Illinois Public Media News
Health officials say a 50-something person in southwestern Illinois is the state's first human case of West Nile virus for 2009.
The Illinois Department of Public Health says the St. Clair County Health Department reported the case recently. Last year, there were 20 human cases of the mosquito-borne virus statewide, with one death.
Public Health Director Damon Arnold says cooler temperatures this summer have blunted the frequency of the virus, but he says Illinois' first human case should remind residents that the threat remains.
So far this year, two dozen Illinois counties have reported mosquito batches or birds testing positive for the virus.
Only about 20 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito will get sick. The illness is usually mild but can be serious or fatal.
Illinois consumers will pay more for toiletries, candy, soft drinks and liquor starting Tuesday as lawmakers raise cash to pay for a statewide construction program.
Most candy _ currently carrying a 1 percent sales tax _ will be taxed at 6.25 percent. And it'll be the same for shampoos and toothpastes that until now were considered "medicated.''
Bottled soft drinks with added sweetener or flavoring, such as iced tea, will be taxed more. And liquor distributors will pay more for alcohol. In many cases, the cost will be passed on to consumers.
All told, the changes should raise about $150 million a year toward a $30 billion roads-and-schools building plan. The program also includes hundreds of millions of dollars for local pet projects of lawmakers.
Health officials in Champaign County saw only a handful of H1N1 or swine flu cases over the summer. But now that students are back at the University of Illinois Urbana campus, they're bringing a steady flow of suspected flu cases with them.
Dr. Robert Palinkas, director of the McKinley Health Center on campus, says suspected H1N1 cases have been coming in at the rate of 5 or 6 a day. He says most of the students are sent home to their parents, where they can be relatively isolated until they are no longer contagious. But for those who can't go home --- or who already live in the area --- Palinkas says they've been finding ways to keep infected students away from other people as much as possible.
"Sometimes, it means having a roommate change a room", says Palinkas. "Sometimes, it means a housing entity --- not necessarily University Housing --- find temporary accomodations for five to seven days. So far, each of those arrangements has been, really, pretty successful."
There is no definitive diagnosis of H1N1 flu virus in most of these cases, because state officials are limiting how many cases they test. McKinley Health Center doctors are basing their diagnosis on a rapid flu test plus their own clinical judgment.
Palinkas says he expects suspected H1N1 flu cases to continue among U of I students --- and even increase, as the virus spreads throughout the campus. He says common-sense prevention methods can limit the flu's increase. Those methods include frequent handwashing, covering coughs with a sleeve, and not sharing materials from one mouth to another.
Leaders of the University of Illinois' faculty want the school's president and the chancellor of its flagship campus replaced in the wake of an admissions scandal.
But the faculty's Senate Executive committee said Thursday that it would be best if President Joseph White and Chancellor Richard Herman don't get fired or quit immediately.
Faculty leaders instead called for an "orderly transition'' to new leadership. They didn't recommend a timeline.
White has said they won't step down. And in a statement this morning, Herman said he'll remain in his job as long as possible.
The two answer to the university's board of trustees. Some members say they plan to start reviewing the two school leaders' performance.
The state of Illinois has another lodging facility on its hands, and it's trying to find a buyer.
The state already owns one hotel in which it had invested money, and last year it unloaded a second. The latest possession is a property on state park land. The firm that held the concession for the Eagle Creek Resort and Conference Center near Shelbyville had fallen into receivership, and last month the receiver asked that it be closed. Today the state began asking for bids to revive the sprawling resort.
Tom Flattery is a planner with the state Department of Natural Resources. He says the closure has come at a bad time for the resort industry, so finding an operator may be tough.
Flattery says the Eagle Creek Resort had deteriorated over time, so he estimates that it could take 1.5 million dollars to restore it. In the meantime, the DNR is keeping the resort mothballed, spending about 50 thousand dollars a year to provide security and maintain the 18-hole golf course.
Bids for running the resort are due by mid-November.
In central Illinois, many employers large and small have downsized or closed altogether, forcing thousands of laid-off workers to consider new options. In our latest report as part of our outreach project "WILL Connect: The Economy", AM 580's Jeff Bossert looks at the retraining of workers. Ingenuity and government-funded training are giving many of them a jump on a new career, or a better shot at an old one:
Governor Pat Quinn has started making fresh appointments to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.
