Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 15, 2012

Lincoln Museum Hat Called Into Question

The authenticity of an iconic stovepipe hat believed to have been worn by Abraham Lincoln is being called into question.

In a story Sunday, the Chicago-Sun Times reported ( that the leaders of the Springfield-based Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum cannot explain how a farmer acquired the stovepipe hat more than 150 years ago.

The news comes on the heels of a significant historical gaffe revealing that a famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln's wife that hung in the governor's mansion in Springfield for more than threedecades was a fake.

No one has been able to refute the hat's authenticity with certainty. Museum officials say the hat belonged to Lincoln.

The heirloom is valued at $6.5 million.

Categories: Government, History, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 13, 2012

Vermilion Co. Bd. To Hear Potential Management Firm for Nursing Home

The chairman of the Vermilion County Board says a presentation from a potential management agency is just one option they're exploring for the beleaguered Vermilion Manor Nursing Home. Jim McMahon says the county might also explore leasing or even selling the facility. But on Tuesday night, officials with Provena Life Connections will talk about their proposal at the Vermilion County Board meeting in Danville.

McMahon says he's looking for any viable option that can keep the nursing home going, at a time when the state is regularly late in delivering Medicaid and Medicare funding.

"What we're looking for is, how can we keep a county-owned nursing home running with 42% of the income coming from the state of Illinois, and they pay that when they feel like it, " says Durbin.

Provena Life Connections operates facilities and services for the elderly in several cities. In Champaign, they provide both home health services and hospice care.

McMahon says Provena Life Connections could bring additional services to residents at the county-owned nursing home that would help bring in additional organization>

"So a management firm can come in and say, we'll add this type of specialist," says Mamahon, "or they could bring dialysis on location. There's lots of things they can do that we can't as a county-run organization."

McMahon says he was referred to Provena Life Connections by officials at Provena United Samaritan Hospital in Danville.

The Provena Life Connections presentation is scheduled for the Vermilion County Board meeting set for Tuesday, April 17th at 6 PM at the Courthouse Annex in Danville. McMahon says no action will be taken that night, but the proposal will be considered by the county board's Nursing Home Committee on April 24th..

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 13, 2012

Illinois Sees Spike in State Worker Retirements

The State Employees Retirement System says many government workers in Illinois are rushing to retire.

SERS Executive Secretary Tim Blair says more than 4,000 state workers will retire in the fiscal year that ends June 30. That's up more than 40 percent from last year's roughly 2,750.

The Mattoon Journal-Gazette reports ( ) that the push to retire is being driven in part by concerns about state government's multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

But discussions about changing Illinois' pension systems are a factor, too. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to soon announce a plan to deal with underfunded pension systems.

But the state won't be able to simply leave the jobs open and save money.

Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said at least some of the retiring workers will have to be replaced.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 13, 2012

Hayner Retiring as Chicago Sun-Times Editor

Chicago Sun-Times editor-in-chief Don Hayner has announced he is retiring after nearly 30 years at the newspaper.

The Sun-Times reports Hayner made the announcement Thursday afternoon. He will be succeeded by John Barron, who will be executive editor after three years as publisher. Hayner led the Sun-Times when it won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2011.

Hayner told staffers he decided to retire and it is "time to hand off the baton."

The 60-year-old Hayner started at the newspaper as a general assignment reporter. He was named editor in February 2009. He also served as city editor, metro editor and managing editor. He also was a lawyer who represented criminal defendants at the Cook County courthouse before working for the City News Bureau and the Chicago Tribune.

Categories: Biography
Tags: media, people

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 12, 2012

McLean County GOP Chair:  Interviews For Public Feedback

McLean County's Republican Party chair calls next week's interviews with potential Congressional candidates 'unprecedented.'

John Parrot said the intent of Monday's interviews with eight people seeing the GOP nomination for the 13th Congressional district was to generate feedback from the public on the process. Parrot admits a lot of voters are upset about Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson's decision to announce his retirement after the primary.

"They have reiterated that we need to make sure that whoever the county chairmen appoint to this position is a rock-solid individual who has got some experience, and will have the opportunity to build the organization that they're going to need to build in record time," Parrot said.

He said members of the state legislature have an advantage since they already have an organization in place following the March 20th primary. The interviews will run from 11-30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday at the Doubletree Hotel in Bloomington.

Champaign County Acting Republican chair Habeeb Habeeb said it is possible that a similar event will be held locally, after it holds a convention next week. GOP county chairmen in 14 counties will meet in a few weeks and hold a weighted vote for a 13th district candidate to replace Johnson.

A full set of links to county GOP chairmen in the 13th District is listed below.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 12, 2012

Madigan: Pension Boosts Should Require More Votes

A top state Democrat says pension boosts for public employees in Illinois should require more support in the General Assembly before becoming law.

House Speaker Michael Madigan is proposing a constitutional amendment to require a three-fifths vote of the House and Senate for any legislation that increases retirement benefits. A simple majority is required now.

The state owes its pension systems $80 billion and a committee appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn is set to deliver its recommendations for fixing the problem next week.

Spokesman Steve Brown says Madigan's idea would force public officials to think more "seriously'' about pension sweeteners which increase the pension debt.

