Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 09, 2011

Champaign Mayor Makes MTV’s ‘Top Five’ List

Champaign's mayor now has a distinction shared by the late rock and roll singer turned U.S. Congressman Sonny Bono, the President of Haiti, and a leader of the band Midnight Oil.

MTV just came out with this list of the top five musicians with political credentials. At number five is Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, who had a 20-year tenure as a rock and roll artist. He performed with LeRoy Bach, who went on to play with Wilco, Liz Phair, and Iron & Wine.

Gerard was also in the 90's band 'Steve Pride and his Blood Kin' with former Wilco member, the late Jay Bennett. Gerard was also a founding member of the local band 'The Moon Seven Times.'

"At the time, it was a completely different landscape," he said. "I think for the most part we really wanted to make music, put gas in our van, have a couple of beers, meet some girls, and maybe you know, put out a record and sell a thousand copies. Back in the day, it was kind of innocent."

Gerard credits his music career for propelling him into public office.

"Politics is a lot like being in an independent band," he said. "You're trying to do your best. You're trying to put something out there that people are going to like, and you get out and try to promote it and spread the word, and try not to screw up."

Categories: Biography, Music

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 09, 2011

State Funding for Higher Ed. Still Concern for New UI Chancellor

The next chancellor of the University of Illinois' Urbana campus says she is ready to get to work.

Dr. Phyllis Wise spoke to members of the university community Tuesday about her upcoming role at the U of I. Wise is currently the provost and executive vice president at the University of Washington. But she is expected to start her new job at the U of I in a couple of months.

Wise said she knows a lot about the financial challenges facing universities. She said UW has dealt with deep funding cuts in recent years from its state legislature.

"In Washington, they provide relatively little amount of money toward our overall budget," Wise said. "It's been pretty grim, but the state legislature really realized that they could not do it themselves, and they gave us tuition delegating authority."

Wise said UW administrators raised tuition by 20 percent, after increasing it 14 percent during each of the two previous years. She also said financial aid was increased at UW to expand the pool of students eligible for assistance.

Last spring, tuition at the U of I went up by 6.9 percent for the next school year. Wise said she suspects she will have a big role working with the Illinois General Assembly to convince lawmakers to raise state support for higher education.

Chris Kennedy, who chairs the U of I's Board of Trustees, said he is confident Wise's experience as a researcher and administrator will help the university boost support from the state and individual research grants.

"I think the fact that we were able to recruit her sends a strong message all over the United States that the University of Illinois is a place for great researchers and academic achievers," Kennedy said. "We want to increase our research grants and contracts because those are the grants and contracts that attract the great researchers. Those great researchers attract the great graduate students, who attract the great students. You have this tremendous snowball effect."

Kennedy said he expects the Board of Trustees will unanimously approve Wise's appointment, so that she can start Oct. 1st. If approved, all three U of I chancellors will be women for the first time.

Wise was chosen about three weeks ago after a nearly nine-month search, but her appointment wasn't made public until last week, according to UI Physics Professor Doug Beck, who led the search committee.

U of I President Michael Hogan has confirmed that Wise will earn $500,000 a year and $100,000 per year deferred if she stays in the position for five years.

Wise would replace interim Chancellor Robert Easter, who took the job after the 2009 resignation of Richard Herman following an admissions scandal.

"We are at a pivotal time in higher education," Easter said. "What's the future of a major research university like this? I think we're perfectly poised to discover that future. My advice (to her) would not be bashful to thinking about the faculty and leadership about how we move ahead aggressively in areas that will create our future."

Easter said following his two-year stint as interim chancellor, he hopes to gain emeritus status. He also said he plans to occasionally come back to the U of I to teach in the Department of Animal Sciences.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 09, 2011

ComEd: Smart Grid Could Save Customers $2.8 Billion

Commonwealth Edison says smart grid technology could save customers more than $2.8 billion over the next 20 years.

ComEd released an analysis Monday from Black & Veatch that puts the cost of installing smart grid as less than or equal to the savings.

Mike McMahan, vice president of Smart Grid and Technology for ComEd, said a rate hike of $3 per customer would cover the cost of the technology, and it would be made up soon after the smart grid was installed.

"We estimate at least $2 of that would be returned to the customer on their bills at the end of the deployment period and there would be an additional $1 in savings associated with fewer outages," he said. "So benefit to the consumer that doesn't pass through the utility."

McMahan said the savings identified in the analysis would come from three major changes. First, the smart grid technology would eliminate manual meter reading, and thus meter reading jobs, because the smart meters would send information directly to ComEd. This would also mean, according to ComEd, more accurate bills and fewer service visits. Secondly, McMahan said smart meters would detect electricity theft and therefore cut down on energy losses. Lastly, McMahan said the new technology would bring enhanced disconnection and reconnection of services, minimizing collection costs during storms, power outages or even when a renter is ending their ComEd service.

