Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 10, 2009

Update on Whooping Crane Surgery

It was a long shot, but veterinarians at the University of Illinois were not able to save a rare whooping crane that had broken a leg. A spokeswoman for the College of Veterinary Medicine says the endangered bird died Wednesday night of complications not directly related to the injury. The college's wildlife clinic had scheduled surgery on the injured leg for Thursday. The crane was found in McLean County, where its flock had stopped on its migration from Florida.

Categories: Education, Environment


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 09, 2009

U of I Researchers Developing Security Plans for the Nation’s Power Grid

One of the leading researchers of a plan for securing the nation's power grid says any long-range strategy will have to include a number of protections.

William Sanders heads the Information Trust Institute at the University of Illinois. It's part of the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid, or TCIP, which includes work at three other universities. Sanders says recent news reports of attempted cyber attacks on the grid show it has real vulnerabilities, and need to be taken seriously. He says the consortium is responsible for rebuilding the grid's entire Information Technology infrastructure. And Sanders believes it's not a simple matter of blocking out one hacker's virus:

"Too much today, the problem is that people take band aid approaches," says Sanders. "Patch a vunerability here, patch a vulnerabllity there. And obviously we should do that. But the real solution is looking forward to a new architecture that ends this sort of cat and mouse game that we have going right now." The White House isn't providing any details on the recent 'intrusions' to the power grid. Sanders says any serious attempt will likely involve a number of things in sequence that include not only cyber attacks, but physical damage. He says a 'cascading' failure could also occur, which may involve human error as much as the other factors.

TCIP is a $7.5 million dollar project funded by the National Science Foundation... with support from the US Departments of Energy and Homeland Security.

Categories: Energy, Technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 09, 2009

Two County Board Leaders Back School Facilities Sales Tax at Full Amount

The voters of Champaign County approved a one percent sales tax for school facilities on Tuesday. But the tax proposal faces one more vote before it takes effect. That's a vote by the Champaign County Board. The Board cannot reject the sales tax --- but it could lower it to a half-cent or quarter-cent on the dollar.

But County Board Chairman Pius Weibel says he will vote for the tax rate that the voters approved. "The voters voted on it," he says. "I think it would be a disservice not to do that (vote for the full one percent rate), or if we do it, we'd have to have a very good reason."

And Weibel says if the new sales tax rate was reduced, he thinks it would take away the ability of school districts to offer the property tax relief that they promised.

Weibel says the school facilities sales tax will go before the county board's Policy Committee. Its chairman, Tom Betz, opposed the sales tax personally, and says it won't provide meaningful savings for the average homeowner. But Betz says the voters passed a one-percent tax, so that's what he'll vote for, too.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 08, 2009

Surgery for Injured Whooping Crane Scheduled for Thursday at U of I

There are fewer than 500 whooping cranes in the world. And on Thursday afternoon, a veterinary surgeon at the University of Illinois Urbana campus will operate on one of them.

The young crane was found earlier this month in a field near the central Illinois town of Gridley, with a badly broken leg. It's part of a carefully monitored whooping crane flock based in Wisconsin. Dr. Avery Bennett of the U of I Veterinary Teaching Hospital says the bird's lower left leg bones are broken in "countless" places. But he says chances for recovery are good.

Bennett says he plans to stabilize the broken leg bones with carbonized rods. He says they'll be attached on the outside of the leg with pins connecting to the ends of the broken bones. Bennett says while the bones are mending, the bird's weight will actually be carried by the external rods, allowing it walk around until the broken bones knit.

Such devices are called external skeleton fixation devices. And Bennett says they're essential, because the whooping crane must get on its feet as soon as possible to survive.

The crane's broken leg bones could be healed in about a month. During that time, Bennett says they face another challenge --- how to keep the whooping crane from getting too used to human contact. He says if the crane loses its healthy fear of humans, it may spend the rest of its life in a zoo.

Categories: Education, Environment, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2009

Champaign Co.Sales Tax Hike Passes, Prussing Wins in Urbana

Voters in Champaign County have approved a 1% hike in the county sales tax to help school districts pay for construction projects and pay off bond debt. Champaign joins two other counties in the state with such a sales tax -- several other counties voted on similar referenda on Tuesday. The sales tax was passed with 53% of the vote. Voters in the Urbana Park District also passed a property tax hike.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing won a second term, easily defeating Republican Rex Bradfield and two other candidates. Incumbents David Gehrig, Robert Lewis and Heather Stevenson regained their Urbana City Council seats, and Democrat Diane Marlin won ther lone open seat.

