Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 28, 2010

Dynegy to Shut Down Oakwood Power Generation Facility

Energy company Dynegy will be closing its Vermilion Power facility near Oakwood by the end of March.

Company spokesman David Byford said mothballing the more than 50-year old facility largely comes down to economics.

"We have higher fuel costs at Vermilion because the plant is not located on a rail line," Byford said. "And that would be coupled with market conditions that would include reduced power demand and lower power prices that don't favor continued operations."

During a year-long review, Byford said company heads looked at options for the plant, including alternative fuel supply arrangements. But he said the price of fuel for supplying the plant with its coal also proved to be too much.

"We took a year exploring numerous options for the plant that included looking at alternative fuel supply arrangements," Byford said. "But in the end, we're still faced with poor plant economics."

Byford said the plant is no longer being used all the time, and he said a regional power grid ensures a reliable power supply to the area. The precise closure date for the plant is not known, but it is expected near the end of the first quarter of 2011. The company said the next step is for Dynegy to develop plans for suspending operations in a safe and reliable manner. The plant has about 50 employees, and Byford said it is not yet known whether they will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company.

Categories: Economics, Energy, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 28, 2010

Beatles Course Popular on iTunes U

A longtime instructor of a course on The Beatles has greatly boosted his student base... and popularity... via the web. University of Illinois at Springfield Communication and Liberal Studies professor Michael Cheney has taken his love for the Fab Four and condensed it into a series of on-line lectures. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with Cheney about his Beatles course, and a podcast that's drawing fans worldwide.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

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Categories: Music, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 28, 2010

Urbana Farm Issues Sprout Recall After FDA Health Warning

The owner of Tiny Greens Organic Farm in Urbana is recalling alfalfa sprouts that are suspected of being tainted with salmonella after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Monday advising the public to stay away from the sprouts.

"If I have a problem, I want to fix it," Tiny Greens' CEO Bill Bagby said. "If it's not, I want it to be known."

Bagby alerted his customers about the recall early Tuesday morning. His client list includes grocery stores and restaurants across the Midwest.

The FDA warning came a week after one of the company's clients, the Jimmy John's restaurant chain, stopped serving the sprouts in Illinois. The sprouts are linked to dozens of salmonella outbreaks in 12 counties, including Champaign, McLean, and Cook. Bagby said if his farm is the source of the outbreak, he questioned why there were no other reported cases of people becoming ill after eating food with salmonella from other companies that also get sprouts from the Urbana farm.

Efforts by the FDA and the Illinois Department of Public Health to identify contaminated sprouts at the farm have led to no positive results of salmonella. But Don Kraemer, the acting deputy director with the FDA's Center for Food Safety, said a preliminary review shows there was enough evidence to issue the warning.

"We traced back from the patients to the restaurants that they ate at and determined who supplied them with the sprouts, and virtually all of them were supplied by Tiny Greens," Kraemer said.

The sprouts in question were distributed to farmers' markets, restaurants and grocery stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and possibly other Midwestern states. Bagby said it was premature for the FDA to issue the warning based on statistical evidence.

"They've got nothing," Bagby said. "And now they're swabbing the terrarium in the office. They found a bird's nest outside of the facility, and found bird droppings. I mean they're doing everything. They're going to for sure find salmonella this time. It's not going to be related to this."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from Nov. 1 to Dec. 21, around 90 people across the country became sick with a matching strain of salmonella. More than half of those cases were in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health's Kelly Jakubek said the last case of someone in Illinois getting sick with salmonella after eating a sprout was on Dec. 7, but she said an investigation is ongoing.

"We'll continue to look at sprout producers and distributors," Jakubek said. "It's very important that anyone who becomes ill after eating alfalfa sprouts, it's very important that they contact their health provider."

Bagby said he will cooperate with the investigation. He said his mandatory recall has had a significant impact on his business going from distributing around 10,000 pounds of alfalfa sprouts a week to a thousand pounds.

"It's already hurt my business," he said.

Products subject to this recall include: 4 oz. Spicy Sprouts and our 4oz., 1lb., 2lb., & 5lb., Alfalfa Sprouts (all package sizes) with lot codes 348, 350, or 354 or having a "sell by" date of 12/29/10, 12/31/10 and 1/04/11. Additionally, any product containing alfalfa sprouts that remain on the market with the following lot numbers 305 thru 348 or "sell by" dates from 12/16/10 thru 12/29/10 will also be recalled.