Yet all of this rests on the signature of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Earlier this year, legislators in Springfield passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act that would authorize rate hikes for both ComEd and Ameren customers to foot the smart grid bill. Quinn has said he would not sign the measure, as he wants power companies, rather than consumers, to pay for smart grid.

The bill doesn't sit well with members of the Citizens Utility Board. Executive Director David Kolata said he supports installing smart grid, but he does not think this bill is the way to do it.

"I think this analysis is further evidence that smart grid would be good investment for consumers -- we do think it's something that will save consumers money in medium and long term," Kolata said. "It's the other parts, though, that are problematic. You have to make sure you get those right. It's serving as Trojan horse for significant regulatory changes that apply to all ComEd's costs -- if it was just smart grid, it would have passed already."

The bill is currently on Gov. Quinn's desk.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 09, 2011

Workers Comp Change Prevents Injured Criminals from Collecting

Illinois state employees injured while committing crimes no longer will be able to get workers' compensation under a new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The law stems from a 2007 wreck involving former Illinois State Police Trooper Matt Mitchell. Mitchell was driving more than 100 mph and using his cell phone on Interstate 64 in southwestern Illinois when his cruiser crossed the median and slammed into a car. The two Collinsville sisters in that car were killed.

Mitchell later pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and was sentenced to 30 months of probation. His claim for workers' compensation for his injuries was denied.

Quinn says Illinois' workers' compensation system is meant to protect workers injured on the job, not those who commit crimes.

The new law takes immediate effect.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 08, 2011

Chicago Court Green-Lights Suit Against Donald Rumsfeld

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

A federal appeals court says two Americans who worked for an Iraqi contracting firm can move forward with a lawsuit that accuses former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of being responsible for U.S. forces allegedly torturing them.

The ruling Monday from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejects arguments that Rumsfeld should be immune from such lawsuits for work performed as a Cabinet secretary.

Chicagoan Donald Vance and his colleague Nathan Ertel claim they were each tortured in 2006 after blowing the whistle on alleged illegal activities by the contracting company that employed them. Vance, a Navy veteran, claims he and Ertel were forcibly detained for weeks at Camp Cropper, a U.S. Army security detention facility in Baghdad, without being charged with any crime or being allowed to speak with an attorney.

Both men say they were subjected to sleep deprivation, blasting music, hunger and various threats during their incarceration. The lawsuit describes such practices as torture and alleges Rumsfeld personally took part in approving the methods for use by the military in Iraq.

Their attorney, Mike Kanovitz, welcomed the ruling, saying the court faced a choice between "protecting the most fundamental rights of American citizens in the difficult context of a war or leaving those rights solely in the hands of politicians and the military."

"It was not an easy choice for the Court to make, but it was the brave and right choice," Kanovitz said in a written statement.

An attorney for Rumsfeld blasted the ruling.

"Having judges second-guess the decisions made by the armed forces halfway around the world is no way to wage a war," David Rivkin, Jr., said in a written statement. "It saps the effectiveness of the military, puts American soldiers at risk, and shackles federal officials who have a constitutional duty to protect America."

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which represents Rumsfeld in the case, declined comment on the ruling.

But Rivkin said he believes the decision will eventually be overturned.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Tags: crime, people

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 08, 2011

Drug Tests to Continue for Ill. High School Sports

The association that oversees Illinois high school sports has announced it will continue testing athletes for performance enhancing drugs.

The Illinois High School Association said Monday its board voted to continue the testing that started in the 2008-09 school year. Illinois is one of three states that test high school athletes for performance enhancers such as steroids.

The association said it tested 747 athletes last school year and had four positive tests. Two of those were cleared by medical review and two were found to be true positives.

IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said critics might consider the low number of positive test results a reason to stop testing. But he said the program is meant to be a deterrent rather than to catch all offenders.

Categories: Health, Sports
Tags: health, sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 08, 2011

IBM Withdraws from Blue Waters Supercomputer Project

IBM has dropped out of the Blue Waters Supercomputer project going on at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus due to apparent cost and technical concerns.

But the university's National Center for Supercomputing Applications said the company's decision is not expected to mean a setback for water-cooled supercomputer. The contract was terminated Saturday.

A joint statement released Monday by the company and NCSA stated that the technology ultimately developed "required significantly increased financial and technical support by IBM beyond its original expectations."

NCSA spokeswoman Trish Barker said efforts to replace IBM are already underway.

"We definitely need to identify a different technology, a different hardware that will be used in this project," Barker said. "At this point exactly what that will be, because obviously we're really early on in that process. But it will be a pretty quick turnaround to identify a different technology that will be used."

Barker said she still believes Blue Waters has the same timeline, and should be operational by summer 2012.

