Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 26, 2011

Report: Breastfeeding in Illinois Hinges Partly on Race, Income

Almost half of African-American mothers in Illinois never breastfeed their newborns, according to a report by state and university researchers and a nonprofit group called HealthConnect One.

Among new black mothers in 2008, about 45 percent did not start breastfeeding their infants, according to the report, "Illinois Breastfeeding Blueprint: A Plan for Change." That figure compares to 21 percent for whites, 14 percent for Latinas and three percent for Asian-Americans.

The report also shows income disparities. The rate of low-income white mothers in the state who never started breastfeeding babies born in 2008 was 36 percent.

"Hospitals should be doing more to encourage breastfeeding," said University of Illinois at Chicago epidemiologist Deborah Rosenberg, who analyzed data for the report.

Looking at all new Illinois mothers, the report says the number who did start breastfeeding was almost 78 percent by 2008 - up about eight percent from 2000. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a national goal of almost 82 percent by 2020.

Starting breastfeeding does not mean keeping at it. Twelve weeks after giving birth, just 47 percent of Illinois mothers were breastfeeding, according to the report. Of those, almost half were not breastfeeding exclusively.

"Many women go back to work then," Rosenberg said. "It means that employers need to be supportive of breastfeeding."

Rosenberg said resources for lactation consultants and peer counselors are also falling short.

HealthConnect One, based in Chicago, published the report Monday in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Human Services and the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health.

Next month the group and its partners plan to begin formulating a five-year action plan for hospitals, government agencies, employers, insurers and community groups.

Federal health officials say breastfeeding helps babies avoid obesity, infections and chronic diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 26, 2011

Cairo, Other IL River Communities Bracing for Severe Flooding

The far southern Illinois city of Cairo is giving residents the option of voluntarily leaving as the Ohio River continues to rise.

Police dispatcher Cheryl James says, as of Tuesday morning, eight families have notified police that they're clearing out. Alexander County Emergency Management Coordinator Marty Nicholson says Cairo's levee and flood wall are holding their own against a river that's expected to reach a record 61 feet on May 3. Nicholson says the concrete flood wall at Cairo can hold back water levels up to 64 feet. On Tuesday, the river already had topped 56 feet.

The Mississippi River is also the center of attention for emergency officials. Already, St. Clair, Madison, Bond, Clinton, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties in Illinois are under a flash flood watch.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello and Republican Rep John Shimkus met Monday with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois Emergency Management Agency officials.

Afterward, the lawmakers said they encouraged the corps and IEMA to work closely with local officials in coordinating plans to deal with flooding.

According to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., a storm system that blew through northeast Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas on Monday will likely move into Illinois on Tuesday. It is expected to cause substantial flooding in a corridor that runs from Illinois to Arkansas.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 26, 2011

Culver Resigns from Unit 4, Drops Out of Georgia Superintendent Search

(This story has been revised to include additional information.)

Arthur Culver has resigned as superintendent of the Champaign Unit 4 school district, effective June 30th.

A news release from Unit 4 says Culver "wishes to pursue other opportunities at this time, and wants the District to be able to begin searching for a new leader immediately."

But those other opportunities will not include the DeKalb County school system in Georgia. The News-Gazette and Atlanta Journal-Constitution both report that Culver has also withdrawn his name as a finalist for superintendent at that school district.

Unit 4 will name an interim superintendent when Culver leaves, and he's agreed to work with the school board on the transition. The Champaign school board plans to release details at a press conference this afternoon, scheduled for 3:30.

The school district's press release also cites achievements throughout Culver's tenure, including a successful end to the district's Consent Decree, bringing up achievement levels for students of all races, three years of having a budget surplus, and a high school graduation rate that went from just below 90-percent to nearly 96-percent.

Categories: Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 26, 2011

White House Chief of Staff To Be U of I’s Commencement Speaker

New White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley is the speaker for the University of Illinois' 140th commencement ceremonies next month.

The longtime executive with JP Morgan Chase & Co. also served as president of SBC Communications from 2001 to 2004.

He was a campaign manager for Al Gore's presidential run in 2000, and was Secretary of Commerce from 1997 to 2000, overseeing a department of more than 40,000 people. He was Special Counsel to President Clinton in 1993, focusing on international trade issues. Daley served as a lawyer early in his career, and has served on the boards of several corporate, academic, medical, charitable, and civic organizations.

