Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 30, 2010

Special Election to Serve Out U.S. Senate Seat

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn called for the special election Thursday after a recent court ruling found it's required by the constitution and Roland Burris' appointment is only temporary. To avoid the cost of a second election, the vote will happen on the same day as the already scheduled general, November 2nd. So voters will cast two ballots for U.S. Senators that day, one for the upcoming six year term, and one for the few weeks that will remain in the Obama/Burris term.

But there's no time before November 2nd to hold a primary to figure out who will run to be Senator for a month. It's a problem that attorneys and the federal court judge are trying to work out. A likely solution is that the candidates running for the six year term will also run in the special election. Those candidates would include Mark Kirk, Alexi Giannoulias, LeAlan Jones, and the independents who collected more than 25,000 signatures.

An attorney for Burris is fighting against the special election.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 30, 2010

The Afghanistan Document Release—How Does It Affect Investigative Journalism?

The release by the website WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of secret U-S military reports on the war in Afghanistan shows how the Internet has changed the rules of traditional journalism. So says University of Illinois Professor Brant Houston, who holds the Knight Chair in Investigate and Enterprise Reporting at the Department of Journalism. The documents were first reported by the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel --- but now anyone can read them on the WikiLeaks website. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with Houston, and asked him what this sort of release of information means for the news media.

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Categories: Government, Politics
Tags: government

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 29, 2010

Black Panther Party Co-Founder Reflects on Civil Rights Issues

Bobby Seale co-founded the controversial Black Panther Party in 1966. The Panthers preached a doctrine of militant black empowerment to end to all forms of oppression against black people. The Black Panther Party was dismantled after 20 years, and Seale and others have taken on non-violent activism. Seale stopped in Champaign to talk to local teachers. He spoke to Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers about the Party's legacy and how changes in the world have shaped his activism.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 29, 2010

Professor in UI Catholic Studies Controversy Asked Back to Teaching

The University of Illinois says an instructor who recently lost his job over a complaint about his religious beliefs can continue teaching. However, the university says it will pay those teaching Catholic-related courses rather than have them paid by a church group.

The university said Thursday afternoon that the St. John's Catholic Newman Center will no longer pay adjunct instructors, like Kenneth Howell, who teach Catholicism courses.

Howell taught Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. He says he was fired at the end of the spring semester after sending an e-mail explaining Catholic beliefs on homosexual sex to his students. The offer asks Howell to teach an introductory course to Catholicism. But U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler would not say whether his re-appointment was related to public uproar over the dismissal. But she says the instructor is expected to stick to some standards. "As with all instructors at the university, we expect that he'll teach in manner that adheres to the constitutional principles that preclude the establishment of religion in a public university context," said Kaler.

He says he was preparing the students for an exam. A student complained the e-mail amounted to hate speech.

Howell could not be reached immediately for comment on the university's decision.

Categories: Education, Religion

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 29, 2010

Deliberations Continue After Judge Denies Jury Request for Transcript

The judge in the Rod Blagojevich case says he will not give jurors a transcript of one of the closing arguments in the former governor's corruption trial.

Judge James Zagel says closing arguments are not evidence. He handed copies of the jury's note to prosecutors and defense attorneys before denying the request this morning.

Jurors are supposed to send notes if they want to ask the judge questions about legal issues or to notify him of other matters, like friction in the jury room.

Blagojevich and his brother, Robert Blagojevich, have pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat Barack Obama gave up when he became president and illegally pressuring people for campaign donations.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 28, 2010

Jury Gets Case in Blagojevich Corruption Trial

The judge has said he doesn't expect a quick verdict -- so it could be a long wait before former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his brother learn their fate.

Jurors in Chicago have begun deciding whether Blagojevich tried to sell a nomination to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

During his lengthy instructions to jurors, the judge said they could make "reasonable inferences.'' And that could be important -- because prosecutors said in their closing arguments that Blagojevich never demanded money in exchange for something. Instead, they said, he merely implied it.

Prosecutors portrayed him as a greedy and smart political schemer who was determined to use his power to enrich himself.

But his attorney characterized him as an insecure bumbler who talked too much and had terrible judgment about which people to trust.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 28, 2010

Chamapign Co. Sheriff Candidate Decides on a Write-In Campaign

Despite an unsuccessful drive to get his name on the ballot, a candidate for Champaign County Sheriff is confident he can still win the post through a write-in campaign.