She said NSCA entered a dispute resolution with IBM in April, but could not come to a resolution. She said this does not impact other projects on campus involving the computing giant. IBM will be returning the $30 million it has received to date for the project, and NCSA will return equipment delivered by IBM as part of the contract.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation. An IBM spokeswoman couldn't be reached for comment.

Categories: Business, Education, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 08, 2011

Comcast Rolls Out Internet Plan for Low Income Households

Comcast has unveiled a program, known as "Internet Essentials," to expand Internet access for about $10 a month to low-income families.

The cable and Internet provider wants to make the program available next month in 39 states, including Illinois, where the company's Internet service is offered. Comcast spokesman Jack Segal said eligible families must have at least one child receiving free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program. He estimates that lunch program is open to more than 4,500 students in Champaign and Urbana.

"Internet access is the great equalizer," Segal said. "It's great for people economically to have access --- kids especially to have access to the internet to do their homework, to learn, to dream, and to really, really participate in the world."

To qualify for the program, customers must not have any overdue bills with the company or unreturned equipment. They also cannot join Comcast's Internet service 90 days prior to joining the program.

The low-income families who qualify can purchase vouchers for a new computer valued at around $150. They can also sign up for free digital literacy training.

This is not the only internet plan coming to Champaign-Urbana. Organizers of the UC2B Big Broadband project are hoping to get high-speed Internet in the area by Feb. 2013. The University of Illinois has taken the lead in getting the more than $22 million federal grant and a $3.5 million state grant to support the project, but it is leaving much of the work to the cities.

The high-speed Internet plan would costs about twice as much for customers compared to the Comcast program and run up to 10 times faster, according Mike Smeltzer, the principal investigator of UC2B's grant.

"Our connection will be massively fast," Smeltzer said. "I think (Comcast's plan) is kind of like training wheels for our project. If somebody doesn't have Internet today, and they look at this and they say, 'Hey, this would be good for our kids that are in school, and we can afford the 10 bucks a month, let's get it.' It will only wet their appetite for something better."

Smeltzer also praised Comcast's reduced-price service, saying it will help connect people in areas where the UC2B project won't be available.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Categories: Economics, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 08, 2011

C-U Buildings on Preservation Group’s ‘40 Over 40’ List

The restoration of the clock and bell tower at the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana is one of 40 success stories that a statewide preservation group is highlighting to mark its 40th anniversary.

Landmarks Illinois isn't taking credit for the entire list of 40 landmarks across the state. Instead, the group's president, Jim Peters, says they show what can be done when people in local communities pull together to save a piece of their history.

In the case of the Champaign County Courthouse, Peters said the county and local donors were able to both preserve the crumbling brick walls of the courthouse --- and rebuild a clock and bell tower that had been shortened by lightning strikes.

"I think people for decades have been trying to get the (courthouse) building restored, and the long-missing tower put back," Peters said. "So we thought that was just an amazing effort. So that kind of --- you know, it was emblematic of that grassroots effort, that stick-to-it-ivness - figuring out they wanted to do something, and just kept at it until it was accomplished."

Champaign's Orpheum Theater is also on Landmarks Illinois' "40 Over 40" list. Local preservationists reopened the old movie house as a children's museum in the 1990s. Other landmarks on the list include the old Chicago Public Library (now a cultural center), the old city hall and fire station in Pontiac (now operating as the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum) and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana-Thomas house in Springfield.

Peters said most of the preservation efforts have one thing in common--- strong community support.

"What we wanted to focus on were grassroots efforts: community-wide efforts to either save a building, restore a building --- in some cases, even move a building to keep it from being demolished," he said. "You know, a community, a neighborhood group or a city itself."

Landmarks Illinois was founded in 1971 as the Landmarks Preservation Council. Its first project was an unsuccessful effort to save the Louis Sullivan-designed Chicago Stock Exchange Building. It claims the preservation of the old downtown Chicago Public Library building as the city's Cultural Center as its first major success. The group expanded its scope to cover Illinois in the late 1970s, and changed its name to Landmarks Illinois in 2006.

Peters said he hopes the "40 Over 40" list can inspire other communities to work to save their important historic buildings.

View a slideshow of some of the sites that made the list:

Categories: Architecture, History

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 08, 2011

Low Enrollment Leaves Empty EIU Dorms

When school starts at Eastern Illinois University later this month, several floors of a major campus dorm will be closed.

That's because enrollment at the campus in Charleston is down.

The Mattoon Journal Gazette and Charleston Times-Courier reports that eight of the 17 floors at Carman Hall will be empty and kept closed.

Mark Hudson is the director of university housing. He says university officials want to use resources efficiently while enrollment is down.

So far there's no word of layoffs.

The university's freshmen enrollment dropped by approximately 200 students in fall 2010 after declining by about 100 students the year before.

At EIU, only freshmen are required to live on campus. Classes start Aug. 17.

Categories: Education
Tags: education

Page 575 of 830 pages ‹ First  < 573 574 575 576 577 >  Last ›