Illinois Public Media News
The days may be limited for Urbana native Roger Ebert's weekly show "Ebert Presents: At the Movies," which premiered in January on public television stations across the country.
In a blog post, Roger Ebert says the show will likely be canceled at the end of its current season because of a lack of funding. The longtime film critic says after Kanbar Charitable Trust gave the program an initial $25,000 donation, he and his wife have been footing the rest of the bill to keep the show on the air.
"I believe a program like this is needed on television," Ebert wrote on his blog. "On "Ebert Presents," a new Johnny Depp movie can get two thumbs down (or up, or a split decision) from two intelligent people who will tell you why they voted that way, and challenge one another. Movie coverage on TV is otherwise so intensely driven by marketing that some programs actually cover the marketing itself."
Ebert said that he had hoped other contributors would come forward to underwrite the program, but he said that hasn't happened. Chuck Koplinski, a film critic in Champaign, said with more people getting their movies reviews online, the possible demise of At the Movies is simply a sign of the times.
"They don't want an in-depth discussion of film," Koplinski said. "They want to see if it's worth...if it has enough laughs or enough scares or enough thrills for them to throw their $9 on. I think that this happening to him is just the latest step in the death mill for intelligent film criticism."
"At the Movies" is hosted by Associated Press reviewer Christy Lemire and Mubi.com film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.
Ebert said he has to decide this month if his show will return next year.
Amanda McGrory of the United States set a course record in the women's wheelchair race and Masazumi Soejima of Japan won the men's race at the New York City Marathon.
The 25-year-old McGrory of Champaign, Ill., finished the 26.2-mile course through the five boroughs of New York in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 24 seconds.
McGrory, a four-time Paralympic medalist, also won the Paris and London Marathons one week apart this year. She was followed by Shelly Woods of Britain (1:52:52) and Tatyana McFadden of the United States (1:52:52).
The previous women's course record was set by Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland in 1:52:38 in 2007.
In the men's wheelchair competition, the 41-year-old Soejima finished in 1:31:41, followed by Kurt Fearnley of Australia (1:33:56) and Kota Hokinoue of Japan (1:34:22).
In the main NYC Marathon competition, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya won with a course record time of 2 hours, 5 minutes, 6 seconds (unofficial), crushing the previous mark of 2:07:43 set by Tesfaye Jifar of Ethiopia a decade earlier.
In the women's competition, Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia won in a stunning comeback. Dado trailed London Marathon champ Mary Keitany by nearly 21/2 minutes at the 15-mile mark but passed her with about a mile left for her first major marathon victory. The 27-year-old Dado won in an unofficial time of 2 hours, 23, minutes 15 seconds --- almost a minute better than her previous personal best.
A strong internet presence pushed Ron Paul to the top in the Illinois Republican straw poll. The Texas congressman bested the other presidential candidates in the survey, which wrapped up on Saturday.
Casting a ballot in the straw poll cost $5, and the Illinois Republican Party said more than 3600 people participated. Three quarters of them did so online, which is how Ron Paul claimed more than 50 percent of the vote.
"I think what this does is it shows the relative strengths of the candidates," said U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk at a press conference announcing the results. "Ron Paul is obviously a big online performer."
Georgia businessman Herman Cain finished second overall, but well back at 18 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney got third, powered by a relatively strong support from voters who showed up in person to cast ballots at straw polling places around the state.
Illinois' poll got little if any attention from the major candidates, though a representative from Paul's campaign said it sent email reminders to supporters in the state.
Kirk said he hopes the straw poll becomes a tradition, held every four years.
"So that candidates - either on the Democratic side or Republican side - will come here not just to raise money but to campaign and seek votes from Rockford to Cairo," he said.
As for this election, Kirk guessed the Republican nomination will be "largely" decided by early February, more than a month before Illinois holds its primary.
"But we could be proved wrong, and the Illinois primary could still have an impact," Kirk said.
This was billed as the first statewide straw poll for Illinois, and there was some confusion over the rules. The party's website explained that multiple votes could be cast online using the same credit card, "in order to facilitate voting in households where there may be only one credit card, but more than one voter (a husband and wife, for instance)."
But at the press conference Saturday, organizers said such votes were not counted.