The Legislature would have to approve the idea by May 6 to put the question before voters in the November election.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 12, 2012

Illinois Seeks to Reduce Prison Overcrowding

Illinois lawmakers are once again debating a bill that could help ease the state's bursting prison population at a time when there are plans to close several correctional facilities.

But it may take some work to convince Gov. Pat Quinn to go along with the plan in reintroducing a program that he suspended two years ago due to problems surrounding it.

In 2010 Quinn put on hold the state's Meritorious Good Time program (MGT) which reduced the sentences for inmates considered non-violent. Quinn pulled it after he learned that more than 1,000 inmates did not serve the required minimum of 60 days and committed more crimes once back on the streets.

But some saw it as an election year political move.

Since that time, more than 4,000 inmates have been added to the ranks, pushing Illinois' total prison population to 49,000. The state's prison system is designed to handle a mere 33,700.

Some lawmakers and prison advocates are pushing Quinn to reinstate the MGT program to ease overcrowding and making unhealthy living conditions even worse.

"The decision to suspend Meritorious Good Time was the result of an election cycle political firestorm. Good time credits became widely and inaccurately described ... became the ammunition for political attacks between Illinois candidates and branches of government in 2009 and 2010," Malcolm Young, director of prison re-entry strategies at Northwestern University law school's Bluhm Legal Clinic, told an Illinois House Criminal Law Committee meeting in downtown Chicago on Wednesday.

Young supports passage of House Bill 3899 that would reinstate MGT. Chicago Democratic State Rep. Arthur Turner introduced the bill.

"It provides a reasoned, manageable, beneficial framework or approach to the challenge of implementing the good conduct program. It's an approach that would alleviate today's prison crowding crisis and accomplish other public policy goals," Young said.

Quinn's deputy chief of staff, Toni Irving, told the House committee that the old MGT law is no longer valid.

"The statute is outdated and at the time the statute was created, certain offenses that we now consider violent, i.e. DUI, can't be excluded," Irving said. "So, MGT as it currently exists isn't really a sound policy. It would require something brand new."

Irving added that Quinn is reviewing a similar bill introduced in the state Senate (SB2621) but is so far uncommitted to supporting it.

"We are certainly interested in working with the Legislature in making sure that we have a collaborative effort. I think it's super important that the legislature be very involved in this process since it's the legislature also determines the budget for the Department of Corrections and often times these things are linked to programs that are then defunded in the process," Irving said. "There has to be a connection between those two."

The push for early release of certain prisoners will grow if Quinn's plans to shut as many as 14 state juvenile prisons, several adult transition centers and a super max prison to save money as the state addresses budget issues.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman,File)

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 12, 2012

Champaign Resident Who Escaped Holocaust To Speak

A Champaign resident who escaped the Nazi Holocaust is sharing his story this weekend, as part of the Day of Remembrance events leading up to next week's Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Doctor Heini Halberstam was born in Czechoslovakia, and separated from his mother during the Nazi occupation. He believes she died in a labor camp. Halberstam said that changed his life forever.

"In 1938, I was 12 and a half, and I was on one of the Kindertransports," Halberstam said. "And as the train pulled out of the station, I suddenly knew that I would have to look after myself."

The Kindertransports were rescue missions that brought thousands of mostly Jewish children from Nazi-controlled territories in the months leading up to World War II. Halberstam grew up to become a mathematician specializing in number theory. He's now an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois.

Dr. Halberstam will speak about his experiences Sunday evening, April 15th, at 7, at a community-wide commemoration of Holocaust victims at Sinai Temple, 3104 W. Windsor Road in Champaign. He will also speak in Peoria at the Congregation Anshai Emeth Social Hall, 5614 North University Street, at the Holocaust Remembrance Day service on Thursday, April 19, at 6:45 PM.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

Categories: Biography, Community
Tags: culture, people

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 12, 2012

UI Professor’s Comments Prompt Firing by Conservative Magazine

A professor emeritus of the University of Illinois has been removed as an online contributor by the conservative National Review magazine for comments he made about white nationalism.

Robert Weissberg taught political science on the U of I's Urbana campus from 1975 until 2002, and now lives in New York. He spoke last month at a conference in Tennessee hosted by American Renaissance, a magazine known for white supremacist and anti-immigrant views. Weissberg agrees the conference was controversial, but also argued in his speech that white nationalism is a dead end.

"What I suggested as an alternative, just so you know, was that people who want that kind of existence should move to areas that are largely white," Weissberg said.

A former head of political science at the U of I says Weissberg's 'disappointing' comments are from an embittered man who wasn't engaged in his work, and left the campus on poor terms. Peter Nardulli, who now heads the U of I's Cline Center for Democracy, says Weissberg spent much of his time running a retail store in Champaign. He suggests university trustees strip him of emeritus status, calling it his only claim to credibiilty.

"That would be my basis for dissociate himself from the university," Nardulli said. "I mean, emeritus status does not bring with it anything but a title, but when your title is affiliated with a particular institution, that institution should have something to say about it."

But policies from the U of I Provost's office for granting emeritus status do not include language for removing that title.

Weissberg says the National Review is 'going out of its way to enforce a Stalinist ideology' and notes other publications still publish him on line, including American Thinker and Family Security Matters.

Categories: Education, Race/Ethnicity

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