The Chicago native is brother to the city's outgoing mayor, Richard M. Daley. He is married to Bernadette Keller. William Daley will deliver his commencement speech at the 10:30 and 2 p.m. ceremonies at Assembly Hall on May 15th.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

UI Faculty Senate Votes to Keep Institute of Aviation

UI Faculty Senate Votes to Keep Institute of Aviation

In a narrow 57-to-54 vote, members of the University of Illinois' Faculty Senate rejected a proposal Monday to close the Institute of Aviation located at Willard Airport in Savoy.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

Champaign Schools Tight-Lipped on Personnel Agreement

Champaign school officials are expected to release more information Tuesday afternoon on a personnel agreement reached with an unnamed employee.

It's not known whether Monday night's seven-to-nothing vote involves Superintendent Arthur Culver, who's now the lone finalist for a superintendent's job in Georgia. The action was taken Monday night following a 40-minute closed session in a special meeting to discuss personnel.

Unit 4 school board president Dave Tomlinson declined comment on Culver's status, as well as what's happening with the superintendent's search at the DeKalb County School District in suburban Atlanta.

"It's inappropriate for us to comment on anything about what's going on in Georgia," said Tomlinson. "We don't know - I don't know anything about what's going on in Georgia, so it's inappropriate for that."

Unit 4's press conference is set for Tuesday at 3-30 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center. Meanwhile, the DeKalb County School board is holding its own closed-door meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the next steps in its superintendent search. Culver became the remaining finalist for superintendent after Lillie Cox, a superintendent from Hickory, North Carolina, withdrew her name from consideration over the weekend. Exposure of details in those negotiations reportedly played a part in her withdrawal.

But a spokesman for the district says it's unclear what direction the board will take, despite Culver being the lone finalist. Jeff Dickerson speculates the board could hire Culver, choose to look at prior candidates, or start its superintendent's search over from scratch.

DeKalb County's School Board President, Tom Bowen, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there's a chance Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson could be asked to apply for the permanent position. But Dickerson says she hasn't asked to be considered, nor has she been approached about the job at this point.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

Champaign School Superintendent Remaining Finalist for Georgia Job

Champaign Unit 4 Superintendent Arthur Culver is now the lone finalist under consideration to lead a school district in suburban Atlanta.

But it's still not clear what direction the DeKalb County School Board will go. Culver became the remaining finalist for superintendent after Lillie Cox, a superintendent from Hickory, North Carolina, withdrew her name from consideration over the weekend. Exposure of details in those negotiations reportedly played a part in her withdrawal.

But School District Spokesman Jeff Dickerson says there is still any number of possibilities at this point.

"The board could look at the one remaining candidate, it could expand the pool with others who were considered who maybe came in the number 4 or number 5 spot, so that they can expand the pool. or it's possible that they could start all over," he said. "But again, all of that is speculation. I have no idea what the board is likely to do at this juncture."

DeKalb County School Board President Tom Bowen told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there's a chance Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson could be asked to apply for the permanent position. But Dickerson says she hasn't asked to be considered, nor has she been approached about it at this point.

A third finalist, Decatur School Superintendent Gloria Davis, withdrew her name from consideration earlier this month. The DeKalb County School Board met in executive session Monday morning, and plans to hold another meeting Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, the Champaign Unit 4 School Board has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Monday. It's a rescheduled meeting from last week, with unspecified personnel matters on the agenda.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

Developer Clint Atkins Dies At Age 65

A longtime business partner of Clint Atkins says the Champaign developer was always objective about his business assets--but he maintained a lifelong devotion to Champaign-Urbana.

The 65-year-old Atkins died early Sunday morning in Lexington, Ky., after suffering a heart attack.

Peter Fox worked with Atkins to develop the University of Illinois Business Research Park and the I-Hotel. He says Atkins' contributions to Champaign-Urbana includes the his early investment and nurturing of Hobbico, the maker and distributor of hobby products, and FlightStar, the fixed-base operator at Willard Airport.

In the case of FlightStar, Fox draws a link between Atkins and Willard Airport's long-running relationship with American Airlines.

"And because of their (FlightStar's) expertise in maintenance, they convinced American airlines to bring most of their regional jets through Champaign for service and maintenance," Fox said. "So it convinced American that--flying to and from Dallas, and then obviously to and from O'Hare--that Champaign was a great place for the planes to spend the night because they were serviced and maintained by FlightStar."

Fox also notes Atkins' contributions to University of Illinois Athletics. He says the golf course attached to Atkins' Stone Creek subdivision in Urbana helped bring the university's golf teams to new levels of excellence.