"I think there were roughly 30 people that tried to do that," Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady said. "I don't think there was an ill-intent there. It's just that they tried to do it, but it wasn't allowed."
That apparently wasn't clear to the House Republican Organization, a political group headed by state Rep. Tom Cross, the GOP leader in the Illinois House. An email to supporters said online participants "can vote multiple times to 'run up the score' for your favorite candidate."
"Yeah - [Cross] was incorrect," Kirk said when asked about the email, which was first written about on the website Republican News Watch. "And so, we did find 30 people that tried to vote twice and they were eliminated."
This is the second straw poll taken in Illinois in the past month. In early October, a convention of Tea Party activists meeting in Schaumburg overwhelmingly supported Cain's candidacy.
Cain's second-place finish in this week's statewide poll followed intense media coverage of allegations that he sexually harassed several employees while heading the National Restaurant Association. Cain has denied the allegations.
Prosecutors say a central figure in the administration of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich never provided particularly useful information about his former benefactor to investigators.
The government makes the claim in a new filing that recommends a prison sentence of between 11 and 15 years for Tony Rezko.
Prosecutors note Rezko only agreed to cooperate after his 2008 conviction on fraud and other charges.
They contrast that with the help provided by Rezko's co-conspirator, Stuart Levine (leh-VYN'). Levine pleaded guilty in 2006 and testified at Rezko's trial and at millionaire William Cellini's recent trial.
The filing says Levine's cooperation was "dramatically more valuable'' than Rezko's.
Rezko offered to testify at Blagojevich's and Cellini's trial. But prosecutors say Rezko's persistent lies after his indictment would have opened him up to damaging cross-examination.
It took two attempts, but Champaign County's Zoning Board of Appeals has recommended the county board approve the construction of a wind farm near Royal.
The 4-to-3 vote Thursday night came after Chicago-based Invenergy added language to a reclamation agreement concerning salvage value of its 30 wind turbines should the wind farm have to shut down early. ZBA members have also cited the potential for noise pollution at neighboring homes.
Invenergy has also said its standards regarding noise pollution will comply with the Illinois Pollution Control Board. But ZBA member Brad Passalacqua says that language in the permit is too vague for him.
"My concern is for the good of the county, and for the participating (land) owners, as well as the people who don't participate in this project," he said. "We don't want to create a situation where they have injury to their property, or their happiness and life, and their home. It's just a very tender area that we need to be very cautious with."
Republican Champaign County Board member Alan Nudo says he still hasn't decided how he'll vote when the full board takes up the issue in two weeks. Two weeks ago, ZBA members cited its concerns in a 5-2 vote against approving the wind farm. The Champaign County Board's Committee of the Whole sent the project back to the ZBA earlier this week.
But Nudo says he now has a better perspective on this issue after Invenergy added language to its special use permit giving Champaign County 'absolute protection' against liability.
"I still don't want to be a speculator in commodities, and I think that there's some room for negotiations with them to come up with a better formula," he said. "But that being said, I have a much better perspective of what they're trying to do, and I think that they are offering something that they haven't offered to other counties."
Invenergy attorney Michael Blazer says new language in the agreement ensures that whoever the company finances the project with will also be obligated to decommission the turbines in the event they ever take over the project.
The full Champaign County Board will take up the wind farm on November 17th. Construction on Vermilion County's portion of the wind farm is already underway.
A suspect in last month's robbery of a customer outside a Campustown coffee shop has turned himself in.
Dennis Boston, 19, surrendered at the Champaign County Jail, early Thursday morning.
Boston was wanted for armed robbery with a firearm, in connection with the Oct. 10 robbery at the Expresso Royale coffee shop on East Daniel Street near the U of I campus. A surveillance video recorded one man taking an iPad from a customer seated outside the coffee shop and running away. He was followed by a 2nd man who displayed a handgun to the victim.
Champaign and U of I Police are continuing to look for the 2nd suspect in the robbery, who is identifed as a 23-24 year-old black male. He was last seen wearing a blue Milwaukee Brewers baseball cap, a long-sleeved black shirt, khaki colored shirt, and black tennis shoes
Anyone with information is asked to call either police department, or leave an anonymous tip with Champaign County Crimestoppers.
