Illinois Public Media News
The University of Illinois' volleyball team is on its way to San Antonio, hoping to put the exclamation point on a 31 and 4 season.
The team is seeking its first national title, and reached its first national semifinal in 23 years after a defeat of Florida on Saturday. Early Tuesday morning, the team boarded a charter bus to Chicago's Midway Airport. Sophomore Jennifer Beltran says it's nice to steal the spotlight from U of I football and basketball for once.
"It's great to see the support and just see the people come out and cheering for us," she said. "I mean, it is a big deal for the program and for the school, so it's nice that we can just be a part of it."
Beltran says reaching the championship game was a goal the team set at the very start of its season. Assistant Coach Jen Flynn Oldenberg says a Final Four berth became more evident as the season went on.
"You never know right away, but it's something we were preparing for and talking about the whole time," she said. "It's something that we were focused on, not in every game, point by point, but it's something that we thought about throughout the year."
The volleyball team takes on USC at 8 p.m. Thursday in San Antonio, following the matchup of UCLA and Florida State. The title game is at 7:30 Saturday night.
A federal judge has agreed to delay the start of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's prison term.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel agreed Tuesday to allow Blagojevich to report to prison March 15. Blagojevich previously was ordered to begin serving his 14-year term on Feb. 16. He was convicted of corruption charges including allegations that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.
Blagojevich's attorneys asked for more time so he could help his family move into a new home. Zagel also agreed to recommend that Blagojevich be sent to the Englewood prison in Colorado. Federal prison officials have the final say.
Attorney Sheldon Sorosky says he isn't sure why Blagojevich wants that prison; he says the Blagojevich family isn't moving to Colorado.
Former workers at a shuttered auto parts making plant in the Detroit enclave of Highland Park say the plant may have contaminated the area with a cancer-causing chemical.
The Detroit Free Press reports Tuesday that known carcinogen hexavalent chromium was used at the Chrome Craft plant.
Saad Bolos of Madison Heights worked at the plant 17 years and says leaks included a rooftop pipe that spilled into an alley.
The Chrome Craft plant is owned by Urbana, Ill.-based Flex-N-Gate Group, a manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. The company says it has fully investigated the claim and says it has no knowledge of leaks or violations.
Flex-N-Gate is owned by Shahid Khan, an Urbana businessman who hopes to win approval this week from NFL owners to buy the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Flex-N-Gate bought Chrome Craft in 2005. In a 2009 lawsuit, Khan said he was a partner in Chrome Craft dating back to 1993.
Four inspections at the plant from 1992 until its closure found 39 violations of environmental laws, according to documents gathered by the UAW.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plans to investigate the claims about the plant, which closed about two years ago.
Urbana City Council members started a discussion Monday night of plans for a city-run tourism and marketing program. The proposal comes after Mayor Laurel Prussing vetoed city funding over the summer for the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The proposal would convert the city's part-time Public Arts Coordinator into a full-time job, and create an additional part-time Community Marketing Associate position to handle promotion of city events. Mayor Prussing said a graduate student from the University of Illinois might fill the position. The price tag --- $37,320 a year --- would be about half what the city of Urbana previously provided to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
During discussion at the city council's Committee of the Whole meeting, Alderwoman Diane Marlin questioned if the city could really afford the extra expensive, and wondered if the city could make better use of resources it already has. Meanwhile, Alderman Dennis Roberts wondered if the effort was enough. He says he'd like to see efforts to promote Urbana run by a professional marketing director.
"And it has to be a person who has more experience than a new graduate student", said Roberts, "however talented we have a pool of. I think that the key person needs to be a professional person, because we're hoping for professional results."
But Mayor Prussing said keeping expenses down was one of the underlying goals of the proposal.
"Ideally, it might be nice to hire someone for $75,000, but I don't think we're in that position", said Prussing. "We have nine vacancies right now." In addition to cost, Mayor Prussing had questioned the Convention and Visitors Bureau's effectiveness, when she vetoed its city funding.
Urbana City Council members will continue their discussion of ways to promote tourism and convention business for the city at future meetings. Meanwhile, council members gave preliminary approval to renewing their annual $95,000 agreement with the Urbana Business Association, for their marketing and promotion activities, including oversight of the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.
A new report says Illinois' youth prison system is an expensive failure with more than half of young offenders returning within three years of their release.
Many of them go back to prison for trivial problems such as skipping school or staying out late. The report to Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers is being released publicly today by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. The report makes recommendations it says could save money - nearly $80,000 per imprisoned youth each year.
Commission chair Judge George Timberlake says Illinois can do better at a lower cost, while making the public safer. The report was required by state law and is based on an examination of the youth prison system, including observations of prisoner review board hearings, and an analysis of parole revocations.
The state of Illinois' billion-dollar prepaid college tuition program has stopped selling new contracts at the same time a new study found the fund has a 30 percent shortfall.
