New subpoena issued for Ill. anti-violence program
CHICAGO (AP) - Federal authorities in Chicago issued a new subpoena seeking records involving Gov. Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program, state officials confirmed Tuesday.
The 2010 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, the subject of a scathing state inspector general's report for mismanagement and misspending, already has been under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Springfield, the Cook County state's attorney and a legislative commission.
The subpoena, dated Aug. 27, was delivered to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, the state agency that took over NRI, according to agency spokeswoman Cristin Evans. The subpoena stemmed from a February special grand jury in Chicago and sought copies of documents, memos and timesheets, among other things, to be delivered for a panel meeting Sept. 4.
Evans said federal officials in Chicago now have the records and, "the requirements of the subpoena have been fulfilled."
She called the request a formality because Springfield prosecutors and the Cook County state's attorney's office already had asked for and received the records.
Quinn championed the anti-violence program in 2010 to target the causes of neighborhood violence, but Republicans have alleged it was a "political slush fund" since it was started weeks ahead of the November election. Quinn, who is facing re-election with a challenge from Republican Bruce Rauner, has denied the claim.
Quinn said he took action by abolishing the agency initially running the program. His office didn't immediately return a message Tuesday.
The subpoenas were first reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Rauner questions medical marijuana program secrecy
CHICAGO (AP) - Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner (ROW'-nur) said Tuesday he wouldn't have signed legislation creating Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program because it includes a secret process for deciding who may grow and sell the drug.
Rauner said it's "another hallmark" of a culture of corruption under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. He said the public should know who's applying for a limited number of state permits, and whether the permits are given to "insiders" with political clout.
"Millions of dollars in business licenses are up for grabs and Pat Quinn wants to keep taxpayers in the dark," Rauner said.
Quinn Spokesman Grant Klinzman said the law keeps applicants' identity confidential so that the state officials who award the permits won't be influenced by political connections.
"The purpose of keeping information confidential, as approved by legislators of both parties, was to ensure the highest standard of integrity of the selection process," Klinzman said.
Quinn signed Illinois' four-year pilot program into law last year, saying it will help seriously ill patients. The program allows people with certain diseases, such as cancer, to use the drug.
The state is granting a limited number of permits for cultivation centers and dispensaries. The application process for those permits started last week and ends Monday.
Rauner said Quinn shouldn't have signed the legislation because the process isn't transparent.
He also medical marijuana is "not something I've supported" but added that it's "not a big issue for me either way."
"I think there's other priorities," Rauner said.
Lawmaker panel delays decision on fracking rules
CHICAGO (AP) - A legislative panel said Tuesday that it wants more time to decide whether rules written by the Department of Natural Resources to govern hydraulic fracturing in Illinois can take effect.
The legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules received proposed rules for high-volume oil and gas extraction from the DNR on Aug. 29, after the agency reworded some rules based on more than 30,000 comments on it original draft. But industry and environmental groups said they would ask JCAR to seek dozens of changes.
The panel originally had 45 days -until mid-October - to act on the rules, but exercised a 45-day extension, asking the DNR to ensure the rules comply with the intent of a law passed last year after intense negotiations that included industry and environmental groups.
An industry coalition has outlined more than 65 areas of concern, including rules that it believes violate the legislative compromise. Among their objections is language says the DNR can consider overall health and environmental impacts of multiple wells when evaluating a permit for a single well.
Environmental groups also are seeking changes, including to provisions that cap the total amount that companies can be fined.
Fracking generally uses a chemical-laced mixture to release trapped oil and gas deep underground. Opponents fear it will cause pollution and health problems. The industry insists the method is safe and will bring a badly needed economic boost to southern Illinois.
USDA: Rain, cold hampering Illinois corn harvest
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Wet, cool conditions across much of Illinois have put farmers behind schedule in bringing their corn in from the fields, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
Illinois corn growers through Sunday had only managed to harvest 2 percent of their crop, down 12 percentage points from the average of the previous five years, the USDA said in its weekly crop progress report Monday. Last year at this time, just 1 percent of the state's crop was reaped.
The USDA blamed rainfall averaged 2.3 inches statewide last week, nearly an inch above normal. The autumn-like temperatures didn't help, averaging 59.8 degrees - more than nine degrees below normal.
Roughly half of the Illinois corn crop was rated as good while 31 percent was deemed to be excellent.
The USDA said last month it expected the nation's corn growers to bring in by far the largest harvest ever this year - nearly 14.4 billion bushels, up from last year's 13.9 billion bushel record.
The forecast yield of 172 bushels per acre is significantly higher than the previous record set in 2009 of 165 bushels per acre.
Record yields will be set in 18 states, the USDA said, and 10 states including the nation's top three producers - Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska - have the highest number of ears per corn stalk ever.
A massive harvest has been expected this year as adequate rain and cool temperatures made for favorable growing conditions.
U OF ILLINOIS-PROFESSOR
U of I chancellor regrets uproar over professor
URBANA, Ill. (AP) - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise told a committee of faculty leaders that she regretted the uproar caused by the decision not hire a professor whose Twitter messages were considered by some to be anti-Semitic.
Wise told the campus' Senate Executive Committee on Monday that the university's board of trustees will be asked to consider approving the hiring of future tenured faculty much earlier in the process.
Wise also said she wished she'd have consulted faculty who already had signed off on the decision to hire Steven Salaita (suh-LY'-tah).as a Native American Studies professor, the (Champaign) News-Gazette reported.
Salaita accepted a job offer starting this fall but was told after he later posted numerous anti-Israel Twitter messages that he would not be hired. The Board of Trustees last week declined to change that decision.
