bombing, which ultimately never occurred.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 15, 2011

William Daley Delivers UI Commencement Speech

White House Chief of Staff William Daley delivered the commencement speech at the May 15, 2011 graduation ceremony on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus. Daley came on board as President Barack Obama's chief of staff in January. Daley acknowledged the job market is more competitive today than when he graduated from college, but he said that is an opportunity for innovation and creativity in the global marketplace. He also emphasized the importance of living abroad and experiencing other cultures, saying an expanded worldview is important in the workforce.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 13, 2011

New Drug to Treat Hepatitis C Approved by FDA

The FDA has approved a new drug for the treatment of hepatitis C, a viral disease that attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In the U.S., existing medications cure only about 50 percent of patients.

Dr. Bruce Bacon of Saint Louis University led a clinical trial for the new drug, boceprevir.

Bacon says adding boceprevir to the standard two-drug treatment significantly improved cure rates, especially for patients who have been treated before and failed to recover.

Most Americans with hepatitis C have what's known as the genotype 1 form of the virus.

"The numbers are more like 20 percent with the standard therapy being retreated versus about 60 to 65 percent cure rate with the addition of boceprevir," Bacon said, referring to people with genotype 1.

A similar drug, telaprevir, is expected to get FDA approval by the end of the month.

Dr. Adrian Di Bisceglie, also from Saint Louis University, helped test how patients responded when telaprevir was added to the current two-drug treatment.

"In a treatment regimen that has telaprevir, the cure rates or rates of sustained virologic response go from the 40 percent number that I mentioned in patients with genotype 1, to 75 percent," Di Bisceglie said.

Both boceprevir (trade name Victrelis, by Merck) and telaprevir (trade name Incivek, by Vertex) are expected on the market in June.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than three million Americans have hepatitis C, and about three-quarters of them don't know they have it.

Categories: Government, Politics, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 13, 2011

Ill. Residents Sue to Allow Concealed Weapons

A pair of Illinois men and a gun rights group have sued the state to try to force it to allow concealed weapons. The lawsuit comes eight days after legislation to allow state residents to carry hidden guns failed.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court by former corrections officer Michael Moore of Champaign, farmer Charles Hooks of Percy in southeastern Illinois and the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation.

They argue Illinois' prohibition against concealed weapons violates the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment and what they see as Americans' right to carry guns for self-defense.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said she's reviewing the lawsuit.

On May 5 the state House voted down the bill to allow concealed guns. Illinois and Wisconsin are the only states that ban concealed weapons.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 13, 2011

Ill. House OKs Deep Cuts in Preliminary Budget

Schools, college scholarships and health care for the poor would face sharp cuts under a budget approved Friday by the Illinois House in a rare show of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.

Meanwhile, partisan battles continued at full force in the Senate.

Democrats approved budget measures without giving Republicans a chance to review them. Republicans complained loudly and accused Democrats of spending more than Illinois can afford.

"What you offer is an increase in spending," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. "It guarantees that we will borrow yet again to pay our bills."

Although both the House and Senate passed new state budgets, there are major differences between the two versions. Gov. Pat Quinn has his own proposal, too.

Reaching a deal that can pass both legislative chambers and get the governor's signature could still prove challenging.

"I don't expect that this budget will be the final spending plan," Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said shortly after House members voted for painful cuts to state services. "We're not sending any ultimatums by the adoption of this budget today."

The House plan would spend about $25.2 billion from the state's general account for the budget year that begins July 1. That's about $600 million, or 2.4 percent, below the current budget.

It would achieve that reduction mostly by cutting education and human services.

State support for schools would fall by about $169 million, or 2.4 percent. The Monetary Award Program would lose $17 million for college scholarships, a 4.2 percent cut. In human services, Medicaid bills would be paid more slowly, many would be trimmed 1 percent and administrative spending would drop $181 million.

"There was a lot of hand-wringing and a lot of tears" in the appropriations committee that set those amounts, said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago. "We can go home to our communities and say, 'We done our job, we cut the budget.'"

Some legislators felt the cuts went too far.

The House version of the budget is about $1 billion smaller than the version approved by the Senate on Friday and $2 billion below Quinn's proposal.

A key difference between the House and Senate plans is in revenue projections. Senate Democrats are counting on state government taking in about $1 billion more than the House estimates it will. That additional money allows the Senate to avoid deep human service cuts.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 13, 2011

Unit Four Board Pres Lays Out Plans for Choosing New Superintendent

Champaign School Board President Sue Grey says she doesn't mind if the search for a new school superintendent is a lengthy one.

Grey said the process of finding a permanent successor to replace Arthur Culver could take anywhere from four to nine months, beginning in July. At a news conference Friday, Grey said she wants the search process to be open and transparent, with as much public input as possible.

Toward that end, Grey said the public will be invited to send in comments about what qualities a new superintendent should have --- through the Unit Four website. She also hopes to see a series of informal meetings with community members.

"We hope that we can do this in a relaxed, informal way," Grey said. "Where we can just have conversation and learn from you all, what it is that you feel is in the best interest of the district, as far as what superintendent --- what you would like to see."

Grey said the Unit Four school board will also be taking applications to serve on a search committee to oversee the search for a new superintendent --- the deadline to apply is June 15th. Grey said the board will decide within a month on an interim superintendent to take over when Arthur Culver steps down at the end of June. That person will be someone from outside the district.

Grey said the school board has decided to look at retired superintendents in the area, instead of Unit Four employees who carry the required superintendents' certification. She said putting a current employee into the superintendent's post on a short-term basis would be too disruptive.

"You take that person, and you move them out of the key position that they are serving within the district, and then you have to find someone to plug their hole, and so forth and so on," Grey said. "We felt that it was in the best interests of the district to get a candidate in as an interim that could just help us keep the ship sailing smoothly and on course."

Grey said the Unit Four School Board is reviewing a list --- provided by the Illinois Association of School Boards --- of retired superintendents in the area who would be willing to return to work on an interim basis. She said the school board expects to discuss the issue in executive session on May 16th, and make a choice on an interim superintendent in the first half of June.

The interim superintendent will take over for the departing Arthur Culver on July 1st. Grey said the Champaign school board would then begin its search for someone to take the job on a permanent basis.

Categories: Education

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