The warning issued Monday includes a mix called Spicy Sprouts, which contain radish and clover sprouts.

Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, according to the CDC. Young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are the most likely to have severe infections. Illness usually wears off after three to seven days.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 25, 2010

Champaign Sidewalk Snow Removal Ordinance Goes Into Effect December 26th

Once again, the city of Champaign has declared its sidewalk snow and ice removal requirement will be in effect as of Sunday, December 26th at 8 AM.

With the National Weather Service reporting 4-point-4 inches of snow accumulation in Champaign-Urbana over the Christmas weekend, the city of Champaign is giving property owners in its downtown and Campustown areas 48 hours to clear all ice and snow from their sidewalks. Sidewalks that are not cleared by Tuesday, December 28th at 8 AM, could be cleared by the City as the owner's expense.

Champaign's city code allows for the implementation of the sidewalk snow and ice removal requirement whenever accumulated snowfall reaches two inches or more.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 23, 2010

Three Candidates Vying for Champaign City Council Seat

The race for a Champaign city council seat next spring will include at least three write-in campaigns.

Jim McGuire, Paul Faraci, and Catherine Emanuel have all filed to run for the District 5 seat being vacated by Gordy Hulten, who has been appointed as the next Champaign County Clerk. By time he was chosen by local Republicans for the office, it was too late for the three candidates' names to appear on the ballot.

McGuire, the president of the U of I's AFSCME local 698, said he is running since he has had a long family history in the community, and has been part of many Republican campaigns. Now, he said he wants to serve in a 'bigger capacity' in rough economic times.

"We have problems with our budget," McGuire said. "I think I can help have an impact. I've been dealing with the budget at the university, and I received the layoff notices myself. I'm trying to work through those issues."

McGuire manages stores and receiving at the U of I. He has twice lost bids for the Champaign school board, in 2001 and 2003. If elected, McGuire said he would resign his position with AFSCME to avoid any conflict of interest.

This is Catherine Emanuel's first bid for public office. She said newcomers and outsiders can have a unique appeal to voters. The health care consultant said she will bring a moderate business perspective to the city council.

"I haven't been involved in politics heavily," Emanuel said. "I see this as an opportunity for people like me who are moderate and not on one side of the extreme or other."

Paul Faraci with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said his job experience would bode well on the city council. Faraci was a Democratic Champaign County Board member from 2000 to 2002. His family has a long involvement in downtown business in Champaign.

"Between the three of us, I've had almost 50 years of experience," Faraci said. "That experience will place nicely in this."

Mayor Jerry Schweighart is expected to appoint an interim city council member to the district 5 seat by late next month.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 23, 2010

Ivory Coast: One Village Votes

The West African nation of Ivory Coast recently took a step towards democracy with a historic election, but with the sitting president disqualifying the results, Ivory Coast is now on the brink of Civil War. University of Illinois instructor Carol Spindel visited the Ivory Coast as the momentous vote took place.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 23, 2010

FBI Releases Files on NPR’s Daniel Schorr

The Nixon White House was so worried about Daniel Schorr's reporting that it ordered an investigation into the veteran network correspondent whose tough stories landed him on the president's infamous enemies list, according to newly released FBI files.

The administration had the bureau conduct a background investigation in 1971, according to one section from among hundreds of pages released Thursday from Schorr's FBI file.

The White House said it was considering Schorr for a public affairs job in the environmental area. A day later, the investigation was canceled but the White House still wanted to see anything the FBI had managed to discover about Schorr.

Schorr asked the FBI to discontinue the investigation.The long-time newsman later said he had never applied for such a position.

The 93-year-old Schorr died in July after a six-decade career with CBS, NPR and other news media outlets. He believed the White House had tried to intimidate him for his hard-hitting coverage of the administration.

The first reference to Schorr in FBI files dates from July 31, 1942, when FBI Director J Edgar Hoover asked the chief of the Special War Policies Unit for more information on Schorr's status as a "representative of a foreign principal'' in his employment with the Netherland Indies News Agency.