That's after most members resigned in the wake of an admissions scandal.
Quinn says he wants to replace the seven trustees who've resigned in the next week and a-half.
On Wednesday, he announced two new appointments: those of Merchandise Mart CEO Chris Kennedy, and Lawrence Oliver, an attorney for the Boeing Company.
Quinn says the board's first item of business will be dealing with U of I President B. Joseph White and Urbana Campus Chancellor Richard Herman, who were key players in the scandal.
"I think they have a lot of explainin' to do", says Quinn. "But I don't want to prejudge things until the full board that I appoint has an opportunity to review this report, listen to the various individuals involved, and come to a reasoned decision."
The report issued by a state panel recommended all nine trustees step down.
Two trustees, Frances Carroll and James Montgomery, have refused... But Quinn says he's allowing them to stay on to avoid a protracted legal fight.
"You can be as legalistic as you want," explained the governor. "I do not think that having a legal battle with two trustees who refuse to resign is the central focus of our work."
Quinn says that would be a "sideshow" that could detract from the U of I's fundraising and faculty recruiting.
Trustee Montgomery congratulated Quinn for not firing him. But Quinn was criticized by others for his handling of the situation.
Illinois Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said the situation was still unresolved because some trustees were staying on.
Quinn's Democratic primary challenger, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, accused the governor of failing to lead.
The governor says, in the next week or so, he plans to finish appointing replacements for trustees who've already offered to step down.
--- Additional reporting from The Associated Press
The Montgomery family of Philo spent Wednesday night in their new home --- courtesy of the TV show "Extreme Makeover Home Edition", and a host of local volunteers and businesses.
Local businesspeople bringing housewarming gifts applauded Wednesday, as Ed Brady of Brady Homes handed over the keys to Nathan and Jenny Montgomery's new home in Philo, with the words, "These are yours.". In just one week, construction crews and volunteers tore down the Montgomery's crumbling old house and built a brand new one. Nathan Montgomery says her youngest daughter summed up their feelings of excitement and disbelief as they saw the house for the first time on Tuesday.
"I think Lily was saying as we walked up the steps, she just kept repeating, 'this is real, this is real'", says Montgomery. "And I am catching myself reminding myself of that --- and I'm sure we will for awhile --- this is really our house."
Nathan and Jenny Montgomery says they can't say thank-you enough for the house, as well as the outpouring of community support for both them and Salt and Light Ministry, the faith-based charity that Nathan Montgomery founded. And the attention has also been good for Philo, a village of about 1300 people in southeast Champaign County. Mayor Craig Eckert says the Extreme Makeover producers told him Philo should expect more visitors as news about the Montgomery's new house gets around.
Eckert says the visitors are welcome. "Certainly as mayor, we love when people spend some of their money here in the community," says Mayor Eckert. "But it's going to highlight our town, and we're real proud of our community. And the Montgomery's just add to an already really wonderful place
The Montgomery family spent most of Wednesday filming segments inside their new house for the Extreme Makeover show about them that airs October 25th on ABC.
Gov. Pat Quinn will appoint a son of the late Robert F. Kennedy to the University of Illinois board of trustees.
Quinn's office confirmed Chicago businessman Christopher Kennedy's appointment in advance of a Wednesday afternoon news conference where Quinn is expected to announce more changes to the board. Christopher Kennedy is the nephew of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who died Wednesday.
It's been nearly three weeks since a state panel Quinn appointed recommended that all the trustees should go after an investigation into how clout influenced admission decisions at the school.
Seven trustees have offered to resign, but trustees James Montgomery and Frances Carroll are refusing to step down. They say they've done nothing wrong.
Watch for updates Wednesday afternoon.
The top watchdog in Chicago city government is quitting to run for the U.S. Senate.
The Chicago Inspector General's Office said Wednesday that David Hoffman had resigned to run for President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
Democrat Roland Burris currently holds the seat but isn't running for a full term.
Hoffman will join a Democratic primary field that already includes state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson has said she plans to run too, but she won't formally announce her candidacy until next month. Hoffman has been in the spotlight recently. He criticized Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's deal to lease city parking meters. And he served on a commission Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn appointed to recommend ways to clean up state government in the wake of the scandals surrounding former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
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