Police are asking for the community's assistance in providing information, especially regarding the identity and/or location of the second suspect. Information can reported to the Champaign Police Department by calling (217) 351-4545 or the University of Illinois Police Department by calling (217) 333-1216. Callers can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS).
Close to 4,000 students have received scholarships from the state to attend private schools under Indiana's broad new school voucher law.
State Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett said Thursday the months-old program is already succeeding at providing new opportunities for low and moderate income families.
Indianapolis Public Schools lost the most students under the new program, sending close to 650 students to private schools. The South Bend and Fort Wayne school corporations lost the second and third highest number of students to private schools under the program.
Opponents including the state's teachers unions say the program amounts to a wealth transfer from public to private schools. The Indiana State Teacher's Association is backing a legal challenge to the voucher law.
The director of Illinois' downstate library system hopes the Champaign Public Library can come up with an alternative to charging some out of town patrons a $200 dollar annual fee.
The Heartland Library System board voted last week to suspend Champaign's membership as a result of that fee. Champaign started charging that fee to Tolono and Mahomet district patrons last year due to the strain their borrowing had on the library's resources. In 60 days, the suspension will kick in, barring the library from checking out books from other resources. It also wouldn't be eligible for receiving state and federal grants.
Heartland director Leslie Bednar says the move to suspend the library wasn't an easy one, but its board wanted to send a message.
"I mean, that's kind of where we are now, and why we are there is to hopefully resolve this," said Bednar. "But ultimately, it's a decision for the Champaign Public Library board to make, and they have to make the decision for the patrons that they serve. They were imposing a fee which is in direct opposition to the Library System Act."
Champaign Library Director Marsha Grove says her board will likely explore another option, such as limiting the number of items patrons from the neighboring districts can check out. She says losing the annual $77,000 per capita grant (a federal grant filtered through the state) that all libraries receive would have a detrimental effect.
"It doesn't really seem fair to Champaign residents that they would have to lose that," said Grove. "It certainly doesn't seem fair to the library board. We don't want to give up that $77,000. That's pretty important."
Grove says the library is already doing more with less. She says about 90-percent of the library's revenue comes from property taxes, which have remained flat the last couple of years while expenses go up. Champaign's library has had to leave 14 positions vacant through attrition the last 3 years.
Grove says the fee on the Tolono and Mahomet systems has helped deter some of those patrons, who are now using their home libraries more often.
The Heartland Library System is fairly new, the result of a merger last summer of four smaller systems. It includes 594 member libraries.
Chicago is handing out new report cards to each of its schools. The grades are meant to spark discussion between parents and schools about how to improve.
At Spry Community School, Principal Nilda Medina says the report cards are about transparency. "For the parents and the teachers as well, and for administrators, this is where we are at," she said.
At Spry, some things looked good, she said. "Well, student attendance-that's outstanding. It's 96.2. Safety-our students feel that they're very safe here-safe coming to school."
The report cards feature teacher attendance rates, and even report on whether the school is offering students enough healthy food and exercise. They don't report ISAT scores-which have come under fire lately for overstating student achievement.
Many Spry parents who came to school to get their own children's grades seemed unphased by their school's designation as a "middle-performing school that needs improvement."
Parent Martha Del Villar said she is satisfied with Spry, and quipped that if parents had complaints, it would probably be about their kids, not the teachers.
The district would not say how many schools received its lowest score. It's said those schools are at risk of being closed down.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley is one step closer to being deposed in connection with alleged torture by Chicago police.
On Wednesday, a Federal judge ruled for the second time that Daley can be sued over alleged police torture.
The former mayor was the Cook County state's attorney back in the 1980s. That's when Michael Tillman was arrested for murder. Tillman said police under former commander Jon Burge tortured him into confessing. He said they put a gun to his head, poured soda in his nose and choked him with a plastic bag.
Last year, Tillman was exonerated after two decades in jail, and then sued several people he says were connected to the torture, ranging from individual officers to Daley.
In July, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Daley can be included in Tillman's lawsuit in his capacity as mayor.
Daley's lawyers appealed, but Wednesday the judge shot them down again. Tillman's lawyers reportedly hope to question the former mayor as soon as next month.
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