Jerommie Smith kicked off his long-shot campaign this week - last month, the county electoral board rejected his petition drive to fill an independent slot on the November ballot, claiming many of the names were not from registered voters. Smith believes there are factors that give him a fighting chance at an upset.

"We look at the number of people who were looking for a choice with those who signed the petition as well as the undervotes (for sheriff) in the last two elections, and we decided that we're in a pretty good position to make a good run at it, especially with all the work we've done and all the people who had supported us," Smith said.

Smith is trying to unseat Sheriff Dan Walsh, who has won two previous terms. He's a former sheriff's deputy who now owns a fitness club in Urbana.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 27, 2010

Illinois Makes Final Cut for ‘Race to the Top‎’ Funding

Illinois, along with 18 other states, is still in the running for a competitive federal grant program that promises more than three billion dollars for educational improvements.

The Illinois State Board of Education said the funds will help raise student success and train qualified teachers. The state failed to win enough support from school districts to compete for the first round of "Race to the Top" funding earlier this year - instead, that money went to schools in Tennessee and Maryland. Beth Sheppard is an assistant superintendent in Champaign Unit 4, which is backing Illinois' bid for the money.

"We felt that there was no good reason not to seek the additional funding in these economic times," said Sheppard. "If the focus is on closing the achievement gap, that is a high priority in this school district."

Teachers' unions have also lined up behind the application. State schools Superintendent Christopher Koch said the state has worked harder to get cooperation from local school districts and teachers' unions during this phase of the competition. Koch said Illinois will emphasize its plans to better prepare school leaders for reform when officials visit Washington in August to make their pitch for a grant.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 27, 2010

Blagojevich Defense to Give Closing Arguments Tues Morning

Rod Blagojevich's attorney is scheduled to give his closing argument Tuesday morning and the judge has already warned him that he could be held in contempt of court.

The warning came at the end of the day Monday.

Sam Adam Jr. told the judge that he planned to talk about the fact that jurors have heard all about Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine and yet the government never called either of them as witnesses.

Judge James Zagel said Adam should focus on the evidence that was presented, not the evidence and witnesses that weren't presented.

Zagel said, "You will not argue it.".

Adam told the judge he wouldn't follow the order at which point Zagel told Adam he'd be held in contempt.

Adam told the judge that he was ready to go to jail.

Zagel said Adam was showing a "profound misunderstanding of the legal rules."

He then adjourned for the day to give Adam time to reformulate his argument.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2010

Champaign Council Considers Working with Public Art League on Sculptures

The Champaign City Council will discuss a proposal at its Tuesday, July 27th Study Session, to work with a private non-profit group promoting local public sculpture. In doing so, the city may change the policy for public art that it set in 2003.

That policy created the city's Community Arts Group, a mayor-appointed panel that has standing by to consider proposals for sculpture on public land. However, very few applications have come in. Now, the city wants to work directly with the recently formed Public Art League, a private group that's raising money to lease eight pieces of sculpture this summer that would be located at downtown public sites for two year periods.

The Public Art League issued a call to artists earlier this year, and from 42 entries, it's chosen eight sculptures plans to bring to downtown Champaign this year. The group has raised funds from private donors to lease the sculptures from the artists for a two-year period. League Treasurer Eric Robeson says the sculptures will be initially displayed during Champaign's Downtown Festival of the Arts next month. He says they then hope to install the sculptures at various public spaces in and around the downtown area.

Robeson says the goal is to bring art to streets where people regularly walk, drive and work.

"You can interact with them", Robeson says of sculpture located on public sites near city streets. "You just kind of happen upon it as you walk by. Or it becomes part of the backdrop of your day, as you go by these sculptures on a regular basic. It just amplifies more and more that way. And the people that we've brought this up to, most people that we've talked to, just kind of love the idea."

City Economic Development Manager Teri Legner says under their proposal to work with the Public Art League, the Champaign Community Arts Group would disband, leaving decisions and finances about public art acquisitions to the new non-profit group.

"What we're proposing now is something that's more proactive", says Legner, "in working with a third party to basically provide for the art, and then the city just facilitating its siting, basically its location on public property."

The Public Art League's goal is to bring new sculptures to public sites in Champaign every year. But Board president Brian Knox says their longterm goal is to find local buyers for the artwork. "And once somebody likes the sculpture and wants to purchase it", says Knox, "they can move it to their facility or their business, or anyplace in town to be part of the public consciousness."

While the Public Art League could take the place of the Champaign Community Arts Group, the two bodies already have a common link. League Treasurer Eric Robeson is the son of Community Arts Group member Phyllis Robeson.

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

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