Eight years later, at the height of the post-war "Red Scare,'' Hoover told the CIA director that the bureau had looked over Schorr's background and had kept information on his travels to "Iron Curtain countries.''

The files mainly deal with the fallout from the FBI's investigation into Schorr and include dozens of newspaper articles and interviews with people who knew the famous reporter.

Some of the files document Schorr's attempts to pry information from the FBI about the investigation by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for information.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 23, 2010

Unemployment Down in November in Illinois Metro Areas

Once again, unemployment is down from a year ago, in all 12 of Illinois' major metropolitan areas.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported that November was the third month in a row that unemployment has declined in all 12 metro areas from a year ago. It's the fourth month of such declines for the Champaign-Urbana and Danville areas, and the fifth consecutive month of declines for the Decatur area.

In Champaign-Urbana, the November unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, down from 8.9 percent. In Danville the rate was 11 percent, down from 11.7 percent, and in Decatur, the rate was also 11 percent, down from 12.1 percent.

November unemployment ranged from 7.1 percent in the Bloomington-Normal area to a high of 13.7 percent percent in Rockford.

Figures for 18 east-central Illinois counties showed jobless numbers improved from a year ago in every county but Douglas. November unemployment for Douglas County was 9.2 percent, up from 9 percent percent a year ago.

While the unemployment rates are better than a year ago, the total numbers of non-farm jobs have gone down in Danville and Decatur, and are unchanged in Champaign-Urbana.

Statewide, only Rockford and the Illinois side of the Quad Cities showed an increase in non-farm jobs from November of last year. IDES spokesman Tom Austin says the unemployment rate and the survey of non-farm jobs are compiled separately and do not always correlate. He says that among the contributing factors are workers who find jobs outside of their county or metro area.

Illinois' statewide unemployment rate was 9.2 percent. That's just below the 9.3 percent national average.

(Additional reporting from the Associated Press)

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 23, 2010

Double Transplant Improves Quality of Life for Some Diabetics

Type 2 diabetes - the kind related to obesity and an unhealthy diet - gets a lot of attention these days. But there's another, less common, form of the disease - type 1 - that can also lead to life-threatening complications. Reporter Véronique LaCapra went behind the scenes at a St. Louis hospital, for the transplant operation that got one woman off dialysis, and made her diabetes-free.

(Photo by Véronique LaCapra)

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Categories: Health, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 23, 2010

Election Board: Emanuel Can Run for Chicago Mayor

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel can run for Chicago mayor although he spent much of the last two years living in Washington while working for President Barack Obama, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled Thursday.

With the board's decision, Emanuel clears a major hurdle in his bid to replace retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Officials have tried to expedite mayoral ballot challenges before the Feb. 22 vote, and the board's decision is almost sure to be challenged in the courts.

Earlier this month, an election board hearing officer presided over days of testimony from people who said Emanuel did not meet the city's residency requirement because he moved to Washington. Early Thursday, that officer recommended Emanuel's name be allowed on the ballot, saying evidence suggests that he had no intention of terminating his residency in Chicago, left the city only to work for Obama and often told friends he intended to live in D.C. for no more than two years.

"Illinois law expressly protects the residential status and electoral rights of Illinois residents who are called to serve the national government," hearing officer Joseph Morris , a Republican attorney in private practice in Chicago, wrote in his 35-page ruling.

Earlier Thursday, Emanuel said she he was encouraged by the officer's recommendation.

"Chicago voters should ultimately have the right to decide the election __ and to vote for me or against me," Emanuel said in a statement before the board made its ruling.

More than two dozen people challenged Emanuel's candidacy, contending he didn't meet a one-year residency requirement. Emanuel quit his job as Obama's top aide and moved back to Chicago in October after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he wouldn't seek a seventh term.

Emanuel is part of a crowded field of more than a dozen candidates, including former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, former school board president Gery Chico, City Clerk Miguel del Valle and state Sen. James Meeks, the pastor of a South Side mega church.

Since returning to Chicago in October to run for mayor, Emanuel has enjoyed strong name recognition in the race and already has run several TV ads. A recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll showed Emanuel as the only candidate in double digits with more than 30 percent support, although 30 percent remained undecided.

(Photo courtesy of United States House of Representatives)

Categories: Government, Politics

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