Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 06, 2011

Federal Prosecutors Rest in Mumbai Terror Trial

The federal government has rested its case in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused in the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Prosecutors rested Monday after calling the last of eight total witnesses in the case against Tahawwur Rana. Rana has pleaded not guilty to providing a cover story for David Headley, an admitted Pakistani-American terrorist who conducted surveillance ahead of the attacks that killed more than 160.

Rana's defense attorneys now begin their case and say they'll call witnesses a including a computer expert. Rana isn't expected to testify.

Headley has pleaded guilty and was the government's star witness. He testified how he took orders from Pakistani intelligence and a militant group as he took video surveillance.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 06, 2011

Quinn Calls Lawmakers Back to Springfield

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)

Gov. Pat Quinn says he's calling lawmakers back to work in Springfield.

Quinn announced Monday he would be talking to legislative leaders about a date to come back because he says there's an outstanding issue with the state's capital construction program.

The Chicago Democrat says lawmakers adjourned last week without approving an appropriations bill so the state can spend money on its ongoing capital construction program.

Quinn says he wants the lawmakers back to the state Capitol promptly so work doesn't have to stop on projects around the state, including road, bridge and other construction projects.

Mahomet Republican Chapin Rose says this nearly $300 million re-appropriation bill is separate from a lawsuit pending before Illinois' Supreme Court over the Illinois Jobs Now! plan, saying the capital funds that legislators have yet to vote on are already in place.

He believes something will be worked out over a day or two in Springfield this summer, and Rose agrees there are some important projects in the measure. But he's not happy the way the bill was handled by Senate Democrats:

"We are talking about austerity, and trying to right the ship, and not spend more money on projects," said Rose. "So frankly, for the Senate Democrats to do this is highly cynical. But that's what they've chosen to do is highjack the construction part of the budget."

Champaign Democratic Senator Mike Frerichs says the construction issue may take longer than a day or two in Springfield.

"I think there's pretty much agreement on the need to pass the capital component of this," Frerichs said. "But there are some real differences of opinion on spending priorities between the House and the Senate that were also included in this bill."

The Senator says that includes new money attached to the bill in the Senate to help those with developmental disabilities and mental health issues, areas identified as priorities in the Senate Democratic caucus. Rose says the most important thing is that Illinois' operating budget passed last week, and that a vote on capital projects will have no impact on schools, universities, and everyday travel on roads and bridges. Quinn says if work stops on the projects it will throw 52,000 people out of work.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 06, 2011

US Sen. Kirk Calls for Action on Stem Cell Law

A Chicago-based scientist says he's grateful to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk for siding with legislation that backs stem cell research.

Kirk on Monday called for congressional action to codify an executive order on the research issued by President Barack Obama in 2009.

Dr. John Kessler directs a stem cell research institute at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He says Kirk is backing legislation that's "absolutely essential for the field'' because uncertainty over federal funding discourages young scientists from doing research on stem cells.

Kirk says stem cell research offers "the best promise'' to cure certain diseases. The Illinois Republican says, if senior Democratic senators choose not to move the stem cell legislation in this Congress, he will. He says court challenges to taxpayer-financed stem cell research make legislation necessary.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 05, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Communities Come Together in the Kitchen

There are people out there who want think they have that million dollar recipe that food shoppers will flock to buy. But beyond that first batch, what's missing is the right kitchen. As part of the series "Life on Route 150," Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers looks at the effort to build a community kitchen in Champaign-Urbana, and he visits one-kitchen in Danville that's taken off.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

View a Slideshow from The Cook's Workshop in Danville

Download mp3 file
Categories: Business
Tags: business

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 04, 2011

C-U Public Health District Approves 5-Year Community Health Plan

A survey on the greatest health needs in Champaign County has been broken down into four general areas.

The state requires the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District to complete a local assessment of needs plan every five years. After more than 11-hundred replies last year, priorities were identified as access to care (or paying for medical, mental and dental health), accidents (including DUI crashes and those in the home), obesity, and violence (including alcohol-related abuse and domestic violence.)

CUPHD Epidemiologist Awais Vaid says the county's current Community Health Plan was narrowed from 10 categories five years ago. He says public health is given no specific guidance on how to come up with the priorities.

"It's basically the community partners, the community leaders that get together and decide one what should be included," said Vaid. "But the last time we identified 10 of them, it became too much to address each of them, because each takes time and resources."

