Illinois Public Media News
A recording of dispatch radio calls shows that emergency workers were expressing concern about severe weather just minutes before winds ripped through the Indiana State Fair and caused a fatal stage collapse.
WTHR-TV in Indianapolis obtained recordings of Marion County dispatch communications from the night of Aug. 13, when thousands of fans were waiting to see a concert by country music group Sugarland.
In one excerpt, workers are warned about five minutes before the collapse that severe weather was moving in and are advised to seek shelter if necessary. Two minutes later, another dispatcher asks if concert fans have been released from the grandstands.
Fair officials have said they were preparing to order an evacuation when the stage rigging collapsed into the grandstands. Seven people died.
Indiana lawmakers say cursive writing has to be protected in schools and are pushing the issue in the 2012 session.
Terre Haute Sen. Tim Skinner and Oldenburg Sen. Jean Leising said they were horrified when they learned the state no longer required the writing style be taught. They said this week they plan to submit bills when lawmakers return to Indianapolis in 2012.
Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Sample says there is no law saying schools can't teach cursive and can decide to do so locally. The state approved new standards this year that excluded mandatory cursive instruction.
Indianapolis Public School administrator Chris Collier says cursive is essential for a child's development but says she's not sure that it needs to be written into law.
Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said he's not going to get into a bidding war with other states that are trying to entice Sears to move its corporate headquarters out of Illinois.
The Democratic governor told reporters Thursday that a proposal to give Sears $150 million worth of tax relief is "more than adequate" to keep the company from relocating its headquarters from northwest suburban Hoffman Estates. Illinois lawmakers earlier this week shot down a package of tax incentives that included the Sears tax breaks, but Quinn said he'll work with lawmakers to re-tool the legislation in order to keep the company here.
"It began here in Illinois, it should stay here in Illinois," Quinn said of Hoffman Estates-based company. "I think our particular proposal to Sears is a fair one and I think it's more than adequate."
Quinn was responding to news that the state of Ohio is offering Sears a $400 million package to relocate to the Buckeye State. A spokeswoman for Sears declined to confirm that report.
Sears is giving lawmakers until the end of the year to come up with a package of tax breaks, otherwise the company has threatened to leave the state. A $250 million omnibus tax bill, which included the tax breaks for Sears and Chicago-based CME Group, was overwhelmingly voted down by the Illinois House Tuesday. Both companies have said they may relocate if they don't get some relief from a recent increase in the state's corporate taxes.
Quinn said Thursday he hopes lawmakers can agree on a tax break package by the end of the year, though he stopped short of saying he'd call them back to Springfield for a special session.
"I hope we can get all the folks together - particularly in the House - that did not approve this measure, to take another look," Quinn said.
The governor reiterated his support for a Senate-passed version of the tax package that also includes tax credits for low-income families. Some Republicans had objected to that provision, but Quinn said he's not backing down from it.
Caterpillar Inc. says this week's vote by Illinois lawmakers that killed a package of tax breaks for several companies was a bad signal to send. Illinois is trying to convince the heavy-equipment maker to build a new factory in the state.
Caterpillar's Jim Dugan told The Associated Press that Tuesday's vote was a product of the state's "rudderless, dysfunctional business climate.''
The tax package was intended to hold onto Sears and several financial exchanges that have threatened to leave Illinois.
Peoria-based Caterpillar plans to move about 1,000 jobs from Japan to a North American location still to be decided.
Illinois officials have said they've talked to the company about possibly building the plant in the state. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Movie critic Roger Ebert says the public television program "Ebert Presents: At The Movies'' will go on hiatus at the end of December.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic wrote on his blog Wednesday that the move is necessary to allow the public television stations that carry the show to plan their programs for the beginning of the new year.
Ebert wrote that although it is distributed by American Public Television to all 50 top markets, he hasn't been able to line up additional funding for the show.
The show is hosted by Associated Press movie reviewer Christy Lemire and Mubi.com film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.
Ebert wrote that he and his producer wife, Chaz, really believe in the show and its mission to "provide an intelligent place for the discussion of movies.
Ill. State Police Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit
The Illinois State Police agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a former death row inmate who spent almost two decades in prison for the 1986 murders of a newlywed couple before a judge released him because of flawed evidence.