Salaita's supporters believe he effectively already had been hired, so his speech was protected by academic tenure. They said professors routinely begin work before the board approves their hires.
Salaita has said he plans to sue the university.
Former Illinois state's attorney disciplined
MARION, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Supreme Court has censured a former long-time southern Illinois state's attorney in connection with racial comments he made during a 2011 murder case.
The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission on Monday announced the state high court's decision regarding former Williamson County State's Attorney Charles Garnati.
In a February disciplinary complaint, Garnati is accused of making racial comments during opening and closing arguments of Marcus Marshall's trial that may have swayed the all-white jury. Marshall, 32, of Creal Springs was sentenced to 85 years in prison in the August 2010 slaying of LaQuinn Hudson. Two years later, an appellate court reversed the conviction after it found Marshall, who is black, was denied the right to a fair trial because the state's "use of race was an egregious and consistent theme throughout the trial."
Garnati, the longest-serving state's attorney in Illinois, stepped down earlier this month after more than 30 years in office. He decided to resign because of health concerns, Garnati said, and not because of the allegations. But he disagrees with the censure, he said.
"It's a situation where I didn't feel I was doing anything improper," Garnati said. "They apparently felt I did, and they're the boss and slapped my wrist. We'll go on."
A censure doesn't prevent a lawyer from continuing to practice, it simply reflects the determination that he or she engaged in misconduct, according to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
Garnati plans to open his new Marion office for private practice in about a week.
Big cities take aim at prescription painkillers
WASHINGTON (AP) - Some of the nation's largest cities are ratcheting up their criticism of prescription painkillers, blaming the industry for a wave of addiction and overdoses that have ravaged their communities and busted local budgets.
The heightened rhetoric comes as Chicago tries to recover millions in health care costs from opioid drugmakers, alleging that companies deliberately misled the public about risks. It's a strategy that could be attractive to other cash-strapped cities.
On Tuesday, health commissioners from Chicago, New York and Boston came to Washington to lobby Congress and the White House on efforts to combat painkiller abuse.
Chicago's lawsuit, filed in July, alleges that five pharmaceutical companies deceptively marketed their drugs. The drugmakers have asked that the suit be dismissed because it fails to cite specific instances of fraud.
NEEDLES IN MEAT-CHARGES
Suspect seeks bond in Illinois meat-tampering case
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A southwestern Illinois man accused of inserting what prosecutors called "booby trap" sewing needles into packaged supermarket meats has asked a federal judge to reconsider denying him bond.
Ronald Ayers' public defender, in a motion filed Friday, seeks to overturn a magistrate judge's finding last month the 68-year-old man remain jailed on seven felony product-tampering counts because no conditions of his release would reasonably ensure the public's safety, as prosecutors insisted.
Both sides were to argue the matter Wednesday.
Avers, of Belleville, has pleaded not guilty to the felonies, accusing him of slipping sewing needles into packaged meat items at a Shop 'n Save in Belleville from May 2013 through July.
One customer eventually bit into a needle, and another customer got stuck in the hand by a needle in a steak. No serious injuries were reported from the needles, which the FBI said turned up in everything from ground beef to roasts and steaks.
The FBI said Avers told investigators he did it "just for the hell of it." Federal prosecutor Suzanne Garrison seized on that quote when initially opposing any bond for Avers, saying the comment reflected the man's "utter indifference to the noteworthy risk of serious bodily injury or death that is associated with consumption of a needle."
Nik Wallenda to tightrope walk over Chicago River
CHICAGO (AP) - Daredevil Nik Wallenda said Tuesday that his next tightrope walk will be more than 50 stories high from one high-rise building to another over the Chicago River.
Wallenda, 35, will attempt the feat without a net or harness. It will be broadcast live on the Discovery Channel at 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 2, the network said. Wallenda will start the walk at one the two Marina Towers buildings, then travel more than two city blocks across the river on an uphill 15-degree angle to the Leo Burnett Building.
Wallenda will then make a second tightrope walk from one Marina Tower building to the other.
"There's nothing like doing this during winter in Chicago," said Wallenda, who is part of the famous acrobat family "The Flying Wallendas." ''That's a challenge for me and I love to push myself to do things that most people think are impossible."
It will be the highest skyscraper walk in Wallenda family history and the first time Wallenda has attempted such a steep-angled tightrope walk, Discovery said. Wallenda's grandfather Karl Wallenda died after falling from a tightrope in Puerto Rico in 1978.
Discovery said dozens of cameras positioned across the city and on helicopters will capture the spectacle.
Wallenda has walked across the Niagara Falls and the Little Colorado River Gorge in Arizona, near the Grand Canyon, in the past two years.
CHICAGO MAYOR-JIMMY FALLON
Chicago mayor says students read 2.7 million books
CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago Public School students read 2.7 million books this summer as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Readers Summer Learning Challenge, officials announced Monday
The number eclipsed the goal agreed upon by Emanuel and NBC's "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon. The two agreed during a June appearance on the show by Emanuel that Fallon would bring his production to Chicago for several shows if Chicago Public School students read 2.4 million books this summer.
"It's time to pick a venue, Jimmy," Mayor Emanuel said in a statement.
Emanuel's appearance with Fallon was the result of a previous deal between the two men. The mayor agreed to appear on the show if Fallon participated in Chicago's Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan in February.
Fallon took part in the event dressed in a business suit.
The Summer Learning Challenge, funded through the Chicago Public Library Foundation, is designed to keep children engaged in learning over the summer break. Its goal is to prevent the "summer slide," a documented loss of academic knowledge and skills in kids who don't take part in such summer activities.
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