Crain's Chicago Business reports that fund administrator Kym Hubbard says the Illinois Student Assistance Commission plans to give the governor and lawmakers comprehensive recommendations on fixing the $1.1 billion College Illinois program. That should happen early next year.
A study from March of this year found the 30 percent shortfall in the program. That's the same shortfall found in June 2010, but the new report incorporates lower forecasts on investment returns.
More than 30,000 Illinois families hold contracts in College Illinois, which lets parents lock in tuition costs at public universities years before students go to college.
The Illinois House has approved tax breaks for businesses, including some big names like Sears and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that are threatening to leave the state.
That measure would cost the state about $150 million next year and $218 million the year after that. It also includes broader tax breaks, like a credit for research and development and a more generous method of writing off losses.
The legislation now goes to the Senate. The Senate had already approved a version of the entire package. Earlier, the House also passed tax relief aimed at poor and middle-class families. It increases the earned-income tax credit, which lowers tax bills for poor families. It also would increase the personal exemption available to all taxpayers.
Among East Central Illinois lawmakers, Democrat Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana voted for both bills, while Republican Jason Barickman of Champaign voted against both.
Republicans Dan Brady of Bloomington, Adam Brown of Decatur, Chad Hays of Catlin, Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and Chapin Rose of Mahomet voted for the bill (SB397) with the business tax breaks. But they voted against the bill (SB400) with tax breaks for families and individuals.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville has earned national recognition for its approach to fighting childhood obesity --- by teaching its students how to stay healthy. It's the subject of the first report in our WILL-Connect initiative on health and wellness. Reporter Lisa Braddock paid a visit to the school to see how the program works.
Five men from Urbana have been arrested and charged with home invasion following a standoff at an Urbana apartment complex Monday morning.
Urbana Police Lieutenant Bryant Seraphin says shortly after 3 a.m., the men broke into a unit at the Country Club Apartments in the 900 block of North Broadway Avenue, wielding guns and knives. But Seraphin says a female tenant was able to escape and call police.
Seraphin says Champaign County SWAT team negotiators were able to talk the four men out of the building around 10 a.m. He says the relationship between the men and victim is still unclear at this point.
"Initial information is that yes, there was some connection," said Seraphin. "We're trying to sort that out as to why this apartment was chosen. But I do not believe it was a random act."
There are no reports of injuries.
UPDATE: The tenant at the apartment complex tells police the five men claimed to be hiding from police when they broke in her apartment and stole items. A robot later used to search the apartment later found it was unoccupied, and the five men were discovered in an adjoining apartment. Those taken into custody are identified as 23-year old Sherrick Cooper, 19-year old Terrell Larue, 19-year old Herbert Shah, 25-year old Eric Kirk, and a 16-year old juvenile. The stolen items were recovered, along with two handguns.
One of the men in custody, Terrell LaRue, was arrested in August in connection with the February murder in Danville of 25-year old Kevin Jackson. But the case against him was dropped last week in Champaign County Court after witnesses couldn't be found to testify against him.
The area near the apartment was blocked to traffic for several hours, but re-opened about 10:30 a.m.
(Reported by Azra Halilović)
One of the latest efforts of the Occupy Movement is to not only protest Wall Street banks, but to encourage others to close out their accounts with them.
"Move Your Money" or "Bank Transfer Day", took place in some cities in early November, but those with Occupy Champaign-Urbana started up the campaign in West Side Park on Saturday.
Despite cold temperatures, about 50 demonstrators met to protest banks they say are 'too big to fail.' They passed out harmonicas and performed a call and response as they launched the new "Move Your Money" campaign.
Groups ranging from local unions to family businesses spoke out against Wall Street banks, urging people to close their bank accounts. Demonstrators waved signs, handing out fliers outlining the campaign's mission to promote local industry by boycotting relationships with federal banks. University of Illinois student Scott Kimball spoke on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He'd like to see the government help veterans adjust to life back home.
"Veterans have an unemployment rate that's about double the national average," Kimball said. "For African-American women veterans, their unemployment rate is over 30 percent, and that's unacceptable. We have veterans that are jobless, that are homeless, that their houses are being foreclosed on. Our nation's veterans aren't getting the treatment they deserve."
Kimball says he's also excited about a change in consciousness within the group, as the Occupy movement welcomes other demographics.
"People of color have a different set of circumstances, there are veterans who have a different set of circumstances, people in the LGBTQ community have issues that they need to voice," he said. "The bigger the tent that we create, the more marginalized voices that we lift up, the better this movement becomes - the more powerful it becomes and then we can really, truly make the claim that we are the 99 percent."
The group made its way to Chase Bank, where one of the demonstrators closed her account - with plans of moving her money to a local credit union. Organizers plan to hold a similar demonstration on Monday, asking protesters to hold signs at some the area's busiest intersections.
(Photo by Azra Halilović)
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