World AIDS Day in Champaign is Thursday, Dec. 1, and it is being marked by a free showing of the documentary "We Were Here." The film is about the fight against AIDS when it first appeared in San Francisco's gay community 30 years ago. The 5:30 PM showing at the Illinois Terminal Building is sponsored by the Greater Community AIDS Project (GCAP).
Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with GCAP's director, Mike Benner about the services they provide, and Benner's own experiences as a person living with HIV. GCAP provides support services for people with HIV and AIDS in a ten-county region, including low-cost housing, food assistance and emergency financial aid. The agency is funded by government grants and private donations raised mostly through local fund raising events. One of them is coming up Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Levis Faculty Center on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. The GCAP 2011 Holiday Gala Fundraiser will feature dinner, live music and an auction.
Attorney's for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich say he's a "tragic figure" who should receive a light sentence for his corruption convictions. But prosectuors want a federal judge to give Blagojevich 15 to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced next week.
Both sides outlined their arguments in court filings Wednesday. Blagojevich is set to be sentenced Dec. 6.
Prosecutors say a heavy sentence is required because former Gov. George Ryan's 6 1/2- year sentence clearly wasn't long enough to deter Blagojevich and others from engaging in public corruption. They also point out that Blagojevich won office on a pledge to clean up corruption.
Blagojevich's lawyers say his sentence should fall under the federal guidlines of 41 to 51 months in prison.
Prosecutors say Blagojevich engaged in criminal activity even after he had been interviewed by the FBI, when he knew he was under investigation, and when many of his closest advisors had already been indicted and convicted. They say Blagojevich has a law degree and knew he was committing crimes and yet, to this day, he insists he did nothing wrong.
Prosecutors also argue that Blagojevich should get a heavier sentence than Tony Rezko.
Rezko is the former Blagojevich fundraiser who was given a 10 1/2-year sentence just last week for his role in the corrupt administration. Prosecutors say, as governor, Blagojevich bears more responsibility in the conspiracy than Rezko, who was a private citizen.
And unlike Blagojevich, Rezko provided valuable cooperation after he was convicted. Prosecutors also point out that Blagojevich spent seven days on the stand telling stories that the jury ultimately found to be lies.
Furthermore, Rezko had no part in Blagojevich's attempts to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat because he was already in prison by that time in 2008.
Prosecutors say Blagojevich still hasn't accepted responsibility for his actions.
But in their Wednesday court filing, the ex-governor's lawyers paint him as a "tragic figure" who has undergone a precipitous fall from being Illinois' executive, to an "impeached, unemployed criminal defendant, abaondoned by all of his advisors and friends; a figure drawing public ridicule and scorn."
His lawyers conclude by saying "despite a strong and seemingly defiant exterior, no one is more acutely aware of the tragedy that has become his life's work and aspirations as is Mr. Blagojevich himself.
More Illinois parents are opting out of some school-required vaccinations for their kids, according to a new study by the Associated Press.
The study says the rate of vaccine exemption is 5.3 percent in Illinois, making it one of eight states where more than five percent of public school kindergartners do not get all the vaccinations that are required for attendance. Alaska had the highest rate, at nine percent.
Dr. Kenneth Soyemi works in the infectious disease department at the Illinois Department of Public Health. He said parents seek exemptions for some vaccines for medical, religious and, in states that allow it, philosophical reasons. Soyemi said kids who don't get vaccinated could make diseases like measles and whooping cough harder to contain.
"Presuming children are not vaccinated in the school, if measles comes into the school, it's going to spread like wild fire," Soyemi said.
The survey also found more than half of all states have seen at least a slight rise in vaccine exemptions in last five years. Illinois is one of 10 states where the rate of vaccine exception increased more than 1.5 percentage points.
The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to consider a dispute over whether the state must begin enforcing a law requiring parents to be notified before their children can obtain an abortion.
The law dates back to 1995 but has never been enforced because of various court actions.
It would require doctors to notify the guardians of a girl 17 or younger before she has an abortion. There are exceptions for emergencies and cases of sexual abuse, and girls could bypass the notification requirement by going to a judge.
Opponents claim it violates the privacy, equal protection and gender-equality clauses of the Illinois constitution.
The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will hear arguments on whether to start enforcing the law.
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