Vaid says community coalitions are being put together to address the four areas, each of them involving members of the public health district.

"The last time we finished the process, and thought as time goes by, some group will start addressing each one of these. It didn't happen," said Vaid. "So most of them were not addressed the way we were expecting to. But this time we do have specific groups that have a vested interest."

Yearly progress on the surveyed areas will be posted on the CUPHD's website.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2011

Indiana Economic Outlook Improves Although Gaming Revenues Down

It's been a while since Indiana reported revenues exceeding projections, but that's what happened in May.

Indiana's State Budget Agency reported today that the state took in $1.2 billion, roughly $151 million more than forecasters projected.

The increase covers a nearly $90 million revenue shortfall in April.

"It is clear that individual income tax collections have improved dramatically in 2011 compared to 2010 due to strong employment and income growth," agency director Adam Horst stated in a written statement. "Payroll withholdings, the largest component of individual income tax collections, have consistently grown in excess of 6 percent throughout 2011. For April and May, individual income tax collections grew 20 percent compared to the same time period for 2010."

In this fiscal year, which ends at the end of June, Indiana's collected $128 million more in taxes that the state's forecasting committee projected.

Revenues are also up by over 9 percent this year than last.

The only down side to the forecast was gaming revenues for the state.

Horst said riverboat wagering tax collections again fell short of the monthly target, and now lag behind 2010 revenues by 3.4 percent.

"On the other hand, racino (horse racing) wagering tax collections continue to exceed monthly targets, and are running 7.4 percent ahead of 2010 revenues," Horst said. "Through May, total gaming revenues trail the revenue forecast by $13 million and are running $8 million behind collections for the same time period last year."

Northwest Indiana is home to five casino boats along Lake Michigan.

The stale gaming numbers come at a time when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is considering signing a bill that would dramatically increase casino licenses in the state.

Under the proposed plan, a casino could be approved for a south suburban location, as well as for downtown Chicago. Either location could eat into revenues taken in by casinos in Northwest Indiana.

Categories: Business, Economics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2011

Quinn Approves Legislative Redistricting Map

Quinn Approves Legislative Redistricting Map

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn gave his approval on Friday to new lines for state legislative districts that stay in place for the next decade.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2011

Cars, Tenants Still Observed at Cherry Orchard

(Reported by Pam Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)

It's been six weeks since a Champaign County judge ordered the closure of an apartment complex between Rantoul and Thomasboro.

But public health officials say people continue to live there. Indeed, as of Thursday, there were several cars parked in front of a far east building, which had a new dumpster nearby and kids playing in the yard.

The first collection buildings in the complex, known as Cherry Orchard, looks empty from the main highway - County Road 1500 East. There appears to be no cars and no people.

In April, a Champaign County judge fined its managers, Bernard and Eduardo Ramos, more than $54,000 and ordered them to close down the property following a nearly four-year-old Champaign County Public Health Department case.

New painted words "For Sale" have replaced "Cherry Orchard" on a large, weathered wood sign. New phone numbers with the 202 area code have appeared. The property is listed for $1.3 million on this website. There is no longer a "for rent" sign.

The main entrance is blocked by an old telephone pole propping up a door turned on its side decorated by the word "Closed" in spray-paint. An electrical cord of some type serves as a make-shift rope between two trees that flank the main entrance.

By all appearances, from the corner of county roads 1500 East and 2700 North, the 11-acre, 68-unit apartment complex looks to be in compliance with the April court order.

A woman answered a call to one of the phone numbers listed on the sign, but pleasantly declined to give her name and said she would only discuss the details of the complex and its selling price with serious buyers. She said the complex was "empty, completely empty."

The Ramoses were accused of failing to legally connect sewer and septic systems for six of their eight apartment buildings on the property. The apartment complex has traditionally housed many migrant workers.

The Health Department had sought to stop the Ramoses from renting out the property until the septic system could be legally fixed.

Bernard and Eduardo Ramos have repeatedly declined to comment for any news stories about the complex - including not returning calls seeking comment and posting signs warning "media dogs" to stay away. After April's ruling, the pair flashed a sign at reporters that read "slander- lying" as they left the courtroom.

The Ramos incurred more legal troubles when they failed to show up for a status hearing in May, after reports that the complex had yet to be closed and tenants remained. They notified the state's attorney's office prior to the hearing to report that they were on an extended trip to Texas.