In Champaign, William Kyles defeated Freddie Gordon to win the open District 1 council seat. Incumbents Michael LaDue and Marci Dodds also won. Republican Pam Borowski defeated D'Anne Winston to win the City of Chamapign Township Supervisor seat that had been occupied by Democrat Linda Abernathy. Incumbent Brian Christie held off Democrat Wayne Williams in the City of Champaign Township Assessor race.

Incumbent Dave Tomlinson regained his Champaign Unit 4 School Board seat -- Thomas Lockman will join him along with Stig Lanesskog, who defeated Lynn Stucky by only three votes for the third available seat.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2009

Health Care Advocacy Groups Call for Insurance Reform

Backers of health insurance reform in Illinois say companies need to put care for their recipients ahead of executive bonuses.

The AARP and state Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, are among those urging state senators to follow the example of the Illinois House, and pass the Health Insurance Consumer Protection Act.

The measure would require insurance companies to spend at least 75% of premium dollars on medical care instead of executive salaries, marketing, or profits. 76-year old Felicia Boss of Champaign says her monthly premium went up more than 60 dollars from one year to the next without any explanation. "You have to accept it, you can't live without it," says Boss. "I know many residents where I live are looking into new plans, if they can find something. And so if there was full disclosure out there for us from the companies, at least we'd be able to choose for ourselves what would best fit our budget." The bill would also allow the Office of Consumer Health Insurance to function as a watchdog group to ensure companies aren't denying claims or hiking premiums. The measure passed the Illinois House last week. Lawmakers, including senators, are currently on break, and return two weeks from today.

A spokeswoman for Urbana-based Health Alliance Medical Plans says 90-percent of the company's premiums are going to medical care. But Jane Hayes says Health Alliance is concerned that the bill as currently written doesn't allow insurance providers to provide input to help determine company standards.

Categories: Economics, Health
Tags: economy, health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2009

Quinn Cancels Blagojevich Ethics Measure

Gov. Pat Quinn says he canceled his predecessor's sweeping ban on campaign contributions from companies doing business with the state partly because it raised constitutional questions.

He also says then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's ban aimed to undercut ethics reform _ not advance it.

Quinn's action last week keeps reforms lawmakers approved barring constitutional officers from pay-to-play politics. But it blocks Blagojevich's order including state lawmakers in the ban.

Legislators scoffed at Blagojevich's claim his measure was more comprehensive.

Quinn echoed that Tuesday. He says he doesn't want what he calls "that kind of monkey business'' to seep into Illinois law.

He's also says a flood of new recommendations will address similar ethical issues.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2009

Election Day Turnout Predictably Low…In Spots

Turnout ranges from very light to steady in the Champaign-Urbana area.

Spirited races are bringing more voters out than a typical consolidated election in some precincts, including at least one in Urbana. At city hall, Sylvia Hallowell says her staff has kept slightly busier than first expected. "We always bring something to do, like a book to read, but we haven't had too much time to do that" Hallowell said.

But in Champaign, the polling place at the McKinley Foundation on the U of I campus has been nearly empty - by 11 a-m, only three voters had come in. However, election worker Chris Wright expects a few more students and neighbors to get to the polls later in the day, as is typical for a campus precinct.

"We were talking earlier about how we experienced probably the highest demand in the last election, and now we're experiencing a fairly low turnout so far this morning," Wright said. "But we're on campus, so we're expecting to have more people as the day evolves."

Another poll worker in Urbana agrees that last fall's historic presidential election has translated into more people taking their voting responsibility seriously - she also says the economy may be getting more voters interested.

Polls are open until 7:00 - AM 580 will have election results during the evening.

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 07, 2009

Authorities Kill Knife-Wielding Suspect in Vermilion County

A car chase by authorities in two area counties Monday night led to the fatal shooting of a suspect and an investigation by Illinois State Police.

Champaign and Douglas County deputies chased the man after a Villa Grove police officer says he was assaulted in the town after investigating a suspicious vehicle. All officers followed the man out of the community to Interstate 74 to the Oakwood area. There, police stopped the vehicle using 'stop sticks' just before 11 last night. Officers say the man then got out of his car holding a knife and a machete, and were unable to subdue him with tasers. After the man initially fled on foot, deputies say he approached them with both weapons, and officers multiple shots at him in self defense. The suspect died at the scene, and an autopsy is planned for today. Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson identifies him as 23-year old Ocuwatofunmi Kaiyewu of Missouri City, Texas.

Other officers at the scene were from the Vermilion County Sheriff's Office and University of Illinois Police. Three officers, Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh, Vermilion County Sheriff Pat Hartshorn, and U of I Chief Barbara O'Connor, were placed on paid administrative leave, which the departments say is normal procedure.


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