"People would look at Stone Creek and think, 'Oh it's a golf course or a housing development,'" Fox said. "But I think Clint looked at it also as a way to help the university grow and nurture men's and women's golf, which then enabled the university to attract Mike Small, the PGA Professional of the Year ... and now we've got an NCAA championship in golf."

Illini golfer Scott Langley was last year's NCAA men's golf individual champion in Division One. Fox says Atkins gift for the Atkins Tennis Center helped the Illini tennis teams in a similar fashion.

Clint Atkins is survived by his wife Susie, and three grown children--Todd, Spencer and Suzette. Todd and Spencer Atkins are now directors at The Atkins Group, the development firm that their father founded. A spokesman for

The Atkins Groups says a public visitation for Atkins will be held Wednesday from 3 to 7 pm at Faith United Methodist Church, 1719 S. Prospect in Champaign. A private funeral is planned. Morgan Memorial Home in Savoy is handling funeral arrangements.

Categories: Biography, Business

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

Teacher Merit Pay Bill Heads to Gov. Daniels’ Desk

A bill linking teacher pay with student performance has won final legislative approval and now heads to Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature.

The Senate voted 36-13 for the merit pay bill, which is part of Daniels' expansive education agenda. Under the bill, teachers would be evaluated annually. Only those in the top two of four categories would be eligible for certain pay raises. Local districts would create their own evaluations, but would have to include objective measures of student achievement, such as test scores.

Districts wouldn't be able to place a student for two years in a row with teachers rated in the lowest category without notifying parents.

Supporters say it's right to reward the best teachers, while opponents say teachers aren't in the profession for the money.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2011

Search on for Unbiased Jurors in Blagojevich Case

The judge and attorneys in Rod Blagojevich's corruption retrial on Monday were set to resume the daunting task of selecting jurors who can put aside what they've heard about the high-profile case and give the former Illinois governor a fair trial.

Judge James Zagel was expected to individually question up to 40 more people out of a pool of more than 100 potential jurors to assess their suitability. Each filled out a 38-page jury questionnaire as the retrial started last week.

The impeached governor's first trial ended last year with jurors deadlocked on all but one count of lying to the FBI. At the retrial, the 54-year-old still faces 20 charges, including accusations he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash or a top job.

The first day of individual questioning of would-be jurors on Thursday revealed most either held unfavorable views of politicians in general or of Blagojevich in particular. All had heard at least something about last year's trial.

Zagel spoke to 22 potential jurors Thursday and, by day's end, dismissed 11 on various grounds, including that weeks of jury duty would hit their families hard financially.

But he refused defense requests to send home several people who seemed biased against Blagojevich, including a retired auto shop owner who wrote that, "Based on news accounts, my personal bias is - he is guilty." Zagel said he accepted the man's assurances in court that he could set aside his preconceptions and focus solely on the evidence.

Those kept in the jury pool won't necessarily end up in the jury box because both sides retain the right to dismiss some jurors without providing the judge a reason. The defense can do so 13 times while the prosecution has nine peremptory challenges.

Jury selection is an inexact science. Blagojevich lawyers may in some cases prefer jurors with a dim view of politicians if it means they're more likely to accept a long-held defense argument: that the twice-elected governor was merely engaged in wheeling and dealing that - while sometimes unseemly - is legal and par for the course in politics.

Blagojevich himself has seemed closely involved scrutinizing potential panelists, scribbling notes on a yellow pad as would-be jurors answered questions. His wife, Patti, also has taken detailed notes sitting on a nearby spectators' bench.

Those still in the jury pool include a former state prosecutor, a substitute teacher who said she didn't like her job and a recently retired maintenance man who told the court how he once saved up $1,500 to pay to drive a Formula One racecar 177 mph.

Another person Zagel refused to dismiss was a man convicted of assault and battery who had to attend an anger-management course as part of his sentence. The man, holding a microphone as he answered the judge's questions, hesitated when Zagel asked if those courses had helped.

"You didn't stand up and throw the mic at me, so it helped a little," Zagel said, smiling.

Zagel has said he wants to have 12 jurors and several alternates impaneled by Wednesday, meaning opening arguments could start that day or Thursday. The retrial is not expected to last as long as the first 2 1/2-month trial, in part because prosecutors have streamlined their case by dropping complex racketeering charges.

(Photo by Robert Wildeboer/IPR)


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