At the May hearing, Judge John Kennedy issued a civil contempt warrant and a criminal contempt warrant for both Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo. The arrest warrants each include a $10,000 bond. If arrested, the judge requires that the Ramoses post the full amount - a total of $20,000 each - rather than the typical 10 percent before they can be released.

Soon after, the complex appeared to have been closed down.

But health officials who regularly spot-check the complex have found people living there, and neighbors have reported to health officials that men are working on apartments during the day as well and that residents remain in the buildings.

A visit to the area on Thursday morning showed the same.

While the main entrance to the complex is closed, a second driveway - accessible further down County Road 2700 North - leads right to the far east building (noted as number 5 on the map below).

There appeared to be a work van and four or five cars parked in front of the complex.

There were also children playing out front.

Neighbors have also reported that new air conditioners have been installed in the windows and a new dumpster was placed nearby.

Health Department officials do not have the authority to physically remove anyone from the complex; however, they remain concerned about the safety and health of residents who continue to live there due to the conditions of the complex.

Health officials are also concerned that the Ramoses are preparing the place for additional tenants - migrant workers who typically move to the area during this time of year, said Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde.

As of Friday, Bernard and Eduardo Ramos have yet to be arrested on the outstanding warrants for contempt of court.

The County Board of Health plans to meet next week with officials from the county to see what options they can legally pursue to ensure that the apartment complex is vacated and the illegal discharge of sewage ends, Pryde said.

(Photo by A. H. Gorton of CU-CitizenAccess)

Recent Photos Taken of the Cherry Orchard Apartment Complex:


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2011

Feds Say Indiana’s Planned Parenthood Law is Illegal

President Obama's administration took its first stab Wednesday at reversing Indiana's controversial ban on funds to agencies offering abortion services, primarily Planned Parenthood.

Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, sent a letter to Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration. Berwick said the law improperly bars Medicaid beneficiaries from receiving services from a qualified provider, as federal law requires. Indiana could face penalties if the law is not changed, he warned.

But Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said the state intends to fight for the law.

"We are reviewing the Center for Medicaid Services letter with our client, the Family and Social Services Administration to determine our client's options, but we will continue to defend the statute," he Corbin.

The Republican-led Indiana General Assembly approved the bill in late April. It was signed in early May by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, also a Republican, even though Daniels had sought a "truce" on social issues. The law bans $3 million the state receives from going to any agency that provides abortion services or to agencies that deal with Planned Parenthood.

The law also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there is a substantial threat to the woman's life or health.

At the time, it was thought that Daniels signed the legislation to appease conservatives as he contemplated a run for the Republican nomination for president, which he ultimately decided against. Daniels explained, however, that he supports the law because a majority of Hoosiers oppose abortion. He said women can obtain health care needs from providers other than Planned Parenthood.

Daniels said agencies that lost funding can have them restored if they cut ties to Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Planned Parenthood officials say 9,300 low income Hoosier women will or have lost coverage because of the new law.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2011

Study Explores Chicago-Champaign High-Speed Rail

The University of Illinois will spent the next several months researching the feasibility of a high-speed passenger rail line between Chicago and Champaign.

Governor Pat Quinn on Thursday announced the $1.25 million study for 220-mph trains. Such a line could also include cities like St. Louis and Indianapolis, and is meant to compliment an already planned 110-mph network connecting Chicago to other Midwest cities.

U of I President Michael Hogan says such a train can have a huge impact on regional economic development throughout the Chicago area. Hogan says this is also an area where the U of I can make a huge difference in the world of freight and passenger rail.

"The possibility of a high-speed rail link, bringing our two campuses closer together, facilitating that kind of big science and collaboration, and not just in engineering and hard sciences, but in the medical sciences as well," said Hogan. "The impact that could have in tranforming an already great university into a super power university."

The U of I, Illinois Department of Transportation, and a special advisory group will provide input throughout the course of the study. The Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, Rick Harnish, sits on the panel.

"Turkey is already running bullet trains," said Harnish. "There's 4,000 miles in Europe. There's 4,000 miles in Asia. And there's been bullet trains in Japan since 1964. All of those countries are enjoying faster, lower cost, and more reliable travel than we are today. This is what keeps U of I on the global map."

The study will involve the U of I's Rail Transportation and Engineering Center and the Department of Economics on the Urbana campus, and the Department of Urban Planning on the university's Chicago campus. The results from the study are expected late next year.


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